President Cyril Ramaphosa makes all the right noises about the challenges that face South Africa, but can he walk the talk? asks Thandile Kona.
Much has been made of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s early morning walks in some of the cities he has visited since becoming the president. That is understandable in a country that is in desperate need of anything resembling good news, after the disastrous tenure of Jacob Zuma at the helm of the country political offices.
Zuma was such a mess that he has made it easy for his successor to win over a nation that had become exhausted by scandalous politics. Ramaphosa did not have much to do and that explains the popularity of his early morning walks.
But Ramaphosa must be warned that the honeymoon will not last for very long. He came to power on the back of promises to clean the rot of corruption that runs deep in the government and that sustains his party through a vast network of patronage. Corruption has permeated every level of state and almost all state institutions and the president will have fierce resistance to his attempts to disrupt those entrenched corrupt networks.
His task will be made that much more difficult by internal resistance he is likely to face. Those who have benefitted from the compromised and captured state will not go down without a fight. The provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Free State are the leading frontiers in that battle to wrestle the state from the clutches of the corrupt and captured.
Unfortunately for Ramaphosa, the ANC has also been compromised by corruption and he cannot completely count on it in the fight against corruption. Just a glance on the party’s top leadership will show that the toughest battle for him will be on the home front.
Some of the characters that surround him have a lot of skeletons that they wouldn’t like to see revealed. They will definitely use their powerful positions in the party to fight back. Ace Magashule is already off the starting blocks in those attempts to undermine Ramaphosa and his mission and we have seen the unpleasant reception that Ramaphosa got in KwaZulu Natal, the defiant support for former President Zuma in his corruption trial and the whispered calls for an early general council.
What counts in the president’s favour is that he has a corruption fatigued nation firmly behind him and he would do well to move fast enough in his cleaning up mission to ensure that the nation remains with him, otherwise he risks losing that goodwill.
Thin as his win was at the ANC national conference, the rest of the country is rooting for him. Already, the fires of impatience and disillusionment are burning fiercely in many townships across the country. The people are not only tired of corruption, but they also tired of an arrogant and uncaring state that serves the connected few. Slogans, party t-shirts and struggle credentials won’t cut it anymore.
To keep that goodwill and the nation on his side, the president must initiate a bold economic revolution that can rid this country of the dubious honour of being the most unequal country in the world. He also needs to tackle the poverty that continues to strip the majority of the citizens of this country of their dignity.
The land issue is perhaps the most complex of his challenges and also one whose solution cannot be postponed any longer, for it lies at the root of the country’s injustices. He needs to balance land justice with the food security of the country.
So far, Ramaphosa has said and made all the right noises about the challenges that face South Africa. But the question remains: can he walk the talk? The president has managed to straddle two worlds in his early morning walks, the affluent Sea Point and the impoverished dirt streets of Khayelitsha. Now he needs to balance the expectations of those two worlds. He needs to realise that the people in those two worlds walk for different reasons.
Those in Sea Point walk to protect their wealth and privilege and for leisure and those in Khayelitsha have been walking for generations to regain their dignity, assert their humanity and to keep body and soul together. They walk with him, because to them, he represents hope for a better life. However, they are well aware that he is from among those who have repeatedly shattered that hope for the past twenty four years. The people of Khayelitsha, Soweto and New Brighton are almost tired of walking. Their feet are aching, their anger is rising. There is no time.
Thandile Kona is the President of the MuslimYouth Movement (MYM)