Times SELECT 13 January 2020

OPINION Justice Malala

It boggles the mind why journalists, analysts, business leaders and so many others who are interested in the future of our country still listen to the ANC’s January 8 statements. These long, wordy statements are worse than election manifestos: produced with much fanfare and discarded within minutes of being read out.

I am not going to even pretend to analyse this past weekend’s speech delivered in Kimberley. I am going back to 2018 to illustrate my point.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his first January 8 statement as ANC leader in 2018 he inserted a list of what he called “tasks of the ANC”. He said these tasks were “inspired by the life, contribution and vision of Nelson Mandela”.

Because the ANC’s January 8 statements have become such a boring cut-and-paste job, this section looked like Ramaphosa’s own personal turnaround promise. It felt genuine and from the heart. It didn’t feel like a speech writer’s hack job. So what did he promise then, and what he has delivered?

He started by saying “we shall undertake a deliberate programme of organisational renewal that decisively addresses problems of division and dysfunction within the organisation”.

That hasn’t worked out too well. Party secretary-general Ace Magashule is running a parallel organisation stuffed with anti-Ramaphosa deadbeats; former Mpumalanga strongman DD Mabuza seems to be making a play to replace Ramaphosa in the top job; and battles and skirmishes are on full display as the likes of Bathabile Dlamini call for the axing of their Ramaphosa-aligned nemesis Pravin Gordhan. Unity is the one thing you cannot accuse the ANC of possessing in abundance right now.

Ramaphosa’s second task on the list was that the ANC “shall work to restore the integrity and credibility of the ANC … We shall strengthen the Integrity Commission to deal with matters of ethics in the organisation and finalise its standing and the status of its decisions by June this year.” Have these fine words been implemented? No. Late last year the party’s integrity commission recommended that MP Bongani Bongo, who stands accused of corruption, “step aside” from his ANC activities and positions, including from his parliamentary seat. He is still a shining light of the ANC and still an MP. The integrity commission is a joke.

From the hate spewed on social media by ordinary South Africans and political leaders alike we are far from a united country.

These are all tasks that Ramaphosa himself set for his organisation exactly two years ago. He went on to say the ANC “will work with renewed determination to unite all South Africans – regardless of race, class or affiliation – around a shared vision of fundamental transformation”. It would be interesting to see some hard data on this, but from the hate spewed on social media by ordinary South Africans and political leaders alike we are far from a united country. To be fair, Ramaphosa has tried hard to unite the country.

Crucially, he said two years ago that “we shall mobilise all social partners, in particular government, labour and business, behind an economic recovery plan”. He said then that the task was urgent as we faced “low levels of growth and job creation, constrained public finances, ratings downgrades and corruption which undermine efforts to tackle poverty and inequality”.

Well, here we are: economic growth is now at a standstill, public finances are a mess, ratings downgrades are virtually guaranteed on March 27 and corruption seems to be continuing pretty much as before.

I fervently hope that Ramaphosa will succeed in his quest. What I know, though, is that he has really not moved with enough urgency or determination on some of the issues he has vowed to act on. The list above is just an example. Where he has moved things have been distressingly slow.

In the 2018 “tasks” he said “we shall confront corruption and state capture in all the forms and manifestations that these scourges assume. This includes the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry into state capture. The investigation and prosecution of those responsible will be given top priority.”

This is nice and well. The Zondo commission is fantastic in many ways. Yet why is there no arrest of, for example, the Estina dairy farm culprits? Or those who looted and destroyed the Free State province? Or the North West?

State-owned enterprises remain a mess, despite Ramaphosa saying in January 2018 that he would work to “restore the credibility of public institutions, including state-owned enterprises and law-enforcement agencies, by addressing excessive turnover in senior positions, undue political interference, poor coordination and corruption”. Today Eskom is still accused of many of these ills, with its chairperson gone on Friday.

This column has not even begun to touch on some of the key issues bedevilling our country: land justice, water and drought management, climate, jobs, education and so many others. The latest January 8 statement was full of promises on all of them. Will they be implemented?

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