Saturday 17 February 2018

Cyrillic Script

By Trevor Watkins

“The only thing worse than incompetent government is competent government “

On the 5th of May 2009 I wrote a piece entitled Choice and Consequences regarding the imminent election of Jacob Zuma to the presidency of South Africa. It was one of my more insightful pieces and can be read here. Today on the 17th of February 2018, the day after Cyril Ramaphosa’s first State of the Nation Address, it seems appropriate to consider the prospects for his presidency.

We must not let our huge relief at the ending of the truly disastrous Zuma presidency cloud our perceptions of the new incumbent and the party and policies he represents. No doubt Cyril will be a better president than Zuma, in much the same way that broccoli is better than a turd sandwich.

Like Trump, he already has 3 billion in the bank, so he no longer has any need for corruption and graft. He can actually complete sentences with big numbers in them. Apart from the odd massacre, he does not have too tainted a history. There is a reasonable chance that he might uphold the Constitution that he helped to write . He is relatively young, urbane, affable, and has only one wife. Cyril has much going for him and like many other South Africans, I wish him the best of luck.

But Cyril is a loyal cadre of the political party that deployed him and is subject to it's mostly appalling policies. This much was painfully clear from his State of the Nation Address. Given a unique opportunity to rewrite the narrative of the largely failed South African State, he chose instead to repeat the costly, foolish, failed bromides of the socialist party that he represents. If the party orders expropriation without compensation, then subservient Cyril will deliver. Perhaps he truly believes that a minimum wage will bring prosperity to the poor. Maybe he has not had a chance to consider the consequences of the National Health Bill. As a huge beneficiary of the economic transformation that has already occurred in South Africa, perhaps he thinks that radical economic transformation will be just more of the same.

Like all good politicians, he referred many of the difficult issues facing his administration to ever more commissions, councils and committees, when the actions required are both urgent and obvious. Here is just a short list:
  • Reduce or repeal the labour legislation that inhibits the creation of employment.
  • Transform the police and prosecution services into institutions that actually work.
  • Transform the education system.
  • Privatise the state owned enterprises. 
  • Remove exchange control.
To his credit he did suggest some of the following
  • Reduce size of cabinet, bureaucracy and regulations. 
  • Eliminate corruption in government.
  • Replace the failed leadership at the NPA
In the short term Cyril is obliged to follow the existing ANC script in order to keep his constituency and his job. Hopefully he will transform the narrative within the ANC towards a more enlightened set of policies over time, but I won’t hold my breath.

However, if I am to be brutally honest, I hope that he fails in this endeavour, that his reign is short and that he is replaced by a president from the liberal opposition in 2019.

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