Kathy Gibson is at PSG’s Justice in Motion roadshow in Sandton — Strengthening institutions like South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is key to South Africa’s political and economic recovery.
Political analyst Justice Malala is “cautiously optimistic” about the country’s future as newly-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa battles for leadership of the country.
Speaking at a roadshow on politics and economy organised by PSG, Malala laid out what he believes needs to be done to ensure that the so-called Ramaphosa Effect holds over the long-term.
One of the positives that South Africa can boast is the strength of many of our institutions, he says, although some of them have slipped in how well they work for citizens.
“The last 10 years have taught us that we need strong institutions that have legitimacy.
“In the landscape now, there are so many people implicated in dastardly deeds, and nothing happens to them. So we have to ask what has happened to the institution that is supposed to do something about this?”
He points out that even 10 years ago, most people respected Pravin Gordhan, who was then heading up SARS. “This is because the institution he led was doing a good job.
“But now our tax morality is being eroded because we don’t trust the system. You have an institution that does not do what it should.
“If Ramaphosa is going to change things, he needs to work on the institutions. They have gone through a terrible time, and the need to be fixed.”
The ongoing changing of the guard has been positive, he adds. Ramaphosa’s election as president of the ANC, and the possibility that he will soon be leading the country, has seen the rand rally.
Investments have also picked up. “Foreigners have never been this keen on South African stocks since 1997,” Malala points out.
Zuma will almost certainly step down as the president of South Africa within the next few days, possibly even today, Malala adds.
Despite the confidence that South Africans and the international community feel in a Ramaphosa-led government there are significant challenges that still have to be overcome.
The first and possibly most pressing is the issue of land.
The ANC conference in December adopted a resolution to pursue the expropriation of land without compensation, albeit with seven caveats that will potentially delay it for years.
Malala is confident that a Ramaphosa government won’t act on land appropriation without fully understanding the issues and ensuring food security.
“But the concession itself opens it up. I think it will become a political football, and an issue in the run-up to the elections.”
Another challenge is around Zuma’s December promise of free higher education. The money required will be hard to find — Malala points out that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has sent out a call asking for tips ahead of his budget presentation later this month — and could result in negative sentiment from international ratings agencies.
Race is still a major issue and has been getting worse over the last few years, Malala adds.
“It is clear that, racially, we have been moving apart. I think it is because we haven’t had, at the very top, leaders saying this is what we do about legitimate concerns.
“If there is no discussion of these things, how are high schools supposed to deal with it. Sometimes we are leaving the debate to the mob.”
Corruption is a huge issue, and it is vital that South Africans start to see criminal prosecutions, Malala says.
“We don’t need a commission of enquiry, we need a police service that can bring criminal charges. These endless investigations that have no power are not useful.
“I will be happy to see at least one person going to jail.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, is the economy — and this has got be improved, Malala believes.
“The economy has suffered incredibly.” He points out that unemployment has hit 27% now, from 20% in 2008.
“Unemployment is back to 1992 levels, when uncertainty in the country was high. And business confidence is back down to 1988/89 levels.
“We are getting deeper into debt; and more money is being spent to service debt instead of on the country.”
However, there is a plan to turn the country around, Malala points out.
a”I don’t think Ramaphosa needs a new plan — we have a plan. If he dusts off the National Development Plan and starts implementing it, we may see the growth we need.”