The DA’s loss of Nelson Mandela Bay and its near loss of Tshwane are perhaps a sign of the shift in political power since Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president. Without the political incompetence of Zuma to work off, the DA appears to have descended into in-fighting and has clearly lost some support. The ANC, on the other hand, appears to have benefited from Ramaphosa’s on-going reform of key government institutions – such as the National Prosecuting Authority and with the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which eliminates nuclear power and moves strongly in the direction of renewable energy sources. The EFF is doing its best to be king-maker in the hotly contested administrations like Tshwane. The weakening of DA support will be a major factor in the 2019 elections.
Steady and essential clean-up of state owned enterprises (SOE) by Pravin Gordhan, with the backing of the president is vital to the recovery of the South African economy. The recent settlement with the public enterprises director general, Richard Seleke, is a good example. Seleke was implicated in various Gupta-linked e-mails and came to some negotiated agreement with the presidency to step down. The nature of the agreement is not known, but it is clear that the process of getting rid of captured senior officials at the SOEs continues. Gordhan has come in for criticism from the EFF for being too autocratic and engaging in a “reign of terror” – but perhaps that is exactly what was needed. South Africa cannot afford to delay in this clean up. Seleke also faces criminal charges from OUTA for his involvement in state capture. Read More
President Ramaphosa has been steadily consolidating his power within the ANC and this bodes well for the country. His recent successes in the provincial elective conferences in Natal and Gauteng have seen his supporters elected to key positions in those provinces and a consequent loss of power for the Zuma camp. In Natal, the positions of deputy chairman and secretary are now occupied by Ramaphosa supporters. At the same time, in Gauteng, the position of deputy chairman was won by Lesufi – a Ramaphosa supporter. These changes will help to ensure some unity within the ruling party which has been deeply divided. That will bolster its position in the 2019 elections. Ramaphosa will only be able to address the more serious structural anomalies in the SA economy once he has a sufficiently strong grip on power. Read More
Over the Zuma years there were any number of plans to develop the economy, the latest iteration of which was the National Development Plan, produced in 2012 with a vision for 2030. None of these plans have been effectively implemented. In fact, the economy is probably in a worse position now than it was 10 years ago from a structural point of view. But now we have the Ramaphosa era and he has begun well by mostly saying the right things and doing the right things – like changing the boards of the worst of the state owned enterprises (SOE). He wants to bring in $100bn in foreign direct investment (FDI) over the next 5 years – and he travelled to the G7 conference as part of this effort. There, he was persuading skeptical investors that policy certainty is going to happen in South Africa – especially in the mining industry and with land reform. He was trying to convince them that he is putting South Africa back onto a rational economic path. Of course, he had to be balanced with the fact that he faces an election in 2019 where populist ideas are likely to be important. So there is a limit to what he can do before that election and he is orchestrating a delicate balancing act between necessary and rational economics and the expediency of South Africa’s version of populism. Read More
President Ramaphosa has been fortunate that his two main opposition parties for the 2019 election have been busy shooting themselves in the political foot. The DA’s extraordinary handling of Patricia De Lille now threatens to lose them their anchor support among the coloured people of the Cape Province. At the same time, Ramaphosa’s shrewd move to annex the EFF’s primary populist appeal in the area of land expropriation has forced that party to the extreme left where it has become blatantly and overtly racist in its message and at the same time made absurd suggestions about all land in South Africa reverting to the government on some basis. In the meantime, under Ramaphosa’s leadership, the ANC has been looking more and more like the balanced party of reason and common sense. An increased majority in 2019 will entrench Ramaphosa for the next ten years.Read More
One of the legacies of the Zuma era is a massive and inefficient civil service. Years of “jobs for pals” and rampant nepotism has seen the civil service grow to unmanageable proportions. The economist Dawie Roodt has estimated that, including the state owned enterprises (SOE), the civil service now employs about 3 million people. In the February budget, the government estimated that it would spend in total R1,68 trillion – out of which more than R585bn would be civil service salaries. That is just over 35%. This means that the enormous civil service is sucking up funds which could be better spent on development. The challenge is to reduce the size of the government, beginning with the number of ministers. It has been estimated that South Africa could probably manage with roughly two thirds of the number of ministries that it has. Over time, the effect of that on the economy would be enormous.Read More