OPINION | Ramaphosa must deliver on promises

PREMIUM

It was German statesman Otto von Bismarck who said the great problems of his day would not be solved by speeches and majority votes, but “by iron and blood”. Of course he was talking about waging war to address the pressing issues of 19th-century Europe, and using guns and bullets and losing blood to do so.
In SA today, we know the first part of his speech was truly prophetic, the last part plainly idiotic. This week Stats SA reported the unemployment rate crept higher to 27.6% in the first three months of the year. And that’s only the rate favoured by the government.
At 38%, the real unemployment rate is too embarrassing. It is the stuff of revolutions. In the developed world, unemployment rates half of that have brought down governments.
So the government had to find a more palatable number to quote. Even the official rate is more than double the 13.9% jobless rate of Spain and almost twice that of Turkey. Of course these economies are not at all comparable to ours. Still.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa puts together the sixth democratic government next week, my hope is he will bear in mind that the clever speeches, and many of the elections since 1994, have failed to solve the nation’s biggest problems. My hope is that the president will remember that his party has been promising to create jobs for the past quarter of a century. Yet unemployment has almost doubled from the 16.9% the ANC inherited from the National Party.
Ramaphosa’s task is to do right by the people; to finally deliver on the promises of peace, jobs and freedom and make the elusive “better life for all” a reality.
The starting point would be to exercise the powers bestowed on the president to surround himself with the most capable leaders as cabinet ministers.
The people have given him a solid mandate for reform. But it is not only them who are impatiently waiting to assist the government to deliver. Investors are also waiting, with their chequebooks at the ready.
The credit-rating agencies will soon deliver their verdicts. Should Ramaphosa and the ANC squander this opportunity, the judgment will be swift and brutal. Of course, further failures on the part of the ruling party will embolden demagogues on both the left and the right who have already reaped the fruits of a frustrated electorate. Poverty and unemployment will fuel more support for extremists such as the Freedom Front Plus and the EFF.And there are others: in a modern economy and democracy such as ours, there should be no place for the likes of Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First. That such clowns even obtained more than 10,000 votes is a serious indictment of the party that has governed the country for more than a generation.Ramaphosa is the last hope to salvage the situation. He dare not fail. The consequences of failure would be dire.With our culture of violence and entrenched lawlessness, descending any deeper into the miserable depths would make the crises in Zimbabwe and Venezuela seem like a picnic.Unfortunately for Ramaphosa, many of his comrades seem to still be working to achieve a nasty outcome...

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