Ramaphosa must now stabilise Eskom and be decisive
President Cyril Ramaphosa secured a second term as head of the ANC on Monday, bringing him closer to clinching a second term as president of South Africa when the country heads to the polls in 2024.
Ramaphosa, who went into the ANC’s 55th elective conference mired in the Phala Phala farm scandal that brought him close to impeachment, scored an outright win against his KwaZulu-Natal rival Zweli Mkhize, securing 2 476 votes against 1 897.
He must now navigate a myriad of challenges facing the country, most urgently the worsening electricity crisis and the uncertainty at Eskom, and the rot at municipalities, says Professor Jannie Rossouw of Wits Business School.
“Eskom must work; South Africa needs uninterrupted power supply … and municipalities must deliver services to the people.
“He [Ramaphosa] must forget about all other things and focus all his attention to those two things; forget about national health insurance and a government shipping company and dreams like that,” says Rossouw.
This year South Africa battled load shedding more than any other year since the first rolling power outages were implemented 15 years ago.
Over the years, Eskom has also struggled to retain and attract the much-needed critical skills its needs and last week was rocked by the resignation of its CEO, André de Ruyter.
The rand strengthened on Monday, rising 1.8% by late afternoon to trade at R17.32 against the US dollar, signalling that global investors have welcomed the news of Ramaphosa’s re-election as party president
“He must capitalise on that,” says independent economic analyst Professor Bonke Dumisa.
He adds that Ramaphosa should stop being indecisive and deliver with immediacy.
When Ramaphosa took office in 2018, he was touted as a leader who would tackle corruption and fix the ruin caused by the plundering of taxpayer money under the administration of his predecessor Jacob Zuma. He later came to be thought of as an indecisive president, lacking the ability to make hard choices.
“They’ve accused him of [being] very indecisive, and [of] playing the long game; it’s not working, he must … redeem himself, for the sake of South Africa,” says Dumisa .
Rossouw says Ramaphosa’s immediate tasks should include a cabinet reshuffle and the dissolution of some ineffective departments.
“A cabinet reshuffle is long overdue. We have an ineffective cabinet that does not have the ability to govern this country.
“His focus should be to get a functioning cabinet – we can’t have two cabinet ministers in open warfare with one another like [newly elected ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile] and [Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan],” he said.
The two, along with Gwede Mantashe (ANC National Chair and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy), have butted head over issues at Eskom.
There must be a sense of unity in the cabinet, says Rossouw. “We can’t have cabinet ministers clearly at war with one another. There must be a sense of policy focus that can be executed.”
Dumisa says a major challenge of Ramaphosa’s administration is in getting the economy to work and reducing high levels unemployment, which decreased only marginally to 32.9% during the third quarter of 2022.
“He will have to make some unpopular decisions, he must know that if the economy works, then everything can fall into place. We’ve always said the South African employment challenge is a structural challenge.”