POLITICS
17/04/2018 04:52 SAST | Updated 18/04/2018 09:28 SAST

#60Days of Ramaphosa: Fast, But Is It Fast Enough?

President Ramaphosa got out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt on February 15 and two months later, he has set the pace for an athletic presidency.

Theuns Kruger/Graphics24

Sixty days into his presidency, Cyril Ramaphosa announced the appointment of four economic envoys to unlock significant investment into South Africa. They are former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree and businesswoman Phumzile Langeni.

In addition, Ramaphosa announced that economist Trudy Makhaye will become his economic adviser. HuffPost takes a look at Ramaphosa's first 60 days in office.

President Ramaphosa got out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt on February 15 and two months later, he has set the pace for an athletic presidency.

This is not only because he has made walking a leitmotif of his administration, but because he inherited a burning platform when he became ANC president in December last year. Confidence levels had plummeted, and the ANC support levels went down the drain as the extent of state capture by the Gupta family network became clear over months and months of revelations.

When Ramaphosa won the ANC conference by just 179 votes, he told supporters that what had been achieved was a "beachhead" – a secure initial position from which further advancement is possible. Knowing that his victory was small, Ramaphosa and his team created an active presidency organised under the rubric of the idea of a "new dawn".

He got to work before taking office, like a man who had waited for the opportunity for a long time. By January 9, as South African lumbered back to work, Ramaphosa's hidden hand was made visible when former president Jacob Zuma appointed a commission of inquiry into state capture to be headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma had avoided appointing the commission for months, but because Ramaphosa's appointment had made him a lame duck, the deed was done.

Zuma was also pushed to appoint a new board at Eskom on January 20 ahead of team South Africa's schmooze-fest with investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

There, Ramaphosa and the new Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangwagwa were the toasts of the skiing town, as they represented the idea of renewal in a jaded and conflicted world. He was president before he officially became president.

Thuma mina

By the time Ramaphosa was eventually sworn in on February 15, it felt like he had lost the beachhead. Zuma took the country on a tortured journey as he refused to resign, and then left in a blaze of bitterness after being pushed almost to the brink by the governing ANC.

The president took back the moment with a call to service as he made his maiden state of the nation speech on February 16 – by lip-syncing Hugh Masakela's song "Send me" or "Thuma mina". This coined a first national phrase – South Africa was said to be in a time of "Ramaphoria", euphoric about its new president. Ramaphosa has been snapped walking, shopping and also flying economy class, all of which have won him great acclaim.

His presidency features two ministers who play the role of prime ministers. Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan have been cornerstones in shaping Ramaphosa's presidency.

Mantashe was the frontman who took the battle over the mining charter out of the courts and back on to the negotiating table – the Chamber of Mines agreed to postpone a court case on February 18, hours before the case was due in court. And Mantashe is leading the strategy on how Ramaphosa will manage the ANC's commitment to land expropriation without compensation.

Gordhan is playing the role of lead corruption-buster from his perch at public enterprises. This is because the state-owned enterprises, of which he is now custodian, were at the forefront of state capture because of the huge resources they command. Gordhan has overseen changes at three state-owned enterprises already and this week, he requested an investigation into how North West premier Supra Mahumapelo's son had received a R1-million bursary from Denel.

Ramaphosa last week ordered a special investigative unit (SIU) investigation into procurement practices at both Eskom and Transnet.

READ MORE: Ramaphosa Orders SIU To Investigate Eskom And Transnet Over Losses

Corruption-busting

Ramaphosa promised an anti-corruption presidency, and every one of his major speeches made thus far has delivered on this clear message. But two things stand in his way: if he does not change the leadership at both the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the State Security Agency (SSA), he will not be able to clear out graft.

Shaun Abrahams at the NPA and Arthur Fraser at the SSA hold two vital institutions in the grip of continued patronage and corruption. The SSA should be a bulwark in preventing state capture by anticipating it, while the NPA should be the key institution preventing corruption becoming endemic.

Ramaphosa is said to be aware of the problem, but he has not yet made changes here – in that, he is being too much of a gradualist. He is, for example, waiting for the Constitutional Court to rule on Abrahams' appeal that he was legitimately appointed after an earlier adverse ruling.

It's the economy, stupid

Ramaphosa knows the maxim: "It's the economy, stupid", a saying that underpins the view that the economy determines political fortunes. He has worked to stabilise business confidence, which had been ripped apart by the Zuma administration and which had South Africa on the brink of being downgraded to junk status for inward investments.

The economy now has green shoots and the rand is regarded as a safe-haven emerging-market currency, Bloomberg reported last week. Ramaphosa and his energy minister, Jeff Radebe, have signed R56-billion worth of contracts with independent power producers for renewable energy sources. This is going to be a major new source of foreign investment, say analysts.

By leveraging his networks in business, Ramaphosa has scored two big potential legacy programmes. The first is the Youth Employment Service launched in March, and the other is a forthcoming small business fund located and funded in the private sector.

And this symbolises another important difference between the administrations of Zuma and Ramaphosa: the latter is far more mixed-market than Zuma's, which followed the model of state-led development. It's a gamble that's only going to work if business brings its investment might and skills to the service of South Africa.

Push on the left

Ramaphosa's greatest challenge is going to come from his left flanks. The land question is, of course, paramount – and given the parliamentary resolve of the ANC and the EFF to get it through, the call for land expropriation without compensation is setting the political story of the year.

In addition, union leader Zwelinzima Vavi is mounting a battle against the proposals on the amount of a minimum wage, while nationalisation remains an extremely popular call within and outside the ANC.

In his first 60 days, Ramaphosa has deployed charm and strategy to display his presidency of speed, and to give meaning to the idea of a new dawn. With just over a year to go before a make-or-break national election, there is likely to be more speed and a shift to the left as he moves to secure a sizeable win for the governing party.