THE BLOG
26/06/2018 04:44 SAST | Updated 26/06/2018 04:44 SAST

Is Ramaphosa's New Dawn Really Dead? Already?

The euphoria has abated, but is the presidency already blighted? I’d argue not, but that it can feel that way.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the time newly elected ANC president but still deputy president of the nation, speaks to the media ahead of the ANC's 106th-anniversary celebrations in East London, January 12 2018.
Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the time newly elected ANC president but still deputy president of the nation, speaks to the media ahead of the ANC's 106th-anniversary celebrations in East London, January 12 2018.

Almost every major columnist is writing off President Cyril Ramaphosa's "new dawn" as if it is dead in the water; an idea politically stillborn.

Analysts say the "Ramaphoria", the initial burst of goodwill that greeted Ramaphosa's inauguration four months ago, is gone. The euphoria has abated — but is the presidency already blighted? I'd argue not, but that it can feel that way.

Here are three reasons why.

Firstly, social media has sped up and loudened the pace of news, so crises feel amplified.

Secondly, the incapable state of inefficiencies and bloat is hampering Ramaphosa's ability to move quickly, and the public's appetite for costly regulation is gone.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a eulogy at the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. April 14 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

And, thirdly, it's seasonal. Winter is always harder for South Africa because it's cold, and protests grow.

It's midwinter, and protests are now the order of the day. On Monday, it was the turn of striking Alexandra taxi drivers, protesting JMPD impounding of unroadworthy vehicles. Last week, two major national routes were closed due to protests.

Every day, there is a service delivery action somewhere, and it is often violent — so fires lick at the national psyche, and unhappy commuters fill their airwaves creating a sense of pandemonium. The raw number of protests is higher.

An inefficient state has lost the legitimacy to regulate. Two attempts by Ramaphosa's administration to make big policy shifts have run aground on a wall of opposition.

Ramaphosa is having a tough time. South Africa is not an easy country to govern, but his record until now should still give us that rarest of public commodities: hope.

The mining charter released by mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe earlier in June has left the industry largely unimpressed, as it imposes a double tax on the established industry by increasing both the black ownership target and also introducing a "free-carry" principle.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO1 / Reuters
Gwede Mantashe.

And last week's launch of discussion papers which outlined how a potential national health scheme may work has caused panic, as private sector doctors threaten to emigrate (because the planned system will cap fees) and beleaguered middle-class taxpayers fear an even higher tax bill.

READ: NHI: What, Why, When, How? — All Your Questions Answered

Greater equity and equality in healthcare is so obviously moral, it cannot be argued with, but with the public system in tatters, it can feel like the government wants to mirror this in the private sector.

No doubt, Ramaphosa is having a tough time. South Africa is not an easy country to govern, but his record until now should still give us that rarest of public commodities: hope.

For one, the administration is no longer kleptocratic. There is a cornucopia of commissions to probe corruption and state capture: the inquiry into tax administration by SARS starts this week; the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture starts public hearings in August; various parliamentary inquiries into what happened at state enterprises are shedding more light than even the industry of analysts in South Africa can cope with.

All the major public enterprises have new boards in place and several have new management. The SABC at the weekend announced the appointments of a new CEO and chief financial officer as it completed its return to broadcasting democracy.

The "new dawn" can sound like an event, but really it's a process — and in a public debate driven by incendiary headlines delivered to a beleaguered and impatient country, things may feel like they are moving too slowly.

And perhaps they are, but to call "failure" and "flop" at this stage seem to be too early assessments.

ALSO READ: What Has Ramaphosa Accomplished In His First 3 Months In Office? Here Are 10 Things (So Far)