THE BLOG
08/03/2018 12:07 SAST | Updated 08/03/2018 12:12 SAST

Dear Mr President: It’s Make Or Break In The First 100 Days

Nation-building is tightly linked with the process of healing, social justice and the restoration of dignity to its people.

Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

After the promise of the state of the nation address, which inculcated Madiba's vision of unity and renewal, our hopes have been dashed by some inclusions in the new Cabinet.

These appointments do not send a clear message that President Cyril Ramaphosa wishes to lead a clean government. The appointment of people to, or their removal from Cabinet should be determined by the principle of good, clean governance and institutional performance. We need people trusted by society and people who are not tainted by matters of state capture and corruption. Our Cabinet should have people who inspire institutional performance and delivery.

Could this be a sign once more that political expediency will supersede the needs of the country? Here is food for thought, Mr President: if your call to action is to resonate with many South Africans during your first hundred days in office, then we must act on the issues that concern them.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) shares a light moment with Gwede Mantashe after he was sworn in as the Minister of Mineral Resources in Parliament on February 27, 2018.

The euphoria of your appointment will be sustained only through practical programmes that are geared towards addressing structural challenges such as poverty, unemployment and inequality, which continue to define our society. In the face of these defining features, a large section of our society — mainly black citizens — continue to suffer.

President Ramaphosa, as you promised in your "send me" speech, we must urge you to take note that South Africans are yearning for the rule of law to prevail, and for state institutions that function optimally without fear or favour.

As you would know, Mr President, our justice cluster has been found wanting in prosecuting cases involving the powerful. Your administration must acknowledge that its ability to overcome these challenges has been undermined over the past decade by a failure of leadership and misguided priorities.

The tragedies for the people of Life Esidimeni and Marikana should find expression in your heart in a more practical way.

You will be familiar with the instability of our state-owned institutions like Eskom and Denel — due in part to governance failures. Sorting them all out will take time, but there are some steps that can be taken quickly.

For instance, clearing out the boards of state-owned enterprises and putting in place new business plans. This would send a clear message that the years of patronage are over. The appointment of the new board at Eskom should be welcome, but it is not enough

This fifth administration will have to deal with students at a tertiary level other than the first-year cohorts of 2018, who are in the missing middle and never qualified for NFSAS — yet their families are in the R350,000 bracket. A potential for conflict and violent protest exists in this cohort of students. They will be arguing about their struggles for free fee higher education, but not benefiting from it.

The failure to transfer the social-grants management system to the South African Post Office (SAPO) as instructed by the Constitutional Court is again raising anxiety among the recipients and other citizens alike. Approximately 15-million South Africans depend on this grant for survival, yet ineptness in leadership has seen it unable to transfer grants to the SAPO.

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An insurgency from this vulnerable sector of society is too ghastly to contemplate — another tsunami in waiting! Nation building is tightly linked with the process of healing, social justice and the restoration of dignity to its people. The tragedies for the people of Life Esidimeni and Marikana should find expression in your heart in a more practical way.

The restoration of their dignity and healing will be determined by the manner in which you react to the suffering they endure for a long period of time. Yes, "atonement" — the survivors and families of these affected citizens need closure to move forward with their lives. How you react to the restoration of justice and healing will determine their destiny.

Mr President, our local municipalities continue to face governance challenges due to maladministration and mismanagement. This has often resulted in dissatisfaction by communities — as a consequence of the slow pace of the delivery of basic services such as running water, electricity and sanitation services. This situation provides a picture through which continuous resurgence of violent delivery protest in most communities should be viewed.

A clear and ambitious priority and timeframes, and good, clean governance must be uppermost to everyone, if your "send me" message is to be embraced by the entire country.

Compounding this is the slow pace of housing delivery, which comes in the wake of political promises during the election period that most of these issues would be addressed once the new administration was in place. In addition, allegations of rampant corruption and nepotism against those tasked with responsibility for delivery of infrastructure in communities has not helped the situation either.

The Estina dairy farm in Free State points to rampant corruption that robbed poor families of their subsistence. Poor communities in Free State invested their labour in the project, but the powerful used their power to corrupt and take what was due to the community.

Additionally, the crisis of water as experienced nationally needs your urgent attention. As you would know, the most-affected communities are the marginalised and the poor. As you continue to consult with communities with a view to addressing the water crisis, do not forget the people of Elim in Limpopo and other rural parts of the country, who have yet to experience drinking water at their doorstep.

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National initiatives that were announced during the state of the nation address, such as a job summit, and other interventions in the short term should be welcome. However, these initiatives should be accompanied by strong action in dealing with systemicv rampant corruption by those in leadership. Corruption in South Africa needs to be treated with the same vigour and efforts that are aimed at addressing poverty, inequality and unemployment.

In short, Mr President, as you mobilise all South Africans behind a common programme of renewal and a call to action, we are sending a clear message that citizens are losing patience with the lack of delivery.

A clear and ambitious priority and timeframes, and good, clean governance must be uppermost to everyone, if your "send me" message is to be embraced by the entire country.

Selby Xinwa is a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.