The New Era The New Dawn and The New Dispensation
Address to the Mkhuhlu Church of the Nazarene Fund Raising Dinner by Dr Reuel J. Khoza I 07 July 2018
The organising committee that invited me to address this Fund-Raising Occasion was so circumspect in crafting the title of the intended speech as to mention no person’s name. We can however safely intuit or infer that the leadership personality occasioning The New Era, The New Dawn and The New Dispensation is Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the ANC and the Republic of South Africa.
May I, at the outset, establish that we have a common understanding of the concepts Era, Dawn and Dispensation. Era is a period set off or typified by some prominent figure or characteristic feature, e.g. a style popular in the Victoria Era, or something that dates back to the era of the horse and buggy; the SA era of reconciliation; the SA era of corruption.
Dawn is (Mahlambandlopfu) the first appearance of light in the morning or show of approaching sunrise. Figuratively, early signs of socio-economic and political change in the life of a nation, e.g. dawn of a Renaissance.
Dispensation: Administration under a particular leadership, or a system of principles, promises and rules divinely ordained or administered.
ERAS, DAWNS AND DISPENSATIONS PRECEDING CYRIL RAMAPHOSA’S
The lead up to and dispensation of Nelson Mandela is presidency may be described as the advent / dawn of democracy, the golden or iconic era in South Africa which commanded unconditional international respect and global acclaim, the era of reconciliation and reconstruction and development.
Thabo Mbeki’s presidency may be described as the era of democratic consolidation, a dispensation headed by the Philosopher King, an administration run along business lines resulting in the country at times being dubbed South Africa Inc., the Presidency that championed the African Renaissance.
Jacob Zuma’s Presidency will probably go down as an era / decade of decadence, a dispensation devoid of any discernible value system; a dispensation that presided over national disintegration, moral degeneration and alienation of the National Brains Trust through him chanting his mantra against clever blacks. Jacob Zuma’s is the era of corruption, notorious for auctioning the soul of the nation to any bidder provided such a bidder was prepared to cut him into the transaction. The era of state capture. Gedleyihlekisa’s dispensation bequeaths a virtual wasteland to his successor, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.
THE NEW ERA, THE NEW DAWN THE NEW DISPENSATION
It is contemporary history that Cyril Ramaphosa fought a tough battle to secure the ANC’s support to succeed Jacob Zuma, with the leadership contest revealing deep fissures within the ruling party. However, South Africa at large, the markets and electorate reacted positively to his victory, and the economy witnessed a clear upswing in both sentiment and real economic indicators in its wake. Cyril’s moves to transition the order by introducing a series of reforms, to deal with the rot left by his predecessor were central to these changes. Cyril now has to confront a series of entrenched challenges bound to shape the outlook for South Africa’s political economy in the lead up to the 2019 elections and beyond.
President Cyril Ramaphosa inherited an ANC house divided, a party in fragments and a government in disarray riven by the economics of deployment, confusion and outright corruption. The deep fissures caused by slate politics in the lead up to during and post the ANC NASREC Conference persist. Manifestations of these cleavages assume the forms of:
1. Disintegration and Distraction: The centre no longer holds. Various ministries lack source credibility and tend to be either mum or to mouth platitudes with nothing truly refreshing. State Owned Enterprises are torn asunder by gross inefficiencies and utter corruption. Even parliament is reduced to a tragic circus. The economy is either retrogressive (2.2% GDP decline in the first quarter of 2018) or stagnant.
President Ramaphosa moved with speed to try and address this dire situation, by inter alia replacing the boards of Eskom, SAA and Transnet as well as reshuffling the cabinet.
A major handicap for Cyril is that he remains shackled by various political and policy factors. He won the ANC elective conference by a tiny majority (179 votes) and therefore lacks a solid mandate from his own party, with remnants of Zuma’s support networks continuing to operate behind the scenes. This is compounded by a predecessor who, though de jure out of office, de facto refuses to go. Insisting on ruling from the grave. This behoves Ramaphosa to tread carefully in responding to the mess left by the previous dispensation. Evidence of this is that some of Zuma allies have remained in cabinet while others sit side by side with Ramaphosa in the ANC’s top six and National Executive Committee (NEC). Added to this conundrum, Ramaphosa also needs to keep one eye in the 2019 elections, and the other on further cementing his legitimacy by leading a revival for the ANC for this national vote.
2.Erosion of ANC Base: Policy is arguably the area where Cyril finds himself particularly ensnared. Recently, the ANC has witnessed erosion of its support by the left (EFF) and the right (DA, largest opposition party). Julius Malema’s EFF is perceived as a critical threat to the ANC core voter base in the black African electorate. The departure of Zuma has removed the EFF’s key rallying point. The ANC’s policy declaration on the need to expropriate land without compensation is believed to be an effort to pre-emptively clip the EFF’s wings on the left of the political spectrum.
3. The Vexatious Land Question: The Land Question is as old as colonisation and arguably one of the most intractable challenges facing the current Ramaphosa dispensation. The EFF claims to be championing the cause for the people and insist on explicit constitutional amendments for EXPROPRIATION WITHOUT COMPENSATION. The ruling party appears to believe that Section 25 of the Constitution coupled with appropriate legislation would adequately deal with the vexing challenge. The DA insists on title deeds for the citizenry. As if the riddle was not confounding enough, King Zwelithini, supported by a belligerent Zulu contingent warns menacingly that government should never touch land under the Ingonyama Trust. This insistence may spread to land ostensibly owned / controlled by other traditional leaders. This is potentially explosive to say the least. A cloud dark enough to blanket the New Dawn.
4. Moral Degeneration: The cardinal cause of corruption and its state capture bedfellow is lack of morality. By the time Jacob Zuma was forced to quit presidential office, our political leadership’s moral quotient had degenerated to such an abysmal level that cabinet minsters and premiers could embezzle, waste and abuse their fiduciary duties with absolute impunity. It was leadership / misleadership without compunction – no pricking of conscience. In addition, given the limited education of Jacob Zuma, mediocrity got elevated to the state of virtue. Mediocre persons get appointed, protected and rewarded – thank to deployment. Talented, qualified and ethical persons got fired for no rhyme or reason.
Key to the challenges of the incoming dispensation is to insist on leaders with moral authority, ability and commitment to ethical values. There also has to be insistence on pursuit of excellence and shunning mediocrity.
5. Renovation and Innovation: Successful progressive countries continually reinvent themselves in line with global trends and future demands so characteristic of the fourth industrial revolution. The tragic plight of South Africa is that during the past decade the country was at best stagnant and in some respects at worst regressive.
It thus behoves the incoming administration to reconstruct, renovate and innovate. A compound challenge indeed threatening the dawning of the new era.
6. A Short-lived Honeymoon: At a political level, notwithstanding the show of solidarity and unity following the ANC elective conference, the ruling party has remained embroiled in bitter infighting since Zuma’s departure. The party’s provincial chapters in KwaZulu Natal, Free State and North West are in disarray, with KZN experiencing a spike in political violence despite the establishment of the Moerane Commission of inquiry to investigate causes of the problems affecting the state’s political apparatus. Rumours of a party break-away in the province persist. At the same time, the provincial elective conference in Free State is also being challenged in court, while in the North West, the provincial chair Supra Mahumapelo was forced to resign because of major governance failures.
SOUTH AFRICA AT THE CROSSROADS
During the last year and a half I was lucky to be part of a team working on Scenario Planning dubbed Indlulamithi. The outcome paints three scenarios casting its national eye on the year 2030.
The results of the research and consultations have been consolidated to create three possible scenarios, typified by popular dances, namely:
Isbhujwa: An enclave bourgeois nation
Epitomising a loose-limbed, jumpy nation with a frenetic edge, iSbhujwa is a South Africa torn by deepening social divides, daily protests and cynical self-interest.
- There is a rapid escalation in the number of social protests, reflecting a growing separation of South Africans by class and income levels.
- Market-led interventions in education, health and the services of state-owned enterprises mixed results.
- Faster land reform is rolled out, but under-investment in agriculture sees declines in food production and food security.
- There is further erosion of trust in key societal institutions, even though many institutions improve their capacity and competence.
- Slow but persistent currency depreciation dovetails with increasing government debt risk.
- GDP growth averages 2.2% to 2030.
- Unemployment is reduced to around 22% in 2030.
Nayi le Walk: A nation in step with itself
In a precise sequence of steps, this scenario choreographs a vision of a South Africa where growing social cohesion, economic expansion and a renewed spirit of constitutionalism get the nation going.
- Early childhood development programmes and the first six years of education are better resourced. This and the promotion of civic values in school starts to pay off.
- TVET colleges are overhauled and produce many more artisans while university education is made more affordable. More young people pursue livelihoods independent of government and big corporations.
- Better recruiting, training and support create a more capable and productive public sector – and this increases public trust in key societal institutions.
- Global credit rating agencies upgrade South Africa as foreign investments increase.
- Faster urban and rural land redistribution, and better support for emerging farmers, boost agricultural production, food security and urban integration.
- From 2020, economic growth is more solid and predictable: GDP growth averages 4.5% to 2030.
- The unemployment rate is reduced by about 1% per year, reaching 16% in 2030.
Gwara Gwara: A floundering false dawn
In a nation torn between immobility and restless energy, Gwara embodies a demoralised land of disorder and decay.
- Many key institutions are only partially ‘liberated’ – and some quickly get ‘recaptured’ by newly emerging elites.
- Destructive battles within most of the major political parties flare up, but opposition parties are able to form a coalition government between 2024 and 2029.
- After the 2024 elections, many public institutions are returned to functionality and, after prolonged and fierce debate, the number of provinces is reduced to six.
- Income inequality exceeds even the high levels of the 2010s.
- The post-2024 coalition government is increasingly controlling and individual freedoms are curtailed.
- GDP growth averages 1.5% over the decade, with some periods of deep recession.
- Unemployment never falls 25% - and actually increases towards the end of the 2020s.
The incoming dispensation of Cyril Ramaphosa faces a crisis of substantive proportions. I am told that the Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters, one signifying danger, the other opportunity. The crisis of the incoming administration is a danger – opportunity one in the classical sense of the Chinese conceptualisation. For the seismic shifts in our political economy have created gaping pitfalls for any dispensation that may lack moral authority, sense of destiny, a compelling well-articulated vision, courage and steadfast commitment.
And yet there are times when history and leadership life demand daring realisation of the most demanding. The life of the Founding Forebears of our democracy is the eternal testimony of the ability of men and women to achieve the virtually impossible. So, too, we must embark upon this difficult, trying, and sometimes bewildering course. With unyielding commitment, we must transform our minus into a plus, and move on with determination through the storms of lingering corruption, decadence, state capture and the jostling winds of daily handicaps, towards the beckoning lights of national fulfilment. Our dilemma is serious and our obstacles are real, but equally real is the power of creative will and its ability to give us the courage to go on “in spite of”.