Although there is no doubt that the challenge is huge, the task daunting and the future uncertain, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa has in just two months provided the kind of leadership that the embattled country so dearly needs.
Not so long ago South Africa was under the evil grip of ruinous president Jacob Zuma in which corruption was rampant, the economy in a state of increasing decay and the cabinet made up of the kind of mediocrity this country had never seen before and after apartheid.
Now that Ramaphosa is in charge, the fight against corruption has intensified, we have a star-studded cabinet and the economy is beginning to show signs of recovery. This despite the fact that the new president has not been in office for a hundred days. Ramaphosa’s New Dawn, although still unclear what it really entails, has caught the imagination of the country and the world. Will this New Dawn reverse the evil excesses of the Zuma presidency that brought so much pain in our beautiful and potentially rich country?
Now, it would be naive to believe that one man, armed with a romantic vision of the future, can succeed without the support of the nation. Remember that the main responsibility of every president is to cast a vision for the nation and the rest of us, as patriotic citizens, must do our part in translating the vision of our president into a practical reality. All of us must become brave soldiers of Hugh Masekela’s Thuma Mina as we unleash the full potential of the rainbow nation. We must be there to lend a hand; we must be there to help the poor and protect the vulnerable; we must be there to selflessly give of ourselves and “ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country” as JFK pleaded with his nation five decades ago.
The greatest threat facing South Africa today is corruption and maladministration. President Ramaphosa has set an example by axing incompetent and compromised Zuma ministers, cleaning up the state owned enterprises and galvanising state agencies like the Hawks, NPA and SARS to perform their duties without fear or favour. Ramaphosa cannot succeed alone and needs the support of his government and the entire nation behind him to lead the country to prosperity. Indeed, he can also do so much and without the support of the nation, there will be no “new dawn” for the broken nation.
The real challenge of corruption and maladministration lies in the nine provinces of South Africa. In these provinces, the head of government is a Premier. If the country is to succeed, every Premier must be a “smallanyana” Ramaphosa. The example set by the president at national level must find expression in every province of our country. Since corruption is mainly rampant in provincial governments, the districts and municipalities, Ramaphosa’s crusade will evaporate if the Premiers do not emulate him. It is the Premiers who know about dodgy MECs, corrupt mayors and incompetent councillors. Like Ramaphosa, they must crack the whip and remove corrupt and incompetent MECs, put on terms under-perfoming provincial parastatals and act decisively against graft and maladministration in municipalities.
Considering the fact that the ruling party runs eight of the nine provinces in the country, it makes sense to expect the president to go on a bosberaad with the Premiers. This should be a bosberaad of the president and the Premiers without Ministers, MECs and Directors-General. The gathering must be conducted like a“koma”in which these leaders buy into the vision of the president in a solemn environment. The Premiers must pledge to replicate in their provinces what the president is doing at national level. If they have to draw blood in making the secret pledge to the president so be it. Out of this bosberaad, a new determination must emerge to undo the damage of the past and the participants must courageously implement the solemn decisions of the solemn gathering.
Of course, there is a big problem with this suggestion. Will the remnants of the Zuma era play ball? How will Ramaphosa persuade the Premiers of Northwest, Free State and KZN to toe the line? The ANC is still largely as factionalized today as it was prior to Nasrec. Some of the current Premiers are deeply involved in the corruption that Ramaphosa is combatting. They are afraid of President Ramaphosa who has made it clear that no stone will be left unturned in his anti-corruption crusade. They are still deep in their factional trenches trying to reverse the outcome of Nasrec. Imagine poor Supra Mahumapelo having to fight corruption in Bokone Bophirima? It will be nothing short of a farce!
Ramaphosa must realise that without turning these Premiers into his photocopies and marshaling them to join his new dawn, his chances of success will be limited indeed. As a lawyer, trade unionist, political activist, shrewd negotiator and business leader, he has to dig deep into his remarkable character to marshal these provincial forces. He has to create a special relationship and keep close contact with Premiers if he hopes to win. He must behave like a strict but loving and caring leader of his team. He must encourage, cajole, exhort and occasionally censure his team. Those who fail or refuse to be part of his team must be democratically removed from their high positions and be replaced by willing horses. In sport, when the coach and captain feel that a player on a particular day is not in top form, they simply substitute them.
So, Mr President, Thuma Mina is not just a touching song by Bra Hugh; it is a war cry to build the embattled nation. You have your soldiers in the provinces, and like a good general, give them Thuma Mina orders. It is a sacred responsibility. Thuma bona!
Sello Lediga is a social commentator,
founder of the Thuma Mina Movement(www.thumaminamovement.co.za)