Forum Report: The Ramaphosa Presisdency: Prospects for Struggle

IFAA Position Points for ILRIG/IFAA Public Forum prepared by Zunaid Moola

 

  1. With the exception of Zuma loyalists, every one of us was relieved when he resigned
  2. With the election of Ramaphosa we might want to divide S Africans into 3 categories:
    1.  those who are wildly ecstatic
    2. those who are indifferent
    3. those who are extremely disappointed
  3. We can assume what some of the reasons are for the ecstasy: we now have a President who is able to restore the confidence of the business class, remove the state capture culprits and give legitimacy to state institutions. His connections with the corporate sector are seen as having the potential to stimulate investment after the gradual decline under Zuma and bring stability to government finances and thereby get the ratings agencies to offer a more promising outlook for the country’s economy.
  4. For those who are disappointed, it would be necessary to ask who they would have preferred as a President and why
  5. This leaves those who are indifferent and it is with them in mind that I would like to make a few comments. They probably feel that there is little prospect of change whether Ramaphosa or someone else became President.
  6. A question we should ask is: renewal of what? The party, the State, policy or all three?
  7. If it’s the party, we should not be too optimistic. There are some of the old guard who remain in top positions while other positions are now occupied by new entrants who do not represent change from the previous administration. He may not enjoy full support for any initiatives to re-structure the party. And since these are all elected members, he does not have the liberty to chop and change
  8. If it’s policy, we need to start with what has to be changed. There are questions here that should have been asked in 94 and answered in clear and unambiguous terms then.
    1. What kind of an economy do we have?
    2. Who owns and controls the economy?
    3. How do we re-structure this economy given the capabilities of the state and the constraints of capital and skills?
    4. What are the possible consequences of restructuring the economy?

 

These questions should be put to a broad based consultation process with social and political formations who represent all sections of our population.

  1. If it’s the renewal of state, we should consider what would have to be done. Firstly, will the new President give the cluster of ministries responsible for economic growth and development a clear set of policies that make the developmental state fully operational (flowing from the consultation process). This is probably where the President can demonstrate leadership for it is here that the use of resources (financial, material and human) must be prescribed and directed.
  2. Next, will President Ramaphosa completely overhaul the security establishment, remove the rent seekers and dismantle those networks that have been operating to advance private agendas?. Under Zuma these departments were beginning to bear the hallmarks of a Parallel Government or the Deep State.
  3. Will President Ramaphosa make the social development of our people the centerpiece of an economic development and growth program? This entails the launch of mass housing, water and electricity provision and creation of transport networks. The SOEs are the lynchpin of these programs and here too the President’s leadership will be decisive in order to eliminate the corruption that has been endemic in these Enterprises. With regard to ESKOM, a new mandate is necessary that would make the development of alternative energy sources a primary requirement and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Transport too must be given clearly spelled out goals to reduce the number of cars on our roads as part of a broader strategy to reduce air pollution.
  4. Will President Ramaphosa make our streets and neighbourhoods safe for every citizen. While policing is a huge part of this, it is by no means an adequate solution. The causes of crime must be tackled at their roots. This includes white collar and hard core criminal activity. The criminal syndicates that operate with impunity have to be neutralized.
  5. On the matter of land expropriation, will President Ramaphosa initiate a process to re-define property rights in SA? What will his approach be to urban and rural land ownership? Will state-owned land be treated in the same way as privately owned land? Even with an amendment to the constitution, land that will be transferred/expropriated without compensation will involve lengthy and costly litigation. How does the President intend to deal with such attempts to thwart the re-distribution of land
  6. The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us. Artificial Intelligence will gradually replace large numbers of workers in a number of production processes from mining to manufacturing. What measures can we expect the President to consider to limit the effects of AI on jobs?

 

These are but some of the issues we would want the President to attend to if we are to see him as the architect of renewal. But there is another way in which we can look at renewal: can worker, student and community organizations become the architects of renewal?

The first move in this direction is to separate the President from being personally or individually involved in policy.  A question that we can pose in this regard is: does Cyril Ramaphosa offer us opportunities to strengthen the path to peoples power?

An efficient bureaucracy is something the entire left can support. This could prompt renewal.

He could also bring in more competent leaders but if they are part of the neoliberal mould, the renewal will not favour workers and the poor. It may, however, usher in more transparent government which we could take advantage of.