Ramaphosa in the Driving Seat but the Road Is Still Long – Economists

By Oliver Ngwenya    13-Jun-2021 20:05 UTC+02:00

Despite the fact that Ramaphosa seems to be scoring huge successes both as the president of the country and that of the ANC, there is a lot that he still needs to do before he can get the country out of the woods, so to speak. This is the message that emanated from several economists as they spoke to the media.

“The recent spate of announcements are long overdue and send the right signal about the government’s commitment to unblock the obstacles that have been holding back the economy. However, there is still a lot to be done and I think Ramaphosa will have to demonstrate progress on a broader set of issues to convince the market that the long-awaited new dawn has finally arrived.” This was said by Boingotlo Gasealahwe, the Africa Economist at Bloomberg. In her initial message, she may have been referring to the happenings in the ANC, where Ramaphosa has suspended his main rival, former Secretary-General, Ace Magashule for involvement in corruption from the time he was Premier of the Free State Province. Even though he tried to fight the suspension in many ways, he seemed to be losing every step of the way and this culminated in him being taken off a Zoom Meeting of the National Executive Committee meeting last month.

In addition, to show his commitment to fighting graft in the country, Ramaphosa also put another of his rivals, Zweli Mkhize, on special leave. This, following the latter’s involvement in a contract involving the National Health Insurance as well as Digital Vibes, a company that had strong connections to his comrades, as he called them, and which was seen to be making payments to his son as well as paying for renovations to one of his properties.

These two major changes in the party, the economists contend, have served to bolster Ramaphosa’s position in the party, his chances of being reelected as well as his ability to make and carry through decisions in the party. Recent events have left Ramaphosa somewhat less hemmed in politically than before,” Butler said. “He is now well-positioned to deliver a message of hope to the voters ahead of the local government elections,” said Anthony Butler, a political science professor at the University of Cape Town and the author of a biography of the president. His sentiments were augmented by Johann Els, an economist at Old Mutual Investment Group who feels that the President feels more confident to make decisions, especially within the ANC.

In addition, his party has taken the bold step to sell off a stake in the national airline that has been wallowing in debt and over-expenditure and it will soon take to the skies. Furthermore, Ramaphosa and his team have taken decisive steps to end the devastating power shortages by allowing independent power producers more leeway to produce their own electricity.

However, the economists still contend that there is still a lot that the president needs to do before he is home safe. The biggest hindrance to the president will be the Covid-19 pandemic and the havoc it has wreaked on the economy. According to Thabi Leoka, an independent economist, the key lies in accelerating the inoculation of the population to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the population and consequently on the economy. Said Leoka, “Until such a time that we’re vaccinated and our rollout is sorted, we’re going to also struggle even if we implement every policy that we’re supposed to implement.”

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