South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa is under the microscope following what feels like an implosion since being elected into power in December, however, he can turn things around by showing stronger leadership skills, particularly with regards to the land expropriation debate, says political analyst Justice Malala.
Malala was speaking in Johannesburg this week as part of a country-wide roadshow to PSG Wealth clients and advisers. He called for the president to eradicate uncertainty by making clear decisions.
“Make a decision, then implement it,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s election as president and his subsequent moves to root out public sector corruption buoyed confidence in the country’s economic prospects, negative growth and perceived slow progress has reversed this confidence on an almost unprecedented level., topped off by the country entering recession this week, for the first time since 2009.
At the top of the current agenda is land reform.
An emerging-market sell-off may have already battered the country’s rand, but it could get worse as traders fret about a push for land reform that would have far-reaching economic consequences and is catching the attention of world leaders, Bloomberg reported.
Investors are concerned about a lack of details around expropriation and say it could undermine property rights, deter foreign investment and lead to penalties from other countries, according to Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley.’
“We are stuck in this never ending conversation,” Malala said. “Ramaphosa has failed to manage the land issue. He needs to lead.”
He said that the government doesn’t even know how much land it currently owns, and in a column in the Sunday Times last week, he accused the ruling party, the ANC of doing nothing to use the constitution to enable faster land reform since it came into power 24 years ago.
“When it has attempted land reform it has been in a haphazard‚ half-hearted‚ inefficient and largely corrupt manner which has benefited a very small elite of politically connected individuals. The problem is not the constitution. It is the ANC’s lack of political will.”
Malala said that Ramaphosa continues to face divisions within the ANC, which he said caused the land debate in the first place.
He said that Ramaphosa is trying to pacify some members of the ANC, and needs to take a stronger stance, and live by the mantra that you can’t be popular all of the time. Malala said that the president needs to stick to his own views, “which may lead to a split”.
“The president also needs to get the Hawks and NPA to do their jobs which is to send people to jail,” Malala said of the corruption cloud that hangs over this country. “On corruption, we don’t see consequences.”
Malala said that the economy is also key to Ramaphos’as future. “People are attracted to populism if they don’t have jobs. We need to get jobs created,” he said, adding that the government needs to get business to buy into and create jobs. “People want jobs and dignity,” he said.
Looking ahead, Malala said that the political noise will continue ahead of the elections in 2019, noting that some sort of calm will only return in May and June.
This sentiment was echoed by Old Mutual Investment Group MD, Khaya Gobodo, who said that South Africa will have to improve the way it implements its policies in order to facilitate better investment conditions.
“This includes policy certainty relating to the mining charter and land reform, continued strong focus on anti-corruption measures and improved public sector governance specifically relating to state-owned entities.
“We are already seeing what seems to be increased commitment from the president and his Cabinet to the implementation of structural reform and we would expect the pace to accelerate after 2019 elections,” he said.