Cyril Ramaphosa is losing support, as business warns of deep lasting damage

Trust in president Cyril Ramaphosa has dropped by 24 percentage points to 61% since the Covid-19 outbreak, according to new survey data by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Human Science Resources Council (HSRC).

“The results do seem to suggest there’s strong trust in the president and, to some degree, in national government – but that trust has been diminishing across different lockdown levels, with increasing polarisation,” said Dr Benjamin Roberts, HSRC research director, in a webinar on Wednesday (19 August).

The HSRC and UJ conducted the first online survey in June this year. The latest round was conducted from 8 to 17 July.

“Those that distrust the president are substantially more likely to support the removal of the ban on cigarettes, as well as relaxing the ban on alcohol,” Roberts said.

For those that trust the president, there is a far greater level of willingness to sacrifice certain human rights to stop the spread of the pandemic than for those who distrust the president, he said.

Some responses from survey participants took aim at the president, and the ruling ANC’s credibility.

“Fire all the thieves in government. All of them. It makes me sick. Your job is to serve the people and make lives better for the people. You’re not doing your job,” one respondent from Tshwane said.

“Dear Mr President, your reputation and that of your party is shaken to the core. You guys will never be trusted again. You have failed many South Africans, so good luck. Go ahead, ruin this country further with your ministers. My personal opinion: you failed,” another respondent said.

Roberts said some of the recurring personal messages that respondents had for Ramaphosa called for the president to be more decisive, especially in dealing with corruption; while many said that their confidence in his presidency and office has been shaken and cannot be recovered.

Business Leadership SA chief executive officer, Busisiwe Mavuso said in a column published in Business Report, that impact of the lockdown will make for shocking reading when GDP figures are published next month.

“I have to say the odds are not looking good. The second-quarter GDP numbers that are set to be released in the first week of September is a key statistic to look out for.”

For the remainder of the year we are going to see further negative shocks as labour moves from furlough to unemployment, credit conditions tighten and the National Treasury’s stimulus package runs its course. As economic research and advisory house Intellidex states in its most recent report, there’s “no straight line out of here and we see a very sluggish recovery”.

Mavuso said that while the president began to reopen the economy in June, “the damage has been done – and it’s deep”.

“We had hoped this shared crisis would at the very least focus minds on the task at hand of regrouping and finding a new economic growth path. But in recent weeks and months, the stories of corruption around the state’s procurement of personal protective equipment have dented public confidence in the state’s ability to lead an economic response.

“With a country already suffering from confidence levels at multi-decade lows, this came as a body blow.”

“As is often said, it is what it is. But we still have to face up to the task of rebuilding this shattered economy and fast. It is up to the state to reclaim some of its lost credibility as a result of the scourge of corruption and we can only hope we see that through actions from both police and prosecuting authorities,” Mavuso said.

She said that the president has promised so, “and we hope to see consequences for the perpetrators, something that has proved ever elusive over the past decade”.

Read: South Africa probes dubious virus contracts worth R5 billion

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Cyril Ramaphosa is losing support, as business warns of deep lasting damage