The Running Commentary

Observations of a regime change

Perhaps my title feels a little misleading, but certainly with the change from Jacob Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa, it does feel like a regime change. This feeling is despite both men representing the African National Congress, (ANC) and both men maintaining that they put the party first.

Our experience of the one is that they have used the countries resources, as a means to advance his own agenda, as well as the agenda of a chosen few. The legal cases will come and while they may not take the form that we individually want, come they will. I, as I am sure many other South Africans are, am waiting for this to happen. We want to see consequences being applied as a result of what appears to have been a rampant pillaging of the state coffers.

The new President

This post is not about the former; it is about the new President. When you watch the speeches, see the confident walk and the ability to connect, you cannot help but feel positive. President Ramaphosa has started the journey well, literally walking with the people. The President is presenting a really unified message, calling for the country to work together. He even received a “reprieve” from the EFF for his first SONA speech.

He delivered a great SONA speech, which had many folks speaking about feeling like South Africa has turned the corner. I agree that the palpable feeling of relief is infectious and comes with much hope for the future, however I think there must also be a caveat.

The Challenges

The task ahead of him is going to be immensely tough, he is being held up to be the one that is going to lead South Africa back from the edge. The challenges that we face as a national remain largely the same as nineties. Unemployment is astronomically high and the need to create an environment that encourages job growth, while trying to contain inflation is going to be difficult to achieve.

The education gap is increasing every year, we see this not just in terms of private vs. state schools, but even more pronounced is the gap developing within the state school system. In addition, the ever-present free tertiary education debate needs to be resolved. Simply because education should be a right within the context of addressing the past. I believe that this challenge is going to be around for a long time.

Alongside these two significant challenges are the on-going debates around land re-distribution, food security and health. In short a quagmire of challenges, in a rapidly depleting tax base. The short fall in revenue collection has, in my view, finally reached its breaking point. While it is possible to increase the top income level tax tables, adjust CGT and other wealth taxes, the effects of these are nowhere near sufficient to cover the gap.

The future is uncertain, but maybe just maybe

A good friend on mine once said, on the topic of business success. When you want to improve the bottom line, you can either increase revenue or decrease costs, but most likely it is better to do a bit of both.

This is the challenge that faces the President and his advisors. He needs to grow the revenue collection line and decrease the costs; he does not have the option to only increase the revenue line. This will therefore affect every South African.

So, maybe a little sobering in the midst of the euphoria, but the reality remains, we have a long road ahead of us. The massive opportunity is that it feels like we are going to walk it with a person of integrity at the helm. This should be good for us – let’s watch this space.

ANCCyril RamaphosaJacob ZumaMike TabernerSouth AfricaSouth African Politics

Mike • February 20, 2018


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