Cyril Ramaphosa has taken over the reigns as President of South Africa following the resignation of Jacob Zuma on Wednesday evening. The leader of the African National Congress (ANC) took over as the country’s president following a parliamentary approval on Thursday.
When he was made the ANC leader in December 2017, many South Africans were expectant while others were doubtful of his leadership qualities not just for the party but the country as well. As he is now heading both, people can only keep their fingers crossed and hope for the better. But, what lies ahead for the 66-year-old? How can he transform the country’s economy and political system?
Here are some of the challenges he would need to address as early as possible.
Unite the ANC
The party, following the Zuma scandal, lost major metropolitan areas in the 2016 municipal elections, including Johannesburg and Pretoria. Even though opposition parties may not be a major threat, Ramaphosa must ensure that the ANC is united ahead of the 2019 elections to limit their losses and avoid a possible coalition government. In effect, Ramaphosa must unite all divided factions of the party and South Africans as a whole behind a common vision for growth and prosperity. The ANC as it stands now is split over ideological differences and Ramaphosa must reverse this.
Cape Town water crisis
The country’s second city is running out of water. It has predicted that Day Zero – when most taps will be switched off – will occur on April 12. Last month, the city announced that starting on February 1, households consuming more than 350 litres of water a day would face fines and the installation of a water-management device on their property. Ramaphosa, then deputy president recently told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in Davos, Switzerland, that he was putting together a team to help prepare for the possibility that Cape Town will run out of water soon. The ANC leader while addressing the commemoration of Nelson Mandela from prison in Cape Town last week also called for unity amid the ongoing water crisis. As the president now, his task would be to intervene in the crisis and find an amicable solution.
The public is gradually losing confidence in the state following corruption allegations that have been levelled at public officers over the years. Even though the country has a stronger judiciary, many do not have trust in the police, who are largely seen as corrupt – taking bribes from drivers for minor offences, and so on. Corruption, which has affected public finances, must, therefore, be given the swift attention it deserves. “Cyril Ramaphosa inherits an alarming mess from Jacob Zuma,” said Ben Payton, head of Africa research for Verisk Maplecroft as quoted by ABC News, adding that the new leader must restore confidence in the troubled mining sector and end the corruption around state-owned enterprises. Some South Africans have already called on their new president to set up an anti-corruption unit where people will be given the platform to expose corruption cases.
Economy and unemployment
South Africa has experienced a population growth of 1.2 percent but its economic growth has been limited in recent years. Unemployment is also at a high of 27.7 percent across the general population and as high as 68 percent among young people, government statistics say. Touching on the difficulties in South Africa’s economy, James Hamill, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, told Sputnik that Ramaphosa is a competent politician and manager who can take steps to improve the economic situation. “This is a huge task as the economy is floundering but Ramaphosa is a far superior politician, a much more competent manager, he currently enjoys the confidence of both business and organised labour and the confidence of international investors and ratings agencies,” Hamill said. Others argue that in order to rejuvenate one of Africa’s most powerful economies and bring in more jobs, corruption must be rooted out.
“You know, I think he is going to be focused on corruption as a big thing because the thing is, in South Africa a lot of the reason why the economy is not growing.
“Why we don’t have the jobs, why the state is not functioning, why ordinary black people who are poor are not getting their houses or their jobs, or a good education or health, is corruption. “A big part of it is corruption,” William Gumede, the executive chairperson of South Africa’s Democracy Works Foundation non-profit organization as quoted by Sputnik.
Better health is central to everyone’s well-being and makes an important contribution to economic progress. People can only work if they remain in good health and so the health of citizens should be paramount to Ramaphosa. AIDS and other poverty-related diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera are already placing a tremendous strain on South Africa’s health care system. According to government statistics, the total number of people living with HIV increased from an estimated 4.72 million in 2002 to 7.03 million by 2016. As the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, President Ramaphosa is expected to liaise with the business community to fight against HIV/AIDS. He should also ensure that more is done to serve people living with the disease, in terms of giving them antiretroviral treatment.