Let me list three kinds of such people for the sake of this discussion:
- Those who apologise, ask for forgiveness, promise never to do it again, and then ask that we move on;
- Those who almost shout at you, “I’m sorry, now please let’s move on. I said I’m sorry, OK? Now, please let’s move on, for heaven’s sake!” They say this without wanting to engage with the details of what really happened, probably because they’re too ashamed to look in the mirror; and
- There are those who never apologise – at least not directly. They deal with what happened by buying you expensive presents or simply being nice all of a sudden, hoping that this will make you forget what they did to offend you and move on without a frank discussion about what happened and, importantly, a promise that it will never happen again. In such cases, a door is inadvertently left open for what happened to happen again, and for the cycle to repeat itself at some date in the future.
Something tells me that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s governing ANC falls into the third category. This is scary for a number of reasons, some of which are obvious and others which are not so obvious.
But first this
It is hard not to be excited by the many positive steps taken by the president since he took over from his corrupt, captured predecessor.
He has removed ineffective, state capture-implicated ministers and some senior civil servants from strategic state institutions such as SARS, SAA, the National Treasury, Denel, Eskom and several others.
He has also been out socialising with citizens while walking, jogging or simply taking commercial flights – probably to save costs and, most probably, as part of a calculated charm offensive to be seen to have remained a man of the people.
One would have to be hyper-cynical not to smile at all that and not hope that Ramaphosa’s style infects everyone else in his interim Cabinet and in senior government positions.
But experience has shown that many are unlikely to follow his lead without a clear presidential decree to the effect that no one should be flying around in business and first class if economy class can do, or staying at expensive hotels and renting expensive cars without the need to; or simply spending public money as if there were plenty more where it came from.
We also do not forget that Ramaphosa still has to entirely remove all those implicated in state capture or who were all out to defend the indefensible during Jacob Zuma’s kleptocratic reign, starting with Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane.
And he must start practising – if he hasn’t already done so – the art of looking the other way and not saying a word or lifting a finger if, one day, the Hawks come knocking at the door looking for certain individuals of interest while he is chairing a meeting of the ANC’s top six, national working committee, or national executive committee.
He must simply stand aside and let them do what they must, to cleanse our republic.
Otherwise he would be repeating the mistakes made by his three post-Mandela predecessors, who saw fit to start the rot by preventing the SAPS and National Director of Public Prosecutions from acting without fear, favour, or prejudice.
The future must be built on a firm foundation
In true Ramaphosa style, the president has recently announced a high-profile team of presidential envoys consisting of former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree and businesswoman Phumzile Langeni.
The team of four is expected to use the extensive networks they enjoy across major global markets to identify and target would-be investors, and show them the way to South Africa.
We should wish them much success.
The president said to the media and other stakeholders that “alongside the implementation of necessary economic reforms, this investment campaign will position South Africa as an investment destination with significant unrealised potential”.
Now, all of these developments are laudable. But the president seems to forget one thing: that many white South Africans are waiting for him to assure them that there is a future for them and their families in our country.
They are confused by his seeming silence concerning repeated racial sloganeering by Julius Malema and his followers, often filled with threats of violence targeting white South Africans.
They want clarity on how the decision to expropriate land without compensation will be carried out – who will be affected, to what extent, and who will benefit.
Added to this, growing perceptions propagated through social media campaigns that there is a campaign to violently eliminate white farmers from South Africa are not helpful.
All of these things are linked. If the president is to succeed in his laudable drive to rebuild credibility and attract investments, he will need the assurance that all South Africans are behind him and that none will go behind the back of his positive campaigns to draw the attention of the world to the negative things described above.
As one who, unlike Zuma, will embody the values enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, he needs to unambiguously rebuke politicians who continue to use race to divide South Africans, even if he sees possible future coalition partners in some of them.
He also needs to get his party to sincerely acknowledge the role it played in guaranteeing Jacob Zuma protected space and longevity, while he also racially polarised South Africans and enabled the theft of hundreds of billions from the public purse, resulting in very diminished tax payer morale and investor interest in South Africa.
The ANC must also tell us, in clear terms, what it intends to do to make sure that South Africa never again gets to live through the nightmare of state capture.
It is hard to see how all South Africans at home and in the diaspora will be turned into the positive country brand ambassadors the country needs while some of them live in fear for their lives, or uncertainty about their place under the South African sun.