News / Opinion / Columns

William Saunderson-Meyer
3 minute read
29 Sep 2018
9:35 am

Jaundiced Eye: Mind Cyril’s credibility gap

William Saunderson-Meyer

The ship of state is still crewed by largely the same mutinous buffoons that sailed it into the doldrums in the first place.

Minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba. Picture: ANA

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And now, spin.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the government’s umpteenth economic stimulus and recovery plan of the past decade. There will be “growth enhancing” reforms, public spending will be “reprioritised”, infrastructure will be funded and there will be improvements to health and education.

If it all sounds familiar, it should. It’s the National Development Plan (NDP). It dates back to 2009, when it was first mooted and finalised in 2012, supposedly to deliver a new SA by no later than 2030. The deputy chair of that NDP commission was one Cyril Ramaphosa.

Unsurprisingly, given the inability of the left wing of the ANC alliance to co-operate with the right wing, nothing happened. And now, all that Ramaphosa has done, is to take a few of the less ideologically explosive bits of the NDP, dressed them in spandex and sprinkled some stardust, to trot them around the ring one more time.

While there appear to be no limits to the gullibility of voters regarding these issues, that’s not true of the markets.

Currency weakness continues, the country has slid into recession, and employers are continuing to shed jobs. Ratings agency Fitch says that the latest plan is “unlikely” to significantly boost economic growth. While it does, indeed, have several aspects to it that conceivably could support economic growth, “many relate to long-standing policy ideas that have been slow to implement”.

The flipside to the government’s inability to implement good ideas, has been its inability to correct what are patently stupid ideas. An example is the decision this week by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to ease visa regulations, in order to encourage tourism and stimulate economic growth.

The key regulation to be thrown out is the extensive documentation that was required for a minor to travel. Introduced with the best of intentions, to prevent child trafficking, the regulation was so onerous that it seriously damaged tourism when it was introduced in 2014.

Although there has since been some recovery, airline ticketing dropped by 20% in a year, while travel from India and China, alone, dropped by more than 50% and shed R7bn in revenue.

Flustered, the government promised, late in 2014, an inter-ministerial task force to sort out the matter. In the face of Gigaba’s intransigence, it was never convened.

The promise was reiterated in President Jacob Zuma’s 2015 state of the nation address. Gigaba simply refused to budge and nothing happened.

Derek Hanekom, tourism minister at the time, spluttered his protest. Gigaba held firm.

Jeff Radebe, then minister in the Presidency, promised that the regulations would be revised “as a matter of urgency” because of the disastrous “unintended consequences”. Gigaba sneered his defiance.

Now, after almost five years of paralysis, this reckless and destructive set of regulations has at last been eased. Gigaba, the person who caused the chaos, however, still sits in the cabinet.

This is the challenge facing Ramaphosa. There is widespread consensus regarding the direction he claims to want to take SA, if for no other reason than after drifting aimlessly for a decade, almost any course is better than none.

Yet, given the track record of the ANC at executing policies, rather than just drafting them, there is scepticism. The ship of state is still crewed by largely the same mutinous buffoons that sailed it into the doldrums in the first place.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s the same old flannel recycled endlessly and it’s getting threadbare.

William Saunderson-Meyer

William Saunderson-Meyer.

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