By Themba Khumalo

If a visitor of average intelligence were to visit South Africa, say from Neptune, he would be surprised why a governing party that has plundered the country into a state of disaster, declares a national state of disaster on electricity. The Neptunian would laugh himself silly listening to an evasive and indecisive president assuring South African earthlings that his administration is committed to keeping the lights on by creating a super presidency that will now house a minister of electricity.
Mr Neptunia would also like to know why the presiding South African earthling does not take heed of what Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) chairperson, IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa, amongst many, said.
“Every time your ministers don’t perform, instead of firing them you protect them by taking things into the Presidency. Be decisive, Mr President. Fire them! Don’t have a nanny Cabinet… If they are not working, fire them,” said Hlengwa. Neptunia, just like me and my fellow earthlings consider what Hlengwa said to be common sense: “It seems to us you have no confidence in your own ministers. Most, if not all functions currently located in the Presidency should actually be in departments.”
President Ramaphosa, in his trademark evasive style lashed out at critics saying, “There are those who in this house who instead of what I would call merchants of hope, have cast themselves as merchants of despair. They have determined that their political fortunes are best served by depicting a country in chaos — instead of being parties that acknowledge the challenges and that are determined to work together to find solutions so that we leave no one behind.”
The unfortunate thing is that Ramaphosa ignores the reality of ‘merchants of despair’ being in the party he leads – the ANC. Mr President, your fear to derail the ANC gravy train and your indecision have had a direct bearing on what is happening in our country.

We have the so-called merchants of despair purely because of a corrupt, inept, indolent, ideologically sluggish, incompetent, pompous, narcissistic governing party which for nearly thirty years has reigned over the decline of the nation’s fortunes.
We are where we are because of the wholesale looting of state resources for decades. We have been burdened with a government which magnificently delivered empty promises, and brought hopelessness and despair. Wrong policy priorities have caused unending misery for the majority of black people. The catastrophic lack of clear policies has made our freedom an illusion. Socio-economic disparities have made South Africa an international pariah, once again.

Defending the indefensible

It is common knowledge that Ramaphosa’s merry band of two-timing praise singers have fashioned his default setting of avoiding telling or facing the truth and saying exactly what he thinks about his comrades, as playing a long and well-planned game. His power-hypnotised and forked tongue defenders have never missed an opportunity to drum it to the nation that he is a composed character whose humble demeanour enables him to deeply listen to wise counsel before he makes a move.
Words come out of their mouths at supersonic speed as they force us to accept that Ramaphosa takes time drinking from the well of wisdom of the wise owls before making a decision. The favour-seekers never tire of pontificating about a man who draws from experiences of people laden with laser-sharp insights and practical knowledge he does not have.
The man himself dresses his evasiveness as “applying my mind”. Take the case of the resignation of the country’s Deputy President, David Mabuza; we are still waiting for him to tell us what he has decided.
All he could say was, “Mabuza had indicated his wish to step down from his position. This is a request I am considering and attending to.”
I am therefore not surprised when some of his harshest critics have him down as a “major space cadet.”
(A person who forgets, daydreams, or otherwise is distracted from reality more often than most.)
It is well and good that Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster, but the real reasons why Eskom has failed so dismally have not been forthcoming.
Let me say it again repeat, the ANC has reneged on its promise of bringing a better life for all by serving the narrow and private interests of greedy power brokers inside and outside its ranks. The party has shamelessly committed a moral and ethical injustice against the people of South Africa, especially the black majority, 29 million of whom survive on social grants. It is a disastrous record that is becoming difficult to defend.

In an opinion piece written by Mandy Wiener on titled Show us the action man we hoped for, President Ramaphosa, she quotes the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s executive director Ann Bernstein who questioned the president’s aptitude to lead South Africa out of the crisis.
“An honest diagnosis needs to dig deeper than the President wants to go and include his five years as president. We need to look at bad ideas translated into bad policies, a failed strategy, its terrible consequences, no credible theory of how to change SA and therefore no priorities. The result? A country in decline driven by crises that are never resolved, but to which the same ‘solutions’ are endlessly applied,” Bernstein said.
Let me give the remaining space to an extract from an opinion piece written by Prof Sethulego Matebesi, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State.

Disastrous decisions are a recipe for catastrophic events

“There has never been a time in South African history since 1994 that our presidents have not faced one scandal or another. After having temporarily thwarted the Phala Phala saga and emerging victorious as leader of the ANC at the 55th National Conference in December 2022, one would assume that President Ramaphosa would have assimilated the lessons from past events.
“The post-SONA 2023 political landscape points to a challenging year for Ramaphosa. It is a truism that an organisation’s culture is determined by its leader. And since politics is not an exercise in objectivity, it is for this reason that several expected decisions by President Ramaphosa will determine
how he will navigate between being regarded as a heroic figure and a victim of political persecution.

“Another major decision facing President Ramaphosa is the much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle.
Deputy President David Mabuza’s announcement that he resigned, only to be asked by Ramaphosa to hang on, provides a fascinating insight into how difficult it can become to exercise what some may regard as the mundane task of replacing cabinet ministers. And looking at the organisational footprint of the ANC, I reckon President Ramaphosa will avoid a situation where a cabinet reshuffle becomes another political hot potato from within his own organisation.
“There is a fierce power war waging within the ANC. As a result, time will tell whether the president will be brave enough to replace poor-performing ministers instead of using proxies such as the new Minister of Energy. 
“And to be clear – why we fail to confront underperforming ministers and public servants is a vexing question.
“Indications are that there seems to be no aversion to brevity when it comes to political expediency, but to live up to the responsibility of accelerating structural reforms that significantly impact the country’s growth trajectory positively and reduce policy uncertainty. Continuing to routinely neglect these obligations is bound to create a more extensive trust gap between the government and citizens.”

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