President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address at the closing of the ruling ANC’s lekgotla on Monday night was notable for what he did not speak of, or just glossed over.
The president, for example, spoke about how corruption is “adding a huge and unnecessary cost to the social and economic fabric of our society” and that the law enforcement agents should leave no stone unturned.
But he said nothing about the string of arrests of several high-ranking ruling party members, civil servants and connected business people over the last few days.
More talks …
The closest Ramaphosa came to saying the quiet part out loud is when he said: “Further consultations will be held amongst the alliance partners and in the legislators across the political spectrum to find the most appropriate approach to the issue of other politically exposed persons conducting business with the state.”
In other words, despite clear evidence of widespread corruption in the public sector coming to light at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, and with the Hawks said to be close to making further arrests, the ANC still needs more time to mull over whether it’s right to do business with the state.
There was also no mention of what the plan is for South African Airways. The state airliner had to stop operating because its business rescue practitioners had yet to get the R10 billion in funding promised to it by the Department of Public Enterprises.
Otherwise, it was an address that touched on what have come to be staples in such speeches, like efforts to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, the economy, the yet-to-be-released recovery plan and the creation of a new social compact.
On all of these, the president was once again short on detail but reiterated that following the lekgotla, the ruling party was firmly in support of the government.
There was, however, one contentious issue around economic reform that seemingly got the buy-in from the ANC power brokers: getting the country’s ballooning public debt under control.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni warned that if the debt is not arrested, there is a good chance the country could go off the fiscal cliff.
This was also pointed out by Ramaphosa.
“It will be an imperative for sustained reconstruction and recovery that South Africa brings its rising national debt under control and stabilises public debt,” he said.
“To stabilise public finances, the budget deficit must be reduced. Borrowing costs must be managed.”
Ramaphosa recommitted the country to not only addressing the scourge of violence against women but to adopting gender equality goals across national, provincial, district and local programmes.
These gender advancement goals will fall under its district development model, which will see all three spheres of government coordinate and integrate development plans with civil society, business, labour and communities to drive growth.
Ramaphosa has high hopes for this model, as well as a new social compact, as he sees them fostering economic growth and bringing more people into the economy.
The president might not have spelt out the details of the plan, but he stressed that the time for talking about how he and the ANC plan to change the country is over.
“Our country is ready for recovery.”
He closed with: “All this will happen if we focus our attention on implementation, implementation and implementation. That is now going to be the order of doing things so that we can meet the needs of our people.”