A note to President Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his remarks at the G7 and Partnership Meeting during the first day of the G7 Summit. 25/08/2019. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Like millions of other South African not only in your own party, but from other enlightened parties and political persuasions I pen this open letter to you. We believe that you are an exceptional leader of ability, competence and integrity destined to lead our country in the critical political and economic state that South Africa finds its self in after the almost 10 years of the calamitous Zuma presidency and no other leader at present has the credentials or integrity to fulfil this crucial role.

We are however profoundly concerned by certain malevolent political forces both inside and outside of your own party, the ANC, who appear to be distracting you from your role of powerful and decisive political leadership for their own selfish and short-sighted purposes. This has led to a sense of disillusionment among many ordinary as well as prominent South Africans. This sense of pessimism has of late been acutely reflected in the media, as for instance by Melanie Verwoerd, a former ANC MP and SA ambassador to Ireland in her op-ed ‘Like a pack of hyenas’ in the Witness of 22 August 2019 and by William Sauderson-Meyer ‘Keeping political faith that Ramaphosa can save SA’ in the Saturday Independent 24 August 2019.

Your millions of faithful supporters in all walks of life need a cogent message of hope that you are absolutely committed to change our country to bring about economic and political renewal and that in doing so you are dealing effectively with those who are undermining you and your government from this great task. We need great speeches and addresses on apposite occasions to raise our spirits and stimulate the economy. The reason for this that as Melanie Verwoerd says in her piece, referred above, it was clear to her from addressing a ‘number of international investors in London…without exception [they] were extremely negative about South Africa’s future’. Sanderson-Meyer says that although your approval rating is high at 62%, South Africans should be able to count on you ‘to stop dicking about and at last to act.’

Indeed since the inception of democracy in 1994 South Africa, like Britain in May 1940, finds itself in its ‘darkest our’. We desperately  need decisive action and a special address on a suitable and appropriate political occasion with the cogent use of  Churchillian oratory and rhetoric like that the illustrious Second War time British statesman, Winston Churchill  used in his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech to the House of Commons in May 1940 making it categorically clear that you will brook no disloyal opposition from members within your own party and others from the task you were elected to fulfil on the 8th May, to lead South Africa out of the extant political and economic quagmire it finds itself in. In an inspiring address you must, it is submitted, make this commitment to a resource driven economy for the benefit of investors and your commitment to your supporters and the nation that you are profoundly committed to social justice and working tirelessly for greater economic equality for all people, particularly, the millions of mainly African people living in dire poverty and that these two commitments are not contradictory but complementary.  What you must also make absolutely clear that to attain this objective of effective government free of corruption is absolutely essential that you and your government will work tirelessly for their realisation.

We as a nation already have a program and plan in the National Development Plan (NDP). It however will require immense political will and determination to put it into action and not to be side tracked by controversies like that relating and raging around the controversial CR17 election fund raising campaign.

What you must, it is further submitted, also make clear by taking the nation into your confidence is that there are indeed no magic solutions as advanced by the protagonists of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), who actually propound Marxist-Leninist ideological ideas as a solution to all our political and economic problems, despite the fact that they have failed abysmally in Eastern Europe and the erstwhile Soviet Union. What is required is a carefully worked out policy of some kind of Social-Democracy that is suitable for South Africa and its needs that is financed by a dynamic resource driven economy. 

This is indeed what South African should be discussing and debating instead of becoming obsessed with the rights and wrongs of the CR17 campaign and ‘white monopoly capital’ and other issues such as black pain and white guilt. That does not mean that South Africa must stop dealing with essential reparations for the wrongs of apartheid and centuries of the oppression of the indigenous population. Such reparations are essential for social justice, transformation and as part of bringing about economic equality, but they must takes place tirelessly and comprehensively in tandem with a resource driven economy and a plan of social democracy based on the NDP, instituted for the benefit of all. The Constitutional Court’s erudite judgement by the legendary Justice Edwin Cameron, in his last such delivered judgement before retiring, in favour of land tenants represents an excellent example of essential reparations for disadvantaged persons.(Pretoria News 21/8/2019).

South Africa is a country of infinite potential with vast natural and human resources. We as a nation require our elected government and you as our President, to be seen to be acting in a powerful and manifest manner and not appear quite incorrectly, as is reflected in the media, as paralysed by back-stabbing and political undermining by self-serving interest groups and factions in the ANC. 

This, President Ramaphosa, is the challenge facing you, your government and our nation. I personally most certainly do not for one moment think you are dithering, but unfortunately this perception is being reflected in the media. Therefore respectfully and earnestly you and your government are requested to rise unequivocally to the occasion. I have no doubt that you will be overwhelmed by the immense support and encouragement you will receive from all quarters in South Africa in this regard.


George Devenish is Emeritus Professor of Public Law at UKZN and one of the scholars who assisted in drafting the Interim Constitution in 1993.