Analysis & Profiles 17.10.2016 04:54 pm

Irony-free Cyril willing to invest further billions in ‘predictable’ SA

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses believers during the beatification Mass of Benedict Daswa on September 13, 2015 in Thohoyandou, South Africa. Daswa, who was stoned and burnt to death for his Catholic beliefs, was declared martyr during a beatification mass service in Limpopo yesterday. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses believers during the beatification Mass of Benedict Daswa on September 13, 2015 in Thohoyandou, South Africa. Daswa, who was stoned and burnt to death for his Catholic beliefs, was declared martyr during a beatification mass service in Limpopo yesterday. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

In a column penned by the deputy president, Ramaphosa says SA is governed in a ‘stable and predictable way’. Really now?

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the ANC’s official website to write about how, in his view and from the perspective of being a businessman, he would still consider South Africa an attractive investment destination.

Perhaps what was released today was a different version of the sales pitch he recently made to the Arabs who are buying his stake in McDonald’s. (Even though he’s not supposed to have anything to do with such sales, blind trust and all…)

Ramaphosa most recently made headlines by coming out in support of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who faces a fraud charge many legal experts have described as completely trumped up.

In Ramaphosa’s ANC column, however, he appears utterly oblivious to this particular concern, and trumpets the pluses of what he apparently considers fertile ground for investors looking to plow money into South Africa, despite what our deputy president lists at the end of his (very long) column as a short list of negatives against investing in South Africa.

Not one of those negatives, however, relates to the uncertainty of whether South Africa will retain a credible finance minister at the helm.

Open for business

Despite business confidence reportedly being at a lower level now (thanks, in large part, to the finance minister issue) than it was at the end of apartheid – when South African appeared on the brink of civil war – Ramaphosa hopes to entice that ever-shrinking group (in SA at least) of people with money with the well-worn cliche that “South Africa is open for business”.

He writes: “As a former businessperson, whenever I looked at where one can invest I often looked at four areas:

  • “Firstly, whether the country where one would want to invest has good governance and whether that governance is stable and predictable.”

Without pausing for ironic effect, he then heads straight into his next points, which only serve to further pile on the irony (perhaps he’s joking?):

  • “Secondly, whether the country has good economic management policies and whether they are also stable and predictable.
  • “Thirdly, I would look also at its labour market and ask myself whether there is stability as well as predictability.
  • “Lastly, I would look at who else invested in that country and ask the question: Is the country connected to other interesting countries and partners?” (Yes, Russia and China are very interesting).

Ramaphosa then waxes lyrical about how South Africa has become a “peaceful country” after its “conflict-ridden past”.

In response to that one, let’s not mention, as a start, Marikana, any university campus in the country or how Tshwane went down in flames prior to elections – along with all those ANC members who were gunned down this year by automatic weapons…

He dismisses it all with one line: “That our people feel the need to express themselves now and again through democratic means such as protests, is allowed, and commonplace all over the world.” (my emphasis).

Now and again, eh, Cyril? Thank goodness we don’t read about violent protest just about every day then…

He goes on to acknowledge that “the ruling party suffered losses, but it is important to emphasize that the ANC still emerged the dominant party throughout the country”.

He gives the ANC a pat on the back for being such a good sport in “accepting” its recent electoral losses as gracefully as it did (although in that respect, he certainly does have a point).

His letter continues down the predictable path of how we now have “durable institutions” that didn’t exist prior to 1994, most notably our “independent judiciary” (is the National Prosecuting Authority not a part of this judiciary? Some have argued it isn’t, but I’ve watched more than enough episodes of Law & Order to have my own views on that…)

Onward marches Ramaphosa’s column: “A number of other institutions, such as the office of the Auditor-General, audits the books of government from the Presidency right down to local municipalities.” (But Cyril, let’s not mention the shocking theft and mismanagement that very same Auditor-General discovers on a routine basis – when municipalities offer him anything to look at, at all).

“They speak their mind without any interference.” (Yes, Mr Deputy President, but how risky is the speaking of that mind becoming?)

“We have a central bank that is independent, that looks after monetary policy and makes decisions without any interference from government.” (Not for any lack of trying on government’s part eh, Cyril? Wink, wink…)

“That to me is a very important marker of whether a country has good governance or not.”

Yes, Mr Ramaphosa, it is a good marker, which is exactly why investors have been running for the hills.

Ramaphosa then makes the obligatory reference to how wonderful the Public Protector is and how “we also have the South African Human Rights Commission that looks after the human rights of our people” (how nice).

Once again, without pausing to take a breath in case irony comes to knock our deputy president in the solar plexus, he says: “In South Africa the rule of law is observed. Whomever is in power may not wake up one morning and determine new laws by diktat. Our laws are made by a representative and robust Parliament.”

At this point, our deputy president is starting to sound more like a bookish 12-year-old reciting all his “Reasons why I love South Africa” for a class oral examination than a grizzled, experienced politician close to the realpolitik of the grinding, protesting gears of power.

All of which means he probably didn’t write much of this frippery, and merely signed off on it on his way to having a much-needed triple Scotch on the rocks in his office.

The bulk of this column delves into the various positives of the National Development Plan (which remains mostly ignored and gathering dust) and the other initiatives government has come up with to try to boost the economy, such as cutting red tape (for which there is still little evidence that’s actually happening, but we’ll let that one go).

He also waxes on about South Africa’s global interconnectedness and diplomatic success (as if having nearly as many embassies as the USA is a good thing instead of just an extension of our bloated, useless civil service job creation scheme for cadres).

One has to applaud the poor man, though, for trying to keep up appearances. Maybe this is something he wrote a few months ago, before we started to teeter on the brink all over again?

Would any fellow billionaire believe him, though? I, personally, may not be one of those sitting on the reported hundreds of billions just waiting to be released into the economy at the first sign that government (and the whole of government) is getting its act together.

But apparently (and I’m no expert here) it’s going to take a little more than a heartwarming note from the deputy president about how great we are to get that money released.

Ramaphosa ends his column with: “We are a safe, trusted, dependable and predictable market that you can invest in.

“We welcome you to South Africa.”

I’ll end my column with the thought that it might be nice to actually know what’s really going on in our 2IC’s head.

Maybe one day when he’s president (perhaps), we may just find out. Because the alternative – that this vapid schoolboy project writing really represents the earnest cogitation of our future leader – is simply too dreadful to contemplate.

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