The almost 10 years of the Jacob Zuma presidency, marked by scandals that included state capture, cronyism, disregard for the rule of law and corruption, leaving state-owned enterprises such as Eskom bleeding, made us the laughing stock of the world.
With his sons, friends and close associates willy-nilly making questionable business deals with government and state-owned enterprises, the passport to loot was a mere mention of closeness to uBaba.
The considerable damage caused by Zuma made South Africa a banana republic.
It was a time of anger, frustration and despair – which saw those in the ruling ANC who dared to speak out branded “agents” and “sellouts”.
We needed a Cyril Ramaphosa – a president who would waste no time to courageously roll up his sleeves to undo all the political and economic damage caused by Zuma.
Having set himself a target of $100 billion in local and foreign investment to boost the South African economy, we are already seeing the signs of potential growth and imminent stability.
Recently, Ramaphosa has been hard at work criss-crossing the world, securing a commitment of a minimum investment of $10 billion from the Saudi Arabian government.
Leveraging on his clean leadership stature of credibility and hosting this year’s Brics summit will certainly go a long way in bringing the much-needed foreign direct investment; he may easily surpass the target.
But as University of Johannesburg Business School political economist Lyal White correctly points out: while we have seen an upsurge in intra-Brics trade – from $200 billion to $500 billion in the past 10 years since the establishment of the trade body – “the only negative factor has been the drop in the country’s competitiveness due to poor governance”.
While there is jubilation over the China Development Bank’s bold move for having come to the rescue of troubled Eskom, with a $2.5 billion (R33 billion) signed term facility agreement, it should not be forgotten that lack of governance brought about the crisis at the power utility in the first place.
In announcing Eskom’s 2017/18 financial results this week, chairperson Jabu Mabuza revealed the power utility had suffered irregular expenditure of R19 billion since 2012. And the amount owed by municipalities increased by 44% to a whopping R4.2 billion.
As Mabuza put it at the briefing: “We seem to have scratched the surface. There could be more skeletons in the cupboard.”
What is clear is that lack of governance – one of the key factors that any potential investor would look at in doing business – should be a matter that Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene should be immersed in.
Should the president and his advisers drop the ball at this crucial time by adopting a soft approach in dealing with those who cut corners, we will soon be back to the Zuma days of governance.
We dare not go back if we want to see this country taking its rightful place as a Brics centre of excellence.