Economic recovery? Not with this incoherent team of hasbeens

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Let’s use a sports analogy to understand President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic recovery plan. It’s not the game plan that we should be most worried about (albeit it’s the same one, recycled with new words and loftier goals) but the players themselves.

Any good coach can tell you the game plan is irrelevant if the players can’t play it.

Looking at the current South African Cabinet, it doesn’t inspire many choices.

In the communications ministry, we have a minister who has broken the law and been fined for lockdown breeches. Broken the law. And yet Stella Ndabeni-Abrahms is still in her position. Still wayward and controversial.

She has meddled in the SABC, the independent regulator Icasa and helped prolong the licensing of the spectrum and the switchover from analogue TV signals to digital. In the two years, she’s been in the hot seat, she has been less efficient than her predecessor Faith Muthambi. The most noteworthy news has been the hacking of her WhatsApp account – something that one thinks should disqualify a Cabinet minister in the telecoms sector alone.

Because I am a rugby fan, let me specify this a bit more. Right now, South Africa’s economy is broken, or as far down on the country rankings as it can get. And to recover, it’s going to be like playing New Zealand, Australia and England (the other top sides right now) week in and week out.

Ramaphosa needs a team meeting

We simply don’t have the playing talent for ordinary circumstances, as we’ve seen in the first two years of the long-diminished Ramaphoria, let alone in this time of unprecedented crisis.

The short answer is everyone – except the ANC itself – can see last week’s recovery plan is a watered-down version of the one agreed with business and labour at Nedlac. Worse, it is a recycled wishlist of ANC election promises. Many of these plans have been muted before, to little effect and even less execution. The strikers in Cabinet wouldn’t know where the actual goals are – even if they included a Bosasa-sponsored free bar.

To say any reasonable-thinking people have any faith that the ANC, which has failed for 26 years to deliver decent health care or education and certainly couldn’t procure personal protection equipment (PPE) without cadres getting in on the act, is to be kind.

Ramaphosa

Maybe Ramaphosa plans to redeploy his errant cheerleader Fikile Mbabula, who so proudly claims his nickname is “Mr Fix” but hasn’t actually fixed a thing since he became transport minister. Certainly not the gutted Joburg railway stations, caused by his cancelling of a security contract just before lockdown; nor, for that matter, in any other portfolio he’s ever been in. That’s not strictly true: as sports minister, a clothing sponsor for a national team managed to give him half (or R300,000) towards a Dubai holiday.

Sometimes what a lethargic team needs is a shedding of deadwood and an injection of vigour into the coaches seat. Ramaphosa has a fed-up country behind him, dismayed at the wholesale PPE looting, should he wish to fire some useless ministers.

Then maybe this fantastical wishlist might have a chance.

This article first appeared in the Financial Mail.

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About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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