In his song, Thuma Mina, late South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela anticipated a day of renewal, of new beginnings. The translation of Thuma Mina – “send me” – was the mantra that newly elected President, Cyril Ramaphosa, built on in his State of the Nation speech on 16 February 2018, which drew on the spirit of inclusiveness. “This new government draws comfort from the knowledge that, that which unites us is far, far more powerful and enduring than that which divides us.”
Remarkably, US Presidential-Elect Joe Biden conveyed a similar message in his victory speech last Saturday night, affirming that “it’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
Almost three years into the Ramaphosa Presidency, the ruling party has been characterised by factional politics, a legacy of corrupt officials in high office, and a lack of capacity to deliver on structural reforms. Yet the cut and thrust of these mainstream politics may yet herald a new dawn next week, as ex-President Jacob Zuma is set to appear before the Zondo Commission on charges of corruption, whilst on Wednesday a warrant of arrest was issued against Ace Magashule, Secretary-General of the ANC! (Magashule has been exposed as a key figure in the web of state capture in Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book – Gangster State).
How will Joe Biden implement his new dawn; how will he deal with a deeply polarised nation; will he have the fortitude and resilience to manage partisan politics – in particular, the possibility of a Senate controlled by the Republicans; will he be able to see out the first term of his presidency; and what will be the composition and competency of his top team of advisors?
‘Inclusivity’ is a noble ideal but requires true statesmanship to achieve!
“I am not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.”
– Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States
- Continuing as he did during his Presidency, Trump has been sowing seeds of disunity – he is yet to concede the election and maintains the support of top Republicans and others in his administration. In fact, the President has been carrying out sweeping changes to the Defense Department. Since this week Monday, four senior civilian officials have been fired and replaced with people considered to be loyal to Trump. These actions have caused concern in the Pentagon with a defence official calling them “dictator moves”.
- While it is basically certain that Joe Biden has won the presidency, it was not by a massive margin. There are still many Americans who felt that Trump represented them, and their view of what America should be. While the process of transition is underway, it would be no surprise if Trump attempted to provoked civil unrest on his own behalf. For more on this follow this link to an opinion piece by David Remnick from the New Yorker.
- What will a Biden presidency mean for the world? The President-elect has already resolved to repair relations with America’s allies, bringing some harmony and unity to the battles that President Trump raged during his term. While this will put an end to “America first” and the isolationist rhetoric of the Trump administration there are many potential land mines that Biden will have to navigate through. These include Brexit, resetting relations with Europe, the trade war with China, and reentering a nuclear deal with Iran. For more on this, follow this link.
- In his bid to hit the ground running President-elect Joe Biden’s team announced a list of expert volunteers to help prepare policies for the new administration. However, until Trump concedes the election, Biden is still unable to access government agencies and documentation. Even Republicans have started to dispute this in a bid for unity, saying that Biden should at least have access to the President’s Daily Brief, which provides the nation’s most closely guarded intelligence secrets and an assessment of national security threats. Their call amounted to an acknowledgement that Joe Biden would be certified as the victor in the election.
- Biden has already been making calls to America’s closest allies, leaders from France, Germany, and Britain were included in the first round of calls. This was closely followed by a call to Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, a nod to the president-elect’s ties to Ireland. This is a potentially a significantly more unifying approach than seen in the last four years!
- Last week, the local stock market reacted very positively to the impending Biden victory. Such victory would mean that there will be more trade opportunities, more stability allowing risk assets to gain momentum, and potential fiscal stimulus for the US economy, thus benefitting emerging markets in general. The positive market sentiment was enhanced earlier this week as Pfizer announced very positive news on their trial vaccine.
- Earlier this week, a warrant of arrest was issued for Ace Magashule, secretary-general of the ANC. He has been linked to multiple cases of corruption, money laundering and fraud. The charges he would face are in connection with the now-infamous Free State government asbestos scam. While this is great news for the cogs of justice turning in South Africa, there may be many pitfalls on the way to convicting Magashule, such as: A lack of available witnesses; the case would have to link him to corrupt acts that he had allegedly orchestrated but did not execute; and Magashule may plead ignorance, citing that he is the scapegoat for other corrupt officials.
- Despite the charges against him, Magashule will not stand down from his post. This conflicts with the ANC’s anti-corruption assurances given in August this year that “those accused of corruption and other serious crimes against the people, including those charged in courts, may be expected to step aside from their positions or responsibilities”. Once again, internal party factionalism illustrates Ramaphosa’s lack of support and distorts his vision for a new dawn.
- JP Landman has written a buoyant article in which he evaluates how, when the Expropriation Bill, the Post-Covid-19 Recovery Plan, and the mid-term Budget are combined, they paint a positive picture of South Africa’s trajectory. Dynasty’s view, which is informed by Professor Ivor Sarakinsky, is much less enthusiastic, for some of the following reasons:
– Landman does not factor in the hollowing out of government structures and technocratic ability – there simply isn’t the bureaucratic configuration or technical skills within the public sector to act on these policies. The spectrum issue, for example, has been dragging on for years and will likely continue to do so.
– For the policies to work, you have to have a capable government able to apply them, not one that has a track record of mismanagement and is riddled with corruption. Ramaphosa would have to clean the infection first, and this has so far proved impossible, with factions of the ANC fighting him at every turn.
– Additionally, how can one give analysis on South Africa’s future without considering whether Ramaphosa will continue to be President for a second term, or how the power dynamics within the ANC will restrict his ability to act? As more corrupt officials get arrested, the fightback will intensify.
- While Landman makes some fair points, it is too optimistic a view for us. Especially, after taking into consideration South Africa’s reputation of being able to design all the best strategies but lacking the required implementation.
Sources: Dynasty, Reuters, Bloomberg Markets, The New York Times, Daily Maverick, and Moneyweb, etc