When Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president of South Africa in early 2018, there was a great deal of talk about a “new dawn”. But his term in office has failed to deliver.

LUCAS LEDWABA

WHEN he took his oath of office in May 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to promote all that will advance the republic and oppose all that may harm it.

In his inauguration speech on the same day at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, Ramaphosa told the world that SA should “forge a compact for an efficient, capable and ethical state, a state that is free from corruption, for companies that generate social value and propel human development, for elected officials and public servants who faithfully serve no other cause than that of the public.”

He went to further urge that “we must be a society that values excellence, rewards effort and hard work and rejects mediocrity.”

We are now just over a year into Ramaphosa’s presidency and there’s an overwhelming consensus that corruption within government has become the new normal and that mediocrity has become a defining attribute of civil servants and service.

The national mood, already dampened by the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown, is at an all- time low, exacerbated by reports and glaring cases of rampant looting of emergency funds made available to fight the spread of the disease.

The looting and cronyism related to the funds has even hit right in the heart of Ramaphosa’s office – with his spokesperson Khusela Diko embroiled in a dodgy R125 million state tender.

Senior party leaders in the provinces are daily linked to dodgy deals in which contracts worth millions are doled out to their relatives, friends and comrades, all in a rush to milk whatever they can from the R500 billion COVID-19 emergency relief fund announced by Ramaphosa in April.

Such is the rage among ordinary citizens over the rampant looting, corruption and downright stupid attempts to cover up or spin the nonsense that citizens have taken to social media under hashtags such as #VoetsekANC and #ANCMustGo to call for a change in government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the ANC’s poor record in building a strong and efficient public health care system in the 25 years it’s been in power.

It has also exposed, critically, how the government’s procurement and tendering system has been used as a cash cow by the ruling elite and politically connected.

Companies that have never built even a chicken coop are awarded contracts to build roads, schools, clinics and other crucial infrastructure through a rotten system of cronyism and patronage that overlooks important requirements such as tax compliance and the ability to deliver quality work.

Some of the attempts to loot, such as the Eastern Cape scooter gate and Limpopo mkhukhu-gate are so comical they point to the sad reality that the bar which has gradually been set very low, is now no longer there at all.

The moral bar, the measure of decency and acceptable standards, has been eroded by greed and the seemingly entrenched culture of entitlement to public funds without doing an honest day’s work to earn the millions.

Municipalities, many of them on the brink of collapse as a result of corruption and poor governance, are dragged to the courts by residents to force them to deliver on their constitutional mandate.

While communities are struggling to get basic services such as water and sewage maintenance, officials are diverting public funds to pay for luxuries such as sets of pots and satellite TV accounts.

The misery of the poor, such as lack of clean drinking water has become a passport to loot through the doling out of contracts to deliver water through tankers in exchange for millions that will be shared among those in power and those connected to them.

In KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo, those deemed to be standing in the way of this rampant looting or dare blow the whistle against corruption, have been silenced through the gun.

A report by judge Moerane into the killings in KZN has been gathering dust for the past two years with no action taken against the culprits.

In the provinces, various factions of the ANC, like hyenas contesting over the spoils at a kill, are blatantly fighting over what they believe is their right to access and loot public funds.

This has in turn impacted on the ability by government to deliver services to the public.  

Amidst of all the chaos, the despair, the blatant disregard for all decency, there is one crucial element missing.

In his piece The Second Coming, the poet William Butler Yeats articulates the predicament we are faced with today when he wrote:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is lost

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.

Ramaphosa’s centre is not holding. Everything is falling apart under his watch.

When he finally took over the reins from his scandal-ridden predecessor Jacob Zuma, in 2018, we were sold the dream of a new dawn.

We were promised a new dawn that would sweep away the gnawing culture of corruption and looting and restore clean governance.

Tough talk and promises of stern action against corruption and the corrupt became a new chorus.

But alas, the new dawn has proven to be nothing but an old wine in new bottles story.

While he may talk tough on corruption, Ramaphosa has proven and continues to fail to act against the perpetrators of corruption, many of them his own party comrades.

Perhaps it’s because he has been there all along as deputy president during part of Zuma’s scandalous reign of state capture and looting.

He was, one could argue, the assistant thief.

He has made noise about declarations signed with the Special Investigations Unit to curb corruption.

But the SIU has been around since Nelson Mandela’s presidency and if we were to go down history to interrogate its impact on corruption, we will heave a collective sigh of disappointment.

This is not necessarily because the unit is incapable, but high-level political meddling has ensured that those found with their fingers in the public purse are shielded from prosecution.

There is a growing sentiment that perhaps Ramaphosa, who took to the presidency under the rallying cry of Thuma Mina, was perhaps the wrong candidate to send to lead the country at this moment in our history.

One is tempted to support such calls for his head – but looking at the ruling party, or whatever is left of it, theirs is absolutely no reason to believe that we would fare any better under any other candidate from the ANC.

Ramaphosa’s ineptitude to deal with corruption is not entirely because he is incapable.

But rather, he has been part of this intricate machinery that for the past decade, accelerated its efforts to run the country into the abyss of crumbling services and looting of state resources.

Ramaphosa has been there all along and anyone who wants to believe his claims of high morality and so-called new dawn, need to do a serious reality check.

He can resign tomorrow for all I care, but the reality is that we would still be no better off under anyone from the ANC.

We would still not see a single politician or civil servant arrested, prosecuted and jailed for corruption.

That’s how they roll – look out for one another in the spirit of comradeship, regardless the impact on the country and its people.

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