Ramaphosa: Is South Africa being sold a lemon?

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President Ramaphosa might not be the answer
IN his play, “An Ideal Husband,” Oscar Wilde wrote, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.” This is a variation of the old adage: “Be careful what you wish; you might just get it.”
Many South Africans are hoping President Zuma will be standing down soon. The person best placed to replace him is the deputy-president, Cyril Ramaphosa. Would things miraculously come right if he stepped in and became our president?
Mr Ramaphosa is a consummate politician with buckets of charm. He is clever and able. He is also so rich because of black economic empowerment policies and the generosity of business from which he benefited so royally, that he surely cannot be greedy about having even more money. He could represent us with distinction and make us proud again of our first citizen.
If that is to happen, however, then he must either change his ideas or get a new speechwriter who will not let him say silly things that divide us rather than uniting the nation.
Instead of encouraging business to work together with the government in efforts to promote the interests of all of us, Mr Ramaphosa saw fit to place the emphasis on the wrong place entirely.
He said the time of white business monopolies was over. Government was hell-bent on making sure blacks owned and managed the economy.
“For far too long this economy has been owned and controlled by white people. That must come to end. For far too long, this economy has been managed by white people. That must come to an end.
“Those who don’t like this idea (i.e. whites) – tough for you. That is how we are proceeding,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa is sophisticated enough to know that he was playing the race card with a vengeance. This was little different to his famous statement a year or two ago to a black audience that if they did not vote for the ANC, the “boere” would be back in government, as good as stating that apartheid would be introduced by any alternative to the ANC. It was an untruth unworthy of the man.
He sounds like part of the chorus of Zuma supporters like our distinguished deputy minister of Defence, Mr Kebby Maphatsoe. According to Julius Malema, Maphatsoe was the cook in the MK Camp who lost his arm when he was trying to escape from the camp after being exposed as a double agent. Deputy Minister Maphatsoe said that anyone who criticised the Zuma involvement with the Guptas was in bed with white monopoly capital.Advertisement

President Zuma himself repeated recently his totally incorrect statement that only three percent of the economy is owned by blacks and that this had to change.
Dave Steward of the FW de Klerk Foundation responded cogently in an article last week, pointing out that Mr Ramaphosa is quite wrong. Black South Africans control economic and fiscal policy (and I may add, have done so for a generation). They control the state’s 35% share of the economy; they own the 10% represented by the informal sector and they own a higher percentage of the stock market than whites do, while foreign investors own around 39% of the shares on the stock market.
Alec Hogg calculated recently that foreigners own around 49% of the top 40 companies.
This leaves somewhere around 18% in the hands of white people who do have a large share of the ownership and the management of business generally, but what are they to do? Should they hand over to Mr Ramaphosa and his friends the ownership of their businesses without compensation or at bargain basement prices?
Should they get their capital out of the country as fast as possible?
Or should they pack up and leave the field, taking their skills, their business experience, the jobs they create, the taxes they pay, and their children with them to countries where they will be welcome?
Zimbabwe ought to be a warning signal for anyone foolish enough to want this to happen. There would be very little left in South Africa if we start going down the Mugabe government path.
How about Mr Ramaphosa phrasing his ideas much more clearly and inclusively?
He could stress how important the business sector (black and white) is in our country; that it is they who create the jobs and they and their employees pay the taxes that fund government social policies. Every old person receiving a pension, every child grant and all the state subsidies paid to 16 million of our people derive chiefly from the taxes paid by a few thousand businesses and a few million individual taxpayers.
He could commit himself and his party to an obsession with growing our economy, putting all else aside in pursuit of growth so that ever-more people, most of them blacks, will be empowered by having jobs, this being the surest way to achieve greater equality.
He could appeal to the business community to stand shoulder to shoulder with the government in educating and up skilling our children and older workers so that many more black people will be empowered and enabled to move into the managerial positions and ownership of business that is essential for our stability as a country.
Almost no one in the white community, let alone the business community, wants to prevent black people from owning and managing a larger share of the economy. But grow that economy; work for it – don’t demand more and more handouts; create new businesses and grasp the myriad opportunities that exist in a young country like ours.
Stop shouting at and insulting the minorities and making them feel unwelcome and unappreciated.
My children and grandchildren are not entitled to more than yours because they are white – but then, nor are yours entitled to more than mine because they are black.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition Chief Whip and former ambassador to Thailand.
This article first appeared in The Star