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Laureates - Cyril Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma as the country’s leader after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) decided to remove his predecessor over corruption allegations.

As he clocks his first one hundred days at the Union Buildings, which is the seat of government in Pretoria, the president’s scorecard is a mixture of optimism coupled with harsh economic realities, wage strikes, tax increases, and runaway food prices.

 

Ramaphosa was sworn in as South African president following a week of unprecedented political events which led to the postponement of the State of the Nation Address and Zuma’s resignation. Although Ramaphosa, aged 66, took over the government at a time the economy was not doing very well with spiraling unemployment and downgrades by the world’s ratings agencies, many South Africans believe the president is so far steering the ship of state in the right direction.

 

His approval rating of 65 percent is on par with that of his predecessors, Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma at the 100-day mark. Both Mbeki and Zuma scored 66 percent and 68 percent respectively by the time they reached their 100th days in office.

 

The South African Citizens’ Survey (Sacs) on people’s attitudes towards political leadership and the direction in which the country is moving, had found that 65 percent of its respondents were satisfied with Ramaphosa’s performance as president so far.

Sacs is conducted once a month by Citizen Surveys and is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,300 respondents on topics including politics, economics, social issues, and food security.

 

The survey found that 65 percent of respondents felt favorably inclined towards Ramaphosa in March, up from 57 percent in February. Almost two-thirds of respondents thought he was doing a good job.

 

Some analysts agreed with these sentiments, adding Ramaphosa has displayed his business acumen and listening skills in the face of economic pressures during his first 100 days in office. “We think the president has moved quickly to address some of the low-hanging fruit that needed improvement, but the jury is still out on whether the president will have the necessary support to address the harder issues,” University of Stellenbosch’s Bureau for Economic Research (BER) senior economist Hugo Pienaar said.

 

But Pienaar said reform of the labor and education sectors are likely to be necessary in order for South Africa to achieve higher longer-term GDP growth rates.

 

“In addition, more needs to be done to reduce the cost of doing business in South Africa,” he said. Business Unity South Africa Chief Executive Tanya Cohen agreed, saying the election of Ramaphosa had been a notable contributor to the revival of business and investor confidence in the country. The Rand Merchant Bank/BER business confidence index (BCI) jumped by 11-index points from 34 in 2017 (fourth quarter) to 45 in 2018 (first quarter) following his election. The two organizations described such a big increase between quarters as rare, adding that since 1975 confidence increased by 11 index points or more, on only 15 occasions.

 

The most notable achievements of Ramaphosa in his first 100 days in office have been his interventions at state-owned entities (SOEs) - like power supplier Eskom and South African Airways - where he has been seen as a new broom sweeping away years of corruption and maladministration under Zuma.  

 

He has also pushed through a new minimum wage, moved in to address challenges at South African Revenue Service (SARS), the country’s tax collector, and appointed investment envoys assigned to bring more than $100 billion worth of investments into the country. The interventions at SOEs comprised the finalization of turn-around strategies with a specific focus on mandate positioning and market development, strengthening of corporate governance structures, and stabilizing finances.

 

The Presidency said at Eskom, where Ramaphosa put in place a new board, the interventions have had a direct impact in the stabilization of electricity supply while mitigating the effects of load shedding. The measures also included the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer and Chief Finance Officer, stabilization of executive management and strengthening the board, while working with the Public Enterprises Ministry and National Treasury (Ministry of Finance) to address some of the pressing funding shortfalls of the institution.

 

At the national airline SAA, a 90-day Action Plan was successfully implemented and new turn-around strategy developed and adopted by Cabinet in June 2015.

 

“Currently, the government is in the process of finalizing the appointment of a new board of directors at SAA as part of efforts to ensure good corporate governance,” the Presidency said.  

 

The interventions have been largely welcomed.