Koos Kombuis: Sowing Crops, not Chaos: In search of a Ramaphosa Renaissance
Can we defeat the forces that are trying to drag us into our muddled and unhappy past? Can we unite in a vision of the future that is rooted, not on old grudges and ethnic differences, but in a common goal of mutual respect and healthy co-operation? Can we wake up and smell the coffee?
“Wake up and smell the coffee,” President Cyril Ramaphosa recently told MPs in Parliament during a heated debate on land reform. He went on to say: “Investor roadshows internationally showed that foreign investors recognise the need for SA to find a solution to the inequitable distribution of land in the country.” When President Ramaphosa first started siding himself with the “land-without-compensation” camp in the ANC, there was much talk of a “poisoned chalice” having been handed to him by Jacob Zuma. Listening carefully to everything that he has said during his first 100 days in office, it has become clear to me that, whereas Zuma had the cunning and finesse – if one can call it that – of an experienced street fighter, Ramaphosa has all that, and something else too: included in the mix of positive Ramaphosa attributes, he also exudes the statesmanship of a Churchill. South Africa is extremely lucky to have a President like this at a time such as this. He is truly a man with a larger vision than the narrow tribalistic and historically challenged vision of his detractors, both to the populistic left and the Afrikaner right. If Ramaphosa can stay in power long enough to fulfil his vision for South Africa, we might indeed be heading towards what Joseph Ingram, writing for News24, called “a South African Renaissance”. “While for South Africa it is far too early to see the results of a new set of economic policies based more on global best-practice rather than State Capture or rigid ideology,” Ingram wrote, “one feels a sense of hope and cautious optimism that things will indeed get better economically and socially.” It is, unfortunately, too early to say with certainty that this will happen. Many things can still go wrong. Whose vision of land reform will win in the end, the pragmatic vision of Ramaphosa or the socialistic vision of the EFF? And why is an organisation like AfriForum beating the war drums? Can they not tell the difference between these two approaches? Land reform is an inevitability; it is an issue that can no longer be delayed. There is, however, more than one way to go about it. The one way is the old Mugabe way; simply send in gangs of so-called “veterans” and start sowing chaos instead of crops. The other way is more like the brilliant plan so eloquently described (take heed, Ramaphosa!) by guest columnist Frans Cronjé in News24: “We took the example of SAA , which received a bailout of R10-billion from the government last year and has just asked for another R5-billion. Based on our sums above, that amount, had it been spent on land reform, could have established 750 successful new black commercial farmers over the past two years alone. Considering that there are only 30,000 commercial farmers in the country, this is a not inconsiderable number.” There are two strands of thinking in the current South African debate. These two ways of looking at the world and at our country are in evidence everywhere. On the one hand, you have the “winner-takes-all” ideology of those living in the past, such as the EFF, still bent on revenge on all whites, and the Afrikaner right wing, nostalgic for the old flag, the old white privilege, and all the old raa-raa-raa kragdadigheid. Parties like the ANC and the DA are also struggling with these two ideologies, but for them it is an internal struggle, as their members and their politicians are divided along these lines even though they belong to the same party. The old way of thinking is ethnic, simplistic and totally impractical. It will lead to ruin. At this stage it is unthinkable that the oranje-wit-blou regime should ever come back into power, but if they do, such an event will have an equally disastrous effect on the country as a takeover by the old-fashioned quasi-revolutionary comrades within the governing party. This is the way of the muscle-bound far left and far right. It was the way of Verwoerd. It was the way of Zuma. And, unless he matures in his thinking, it might very well become the way of Malema. The new way of thinking is pragmatic, practical and expansively democratic. It is a way of thinking embraced by all moderate South Africans. It is the way of Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan, Thuli Madonsela, Trevor Manuel, Bishop Tutu, and many other like-minded public figures. Can we defeat the forces that are trying to drag us into our muddled and unhappy past? Can we unite in a vision of the future that is rooted, not on old grudges and ethnic differences, but in a common goal of mutual respect and healthy co-operation? A South African Renaissance may indeed be in the making, if only we can all wake up and smell the coffee. DM