Errol Horwitz: ‘Dear Cyril, please grow a spine, jail the corrupt, get on with reforms’

When Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma in 2017, a fresh wave of optimism about South Africa’s future swept through the country. But, nearly three years on, Ramaphoria has been replaced by Ramadisappointment. Political activist Errol Horwitz sets out some areas that are significant worries for voters, including the prospect of land expropriation without compensation and an inability by Ramaphosa to execute a commitment to bring to book the corrupt. Strange Covid-19 containment rules, such as the ban on the sales of tobacco and certain types of clothing, have heightened concerns that the president is hamstrung by the culture of collective decision-making. President Ramaphosa has been unable to shake the legacy of former presidents, including Thabo Mbeki, is Horwitz’s message. – Jackie Cameron

By Errol Horwitz*

Dear Mr. President

I was in two minds whether to send this letter to you marked ‘Personal & Confidential’, but came to the conclusion that it would suffer the same fate as my previous open letters – into the trash can!  So it’s an open letter which hopefully will be read by your loyal comrades, while they engage in after-hours mellow political discourse and gossip, imbibing in far too many tots of overly-expensive single malt whisky. (Again, apologies – can’t resist a smack of satire).

I listened to the question and answer session and your responses to questions before the National Assembly yesterday. As usual it was painful, akin to a colonoscopy without an anaesthetic. Nonetheless, one question from Freedom Front MP Pieter Groenewald perked my interest and made the painful experience more bearable. He asked you on how to grow the economy – a benign and neutrally directed question. I suspect you knew the question in advance, because your response was clearly a prepared one, reminding me of a predator about to pounce and sink its teeth into the jaw of its victim.

To say the least, I was stunned by your response inasmuch as I believe MP Groenewald was likewise stunned. In fact, I am so certain I am prepared to buy time on national television and eat Minister Bheki Cele’s hat, if proved wrong. Eating his hat will be one thing, but buying another is too much of a sacrifice, as it would be rubbing salt into my metaphorically speaking wound from ill-perceived certainty.

In your response to MP Groenewald you called on white South Africans to work on the creation of an inclusive economy instead of “holding on to the privileges that white people have always had in this country”. On its face no rational person can argue against your position that white people have enjoyed privileges, but to suggest that white South Africans have not played an essential role in attempting to create an inclusive economy, let alone across the political spectrum is false, and at best disingenuous. That role, however, has eviscerated over time due to your ANC government’s lack of performance on a range of social, economic and governance measures. In addition, the consequences of nine years of worsening corruption and policy paralysis under your predecessor, and under your watch as well, militates against co-opting South African whites to what you perceive as an ‘inclusive’ economy.

The problems of creating an inclusive economy are compounded by the fact orthodox economics adopted during the rule of former President Mbeki have been abandoned by your government in favour of soviet-style populist policies.  These include land expropriation without compensation, free tertiary education, and more stringent black economic empowerment requirements, which are bound to fail, based on past empirical data. South Africa has experienced a continuous decline in all core indicators of performance.  South Africa is a fragile state, even more so exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africans, black and white, know the role your party has played in decimating the country in every conceivable way. So, to put it bluntly you and your ANC government, since Mbeki’s government, have failed miserably. 

Even though you pledged a crackdown on corruption, an end to policy uncertainty, and a drive to reform loss-making state-owned entities on life support, this will do nothing to overcome the fact that you are politically weak because your party remains riven by factionalism. I suspect white South Africans cannot overlook the probability that you will be a one-term president unable to implement the reforms you speak of.

So, who in his right mind, black or white, would want to throw hard earned money towards an ‘inclusive’ economy, controlled by those instilled with an outmoded, unworkable soviet-style populist mind set?

Mr, President, with respect get your house in order.  In doing so, you will achieve an inclusive economy unconditionally supported by black and white South Africans.

Errol Horwitz

  • Errol Horwitz was a political activist in the 60s, and returned to South Africa a few years ago, after residing abroad for more than three decades.
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