The coronavirus may just have saved Ramaphosa’s political life, for now_1

Should the South African economy fail in the short to medium term, President Cyril Ramaphosa will have the handy excuse to shift the blame on to the effects of the coronavirus. However, the economy was already on a downward spiral prior to the virus. Experts have said the virus has shifted some blame from government and even Ramaphosa’s opponents in the ANC would be forced to give him the benefit of the doubt. This week Covid-19 forced the Ramaphosa administration to implement a state of disaster, including the closure of nearly half of all ports of entry, a ban on...
Should the South African economy fail in the short to medium term, President Cyril Ramaphosa will have the handy excuse to shift the blame on to the effects of the coronavirus.

However, the economy was already on a downward spiral prior to the virus.

Experts have said the virus has shifted some blame from government and even Ramaphosa’s opponents in the ANC would be forced to give him the benefit of the doubt.

This week Covid-19 forced the Ramaphosa administration to implement a state of disaster, including the closure of nearly half of all ports of entry, a ban on travel to and from countries heavily affected by the pandemic and the revocation of visas already approved – a move that will severely affect trade and tourism.

Ramaphosa conceded that the impact of the virus on the South African economy was too ghastly to contemplate.

However, the whole episode couldn’t have come at a better time for Ramaphosa, who is under siege from some of his comrades in the ANC.

His adversaries within the party had been plotting his downfall at the next ANC national general council, which has now been postponed due to the coronavirus.

Ramaphosa would have been made to carry the can for sluggish economic growth, a drop in GDP and the resultant technical recession, and rising unemployment, which increased to 29.1% under his rule; opponents also accused him of failing to implement a party resolution to nationalise the Reserve Bank. He was in a tight corner, and then Covid-19 started being confirmed on South African soil.

Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen says the fact that not only the South African economy but also the world economy’s sudden fall has shifted the focus off Ramaphosa.

“Our economy will take a severe knock because of this virus. At the same time, it’s a double-edged sword for Ramaphosa because they are still going to have anger and frustration about the people affected by the infections and any possible deaths related to the virus. They will share the blame, although all this is beyond their control,” said Booysen.

“However, it’s a great explanation that things will be worse than they are in our economy but it’s beyond the control of the president,” Booysen added.

Dirk Kotze, professor of political science at the University of South Africa, said the coronavirus would be regarded as a major contributing factor to the country’s economic decline going forward.

“It is not only South Africa, but there is a real expectation that the economies of China, Italy, Iran, Korea and others will come down this year. However, it will depend on whether South Africa is able to create and exploit opportunities in future to boost its growth,” he said.

“Because of the additional factor of the virus, the public can’t blame the president; it will have an impact all over the world,” Kotze said.

Booysen said a lot of action would have to be taken to catch up to ensure economic recovery and to deal with the aftermath of the coronavirus.

“Much more will need to be done in terms of the economy and to help people recover. There is a huge socioeconomic task to be undertaken in future to bring things to normality.

Another analyst, Lesiba Teffo from Unisa, said that as much as he appreciated the debate around the coronavirus, it would be unfair to blame anybody. Rather he would prefer to see “all hands on  the deck”.

“Let’s take politics out of it; why would you apportion blame on anybody? Let’s accept that it’s a human tragedy; let’s all do whatever we can,” said Teffo.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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