The President has lost interest in leading South Africa

South Africa - Cape Town - 8 February 2024 - President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2024 State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

South Africa - Cape Town - 8 February 2024 - President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2024 State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 17, 2024


Listening to the President’s State of the Nation address, I was left with the sense that the man reading the words on the pages in front of him was as exhausted of doing it as the audience was of listening to him.

The President of South Africa was absent. He was not in the room. The man on the podium was reading a speech someone else had written for him.

He had no interest in leading, inspiring, or being there.

He was acting perfunctory. His heart, his soul, and his interests were somewhere else.

He knows he did not fix Eskom as he was appointed to do in 2014.

He knows he did not act on the State Capture recommendations and findings as he was tasked to. And he knows that he won’t.

I have been pondering the why of this. My conclusion is that the ANC, after 30 years of having the duty to lead and build a capable state, is bad at managing the complex systems of government.

Therefore, it has chosen to surround itself with more ministers and deputy ministers than most other governments, with thousands of public servants, loads of consultants, and expensive cars.Images of importance are used to mask their inability at managing complex systems such as providing electricity and water.

With this image of importance, they continually avoid becoming better at managing the state and instead couch their leadership philosophy in gift-giving.

They see the construction of a road as a gift to a community, not as a right. They see building a school as a gift, not as a right. They see a tap as a gift, and not as a right.

When they don’t feel like giving you a gift, or if you offend them, they refuse to respond to your calls for services.

They only give gifts to people who applaud them. They see rights as gifts, not as constitutional obligations.

With this self-serving gift-giving philosophy, they expect the public to be extremely grateful to them for the gifts they dole out. Nothing is rooted in getting systems to work.

When you can’t manage complex systems, you use gift-giving as appeasement. Like keeping the lights on for an important sports game. Or giving people a day off after a big achievement.

The system is failing all around us, but the government’s appeasement strategies are hard at work. At that moment, we all forget that they are failing to manage complex systems.

Therefore, they win election after election. Because they drug people with gifts while they trample on their rights.

The DA, on the other hand, enters this space with an overt declaration that it has a canned solution to managing complexity.

They have their plan worked out. Black issues, white issues, rich issues, and poor issues have all been neatly boxed in a pyramid where colour-coded classism drives the agenda.

When an issue pops up, they just go to their box and take out their canned solution. They fail monumentally at seeing that issues like oppression, racism and supremacist utterings are triggers to people who suffer from the trauma of apartheid.

They won’t or don’t want to understand the triggers of racism or colonialism and appear to be completely blind to those.

They struggle to persuade the growing collective black population of their integrity. Therefore, the EFF is now their biggest threat to replace them as the official opposition.

They still write messages intended for only 7% of the population, hoping that the other 93% will think that it’s great.

That’s the crisis in South Africa. Our leaders do not understand South Africa’s diversity and complexity.

They think that the state’s resources are there to be used as personal gifts and so destroy the culture of building constitutional rights.

Others blissfully govern from pre-designed boxes as they trample on and trigger the traumas of lingering oppression and supremacist practices and pain.

* Lorenzo A. Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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