Cyril's cabinet's most pressing challenge is economy and to get people working

President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised South Africans a cabinet that is efficient and accountable, and will deliver to the people what is needed, says the writer.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised South Africans a cabinet that is efficient and accountable, and will deliver to the people what is needed, says the writer.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

President Cyril Ramaphosa made a commitment to cut cabinet down to size ahead of his announcement of the new executive last night.

The promise is that the new executive will be fit for purpose.

South Africans hope that the new executive will be a clear indication of whether SA has the kind of leadership needed to carry it out of its dark night into the new dawn.

To take SA out of the doldrums, the cabinet ought to be competent. It ought to epitomise integrity. It ought to reflect a tried and tested track record of problem solving.

Given that Ramaphosa largely confined his selections from the pool of MPs and based on historical trends from his own party, the ANC, it is still difficult to say if he can convincingly deliver on his commitment.

Pragmatically, we expect an executive that will reflect concessions and compro-mises that are more about the ANC's internal party dynamics than about the country's interests.

Even so, it does not change the fact that Ramaphosa's administration has a lot on its plate.

The next five years will not be easy, especially coming from a low base of political and socioeconomic performance of the past decade.

The most pressing challenge for the president as he begins his first term is the economy.

The immediate imperative is to get South Africans working, especially young people, who are most affected by joblessness.

There are indications that it is not only slow economic growth that is leading to poor absorption of the country's workforce.

The education crisis can no longer be ignored or kicked down the road for the next government to fix.

Young people in particular are the victims of an education system that is making them unemployable.

Outcomes in numeracy and literacy are a red flag suggesting that many young people, even if given the opportunity to access higher education or for upskilling, would not cope.

Even though the new SA was about doing away with the vestiges of apartheid, the ANC, based on educational outcomes, is seemingly perpetuating the consequences of a discriminatory system.

Coupled with the deficiencies of the education system, stubborn poverty and inequality means that government needs to be cognisant of the fact that economic growth on its own, and a welfare system premised on social grants that are insufficient to keep up with the increasing cost of living, are not enough.

A major part of making development a reality is to invest in the real economy.

The manufacturing sector, which includes agroprocessing; automotive; chemicals; information and communication technology and electronics; metals; and textiles, clothing and footwear; must be promoted and supported by policies that increase business confidence.

The same can be said about sectors like construction and mining.

A focus on these areas is necessary for a development and job growth strategy that recognises the urgency of including unskilled, low-skilled workers as well as workers with skills that are misaligned, in the economy. These are numbered in the millions.

Delivering development hinges on efficient and accountable governance. This is the key to government's role of providing an environment conducive to a thriving economy.

These are the expectations Ramaphosa's fit-for-purpose cabinet has to meet.

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