On Wednesday evening, President Cyril Ramamaphosa was elected unopposed by the sixth Parliament of the “democratic” South Africa — and he will be sworn in as president of the republic at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on Saturday.
Earlier on Wednesday, new members of Parliament were sworn in by the Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, who appeared to be surprised that no one opposed Ramaphosa’s nomination, even though it would not have made any difference given the governing party’s majority in the House.
The fact that Ramaphosa was elected unopposed — in stark contrast to the political drama that played out between the Economic Freedom Fighters and former president Jacob Zuma over Nkandla and the Gupta family that dominated the fifth Parliament — shows that he enjoys the confidence of the various political formations that are represented in the National Assembly, regardless of their political differences.
So, what awaits Ramaphosa and the sixth Parliament as they prepare to hit the ground running? South Africa is emerging from a difficult period, what Ramaphosa, by his own admission, called the “lost nine years”.
Under Zuma, allegations of “state capture” and corruption have preoccupied the country.
The Zondo commission of enquiry into state capture, which was forced on Zuma during his last days in office, before he was forced to resign on February 14 last year, is currently sitting in Johannesburg and has heard chilling evidence of grand looting of taxpayers’ money by witnesses such as Angelo Agrizzi of the disgraced utilities company Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations, and Transnet executive Popo Molefe. The picture emerging from the commission of enquiry into state capture reveals a country that worked for the connected and corrupt few under Zuma, characterised by private accumulation, at the expense of many South Africans.
Beyond South Africa, the global trade war between the United States and China is threatening to derail globalisation, with US President Donald Trump adopting a more inward-looking approach and an “America first” policy. The latest confrontation between the US and China, over technology and cellphone manufacturing company Huawei, has demonstrated that even South Africans are not immune to these global wars.
The ongoing tariff war between the two countries is threatening the pockets of many South Africans and will have an effect on other consumer goods that we rely on for our daily lives. Ramaphosa, MPs and those who make it into his Cabinet, should take an active interest in the US/China trade war with the aim of protecting South African consumers. Just simply watching the confrontation and thinking that “it has nothing to do with South Africa” doesn’t cut it.
Apart from that trade war, new emerging threats face South Africa. Climate change is proving to be here to stay, as shown by the two cyclones that hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe earlier this year, leaving a trail of destruction that left more than a thousand people dead and hundreds of thousands of others affected. Residents of Durban are still trying to rebuild their lives following devastating rains in the last month.
A drive from Sandton to Alexandra exposes you to the reality of two nations within one city due to the unmatched levels of inequality.
Financially, African economies, including South Africa, continue to lose billions of US dollars — money that was supposed to contribute to Africa’s developmental agenda and fight poverty — owing to illicit financial flows.
This problem will become even harder to solve if our leaders do not show the unity that they have demonstrated in electing Ramaphosa unopposed on Wednesday evening to implement the right policies to tackle these challenges.
After all, South Africans have elected him to be the custodian of their hopes and dreams. Now it is his turn and that of the newly sworn-in MPs to take us to the promised land.
Robert Shivambu is a South African-based journalist and international relations scholar, and a media manager at Amnesty International.