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Some Advice to Cyril Ramaphosa – from Kipling and Sunter

Some Advice to Cyril Ramaphosa – from Kipling and Sunter

My editorials in the March, April, and May 2018 issues of aBr clearly spelt out the failings and even worse of our esteemed governing party over the past ten years. These editorials, titled “Our Bloated Ship of Sate”, “The First Step – with a Long Way to Go”, and “Cutting Out Wastage”, focused on the profligate ways we are being governed, and were by their very nature of a negative bent, because when pointing out the bad, things look dark. Now for some light, and some good countervailing advice from two sources, over a hundred years’ apart

The first bit of advice was written circa 1895 as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism, and does not even hint at the British duplicity that was par for the course during the latter part of the nineteenth century, but it does serve a far nobler purpose, i.e. some good advice to dear Cyril, as he attempts to rid the government of corruption, and to steer the ship of state into calmer and less shark infested waters. This advice comes in the form of the poem IF, written by Rudyard Kipling. The gist of the message can be obtained from the first and the last verses:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The second bit of advice, from Clem Sunter, comes via Alec Hogg’s BIZNEWS newsletter of 29 March 2018, which is definitely worth reading. Hogg says that “With so much noise about, one needs to look in the right places for answers. And when it comes to the economic future of South Africa under president Cyril Ramaphosa, there are few better positioned to guide us than a direct adversary from his old labour union days, former Anglo exec turned futurist Clem Sunter.” Sunter puts it succinctly, "If he shows the positive qualities which I know he has from frequent meetings with him when he was the leader of the NUM, we have a chance of moving back once more to the High Road trajectory. If he is overwhelmed by internal divisions inside his own party, or by outside forces which render him powerless, the Low Road beckons with an extreme ending not to be dismissed."

Hogg says that Sunter puts the High Road probability at 60%, but says this will require skilful addressing of six issues: firm treatment of the corrupt; a turnaround in the education system; inclusive leadership; replicating rather than eliminating SA's pockets of excellence; opening the economy to everyone; and sensible management of land reform. Get those right, he says, and SA is on track for the 5% economic growth rate needed to make a meaningful and sustained dent in unemployment. Mess up on those six key challenges and the current Low Road will continue. Some good news in all this, though, is Sunter puts the prospect of the country declining to Zimbabwe-like chaos at just 10%. Ahead of the ANC's December vote that would have seemed hugely conservative.

Great bits of advice, coming from a ghost of the past, and a seer of the present. Go for it, Cyril. Unlike your predecessor, respect the constitution, and unlike your predecessor, forego the Gupta gyrations, and do the Kipling Sunter toi toi.

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