February in South Africa – A month of love, and daggers

There is something deep and profound about the month of February in South Africa. Former President FW De Klerk announced the release of our liberation struggle icon, Nelson Mandela on 2 February, and Mandela walked out of the Victor Venster Prison in Paarl after 27 years of incarceration on 11 February 1990.

Fast forward to the democratic SA, and February 2018 could easily be dubbed as the month of love, and daggers. The nation fell head over heels in love with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa while at the same time, the ANC NEC had their daggers out for now former President Jacob Zuma, forcing him to resign on Valentine’s Day.

And true to JZ’s style, he announced his resignation just before midnight – messing up the Valentine night for millions of couples in the country.

With the new sheriff in town in President Cyril Ramaphosa, we’ve seen a cabinet reshuffle, and the Budget Speech sure sent a message to the country that action is being taken.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers his first State of The Nation Address. 

In a speech littered with lines from US rapper Kedrick Lamar, Tanzanian liberation struggle icon Julius Nyerere and lots of love for the late Nelson Mandela, a balance was struck between protecting the integrity of public finances, maintaining fiscal discipline and increasing the social wage.

The “Fees Must Fall” movement must be celebrating with the fee-free education for first year students from households with a combined income of R350 000 receiving R57bn over the next three years, of which R12.4bn will go towards needy first year students in 2018.

Civil society organisations are not happy though with the one percentage increase of the VAT from 14% to 15% – a first since 1993. This is viewed as plunging a dagger in the hearts of the poor who are already struggling to make ends meet.

National Treasury says the poor have been cushioned with most basic food stuffs such as maize meal, brown bread, beans and rice, having been VAT zero-rated. But this was completely unexpected given the political implications of increasing VAT, especially with the 2019 general elections around the corner.

The 17 million grant recipients were showed some serious love in February – receiving a whopping 6.6% above inflation increase from R380 to R400 as from 01 April and another R10 on 01 October. Our grannies and grandpas will receive a R90 increase from R1600 to R1690 on 1 October and a further R10 on 1 October – a total of R259.4bn in social spending.

Back to the cabinet reshuffle, Nhlanhla Nene, Pravin Gordhan and Bheki Cele after being rejected by Zuma in an inexplicable love tiff, got their ‘love back’ a hundredfold over as Finance Minister, Public Enterprises Minister and Police Minister, respectively. This move has been cheered by the markets. On the other hand, the retention of Malusi Gigaba, Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Nonkonyane in the name of ANC unity has been bemoaned by many pundits.

February has been a rollercoaster ride, and there is no doubt that the rest of the year will be challenging as different parts of society react to what has happened. With the general elections on the 2019 horizon, turbulent times lie ahead but hope is in the air.

With SA scoring a paltry 55.1 points (weak and vulnerable) on the Reputation Institute 2017 Reputation Index, a window of opportunity has been opened for corporate SA to leverage off the current spirit of optimism and hope to build reputation capital for organisations and broader country.