‘Pandemic has given president a platform to showcase what he is made of’
POLITICAL analysts said the lockdown and its aftermath would be seen as a watershed moment in the career of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Some analysts, such as head of Stellenbosch University’s School for Security and African Studies, faculty of Military Science, Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast, see grounds for optimism: “This lockdown is a golden opportunity for the president to prove his detractors wrong.”
Reflecting on the political consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for Ramaphosa, Breakfast said: “If the lockdown is a success and Ramaphosa delivers on the Covid-19 pandemic front, he will have more to gain than to lose. Politics is about imposing your agenda on your opponents, and the pandemic has given Ramaphosa a platform to showcase what he is made of.
“Before the pandemic, people were getting restless, and Ramaphosa had not lived up to the expectations that people had when he took over from ex-president Jacob Zuma. The ‘Ramaphoria’ from early in his term did not last. Economic growth was hampered by several factors, the economy was shrinking, and the youth bore the brunt of it,” said Breakfast.
“The end of the lockdown will be his chance to make good his early promise.”
But there is also a more pessimistic view, typified by political analyst Ralph Mathekga, who said: “The one thing we did not do when the lockdown was declared was to ask questions. The lockdown brought with it a freeze on many important political processes.
“When the DA said it wanted the National Assembly to form an ad hoc committee which would play an oversight role over the Cabinet to ensure that civil rights were protected during the national lockdown, nobody paid much attention.
“There is really no middle ground with this lockdown, and it is beginning to look as though even civil society has been shut down.
“Excessive use of executive power during the lockdown is dangerous, and our politicians must always remember that South Africa is a constitutional democracy and that the lockdown does not mean that the Constitution has been suspended, even though a few rights were,” Mathekga pointed out.
On the response to the extension of the lockdown by the opposition, the director of the Stellenbosch University School of Public Leadership, Professor Zwelinzima Ndevu, said: “It was mixed responses from different political parties, each one trying to protect the interests of their members.”