[News] Ramaphosa’s Challenge May Be Bigger Than That Faced by Mandela

A quarter of a century later, his one-time protege Cyril Ramaphosa faces perhaps even bigger obstacles.

Nine years of scandal-tainted rule under former President Jacob Zuma left South Africa with little economic growth, dysfunctional state companies, escalating debt and an investor-confidence crisis. In 1994, the country basked in the glory of liberation and benefited from the attendant international goodwill. That moment has passed and expectations for reform under Ramaphosa, a seasoned businessman, are higher than under Mandela.

Economic growth during Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki’s rule accelerated to more than 5% by the mid-2000s as they made policy decisions that were unpopular with their leftist allies. With Ramaphosa, 66, beholden to the labor unions opposed to the steps needed to fix the economy, it’s hard to see how he’ll make progress.

"Mandela and Mbeki had advantages that Ramaphosa does not enjoy,” Cronje said. “They were firm in isolating left-wing ideological influences in order to force pragmatic policy onto their party. Ramaphosa, on the other hand, indulges and appeases such influences, with the result that structural reform is permanently delayed while policy overall remains net hostile to investment.”

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