Picture: GCIS
Picture: GCIS

The Economist, one of the world’s top business publications, has endorsed Cyril Ramaphosa to stay in the Union Buildings after the May 8 elections, saying a strong showing by the ANC would weaken populists within its ranks and enable him to pursue reforms.

In a special report on SA, the newspaper, which was established in 1843 and espouses economic liberalism and free trade, described Ramaphosa as an “honest reformer” and the country's best chance to get back on track after the “wasted years” of Jacob Zuma’s presidency, echoing a term that Ramaphosa himself has used to differentiate himself from his predecessor.

Endorsement from the publication is a boost for Ramaphosa because its readership include the potential investors from whom he is seeking to raise $100bn (R1.4 trillion) as part of his pledge to revive the economy and make inroads against an unemployment rate of more than 27%. An investment conference he hosted in October 2018 attracted more than 1,000 delegates.

Next month’s election may turn out to be the most hotly-contested in the post-Apartheid era although most surveys put the ANC’s support above 50%, with some showing it set to secure around 60%.

The Economist raised the possibility that a weak performance by the ANC could embolden forces associated with the mismanagement of the Zuma period, and the possibility that they may seek to replace Ramaphosa. Worse still, an ANC polling below 50% could be forced into an alliance with Julius Malema’s EFF, resulting in an “even more bloated, corrupt and ineffective state”.

That led the newspaper to endorse the ANC, having backed the DA in 2014, despite the case for supporting the official opposition being strong. It praised the DA for its governance in municipalities where it has won power.

“The DA has the right ideas for fixing SA, but is in no position to implement them,” the article said. So, “this time, with deep reservations, we would cast our notional vote, at the national level, for the ANC”.

Ramaphosa, who on Friday fired two senior officials who had links to Zuma from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), after an inquiry found them unfit for office, should use the next five years to prosecute looters, break up Eskom’s monopoly and ensure land reform that extends property rights, The Economist said.

“Ramaphosa, the man [former president Nelson] Mandela originally wanted to succeed him, has a chance to save his legacy. He must not blow it.”

vandermerwep@businesslive.co.za