Julius Malema. Picture: ALON SKUY​
Julius Malema. Picture: ALON SKUY​

Judge Dennis Davis, chair of the Davis Tax Committee, recently told a small business indaba in Johannesburg that while the political climate under new President Cyril Ramaphosa suggests SA has turned a corner, "It’s perfectly obvious we’ve got a hell of a long way to go".

He’s not kidding. Ramaphosa is seemingly welcoming Julius Malema back into the arms of the ANC, despite the EFF commander-in-chief’s purported disdain for such a move, and the fact that the new president was instrumental in kicking him out of the party in the first place.

There is more bad blood. Malema called Ramaphosa a "murderer" responsible for the killing of mine workers in Marikana, before being booted out of Parliament. This raises the question of how much a seemingly urbane Ramaphosa fears losing the 2019 election.

A lot, it appears. More recently, Malema has been censured for wanting to "cut the throat of whiteness", while making references to genocide and other colourful metaphors. That the ANC should want such an individual back illustrates how desperately Ramaphosa fears losing his new role before he has even got started.

That the ANC should want such an individual back illustrates how desperately Ramaphosa fears losing his new role before he has even started.

It is deeply ironic that Ramaphosa’s hands are tied so heavily before he can begin to straighten out his own party. Raids by the Hawks in recent weeks on both ostensible key players in state capture and those who oppose it are an indication that the ghost of former president Jacob Zuma lingers.

This lends credence to the innuendo that Ramaphosa has no option but to support Zuma as some sort of cog in the ANC’s 2019 election campaign — at least in KwaZulu-Natal. It also shows what a terrible ethical state the governing party is in.

It further shows — to borrow a term — how many unreconstructed cadres there still are in the ANC’s higher echelons, despite Zuma’s ignominious exit. This gives effect to the perception that it is a rudderless party with dubious ethics.

Those who have stayed mum on the trashing of stores and the relieving of supermarkets of their polony stocks in the name of keeping their parliamentary seats, now want to re-embrace Malema. When it comes to the topic of expropriation, it is no wonder a sugar cane farm has been burning in KwaZulu-Natal.

If Ramaphosa really wants to set SA straight, he will need to do more than repeat the mantra that expropriation of land without compensation will be done in such a way as to ensure food security and the economy are not threatened.

The country needs to get back to a pragmatic political paradigm illustrated by the Industry Task Team on Climate Change, a voluntary, non-profit association, which represents carbon-and energy-intensive companies in SA.

In recent comments on the draft Carbon Tax Bill, the task team says it supports SA’s commitments to address climate change, but is in favour of a predictable and gradual transition to a lower-carbon, resource-efficient economy.

It says the proposed tax is not necessary to meet international commitments on climate change as electricity sales volumes have contracted by more than 14% to below 2011 levels. Unsurprisingly, the biggest contractions have been in the country’s mining and industrial sectors.

This highlights the zero-sum game being played by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA in further stalling the signing of renewable energy contracts. The task team says a carbon tax will have no material effect on reducing carbon emissions in SA and will only add costs to consumers, who are already paying through the nose for Eskom’s heavily delayed new-build programme.

Rather, the government should focus on the coherent development of polices and administered pricing through the alignment of government departments. This is the mantra Ramaphosa needs to repeat. The rest is just politics.

Allix is Business Day’s industrial writer