Economic and political problems are piling up for President Cyril Ramaphosa, damping the euphoria that accompanied his election as president of SA.

Ramaphosa took office in February after the governing ANC forced Jacob Zuma to resign following a scandal-tainted tenure that lasted almost nine years. While Ramaphosa initially won plaudits from investors and the public for instigating a crackdown on graft, sentiment has soured as record high fuel prices, inflation-busting pay increases for government workers and demands for bail-outs by broke state companies stymie his efforts to turn around the flagging economy.

The rand surged more than 10% against the dollar between the time that Ramaphosa secured control of the ANC in December and his election as president. But the currency has surrendered almost all its gains, while foreigners have ditched a net R35.3bn worth of bonds this year. The threat of a global trade war and a shift in sentiment against emerging markets has added to the gloom, and business confidence slumped for five straight months after a two-year high in January.

"‘Ramaphoria’ was not there in the first place — it was just a media and business construct," said Xolani Dube, an analyst at the Xubera Institute for Research and Development in Durban. "We are still grappling with serious economic issues in SA that Ramaphosa cannot solve on his own."

The difficulty of the president’s task has been compounded by internal battles in the ANC, which remains deeply divided after a bruising leadership fight that he won by a narrow margin.

That has forced him to tiptoe around party barons who opposed his candidacy and slowed his bid to restore the image of the party that Nelson Mandela led to power in 1994. It has also limited his ability to bring about the policy changes needed to meet his goal of attracting $100bn in new investment over five years.

There has been some good news. Consumers remain upbeat, with First National Bank and the Bureau for Economic Research’s confidence index close to a record high in the second quarter.

Ramaphosa’s investment drive has also met with some success — he secured a commitment from Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates companies to put as much as $20bn into projects in SA during an official visit to the region in July. Mercedes-Benz announced last month it would invest €600m in expanding its plant in East London.

Ramaphosa’s grip on power will depend on him improving living standards and the public education system as well as dealing with rampant crime and creating jobs for the 27% of the workforce that is unemployed, said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst and the author of a new book: Ramaphosa’s Turn, Can Cyril Save SA?

"This hardship will not last forever and growth is going to happen," Ramaphosa said in an interview broadcast on July 16 on eNCA. "It is around the corner and soon we’ll be able to alleviate the difficult burden that our people are bearing."

He remains bullish about his ability to unify the party. While it secured 62% support in the election four years ago, that slumped to 54.5% in the municipal vote two years ago. "Our mission is to have a united ANC," he said. "I am confident — confident underlined — that the ANC is going to forge unity and we’ll go into the elections as a united force."

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Ramaphosa had missed an opportunity to assert greater control over the ANC and convince it to adopt more investor-friendly policies.

"This economy is not going to do with tinkering; it needs fundamental reform," he said.

Ramaphosa’s grip on power will depend on him improving living standards and the public education system as well as dealing with rampant crime and creating jobs for the 27% of the workforce that is unemployed, said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst and the author of a new book: Ramaphosa’s Turn, Can Cyril Save SA?

"It is bread-and-butter issues that often start revolutions," Mathekga said.

"If the government cannot respond to the pressing economic issues and deal with safety concerns, then Ramaphosa is risking a revolution."

Bloomberg