President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

On Tuesday, 18 economists took up positions on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s newly minted economic advisory council. It sounds like a good thing, right? After all, the members are eminently qualified and, Lord knows, SA could benefit from some innovative thinking. Only, it all feels a little futile.

Leaving aside the question of how long it will take 18 economists to reach agreement on just about anything, there’s the fact that it took Ramaphosa 19 months just to set up the council. That’s an extraordinary amount of time for a country with its toe on the junk line.

More important is what Ramaphosa believes he can achieve with the council, hamstrung as he is by the factionalism in his own party. In the time it’s taken to set up the council — which should have been part of his game plan from the get-go — the policy neutering he’s endured from the ANC and its partners has taken expression in talk shop after talk shop. Unemployment? Let’s hold a jobs summit. Femicide? How about a gender-based violence summit. Inefficient health sector? Here’s a health-sector forum.

It may offer a whiff of proactive governance, but it does little to break the stifling paralysis of the status quo. If Ramaphosa doesn’t address the underlying issue — a splintered, corrupted party resistant to accountability — his council will be dead in the water anyway.