South Africa

Ramaphosa’s broken promise

18 months after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to forge a “social compact” within 100 days to fire up the economy and tackle rampant unemployment and a multitude of other ills, government, business, and labour union leaders remain at loggerheads over what needs to be done. 

Details of the compact were meant to be hammered out at the National Economic Development and Labour Council, a bargaining forum that tries to reach a consensus on policy, but the document still remains a work in progress after having gone through 11 drafts.   

“The most pressing challenge appears to be one about ideological positions among social partners in respect of the path to growth, which have not shifted despite the enormous crisis the country faces,” Deputy President Paul Mashatile said in a speech at Nedlac’s annual summit in Johannesburg on Friday.

“We must summon enough bravery to discuss this matter openly in order to prevent the ticking time bomb of poverty, inequality and joblessness from going off.”

Africa’s most industrialized economy has been hobbled for years by power shortages, inadequate port and rail capacity and dysfunctional municipal administrations, and more than 22 million of its people are unemployed or have given up on the prospect of finding a job. 

Nedlac business representative Cas Coovadia, who represents the business contingent at Nedlac, agreed that the forum was confronting an “existential crisis,” having failed to agree on how to turn the economy around. 

“The geopolitical dynamics globally are also very volatile, and critical developments like the Russia-Ukraine war, our positioning on foreign policy and some of the rhetoric around an otherwise valid move towards building a ‘south’ bloc are all impacting negatively on our country,” he said.

Labour representative Gerald Twala warned the summit that plans by the National Treasury to cut spending would “choke the state of resources it needs” and called for additional money to be allocated toward bolstering the power supply and fixing transportation links. 


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