Must do the right things early, but look to future


Dynamic and progressive change always requires an agent to take the long view.This does not mean that the details, or existing conditions and the constellation of power within structures ought to be overlooked in favour of the long view.It simply means that change agents need to know where they want an institution, such as the state, to be in, say, five to 10 years, what it will look like and what it will do – in actual terms.Put more simply, the important and the most difficult changes have to be made, at the outset, to set the state, or an institution for that matter, on a path shaped by the long view.It is impossible to carry toxic people who conspire against achieving what the long view entails.If you do, they will simply place a drag on dynamic and progressive change and transformation – or even stall it completely.This is what president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa will have been faced with in the days after it became clear that the ANC would win the election and after the final results of the poll were announced.Now that he has been given the mandate to lead the country, and with the long view in mind (this much I know), Ramaphosa has to make the difficult decisions.He has to remove from the path those obstacles, people and systems who would prevent dynamic and progressive change and transformation of the state – if the state is to address the most pressing challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.These challenges on their own are insurmountable in the short term, but he has to (and he will) remain focused, regardless of what is thrown in his way.He needs to know that someone “has his back” – so to speak.First, he will (he has, already) bring around him some of the people he can trust.These will be people who are loyal to the ideals of the long view and whom the president-elect can rely on when the fight-back starts.The fight-back will be overt, and it will be subtle and insidious. It will be brutal.Ramaphosa and his “team” will have to remain resolute.Second, he has to make decisions based on what the country needs right now, with a firm understanding of how objectives of the long view can and will be achieved.The “now” part should be the easy part, but there is enough vested interest in the status quo to prevent him from making changes.For the sake of justice, he will have to dismiss certain people, never mind how indispensable or important they may appear to be.Already the ANC’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, has started to discount the confidence that Ramaphosa has brought to the electorate and some members of the ruling party.Let’s face it, much of the ANC’s dangers may come from within, from people who you ought to trust.But the status quo has rewarded many people.It will be in their interest to keep things as they are, to secure their own pecuniary gain and compromise on integrity.Third, he has to appoint people who are untainted by corruption and maladministration, or who have achieved their positions through unethical means that may have been legal at one time, but who currently bring down the entire project of the long view.Fourth, he has to remain (and already has remained) committed to processes like the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture and strengthen the hand (with courageous support) of Shamila Batohi, national director of public prosecutions at the National Prosecuting Authority.Ramaphosa put Batohi in place, she began her work and he has vowed to stand by her – at the risk, even, of blow-back reaching his office.Although there are very many more suggestions one can put forward, a fifth thing that Ramaphosa has to do is leverage the goodwill that people have toward him (there are many people who want him to succeed) and take these people with him.In any project that entails dynamic and progressive change and transformation, it is important to identify, early, those actors and agents that work against you, that want you to fail because they stand to gain from the status quo.While I try not to get into misty-eyed romanticism, those people who stand in the way of dynamic and progressive change and transformation, who want to shore up the powers and privileges acquired under previous arrangements, will be exposed.Speaking to a closed audience in the weeks before the election, Ramaphosa said he wanted no more excuses, because people in SA deserved the best.He is right.The officials, officers, actors and agents across the state and its institutions who were appointed to serve the public have failed – and many have become wealthy, or at least comfortable and complacent.Things will change and justice will be served, but Ramaphosa has to have people around him who he can trust.That is probably his biggest challenge.

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