South Africans have become more than accustomed to the slow-slow-quick-quick-slow steps of the national political dance.
However, if there is to be any prospect of a sustained economic, social and moral recovery, the pace at which political and policy decisions are made will need to quicken. In far too many areas there is lingering uncertainty, delay and procrastination.
It beggars belief that a Minister’s duplicity, defiance and incompetence have resulted in a request for a further extension to a social grants contract declared illegal and invalid by the highest court in the land nearly four years earlier.
It is almost incomprehensible that a country built on mining could have allowed a Minister to create a policy vacuum that effectively rendered the sector an investment-free zone.
The endless debate over an entirely unaffordable nuclear procurement programme amid falling wind and solar costs, not to mention the financial collapse of the utility designated to own and operate the new reactors, would have been laughable if it were not so serious.
Sadly, the uncertainty and procrastination do not end there. They extend into just about every policy nook and cranny, from digital migration and renewable-energy procurement to localisation and land reform.
It’s been a sorry five-plus years, which have cost the country dearly in terms of not only growth, development and poverty reduction, but also international reputation, moral standing and ethical standards.
The good news is that South Africa, having finally escaped the tangled web of what was an increasingly depraved, disconnected and corrupt Jacob Zuma Presidency, has yet another genuine opportunity to recover and rebuild.
Much as was the case in 1994, there is a sense of optimism and excitement. Unlike 1994, however, there is a far higher level of impatience. South Africans want change and they don't want to wait too long to see tangible evidence of that change.
The tediousness of Zuma’s removal may well have yielded internal ‘unity’ dividends for the new African National Congress leadership. However, it tried the patience of citizens crying out for reform.
Deferment and delay should, thus, not set the tone for governance under President Cyril Ramaphosa. Breaking the logjams will require action-packed and pragmatic leadership.
However, pragmatism should not equate to values-free and callous decision-making. South Africans can no longer afford for every decision to be taken on legal review, owing to its failure to adhere to either the rules or the Constitution.
That said, to tap into the goodwill that is currently enveloping the private sector, government’s decisions still need to be firmly rooted in reality rather than ideology. And, given the state of public finances, doing the quickstep alone is simply not a realistic option for government.