From Ramaphoria to Ramageddon

Andrew Donaldson says our President says we have nothing to fear from those nice Chinese money-lenders


MUCH frayed nerves and gritted teeth this week as the chattering classes tossed out the cheesy portmanteaus and dreadful neologisms. The rot began with Ramaphoria, and then came Ramafail, Ramareality and Ramarecession. We have even endured Ramageddon, and it may well be that a Ramapocalypse is also in the offing.

Could it get any worse? What about Ramafications, as in “of the political mismanagement, corruption and ineptitude of the administration of former president Jacob Zuma”? 

This is a thought that has now occurred to Enoch Godongwana, chair of the ANC’s economic transformation subcommittee; it was, he has admitted, thanks to Accused Number One’s bunch who so disastrously set about the economy over the past five years that we’re now in a recession for the first time since 2009.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, we were taken aback such frankness. It was as if someone had opened the curtains to reveal the bigger picture, and that picture was of a huge, sopping mess. To wit:

The country has had four different finance ministers in a topsy-turvy two-year period that battered the rand and wrought political havoc; close Zuma ally Tom Moyane’s crony curatorship of our taxes resulted in a R50-billion shortfall in collections in the last financial year, with the result that VAT was raised for the first time in two decades; state-owned entities, from the post office to SAA, were debt-ridden and barely functional; basic education was failing; health services were collapsing; and the Guptas had stolen everything.

Given that the Zuma administration was so fiercely protected and shored up by the very same ANC over the course of this ruinous period, was this some sort of Ramapology from Godongwana on behalf of the ANC?

Don’t be daft. What’s there to be sorry for? Besides, the President is doing much to ensure the Ramavival of the economy. He himself has often said so. As for the recession? A mere trifle, a temporary setback. 

As Cyril Ramaphosa told Eyewitness News, “All these things that are happening now are transitional issues that are going to pass. I will be meeting with the business community soon so that we rally everyone together and pull our country out of the situation that we are in.”

Such Ramoptimism comes at a time when the rand’s woes worsen and the ratings agency Moody’s has the economy precariously pegged at one notch above junk. 

If there was a miracle in the wings, then it was one that seems to be made in China, who are pouring billions into investment in Africa. 

And just to make sure there wasn’t anything Fong Kong about it, Ramaphosa laid on the flattery with a trowel when he praised his Beijing hosts in a speech at the triennial Forum on China Africa Co-operation earlier in the week.

He even quoted Mao Zedong, the well-known capitalist, in his supine closing remarks: “To achieve a lasting world peace, we must further develop our friendship and co-operation with the fraternal countries in the socialist camp…”

So much, then, for free enterprise. 

And, in what may be seen as falling into the category of “never believe anything until it’s been officially denied”, the president has further Ramapooh-poohed suggestions there is something nefarious about China’s African adventures and they were ensnaring countries into insurmountable debt.

“We have entered a golden age,” he told a media briefing. “Some are jealous, and that’s why they say it’s a new colonialism. We are dealing with partners that are not arrogant or pushy, but want to engage with us.”

What’s more, the Chinese will be quite unlike any other money lenders. Ever. In the whole history of money lending.

“If some African countries can’t keep up with their debt payments,” Ramaphosa said, “the debt will be forgiven. The situation is quite progressive.”

Golly gee. Soon we will all be in saffron robes and banging gongs as we chant: “Rama rama, rama rama…”

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.