Ramaphosa’s Chance to Rescue South Africa

(Bloomberg) --

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, armed with a fresh electoral mandate, has a window of opportunity to start dismantling the shadow state of corruption that’s been eating away at Africa’s most developed nation.

His new cabinet will reveal whether he has enough muscle in his African National Congress to clear out ministers tainted by the graft that marred the nine-year rule of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

If he can’t, South Africa risks continuing decline: weak economic growth, rampant inequality, worsening unemployment, state companies hemorrhaging cash, and a malfunctioning education system.

Ramaphosa carries a winner’s resume: he co-founded what was the country’s biggest labor union, led the ANC team that negotiated the end of apartheid, and later became one of South Africa’s wealthiest black businessmen.

His main setback was his failure to assume leadership of the ANC even though he was Nelson Mandela’s chosen heir. Twenty years on, he still faces powerful enemies in the party — some Zuma allies — who’ll fight him doggedly.

After his inauguration on May 25, we’ll know if Ramaphosa can set a new course and return South Africa to its more optimistic days when it was known as the “rainbow nation.”

Ramaphosa’s Chance to Rescue South Africa

Global Headlines

Just inSwedish prosecutors said they will reopen a probe into rape allegations against Julian Assange, a move that may complicate U.S. attempts to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

Varying perspectives | President Donald Trump said Washington was “right where we want to be” on trade talks with Beijing, as Chinese state media blamed the U.S. for a lack of progress and U.S. equity futures extended the market’s biggest weekly decline of the year. Trump said the U.S. was on the cusp of taking in massive duties from China, a view at odds with his top economic adviser, who conceded yesterday that American companies and consumers would pay the tariff bill. China still hasn’t said how it will retaliate, with the U.S. poised to impose another round of duties today. 

Green for green | Democrats from Capitol Hill to the presidential campaign trail see climate change as a winning political issue; they're competing to outdo one another with ambitious plans to halt the rise in planet-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over as small as a 10-year period. But is that even possible? Ari Natter writes that it could cost $1 trillion a year.

Housing gamble | Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just days to turn around a deficit in the polls that show his conservative government will lose power in Saturday's election. In a bid to re-energize his campaign, Morrison is pledging government guarantees for first-home buyers, meaning they only have to save 5% of the purchase price as a deposit instead of the 20% typically demanded by banks.

Sanctions probes | Two months before Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada in December on alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, American authorities arrested an employee of an unidentified Chinese firm and let her return home after she pleaded guilty. As Christian Berthelsen and Tom Schoenberg report, it's the third known instance of the U.S. going after Chinese technology companies or their workers for trading with Iran and other countries blacklisted by the U.S. on terrorism, national security or human rights grounds.

What to Watch

  • With tensions escalating in the Persian Gulf, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo scrapped a brief Moscow visit and is instead going to Brussels to talk with European officials about Iran, before heading on to Sochi to meet tomorrow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
  • Lithuania’s prime minister said he’d quit and fold up his minority government after he was knocked out of the euro-area member’s presidential election. A crisis-era finance minister and the former chief economist of SEB Bank will compete in a May 26 runoff. 
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he hasn’t lost an election in his three-decade career. He’s hoping his candidates for today's midterms will continue that winning streak as voters assess his three years in office.

And finally...Hong Kong's Legislative Council has seen its share of political chaos, with lawmakers ejected for throwing eggs and inserting expletives in their oaths. Still, Saturday's brawl — in which legislators scuffled for 20 minutes and one fainting lawmaker was wheeled out on a gurney — was unprecedented. Tensions are running high over a proposed law that would lift the former British colony's ban on extraditions to China. Fights broke out after the pro-Beijing leadership removed an opposition lawmaker from a key committee post and his allies tried to disrupt proceedings.

Ramaphosa’s Chance to Rescue South Africa

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.