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Dear President Ramaphosa: you have the mandate – now please deliver

The elections are over, the ANC government has received a convincing, albeit reduced mandate from the people to lead for another term in the 6th parliament, and the newly appointed and generally well-received cabinet has been sworn in.

Yet, one can’t help but feel this duality of hope and fear.

Hope that under President Ramaphosa’s leadership, the country will be directed on a new path that signals economic growth, addresses corruption and maladministration with purpose, achieves the much-needed turnaround at state-owned enterprises, and brings about change in the areas of education, health care, social development, service delivery, and the like.

Fear because if the infighting and deep divisions of the ANC continue to manifest, it will weaken (or derail) what Ramaphosa is trying to achieve, and could result in collapsed leadership, which will plummet the country into further lawlessness and violent instability.

Only, we can’t afford to deteriorate any more than we have over the past 10 years. There is a sense of desperation to see positive change – or else.

Can Ramaphosa’s government rise to the challenge? Efficiency in the presidency must improve. The Presidency’s Performance Monitoring and Evaluation department must provide regular up to date accounts of government performance to the public so that public confidence can be restored.

And what about business confidence? The Reserve Bank recently revised its growth expectations to 1%. This does not bode well for economic growth, and as a consequence, driving down the frightening expanded unemployment level of 40% will be nearly impossible. The business community is looking for policy certainty, well-functioning state-owned enterprises, and a president that can demonstrate decisive leadership.

We will keep a close eye on the poorly managed Department of Social Development. This department is responsible for the implementation of the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security, as outlined in the Cabinet approved Integrated Food and Nutrition Strategy (IFNS) of 2002. Under Bathabile Dlamini this department’s performance has nosedived fiercely because of poor leadership, improper implementation, lack of a focused strategy to address safety nets for the poor, and poor spending of the budget.

In their 2018 / 2019 financial year, the Department of Social Development spent R109,910,000 on feeding programmes, which presumably was disseminated to 223 community kitchens across the country. But since there is arguably no monitoring of who benefits and how much of the funds actually benefitted the poor, its impact is nowhere evident.

In sharp contrast, in the same financial year it cost FoodForward SA R15mn to recover R200mn (retail value) of surplus groceries and just R0,90 to facilitate the delivery of a meal. We reached 530 registered beneficiary organisations that collectively serve 201,000 beneficiaries each at least 4 meals every week. Of these beneficiaries, 50% are children aged 0 – 13, and 75% of the organisations we assist focus on education, skills development, health care, orphans and vulnerable children and women. Can you just imagine what we could do with R110mn annually!

What does this mean for those living at the bottom of the proverbial food chain – the food insecure poor? Well, Mr President – it means that they look to you for help. We who want to help them, look to you for help. Food and nutrition security requires well managed inter-sectoral collaboration. Without co-ordinated interventions, crisis proportions of men, women, and children will experience inadequate access to food and good nutrition – which will spiral our country further into crisis, chaos, and underdevelopment.

The National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 Vision undertakes to tackle the problems of “poverty, inequality, and unemployment.” We look to you Mr President to show decisive leadership in fulfilling this mandate. Your move!

Andy Du Plessis

Managing Director, FoodForward SA

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