Adriaan Basson

Editor's note: The speech that hailed and nailed Zuma

2017-12-21 08:07
Newly-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

Newly-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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In his first official speech as ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded in hailing and nailing President Jacob Zuma.

And this will be Ramaphosa’s biggest challenge in his first few months as party leader. How does he “respect” Zuma’s legacy for the sake of unity, and implement stringent anti-corruption measures to clean up the mess left by his predecessor?

It’s going to require a fine balance trick.

With the one hand he gave – Ramaphosa mentioned Zuma at least five times, saying that he feels like he’s walking in Zuma’s shoes; hailing him as the father of the national planning commission (that Ramaphosa and Trevor Manuel headed) and crediting him for expanding our antiretroviral programme to become the largest in the world.

With the other hand Ramaphosa took – he wasted no time making clear that he’s coming for the state capturers from Saxonwold who “cost our economy hundreds of billions of rands”.

Ramaphosa didn’t mention the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma by name, but it was clear who he referred to when he spoke passionately about corruption in the state-owned enterprises.

“At the state level we must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families who, through the exercise of influence and the manipulation of governance processes and public resources. This has led to the weakening of our SOEs whose governance structures need to be revamped,” Ramaphosa said.

Then came the knock-out: “Whether we call this state capture or simply corruption, this has undermined the integrity of our institutions, cost our economy hundreds of billions of rands and contributed to the further impoverishment of our people.”

Ramaphosa is clearly not going to waste time debating the definition of state capture, as his predecessor and his supporters had done. He calls it what it is – corruption. He correctly linked the money wasted through corruption to the state’s inability to deliver basic services to the poor.

The former head of the Special Investigating Unit, Willie Hofmeyr, once said that the country lost R25bn per year to corruption.

“This conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa said.

He also took a swipe at Steinhoff, without naming the company, saying “we must investigate without fear or favour the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that cause turmoil in the markets and wipe billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans”.

Words are cheap and during his January 8 speech the new ANC president will have to elaborate on practical measures he will implement to stop the looting of the fiscus.

Ramaphosa will have to walk a tight-rope between making sure the state’s law enforcement agencies are adequately equipped and protected to investigate, prosecute and jail everyone involved in state capture, and not being seen by Zuma’s supporters in the ANC as vindictive and revengeful.

This will require Ramaphosa to appoint the right people to the right institutions to deal seriously and urgently with these matters, without getting personally involved. Because these cases may very well implicate Zuma himself, his son, the Guptas and his even his new secretary general, Ace Magashule.

What about the other big topic of the night – land? Some argue that Ramaphosa had no choice implementing the wishes of the conference to adopt expropriation without compensation as ANC policy, even if he didn’t want to.

Ramaphosa was at pains to explain to this may not affect food security or negatively impact any sector. Ramaphosa, himself a farmer, would have realised the risk of sending out the wrong message to the country’s commercial farming industry.

Already in his speech, Ramaphosa referred to this policy as being “among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution”. To me this indicates that he will first argue the current implementation of land reform, plagued by corruption and incompetency, must be cleaned-up before more drastic measures are applied.

But again, talk is cheap and he will have to show real results in a short time. The ANC delegates are looking to him. 

Read more on:    anc


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