Adriaan Basson

Project Unscrambling Zuma

2019-02-08 00:20
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address. Picture: Rodger Bosch/Pool via REUTERS

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address. Picture: Rodger Bosch/Pool via REUTERS

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With only three months to go before the election on 8 May, Ramaphosa has to keep together a fragile unity in the ANC of comrades who may be directly impacted by his announcements on Thursday night, writes Adriaan Basson.

Most of the announcements by President Cyril Ramaphosa in Thursday night's State of the Nation "lite" Address were not new or ground-breaking.

It is an attempt to unscramble the havoc wrecked by almost ten years of the captured Jacob Zuma-ANC government.

As much as one wants to rejoice in the re-establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption unit in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that resembles the Scorpions, it is quite sad that we are celebrating the return to "normality" of the pre-Zuma years.

The establishment of the "new" Scorpions; the unbundling of Eskom; the splitting-up of the State Security Agency (SSA); the establishment of a unit in the Presidency to remove barriers to foreign investment, and the removal of obstacles to tourism are all Zuma-era legacy issues Ramaphosa is trying to fix before the May elections.

The need to unbundle Eskom was caused by a decade of mismanagement, looting and capture on Zuma's watch. It is well documented how the Guptas and their Eskom lackeys extracted rent from the energy supplier.

Not even Ramaphosa could sugar-coat the dire state of affairs at Megawatt Park. "Eskom is in crisis and the risks it poses to South Africa are great. It could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions."

Ramaphosa and his advisors believe that three different Eskoms would be able to more effectively cut costs (read: retrench, mothball or sell) and raise investment. Time will tell if they were correct. At least there is a plan on the table.

The return of the "new" Scorpions is a reversal of a 2007 ANC resolution to do away with the Directorate of Special Operations, a creation by the ANC in the late 1990s to combat high-level corruption and organised crime.

Instead of strengthening our crime-fighting capacity, Zuma and his allies closed down the Scorpions to protect them from prosecution. Some of these allies were clapping on Thursday night as Ramaphosa announced the reestablishment of a similar unit.

Oh, the irony.

The splitting up of the SSA back to its Mbeki-era shape – a dedicated domestic branch and a focussed foreign branch – is a slap in Zuma's face, who tried to centralise all intelligence under one roof.

A trained spy himself, Zuma wanted complete control over the intelligence agencies (and their work). He had numerous run-ins with his spy chiefs over the Guptas and moved them around until he was satisfied that he had complete political control over the SSA.

Ramaphosa has recently recalled a number of senior SSA staff from embassies abroad and said on Thursday a high-level review panel into the SSA has finalised its work. Ramaphosa will announce "a number of urgent steps" soon.

Taking nothing away from Ramaphosa's speech – it was frank, detailed and to the point – most of it was attempts to explain how he will fix the "nine wasted years" under Zuma.

From how to remove barriers to investment, to eVisas and selling-off "non-strategic" state assets, Ramaphosa is trying his best to sell the new dawn to a sceptical electorate that is tired of the ANC's broken promises.

With only three months to go before the election on 8 May, Ramaphosa has to keep together a fragile unity in the ANC of comrades who may be directly impacted by his announcements on Thursday night.

A number of comrades may think twice campaigning for a party that is actively campaigning for them to be imprisoned.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  sona 2019
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