Clem Sunter

Cyril is a flag

2012-11-28 13:17

Clem Sunter

When I was told earlier this week that Cyril Ramaphosa might be nominated as Jacob Zuma's deputy and there might be a chance that the deputy position could be changed into that of Prime Minister, something went ping in my mind. This could signal a major shift in ANC strategy.  Zuma would become the equivalent of non-executive chairman of the country with Cyril as CEO.

This is not a bad idea even for those who passionately support the DA. The latter have virtually  no chance of winning the next election as most pundits feel that they can only close the gap by 2019 or 2024. So one has to look at the best case scenario for the next seven or twelve years. Cyril, of course, has to overcome the perception among the masses of being a super-rich beneficiary of BEE and, more recently, of being a Lonmin Director when the company's role in the Marikana tragedy is under the microscope.

Nevertheless, I think if anybody can steer South Africa away from becoming a Failed State and towards a promotion in the ranks of nations that constitute the Premier League, it is Cyril Ramaphosa. I have known him for many years after meeting him for the first time when he was General Secretary of the NUM. In those days, he wore a leather jacket and an NUM t-shirt and was a fiery, young advocate of all the rights that attach to being a mine worker. He fulfilled the position with great distinction and, to his credit, he never let the employing mines down by reneging on an agreement.

He established good relations with all the people with whom he negotiated and I remember he honoured an invitation by the head of the HR discipline in Anglo's Gold Division to attend his retirement party. This took place during the campaign leading up to the 1994 election. He could have easily passed it up, but he didn't.

Why do I think at this stage of South Africa's young democracy that he could play such a crucial role? Here are my reasons:

- He alone among prominent members of the ANC has open access to all the crucial players involved in our economy. He can ring any captain of the industry and ask him or her to attend a meeting and he or she will respond positively. With his union background, he can do the same with most unionists and clearly he can call upon anybody within the ANC. In other words, he has a unique networking skill;

- With Roelf Meyer, he was the engine room of the political Codesas we had in the early 1990s. If we ever decide to have an Economic Codesa, he could use all his experience to structure it in a way that maximizes the chance of it being a success by extracting concessions on all sides; and

- Given his business experience and his track record in being the head of the appeal panel that heard the case of Julius Malema, he could instil real accountability within government and the ANC. Anybody who crosses the line would face instant dismissal from the party and potential criminal prosecution.

Thus, Cyril's nomination to a key ANC position would be a very positive flag and would make the conference in December a much more important affair for the immediate future of the country. Overnight, it would transform foreign perceptions of South Africa being on a downward slide to nowhere. Instead, people might even talk of a second miracle being close at hand - the one that has to take place in the economic sphere.

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