Guest Column

Ramaphosa must win back people’s trust

2018-02-25 06:05
President Cyril Ramaphosa on during his run from Gugulethu to Athlone. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

President Cyril Ramaphosa on during his run from Gugulethu to Athlone. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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It all started on December 20 last year when networks transmitted to an anxious nation – and the world – news that Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa had been elected president of the ANC.

Remarkably, two months on and the momentum of the event, as well as the upbeat mood it generated, hasn’t changed.

There was a hiatus occasioned by Jacob Zuma, then president, requesting a tête-à-tête with Ramaphosa. Zuma sought a rescission of the national executive committee’s (NEC’s) decision regarding his urgent recall from the country’s top office. The request was turned down and the Ramaphosa express proceeded apace to ensure the timeous execution of a decision that had already been taken regarding the change of guard.

A nation – already sensing the impending onset of a future that was about to be – seemed little deterred by the narrowness of the victory Ramaphosa had achieved during the nerve-racking ANC presidential elections. Neither were these long-suffering citizens unnerved by an explosive cocktail of the good, the bad and the ugly the electors had placed at the apex of the ANC’s leadership structure.

And so you had a Ramaphosa top team that featured Ace Magashule as secretary-general; David Mabuza, deputy president; and Jessie Duarte recycled back to her deputy secretary-general post. Occupying the national chair was Gwede Mantashe, famous for his predisposition to “Mantash” (change his mind) when things hit turbulence. Did Paul Mashatile, now treasurer-general, and Mabuza strike a deal that secured them their respective positions in the top six? Perish the thought.

But they do say that all is well in love and war. Ja, nee?

South Africa’s budding democracy deserves plaudits for enabling, in a distinctly charged situation, a smooth transition from one president to another. It all happened with nary a drop of blood shed and without the spectacle of menacing military tanks in the streets.

To those familiar with the Good Book, the collective jubilation that marked Ramaphosa’s ascendancy to state presidency must evoke a verse found in the Psalms of David, to wit: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

The psalmist’s “night” could be likened to the disastrous past decade in the South African political wilderness, while the “morning” represents a lifetime of bliss that only the omnipotent could be counted on to guarantee.

Needless to say, South Africans would be wiser taking a less sanguine approach on matters concerning the security of their earthly freedoms.

Eternal vigilance, great minds have counselled, is the price we must be willing to pay for our liberty. Vigilante! It does not really matter that Ramaphosa and his rejigged NEC have not put a foot wrong since assuming office. The hard reality is that to protect their interests, communities need to develop sound mechanisms for holding government to account.

In his state of the nation address (Sona), President Ramaphosa set out his administration’s order of business and its priorities. They deserve the nation’s support. Yet, given recent hard experience, vigilance has to remain the most dependable bulwark in defence of the people’s interests.

Corruption has had a devastating effect on the lives of the people. It is for this reason that the new-found commitment to tackle the scourge has to be certifiably credible, transparent and measurable.

The anticorruption net must be seen to be cast wide enough to capture petty and king-size looters alike. The president should surely know the public would be dismayed if he were to invite to his Cabinet individuals implicated in corruption and those who facilitated state capture with reckless abandon.

The new leadership must undertake to inform the masses – in plain language – how the government plans to reverse the current levels of poverty. South Africa now holds the dubious title of being the most unequal society on earth. This is despite the routine mouthing of platitudes about “inclusive growth” and “radical socioeconomic transformation”.

Isn’t it time that the National Development Plan, supposedly the country’s development blueprint, was taken from government shelves – where it is gathering dust – made available and distributed widely for discussion and debate? When will it be used as a reference document for assessing the nation’s development trajectory?

The sheer scale of the challenges should impel the incoming government to seek to want to establish a much stronger bond with the populace than has hitherto been the case. And time is of the essence.

As he proceeds with the task of winning back the people’s trust in the ANC, Ramaphosa would do well to reflect on the conversation that took place between Brutus and Cassius in the final phase of the civil war they waged against the forces of Octavian and Markus Antonius in Ancient Rome. Said Brutus: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” (Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare)

President Ramaphosa will also do well to take along community organisations and other representatives of society when he treads the flood waters, “tak(ing) the current when it serves”. The people will support him with enthusiasm should he decide to take them on board when he plans the implementation of programmes designed for their benefit.

When he delivered his Sona, he heard the echo of eager voices crying: “Send me”, affirming the plea melodiously made by the departed musical legend Hugh Masekela in his song #ThumaMina.


So far, President Cyril Ramaphosa has not put a foot wrong. Can he keep it up? Do you believe he will be a good president and can we trust him?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CYRIL and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  cyril ramaphosa

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