Guest Column

The ANC (and Ramaphosa's) long walk to redemption

2019-05-24 06:00
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the crowd during an ANC election victory rally on May 12, 2019, in central Johannesburg. (Photo by Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the crowd during an ANC election victory rally on May 12, 2019, in central Johannesburg. (Photo by Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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When President Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office on Saturday, he will be a troubled man, writes Mukoni Ratshitanga.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office before Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on Saturday, his mind will be troubled by a plethora of weighty matters.

Ramaphosa has surely been meditating over, and grappling with, such matters ever since the dramatic events of February last year saw him replace Jacob Zuma as president of the republic after the latter's forced resignation.

Undoubtedly, first and upper most in his mind, something that would give anyone in his position considerable insomnia, is what to do with the African National Congress (ANC), the party of which he is president, and on whose ticket he ascended to the Presidency of the republic.

It is a public secret that today, the once formidable movement sadly levitates between ineffectual itinerant poles and a riotous assembly the inexplicable ventures of many of its congregants are more than likely to be understood through the prism of personal and factional calculi than political logic.  

On Wednesday this week, we woke up to the news that Deputy President David Mabuza's swearing in as a member of Parliament had been postponed because, as the ANC statement – notably issued in Ramaphosa's name – put it, he first needs to confer with the party's integrity commission over allegations that he has "prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organisation into disrepute".

The jury is still out as to whether Mabuza will eventually be sworn in and become the country's deputy president.

As can be expected, the speculative industry with its innumerable band of worker bees has placed an equal if not greater number of scripts through which the Mabuza development should be seen and interpreted. The one is that it is a strategic and tactical division of labour between Mabuza and Ramaphosa, intended to force those prone to wanton disregard of ANC internal rule of law to comply with the integrity commission's processes rather than ignore them and run the risk of rendering them a mockery.

Another school of thought holds that Mabuza may in fact not return to government because he prefers rather to base himself at Luthuli House, the party's headquarters in Johannesburg. This view attaches with a myriad of known known, known unknown and unknown unknown scenarios for the ANC, which would naturally ramify into the government sphere and impact upon the country.

The second matter, which will weigh on Ramaphosa's mind, is the avalanche of enormous national challenges the successful resolution on which the future of the ANC and the country depend. At the core of the challenges are unacceptably high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment, commonly referred to as the "triple challenge".

Arising from the foregoing, therefore, the third matter is that the Ramaphosa presidency cannot avoid pursuing a developmental state path geared towards addressing the triple challenge; this would entail a rigorous focus on the economy with particular attention to:

- an investment and employment plan supported by business, labour, civil society and all our citizens;

- prudent fiscal management and the reduction of the public debt which currently stands at 56% of the Gross Domestic Product, and;

- rehabilitating state-owned enterprises to play their developmental role in our society, addressing their governance architecture and eliminating corruption.

The fourth is that to achieve any objective, a committed, skilled, professional and ethical public service is an unavoidable and vital necessity. Relatedly, eliminating corruption, maladministration and bureaucratic inertia in the public service and, in this regard, promoting accountability and consequence management in the Cabinet will be essential.

The fifth is that the capacity of local government will have to be enhanced, the better to address people's immediate problems and the long term ability of the local sphere to deliver on obligations to the people on a sustained and sustainable basis. How, for example do rural municipalities function without essential skilled but expensive personnel such as engineers, town planners, economists, and chartered accountants, among others?

The sixth, which cannot be emphasised enough, is that the efficacy of our schooling system requires urgent examination. To what extent is it geared to reversing the legacy of Bantu and Christian National Education, equal to the task of addressing our nation's developmental challenges, and to meeting the commitments and objectives set out in the National Development Plan?

In this context, it is high time the country discussed the not-so-constructive role of teacher unions who have, over the years and for the most part, placed their welfare over the education of children. This also affects the generality of public sector unions who must also reflect on their obligations to the society to which they belong and whose well-being they profess to advance.

The seventh is also one of the casualties of the last decade: the (mis)management of our country's diversity. In some respects, we have walked backwards to forms of ethno-nationalisms and racism that militate against the continuum towards creating a nation state, thus to resolve the national question.

A seeming aside, but not in the least trivial, with respect to the nation formation project, one hopes that in the next election, President Ramaphosa will cast his vote in Tshwane, the capital city and not Tshiawelo – his township of origin. Symbolic acts and measures are important features and elements of national mythologies which are part of the stock with which national identities are promoted. None other than presidents are best placed to deploy them to maximum effect.

The eighth is that whereas government must continue to deliver on indigent policy, the imperative to build an active responsible citizenry also means that we must work to resuscitate the kind of civic spirit which saw the 1970 generation – led by people such as Steve Biko – establish and manage the Black Community Programmes which established community projects in service of the people. The first 15 years of post-apartheid South Africa echoed this spirit through the government call: Vukuzenzele – "Get up and do it yourself," which sadly later withered in the vine.

If we do not resuscitate this spirit, we may well find ourselves moulding successive post-apartheid generations who believe that society owes them everything while they owe nothing in return; generations to whom values of civic and social solidarity, though desperately needed, become foreign.

The ninth and undoubtedly one which will, like all else be fiercely contested in and outside the ANC, will be the reconstruction of South Africa's international role and image which unfortunately also suffered a bruising during the course of the last decade.

By orientation, the ANC is a progressive internationalist formation which has always stood firmly with the wretched of the earth while at the same time mindful of the vital need to retain its capacity to convene both friend and foe. In walking this tightrope, the ANC has been principled inasmuch as it has avoided adventurism both at home and abroad.

Thus, our foreign policy should work towards re-asserting Africa's voice as an integral part of a global south which works towards the equitable distribution of power and resources in the world.

In doing so, South Africans would be well advised to appreciate the implications that come with this role, starting with the fact that we cannot intimidate, beat-up, and disperse fellow Africans from beyond our borders on the one hand and on the other hand be party to efforts at promoting African unity which is vital for Africa's capacity to assert herself globally.

The tenth and probably one of the most vital is that our society needs to rekindle and sustain public discourse on issues of public morality and ethics. If we do not do so, at this rate, we may slowly reach a point where the lines between wrong and right are blurred between recognition.

For President Ramaphosa and the ANC to achieve these and other tasks, there can be no gainsaying the fact that the party's internal hygiene is of vital importance, if you like, a sine qua non.

- Mukoni Ratshitanga is head of content for Power98.7 and writes here in his personal capacity. He is reachable on:

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