The Zuma camp will go Ramaphosa’s way

2018-01-07 06:10
At the 54th ANC elective conference at Nasrec Soweto former ANC president Jacob Zuma and incumbent ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Themba Makofane.

At the 54th ANC elective conference at Nasrec Soweto former ANC president Jacob Zuma and incumbent ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Themba Makofane.

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Those opposed to the new ANC president will soon seek to win his approval, writes Kaizer M Nyatsumba.

remember the day well. Mondli Makhanya, then Sunday Times editor, and I were having lunch in Rosebank and, as usual, politics was the topic of our discussion.

The year was 2008 or 2009; Jacob Zuma was already ANC president, but not yet our head of state. Mondli, who has been consistent on these matters over the years, was critical of Zuma and did not consider him presidential material. Since Mondli had been uniformly viciously critical of Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi during the years I had known him, I had begun to think that perhaps he was less forgiving of leaders who came from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Like many others in the country at the time, I had been successfully seduced by an affable and charismatic Zuma. Yes, I said to Mondli, the man has made horrible mistakes along the way and shown serious lapses of judgement, but he would have learnt from those incidents and has the potential to be sensitive to the wishes of ordinary people.

More importantly, I resented deeply what looked like the abuse of state resources by the Thabo Mbeki government, to harass and victimise Zuma in a desperate effort to deny him a shot at the presidency.

Over the next few years, I was to realise how well Zuma had fooled us, how terribly wrong I was about him and how right Mondli had been. To say that Zuma has been a bitter disappointment for South Africa would be a major understatement. The man has been disastrous as president and has done incalculable harm to brand South Africa.

Not only has he considered his rise to the presidency an opportunity to enrich himself and those close to him, but he has thoroughly compromised many government institutions and state-owned companies by, among other things, ensuring that the most pliable – and, often, the least qualified or competent – individuals were strategically appointed to them.

He has proven to be thoroughly tribalist or provincialist. Except for the manipulable Des van Rooyen, all his finance ministers have been men from KwaZulu-Natal. The current Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi is also from the “Zulu Kingdom”. Both former national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana and incumbent Shaun Abrahams are from KwaZulu-Natal. Two women believed to have personal links to him, Ellen Tshabalala and Dudu Myeni, were appointed chairpersons of the SABC and SAA boards respectively, without the requisite experience or education.

As his term as ANC president neared its end, Zuma – and most ANC members in his province – wanted to ensure that somebody with roots in the Kingdom would succeed him. They worked tirelessly – but failed – to get his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected his successor, in an effort to deny Cyril Ramaphosa the presidency. The plan seemed to have been conceived shortly after the ANC’s 53rd conference in Mangaung, subsequent to which Dlamini-Zuma was strategically placed at the helm of the African Union, to elevate her stature ahead of the ANC presidential contest.

Where once Zuma and his supporters had argued that ANC tradition was that the deputy president was the logical successor to the incumbent, they conveniently denied that such a culture existed.

The beginning

Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president should mark the end of a terrible chapter in our democratic era and the beginning of a new one. Unlike his predecessor, he is known to be a constitutionalist who is likely to champion good governance and a meaningful partnership involving government, business and labour. An astute businessman, he will no doubt place a deserved emphasis on growing and transforming our economy.

The concerns of some commentators about the leadership surrounding Ramaphosa in the ANC top six are legitimate. Some of them are not exactly known for their shining credentials as anti-corruption crusaders. Some have featured prominently in the recent Gupta leak emails. They are unlikely to share his enthusiasm to throw the book at those allegedly behind our rampant corruption.

While legitimate, those concerns should not be exaggerated. The ANC leadership is made up of more than just the five men and one woman at the apex of the organisation. It also comprises the 80-member national executive committee (NEC), the party’s highest decision-making body between conferences. There are men and women on the NEC who are just as keen to rid the organisation and the country of corruption and who want to rescue whatever equity remains of brand ANC.

The narrow margin by which Ramaphosa beat Dlamini-Zuma – who had the voluble support of some of the most disagreeable and controversial characters in our politics – raises the understandable concern that there were almost as many delegates at the ANC’s 54th national conference who were opposed to him as those who supported him. It is understandable that some will worry that Ramaphosa may not find the support within his organisation that he needs to redirect the country’s fortunes.

However, that concern ignores the fact that, according to various surveys conducted across the country before the conference, the vast majority of ANC members in all nine provinces preferred Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency. The small margin of his victory is indicative of the determined efforts by those with vested interests who were threatened by the prospect of a Ramaphosa presidency, among them Zuma, who worked hard to persuade ANC branches and delegates not to support his candidature.

Now that a Ramaphosa presidency is a reality, many of those who lobbied against him will turn their backs on Zuma, soon to be yesterday’s man, and seek to be in Ramaphosa’s good books. They will work hard to ingratiate themselves with him to improve their chances of deployment into cushy positions in government, the public service and state-owned companies.

As often happens in the ANC. In the coming months and years, those to be elected onto the leadership of the ANC leagues and provincial structures will probably be made in the image of the leader. In the months and years to come, the number of overtly pro-Ramaphosa individuals in strategic positions within the ANC will increase, thus allowing him to reorientate the organisation and, hopefully, advance South Africa’s interests.

Nyatsumba is a senior business executive in Johannesburg.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  anc

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