Mamphela Ramphele

Cometh the time, cometh the man: The new dawn is upon us

2019-05-29 05:00
Cyril Ramaphosa at his inauguration ceremony where he took the oath of office. Picture: Reuters

Cyril Ramaphosa at his inauguration ceremony where he took the oath of office. Picture: Reuters

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President Ramaphosa has to rise to the call of destiny. He was after all the architect of our Constitution. It is now his moment to demonstrate boldness, writes Mamphela Ramphele.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's term starts at a critical moment in our country. Like any birth, the moment that ushers in his term of office is pregnant with hope, risk and fragility.

The machinations of those within the majority party who are afraid of being called to account for their roles in state capture pose unquantifiable risks to this Presidency. Threatening whispers within the ANC are from those who have failed to embrace the Constitution as the supreme law of our land. They are intent on continuing the conflation of party, government, president and state that has been the driving force of state capture that has undermined our democracy and impoverished multitudes over the last two decades.

Citizens need to be acutely aware of the looming threat posed to the 20 million votes we cast in a largely peaceful and fair election. Sixty or so people are rumoured to be conspiring to change the outcome of last week's vote. How, you may ask, could such a thing possibly happen? The game plan seems to be that 60 ANC national executive committee (NEC) members could conspire to resign and thereby collapse the leadership structure of the ANC as chosen by ANC branches and their representative delegates at the 2017 Nasrec conference.

Why should we as voters care about the inner squabbles of the ANC, you may ask? Well, the consequences of a collapsed leadership triggered by mass resignations could be catastrophic. First, the purpose of the mass resignations would be to force the hand of the freely elected president of the republic to do their bidding. Second, the real purpose of this action would be to protect and insulate the guilty members of the state capture project from being punished by the legal system.

These implicated leaders seem intent on holding to ransom the entire political apparatus of the country rather than be held to account according to the supreme law of our country. The destabilising outcome of such a daring tactic could be devastating! What is being contemplated, if these rumours are to be believed, would represent the hijacking of our liberation and democracy by a narrow group of special interests representing less than 0.1% of the electorate.

The Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, has over the last few months repeatedly urged us as citizens to better familiarise ourselves with the Constitution so we can be bold in both claiming our rights and exercising our responsibilities. Are we fully appraised of the complexities of our proportional representation system with party lists and the risks that these might pose to the essence of what the freedom struggle was all about?

Is it worth it to continue the current version of proportional representation given the potential risks posed by a few ruling the many? Are the benefits of the current system to ensure that minority political interests are maintained and protected enough to off-set the huge costs that lack of direct accountability to voters that a mixed constituency and proportional system would bring?

Three scenarios for the engineered crisis

Let's play out the three most likely scenarios if the engineered crisis were to be triggered. The first is the easiest way out for our new president and would be for him to cave in to party interests and not support robust follow-through to bring those fingered in the state capture project to account. This would buy the peace inside the ANC and allow him to bring in a few new young people without rocking the boat at Luthuli House. The country would continue the painful decline into lawlessness and violent instability.

The second scenario would be a compromise in the ANC to buy peace in the name of maintaining unity that leads to some action being taken against low-level officials, whilst the masterminds go free without the president actively promoting greater accountability. Slowing the ongoing investigations and undermining the rebuilding and strengthening of key institutions would ensure that many of the big fish escape prison and retain their ill-gotten assets.

The third scenario entails robust follow-through with the spring cleaning promised by the president that could trigger the engineered collapse of the ANC NEC in the hope of undermining continuity of this Presidency. This is where upholding constitutionalism comes into play.

The president, as the head of state and the national executive as set out in Section 83 of the Constitution, must "uphold, defend and respect the Constitution; and promote the unity of the nation and that which will advance the Republic." The oath of office the president took on Saturday binds him to defend and respect the Constitution and promote national unity and advance the interests of our republic.

It seems clear that now that the president is in office, he can only be removed in accordance with Section 89 of the Constitution. Only Parliament through a two-thirds majority is entitled to remove a president on the following grounds:

a)     a serious violation of the Constitution or law

b)    serious misconduct

c)     inability to perform the functions of the office

The blemish on the face of our constitutional democracy has been the removal of ex-President Mbeki by the ANC in 2008 without any engagement with the nation through Parliament in line with the above grounds set out in the Constitution. We need to demonstrate that we have learnt the lessons from that bitter experience.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected by voters well beyond those loyal to the ANC, and their choice needs to be respected to advance the interests of our democracy. The excitement of the inauguration confirms the large support and goodwill he can rely on from the public. He would do well to act fearlessly to fulfil the prescripts of his oath of office to uphold and respect the Constitution.

Those being fingered by commissions of inquiry into state capture who are afraid of being held accountable for their actions should re-evaluate any intention they might have to engineer crises that would further weaken our public institutions in order to delay the moment of truth. They should instead take a leaf from outgoing Deputy President David Mabuza, and step aside of public representation until they have cleared their names.

President Ramaphosa has to rise to the call of destiny. He was after all the architect of our Constitution. It is now his moment to demonstrate boldness in acting at all levels in a manner that fulfils his oath of office to "uphold and promote the constitution" as the president of the republic. This is the moment for him to assume his generational responsibility to rebirth our constitutional democracy into one that can be rebuilt to enable shared prosperity for all. Mr President, the moment has arrived, stand up and lead the people of South Africa!

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramaphosa
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