For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
Sprinkles. More sun than clouds. Mild.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s six-day national policy conference. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)
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“Why Ramaphosa could win the ANC presidency”, “Poll has Cyril beating Nkosazana”, “Analysts put their money on Ramaphosa”, “Ramaphosa gaining ground as Zuma camp ‘disintegrates’”.
These are just some of the recent headlines which have, with increasing frequency, suggested that Cyril Ramaphosa is starting to push ahead in the race for the presidency at the end of the year.
As I do presentations around the country, I am often met with disbelief when I express concern about Ramaphosa’s chances of success.
Let me be clear: I want him to succeed. I think Ramaphosa is by far the best candidate that South Africa currently has to offer. From all we know of him, he is of a very different calibre than the current leadership and I believe he is also one of the few who could possibly steer a self-correction in the ANC and thus the country.
Of course many, if not most people in this country also want to see him become president of South Africa. For many, backed by the media reports mentioned above, it seems like a given.
“Surely after all the Guptaleaks”, I get told by audiences across the country, “everyone can see that we need a change, a new sheriff in town! It is just logical!”
The problem is that logic and what so many want is not what will dictate the choice at the end of the year. And there is a real possibility that this kind of wishful thinking is lulling us into a false sense of security and complacency.
Without any doubt Ramaphosa’s campaign has picked up speed. He is saying the right things, attending key events and looking presidential. Thus the media’s positive response. In contrast his main rival (for now), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is not doing high-profile events, looks grumpy when she is out and about and does not produce catchy soundbytes.
If we were to measure the two campaigns as we would an American or European presidential run-off, it would be clear that Ramaphosa has the upper hand. But this is not Europe or America and the ANC works very differently from the Republicans or Democrats. Also: we are living in extraordinary times – even as far as the ANC is concerned.
There are three main reasons why I believe Ramaphosa will struggle to win at the end of the year. Firstly, the ANC numbers are stacked against him. Secondly, he is not willing to play as dirty as the other side, and lastly because the Zuma camp simply will not allow him to win.
I have previously written about the problem with the current ANC membership and in particular that KZN has reportedly signed up between 550 000 and 600 000 members (which is double that of the Mangaung conference).
Apparently Mpumalanga’s membership has also increased dramatically. I have worked out numerous scenarios on these inflated figures and even the most optimistic ones see Ramaphosa (in a two candidate race) either just about equal or losing to a Zuma opponent. More realistic scenarios see him losing hands down.
Lately, there has been talk about the possibility of some shift in Mpumalanga. As the biggest Premier League province, it is argued that this could (further) swing matters towards Ramaphosa.
Frans Cronje of the IRR spoke to me a while ago about various scenarios he was working on for the outcome of the electoral conference. I asked if he could build one around the 500-600 thousand KZN members. He called me back a few days later with some startling results.
His calculations showed that should Mpumalanga move as a block over to the Ramaphosa camp and he still gets support of the “Ramaphosa provinces” as well as 25-30% of KZN, that Ramaphosa would win.
Except… wait for it… if KZN has between 550 000 and 600 000 members.
In that case the Zuma camp could still win. Coincidence? I doubt it. It is clear that if the ANC can’t sort out these membership issues through a proper auditing process the Ramaphosa campaign is in big trouble.
Which brings me to the second point. It is common knowledge that many corrupt practices, especially around vote buying, have become part of ANC conference culture since Polokwane.
I have been told many times that the candidate with the most money will win, assuming that both sides will try and “out buy” one another. But from everything I hear and get told, Ramaphosa does not want to be involved in these tactics. Which is a good thing and what we would expect, but it is also worrying.
The problem is that on the reported membership numbers alone it is very hard for Ramaphosa to win. His unwillingness to play dirty makes it even more difficult, especially since there is so much at stake for the Zuma camp.
For a long time the discussion has been around the president needing assurance or even amnesty against future prosecutions. But we know now that it goes much, much further than him alone. It reportedly also involves some of his children and hundreds of ANC members who have in some way been involved in dirty deals.
And so, if he is to stand any chance of winning support from some in the Zuma camp, there is one question that Ramaphosa will need to answer to their satisfaction: “What will he do with President Zuma and his family as well as those implicated in, amongst other things, the Guptaleaks?”
Of course if he wants to show that he is Mr. Clean, Ramaphosa cannot legally or politically answer that question to the satisfaction of the Zuma faction. And until he does he won’t win, because the Zuma camp won’t allow him to win.
They simply can’t afford to, because whereas Ramaphosa is fighting for a job, the majority of the Zuma camp is fighting for their (and their families’) lives. And fighting for your life is a very different matter – you begin to believe that just about any tactic and trick become justifiable.
Perhaps it is time for all and especially those in the ANC who want change to wake up and not be lulled into believing that a Ramaphosa rescue will be in place by December.
Depressing, I know, but sadly true.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.* Only comments that contribute to a constructive debate will be approved by moderators.
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