Melanie Verwoerd

Why voting for Ramaphosa is about reality – not ideology

2018-11-28 07:25
Tyd sal leer of die veranderinge in die ANC-leierskap en pres. Cyril Ramaphosa wat nou aan die stuur van sake is, kiesers se beskouings oor die ANC gaan verander. Foto: Elmond Jiyane

Tyd sal leer of die veranderinge in die ANC-leierskap en pres. Cyril Ramaphosa wat nou aan die stuur van sake is, kiesers se beskouings oor die ANC gaan verander. Foto: Elmond Jiyane

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For the sake of the country, we need a president who has a strong public mandate to move forward with decisiveness and courage, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

It always amuses me that when I criticise the ANC (which I often do), non-ANC supporters regard my columns as "insightful". However, when I level criticism at other political parties some people are quick to call me "a party hack".

This was again evident over the last week after my column in which I objected to the DA's "a vote for the ANC is a vote for the EFF" strategy, which I believe is a way of scaring voters into ignoring the DA's catastrophic year.

There were two articles responding to my original column. Whilst both authors raised some interesting points, neither actually dealt with the DA's fearmongering. Interestingly, there seems to be an almost panicked reaction from DA quarters to the suggestion by myself (and many other analysts) that it is important for Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver a big majority for the ANC in order for him to be secure as leader of the country within his own party.

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I have explained the reasoning for this before, but as we get closer to the elections it might be useful to revisit the argument.

It is very clear to me (and I am sure to the vast majority of people in this country) that we need Ramaphosa to lead South Africa for the foreseeable future. He is BY FAR the best we have in terms of leadership.

There are a few potential candidates from the Ramaphosa faction coming through the ANC ranks, but they are still too young and inexperienced. I think we can all agree that the former Zuma supporters aspiring for the position are not the ideal – to put it mildly.

I believe it is also safe to say that a Julius Malema presidency would be catastrophic for this country. In DA-world some (!) would argue that Mmusi Maimane would be a good alternative, but if the year-long Patricia de Lille saga is anything to go by, one has to shudder at the chaos it will create if a Maimane-led government has to deal with the multitude of big problems that come with running a country.

So for the foreseeable future we need the experience, level-headedness and economic acumen of Ramaphosa. The fact that so much of our hope and faith for the future of our country lies in a person – as opposed to a party or ideology – is of course not a healthy or good thing. However, that is the political hand we have been dealt with and we have no alternative but to move from here.

That does not mean that Ramaphosa is without fault or above criticism. Nor does it mean that all will be well and that we will all be singing "Kumbaya" once he delivers a solid majority for the ANC. It goes without saying that the decades of destruction caused by apartheid and more recently the Zuma years will take a long time to correct.

From opinion polls we know that neither the EFF nor the DA will get close to an outright majority nationally in the next election. Knowing that, the DA's argument seems to be that in order to stop a possible ANC-EFF coalition, people should vote for the DA – presumably to weaken both the ANC and EFF.

The question then follows whether the DA will form a coalition with the ANC should the ANC drop below 50%? If so, that should be made clear to those same voters who they are scaring into not voting for the ANC.

In addition, the question remains whether coalition governments are good for the country at this time in our history. I would argue that we are not ready. You need amongst others very mature politicians to make a coalition work and there are very few of those in any of the political parties at the moment.

The difficulties that the coalitions or cooperation agreements at local government have run into seem a good case in point. As tragic as it is when a town or city grinds to a halt because of the inability of a municipality to function, imagine if that happened at a national level?

Let me return to Ramaphosa and his position inside the ANC. It is clear that Ramaphosa has made significant progress in consolidating support behind him. However, it is also clear that his detractors, although temporarily focussed on winning an election, have not gone away.

Without going into the details of the ANC inner-workings, it is clear that for Ramaphosa to finally deal with his detractors, who use the fact that he won the ANC presidency with the smallest of margins at the Nasrec conference, he has to get a big public mandate.

If not, his detractors will with renewed vigour try to "take the ANC back". Given Ramaphosa's enormous popularity amongst branch members they will not easily get rid of him, but the threat will continuously be there. Because of the power of the political party (as opposed to the individual leader) in our political system he will also constantly be put under pressure when it comes to appointments, policy and executive decisions.

Given the enormous and urgent task of rebuilding the economy and maintaining racial harmony, that is not something we can afford. So for the sake of the country, we need a president who has a strong public mandate to move forward with decisiveness and courage as well as make difficult decisions, even if it might be unpopular with some of his party's leadership.

Ultimately next year's vote will be (and must be) less about ideology and more about reality.

- 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.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  mmusi maimane  |  election
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