Ralph Mathekga

Voters will have to look to Ramaphosa as brand ANC suffers

2018-11-12 08:54
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: AFP)

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Ramaphosa's presidency shows thus far that we might as well shift towards the presidential system in the country because the current electoral system is not working, even for the ANC itself, writes Ralph Mathekga.

The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture has sent the ANC underground, leaving party leaders with an enormous task of trying to save the reputation of the once unassailable 106-year-ld organisation. 

As a political party that is in power, the ANC has gone AWOL since the commission started! Since the commission began the task of trying to understand the extent of corruption under Jacob Zuma's administration, the reputation of the ANC has taken a knock to the point where the party is no longer visible in society. 

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For some strange reason that I never understood, senior ANC leaders had thought that the commission would focus on individuals within the party while leaving the party's reputation intact. It has always been clear to me that the commission would certainly put the ANC on trial. 

Since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the ANC has never found itself having to deal with such a reputational crisis as is the case now. Never before has the ANC come across so vulnerable as an organisation. This has created a strange situation whereby President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to lift the reputation of the ailing party into the election. It is strange in the sense that the ANC has never relied on an individual to lift its reputation going into the elections. 

Ramaphosa is more popular than the ANC and he needs the very ANC to win elections and remain the president. 

All of this sets the scene for a complex election campaign strategy whereby the strategists will have to play down brand ANC and try to amplify brand Ramaphosa. That would ensure that the voters pay more attention to what is offered by Ramaphosa as a leader instead of focusing on the ANC because the party is simply coming across as a conduit of corruption and state capture. 

In the previous elections during Zuma's tenure, the ANC was relied upon to shield the reputational crisis Zuma faced as a leader; hence, the party performed well despite Zuma being an electoral liability. But things have changed drastically since then. South Africans have since been treated to a constant dose of revelations showing that the ANC has had a serious institutional decline because individuals simply sold it to the lowest bidder. 

The question that interests me the most is whether Ramaphosa has the necessary acumen to carry the ANC and lift the party through the elections. This is a difficult task in the sense that in previous years when the ANC was being rampaged under Zuma, party leaders insisted on what they call "collective responsibility" whenever the decisions by Zuma and his allies were found wanting. 

The idea of collective responsibility within the ANC was used to save Zuma by way of emphasising the historical reputation and moral foundation of the ANC as a liberation party. 

But the revolutionary paraphernalia of the ANC is no longer effective in fending off the criticism that the party has been captured as a way to capture the state. All that is left for the ANC election strategists is to ask voters to look towards Ramaphosa and not worry much about the ANC as an institution in crisis.

Ramaphosa's leadership style thus far has also carried this message. The president seems not to be looking in the direction of the ANC in leading the country, whilst he remains the president of the country on the basis of an electoral mandate held by the ANC. 

Ramaphosa's presidency seems to be gradually distancing itself from the ANC as a political party in power. Some key decisions and appointments Ramaphosa has made as the president thus far appear not to be going through the ANC deployment processes. The president is clearly making key appointments and decisions by consulting outside his party. 

Take for example the ongoing search for the National Director of Public Prosecutions where Ramaphosa decided to seek guidance from a panel made up of ANC outsiders. The land issue is also handled through a panel constituted by wider members of the public, including experts who are ANC outsiders. 

The difficulty Ramaphosa faces in processing key decisions and making key appointments through the ANC is that the party's structures responsible for this task have been appropriated by the Guptas during Zuma's tenure, as the commission of inquiry is beginning to show. Therefore, Ramaphosa is forced to circumvent the compromised party processes and do his thing. 

Ramaphosa's presidency shows thus far that we might as well shift towards the presidential system in the country because the current electoral system is not working, even for the ANC itself. 

While the ANC is the holder of the electoral mandate in the country, the party is nowhere to be seen. I then ask myself, are we still on with the idea of collective accountability, or have we shifted gears to individual accountability? 

While we try to figure out the answer to this question, has anyone spotted the ANC around, and what's the mighty movement been up to lately? 

- Ralph Mathekga is a senior researcher at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape. He is author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

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Read more on:    anc  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  zondo commission  |  state capture


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