Ramaphosa's plan to stabilise SA, restore ANC

2018-02-18 06:33
President Cyril Ramaphosa after delivering his maiden State of the Nation Address (Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa after delivering his maiden State of the Nation Address (Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images)

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Watch as Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as SA president

2018-02-15 16:56

Parliament has officially elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president of the Republic of South Africa, following Jacob Zuma's resignation. Now watch as he is officially sworn in.WATCH

After winning the ANC presidency in December last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa never had a timeline for when he would take over the reins of government.

But burning deep in his heart was a desire to stabilise the country and to restore trust in the ANC.

Ramaphosa spent the bulk of that time in December receiving congratulatory messages from family members, relatives, politicians, ANC elders, civil society and business leaders.

If anything, according to those close to Ramaphosa, the variety of people who reached out to the new ANC president was an indicator that “people have faith in the ANC”. His election as Jacob Zuma’s successor provided an opportunity to set the new change agenda.

Between meetings and taking calls, Ramaphosa managed to squeeze in a brief Christmas break with his family.

But very soon he was back in Luthuli House, together with the other top six officials, where a vision for the new year was crafted. Big on Ramaphosa’s agenda was the idea that he wanted the people to “love the ANC back”.

The idea, City Press heard, was born out of the realisation that the ANC had allowed certain wrong things to unfold. As a result, the ANC alienated people both inside and outside the party who, in turn, became less proud of being associated with the organisation.

Ramaphosa’s “love back” agenda seeks to reverse the situation, including the decline in the party’s electoral support.

“It is about going back to the same feeling that people had when they had faith that the ANC was the organisation that would end apartheid,” said one source.

One of the first meetings he set up in the new year was with Zuma on January 7, to coordinate government’s work with ANC plans. They later agreed to meet every Tuesday.

Ramaphosa missed the start of the ANC’s programme to visit the graves of party stalwarts on January 5, after he was ordered to rest.

The ANC’s top six began to implement Ramaphosa’s vision by paying tribute to former ANC presidents and meeting their families. This was followed by a series of courtesy visits to traditional leaders, including Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

That meeting bore fruit later, when Zwelithini allegedly put the brakes on the mobilisation of amabutho (Zulu warriors) weeks ago to prevent Zuma’s ousting as state president.

ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was among the first to get a visit from Ramaphosa and his ANC team.

Other courtesy visits that had been planned, but did not work out, included the meetings with former president Thabo Mbeki and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

In his circle, Ramaphosa is known to be “big on social compact, which was something he had learnt in the negotiations for South Africa’s democratic transition”.

In the background, the call for the new ANC leadership to remove Zuma from office grew louder. Despite Zuma this week crying foul that there was a “rush” to push him out, City Press learnt that Ramaphosa exercised considerable restraint.

So impatient were some in Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign team that senior lobbyists had to quickly quash a widespread lobby to put Zuma’s fate on the agenda of the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec.

But it was expected that in one of the first meetings of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), the matter would come up, according to Joe Phaahla, Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign coordinator.

But even then, the officials asked for more time and space to deal with the recall in a manner that would not humiliate Zuma and divide the ANC, said health minister and NEC member Aaron Motsoaledi.

“We were told in the first NEC that there is this issue and the officials are dealing with it, so give us time. I do not think there was any better way than the manner in which it unfolded.”

ANC MP Pravin Gordhan said Zuma’s recall was raised indirectly during the conference. He cited as examples resolutions on creating confidence in the economy, fighting corruption and fixing state-owned entities. However, he said, emphasis was on making sure the party got the right level of consensus and unity.

An insider at labour federation Cosatu said that at the NEC’s lekgotla last month, Ramaphosa convened a special meeting of the alliance partners to brief them about Eskom and his trip to Davos.

“He explained what he was doing and what were the reasons, to paint a picture of what was at play at that time.”

The insider said the discussion laid a foundation for the recent developments and Ramaphosa continued to consult until the last day.

“You would have noticed that in most of our communication we kept saying that the ANC was on the right path and that it should be given space. We understood what was going on, and also what was our role in the public discourse, especially in that the pressure we exert should not undermine the leadership and the process”.

Phaahla said “the ANC could not be leader of society and government and say nothing when this [Zuma] issue is dominant in every forum of the society”. It was being discussed everywhere: in churches, business, trade unions and civil society.

“Many traditional leaders and stakeholders during the campaign kept asking about when Zuma would be changed. The ANC was lagging behind.

“The pressure was coming from leaders of society. It was not like Ramaphosa had to go convince people that there is a necessity for change. Wherever we went, ordinary people in villages asked why Zuma was still in office.”

Just before Zuma resigned, Ramaphosa was being accused of being too gentle on Zuma, after he cancelled an NEC meeting last week that would have axed him.

But this engendered trust from Zuma who, despite his being sacked later, still felt Ramaphosa treated him with respect.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  politics

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