Relaxed Ramaphosa heads for final stretch

2017-12-10 05:53
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Gallo Images)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Gallo Images)

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Deputy president tells Setumo Stone he cannot be blamed for not acting sooner against the spread of state capture.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa considers himself “a nice host” and personally serves his guests. “Coffee or tea?” he asks, followed by “in a cup or a mug?” before he brings the hot drinks to the table.

Behind him, as he goes back and forth to get the orders, is a large painting of Nelson Mandela that gives the predominantly brown furnished living room a warmer feeling. This is in stark contrast to the mildly wild character of the room, created by an array of miniature statues of cattle, a cheetah and elephants.

The small break during the interview comes on the back of an awkward question about whether he “slept on the job” and allowed the cancer of state capture to spread under his watch, despite a flurry of media reports pointing to the rot.

“I tend to be a nice host, so don’t think that I’m running away from you,” he says in his palatial home in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

His mannerisms are just as former president FW de Klerk described: relaxed and convivial but “coldly calculating” and “continuously searching for the softest spot in the defences of his opponents”.

- Visit our special report, #ANCVotes, for all the news, analysis and opinions about the ANC’s national elective conference.

As soon as he settles back on the sofa, with a mug in his hand, Ramaphosa’s comeback is: “As much as it was reported, the media did not reveal the grand scale of state capture (until later).”

He cites as an example his involvement in the Eskom “war room” during the 2015 load shedding crisis, saying that even then there were glimpses that there was a problem, but it was still “masked”.

“It only became clear much later when we finally realised that the tentacles had actually spread throughout state institutions,” he continues.

“I started talking about it when it was clear that there was a plan to implement grand-scale corruption, which was all-pervasive and had filtered into a number of state institutions.”

He says the Gupta’s influence did not become apparent until they offered former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas a promotion. Even the Guptas’ controversial use of Air Force Base Waterkloof to land their wedding guests in 2013 was not revealing enough.

Subsequently, the Office of the Public Protector asked questions and Parliament is currently dealing with state capture “systematically”.

“So I will not in the end conclude that one slept at the steering wheel,” he says.

"The criminal justice system really needs to wake up"

The fight against corruption has been one of the key themes in Ramaphosa’s campaign in the ANC presidential race. It reaches the last lap this week, as ANC branch delegates prepare to elect new leaders at their national conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg, next weekend.

He says “corruption militates against the value system that we have and is an assault on the principles that we espouse, like honesty and integrity. Adherence to those values empowers us to take a very strong position against corruption and call for accountability.”

Without specifying what immediate action he would take against corruption should he become ANC president, Ramaphosa asserts that wrongdoing and illegal conduct must be followed by accountability.

“The rule of law principle must be followed through and there cannot be a rule of law for others and no rule of law for some.”

Ramaphosa says “the criminal justice system really needs to wake up because they are meant to serve the interests of South Africans and not a few people”.

“They need to wake up and identify people who have committed crimes and make sure that they are brought to book. If we do not do that we are destroying the social and constitutional fibre of our nation because then we become a corruption ‘mamparaland’,” he says.

But his drumming on about the anti-corruption message has not gone down well with Zuma’s sympathisers, who feel it is an attack on the Zuma administration and that he overplayed his hand on the issue.

ANC lobbyists have suggested that Zuma still enjoys significant support within the party and that any successful candidate will have to try and win them over and not antagonise them, like Ramaphosa appears to have been doing.

This week, he got dragged into question of whether he believes Zuma’s rape accuser, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo – also known as Khwezi.

“Yes, I would believe her,” was his reply.

Ramaphosa tells City Press he is clear Zuma was found not guilty and acquitted in court.

“An institution which is legally empowered to declare whether a person is guilty or not has issued its verdict and that is what we should accept.”

However, he says, that does not mean he could not empathise with Kuzwayo and other women “in this type of an invidious position, who have to go through a traumatic experience and have gathered enough courage to stand up”.

“One needs to internalise and deal with that because half of the population is vulnerable and subject to situations like this. There is a part of me that understands her position, that has great feeling and sympathy for the type of experience that women are subjected to ... that they go through.

“We need to look at both the non-guilty party as well as the empathy we should have for women in our country subjected to this, and express empathy and sympathy.” The headlines are something else, he says.

But that could not be the worst of Ramaphosa’s concerns. He has committed a series of blunders in his campaign that could well hurt his chances.

Initially, he had been seen as the reluctant candidate, like former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe in 2012. Many were wary of launching a campaign against Zuma’s preferred candidate, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, without a candidate.

He was seen as being stuck in the old ANC mould, where leaders do not lobby for positions. The newer generation of ANC members seems to favour people like Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza – who has made it clear that he wants to be deputy president and has proceeded to do everything possible to get nominated.

When Ramaphosa’s campaign got off the ground, he had spent a significant amount of time speaking to people outside the ANC, instead of inside it. At the peak of his campaign, he embarrassingly announced a slate, leading to condemnation from all quarters in the party, including his backers, such as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Moreover, a number of ANC branches supporting Ramaphosa still nominated Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as deputy president, despite his efforts to punt Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

However, Ramaphosa finds something positive in the democracy of the whole episode.

“When I raised the question of Pandor, the response coming from ANC branches was very positive, to say we want to decide who should become deputy president to you, if you succeed,” he says.

In the coming days, Ramaphosa is set to speak to delegates.

“Delegates are meeting in the various provinces to discuss the policy positions and I will be engaging them in a number of places.”

He is against the idea of having an early siyanqoba (celebration rally) because he is leading in the branch nominations.

While it would be a sign of bravado, it may also be seen as arrogant, he says.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  anc votes  |  state capture  |  anc leadership race

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