Cyril Ramaphosa must rid himself of fear and act boldly

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

Contemporary ANC leaders do not seem to appreciate, or have forgotten, that sacrifice for a cause greater than self is inviolable, writes Tebogo Khaas

A common attribute identifiable with revered political leaders is a predication of their sense of purpose on integrity and immutable disposition to sacrifice for a cause greater than self.

The onset of greed, avarice, egotism and moral indifference has corrupted some leaders’ sense of purpose and value system, particularly once these leaders are ensconced in positions of authority.

Weak leaders wilt and some elect to live by the dictum “discretion is the better part of valour” the moment their integrity gets tested.

Let me explain.

Once revered for her fight to protect and promote human rights, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has, since ascending to the office of state counsellor of Myanmar, drawn criticism over her shameful betrayal of the glorious values and struggles she once espoused.

Suu Kyi tacitly exculpated the Myanmar military junta in its heinous crimes committed against the Rohingya people.

As retribution, Amnesty International stripped her of the prestigious Ambassador of Conscience she was awarded.

“Glory”, defined in the Merriam-Webster English dictionary as “praise, honour or distinction extended by common consent”, is a virtue that no longer applies to Suu Kyi.

It is this word the ANC appropriated for its moniker, the “glorious movement”.

To its ardent supporters the ANC remains the “glorious movement” despite suffering a crisis of legitimacy, loss of political hegemony and the monopoly it once held over “the truth” and social mores.

The betrayal of the dreams and struggles of ANC forebears and millions of its supporters set in during the ANC exile years and gained potency in Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

Exile anecdotes are awash with reports of corrupt ANC leaders living ostentatiously while ordinary members endured rudimentary living conditions in camps; and leaders who engaged in, or were oblivious of, human rights abuses in camps, including rape, torture, unlawful and arbitrary detentions that sometimes led to extrajudicial killings of the accused.

Despite the ANC later acknowledging the adverse findings of the Motsuenyane Commission of Inquiry into these abuses, the organisation demurred from taking appropriate action against those fingered for wrongdoing.

This, reportedly, was because its chief rival, the National Party, “had no such policy in place with regard to abuses committed by its members”.

Yes, in 1993, a year before it came to power, the “glorious” ANC claimed moral equivalence to the Nats.

This provided significant insight into the ANC’s relationship with the truth, integrity and righteousness.

The ANC’s newfound “sense of purpose”, driven by arrogance, opulence, conspicuous consumption and new standards of profligacy was thus cast in stone.

To observers, dazzled by Nelson Mandela’s startling aura, the dictum “discretion is the better part of valour” seemed irresistibly apposite.

In the ensuing years the ANC hit the cardinal, and the ordinal, points on the public’s compass.

On the ordinal end, the ANC has been lionised by its credulous supporters as a saviour and vanguard of the struggle for freedom.

To these supporters, the ANC’s reluctance to hold senior members accountable doesn’t seem to be a bother.

It is for these reasons that, despite the hype of it being strengthened, the ANC integrity commission remains a beast with zero dental formula.

On the cardinal end, the ANC is denounced by the crestfallen for its shameful betrayal of the values it once espoused.

These are dedicated, selfless members for whom hope still springs eternal.

With each election, the ANC has found itself increasingly beholden to ill-gotten donations and patronage by powerful corporate interests that, in time, helped precipitate the morass in which we now find ourselves.

If there is one universally accepted fact in this political turmoil, it is that no ANC leader now is without blemish.

It is unsurprising, but no less disquieting, that President Cyril Ramaphosa finds himself at sixes and sevens pursuant to the disclosure of campaign donations made to him by a businessperson whose company is implicated in massive state corruption.

This leak may have emanated from an ANC faction seeking to embarrass or weaken Ramaphosa.

Whatever the source or motivation, it is unlikely to affect public perception of or trust in Ramaphosa. But he is incredulously fumbling his way out of the fracas.

It seems fair and unavoidable to postulate that the ANC is inimical to, even incapable of, change. ANC unity remains elusive and seems to just be a pipe dream.

I cannot think of a political party in the 21st century that has forced so much sputtering indignation as the ANC.

The prospect that the ANC will soon appear before the Zondo commission as an implicated party is both chilling and thrilling even to the journalists who have covered and sometimes abetted it.

The ANC should stop fidgeting and square up with the public if it is to regain the trust and goodwill it squandered under Zuma.

Otherwise suspicions of it being an antimatter to our democratic experiment risk being confirmed.

To mitigate this the ANC – and Ramaphosa especially – needs to make huge sacrifices.

Contemporary ANC leaders seem to not appreciate, or forget, that sacrifice for a cause greater than self is inviolable.

It is widely hoped the recent forced resignations of ANC ministers is not an aberration or a flash in the pan move, but an affirmation of Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”.

The irony of her aphorism aside, Suu Kyi once aptly proclaimed: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Ramaphosa must, of necessity, rid himself of any fear and act boldly even if this risks his chances at a second term as ANC president.

The corollary of taking bold action could, fortuitously, provide assurance for Ramaphosa’s political survival and longevity.

At this rate ANC supporters will have a binary choice in the coming elections.

They can grant the faux glorious movement a chance at redemption and hope to inoculate themselves from outrage fatigue.

Otherwise, by common consent of its exasperated supporters, administering euthanasia to the ailing centenarian ANC seems irresistibly apposite.

Khaas is executive chairperson of Corporate SA. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas


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