Ramaphosa faces uphill battle with Magashule dragging him down

Ace Magashule after the result announcement at the ANC 54th national conference . Picture: Elizabeth Sejake
Ace Magashule after the result announcement at the ANC 54th national conference . Picture: Elizabeth Sejake

Ace Magashule is the serpent in Cyril Ramaphosa's bosom, the Zuma faction's Trojan Horse in the ANC's top command. And South Africa is the victim.

President Ramaphosa's frustration was clear on the weekend when he bemoaned his own government's failure to serve the needs of the nation. "The abuse of the people must come to an end," he said.

Like the rest of us, Ramaphosa is witnessing how dark clouds are gathering to obscure the New Dawn.

His task to rehabilitate the state after a decade of abuse, maladministration and gross corruption was a very tough one, especially with the sudden high expectations and an economy that is floundering.

What Ramaphosa needed was a strong, loyal party manager who would manage the ANC and unite it behind the leadership so he and his cabinet colleagues could focus on the promised clean-up and renewal of all levels of government and the rejuvenation of the economy.

Instead, he is a president who has to govern with one hand behind his back because that party manager, the ANC's secretary general, is sabotaging him. 

Ramaphosa constantly has to compromise on appointments and decisions to keep his party from imploding instead of leading boldly according to the vision that most South Africans agree with.

The ANC's constitution gives the secretary general a key role in the party, third in the hierarchy after the president and deputy president.

He is the chief administrative officer that has to "convey the decisions and instructions of the National Conference, the National General Council, the NEC and the NWC to the Provincial Executive Committees and see to it that all units of the ANC carry out their duties properly". Rule 16 (6) states: "All Departments shall report on their activities and be accountable to the Secretary General."

If a president can't count on his secretary general, the next best person would be the deputy president. But David Mabuza, also deputy president of the country, was only elected because of his own double-dealings and fancy footwork and is hated passionately by the Zuma faction. Magashule himself is engaged in a war on Mabuza, who was never really a Ramaphosa man to start off with. Moreover, the deputy president's cupboard is rattling with many skeletons. 

Magashule's deputy, Jessie Duarte, is no Ramaphosa groupie either, so no assistance there.

Three months ago, the ANC's NEC had to reject a report on the state of the ANC in the Eastern Cape compiled be Duarte and Magashule because it was full of inaccuracies.

I expected the faction fighting in the ANC to abate gradually after the December leadership election as Ramaphosa was showing how much different from Jacob Zuma he was going to be and as he was strengthening his grip on the NEC.

I was wrong. The factionalism appears almost as hectic now as it was in December. 

A bitter and vengeful Jacob Zuma with his back to the wall is still manoeuvring against Ramaphosa, but it wouldn't be entirely correct to talk about the Zuma faction any longer. It is more a faction of the aggrieved, of the former recipients of Zuma's patronage feeling the pinch. In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) there is seemingly also an ethnic Zulu factor.

Magashule demonstrated soon after his election (by a whisker) that he wasn't going to be loyal to his new president. In January he insisted that the ANC wanted Zuma to serve out his term. Soon afterwards he told a gathering in KZN that the ANC should be "taken back" at the next elective conference. Just last month he said at a rally that ANC members should rebel against the party's decision to increase VAT.

It is the secretary general that has to sort out the chaos and divisions in the Free State, KZN, North West and Eastern Cape. If anything, Magashule is quietly fuelling these fires.

His own record is as bad as that of his buddy of the former Premier League, North West's Supra Mahumapelo. The Free State, where he was premier, is in a total mess: both the provincial and local governments and the ANC's structures. Several serious allegations of corruption, abuse and nepotism have been made against Magashule and the Hawks raided his office.

The Ramaphosa inner circle hopes that Magashule will soon face criminal charges and will be forced to resign, but that is unlikely to happen this year.

In the meantime, Ramaphosa has to climb the mountain of effective governance and a growing economy with his own party manager trying to drag him down.

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.

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