'Cyril Spark' may not let us drop our guard

(Themba Hadebe, AP File)
(Themba Hadebe, AP File)

We ordinary citizens shouldn’t be too cynical about the “Cyril Spark” that has injected so much positive energy into our state of affairs. But we also dare not relax our pressure and civil society activism to keep the ANC politicians in check one bit.

With Cyril Ramaphosa at the helm, the ANC will look very different. But will it really be a different animal?

The question has been asked for years now: can the ANC still be resuscitated, or is its slow demise simply inescapable?

If anyone can blow life black into the party, it would be Ramaphosa.

The strong wave of national optimism since his election and especially after his first speech as ANC president is an early indication that many people outside the ANC faithful are still  prepared to give the party another chance. 

That, and the listlessness and lack of direction of the opposition parties, might just drag the ANC over the victory line in next year’s general election and give it five more years in power.

We should remember that the ANC’s poor performance in the 2016 local elections was mostly due to regular ANC voters not voting rather than voting for the opposition. Perhaps many of these disillusioned voters would now consider returning to the fold.

Perhaps many of the ANC’s fiercest critics should quietly hope that the ANC does get more than 50 percent of the vote.

If it gets less, it will have to find a coalition partner to govern. Now that it has adopted some of the EFF’s main policies, like land expropriation without compensation, the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and free tertiary education, it must be clear that the DA cannot be in coalition with the ANC in national government.

The EFF has confirmed its cheap populist nature and irresponsible leadership style with the recent vandalism of H&M stores.

In my analysis, it would be catastrophic for the economy and social cohesion if the EFF becomes the tail that wags the dog in national government. We will simply follow the same route as Venezuela.

I suspect we will one day look back and realise that it had been Julius Malema’s scheme from the start to eventually rejoin the ANC as a senior leader. I have no doubt that he sees himself as a future president of the country.

Cyril or no Cyril, the signs are clear that the ANC has not succeeded in any significant way to defeat factionalism or get rid of the rotten apples.

Some of the names on the national working committee just elected prove this: Tony Yengeni, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, Nathi Mthethwa and Tina Joemat-Pettersson, all of them Zuma diehards with chequered careers.

And let’s not forget that the corrupt, dictatorial Free State premier, Ace Magashule, is today the ANC’s secretary-general.

Ramaphosa will probably succeed in axing the weakest links and worst Zuma sycophants from Cabinet – Dlamini, Mokonyane, Lynne Brown, Faith Muthambi, Mosebenzi Zwane – but to stop the deep rot in the ANC structures on provincial and local levels is a whole other challenge.

We cannot forget that Ramaphosa was Zuma’s deputy since 2012, the worst years in our democracy, and showed that he was more interested in party unity and staying in power himself than in principle or in fighting corruption.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about the new winds of change.

It does mean that civil society, that has risen up so spectacularly during the last few years, Parliament that has rediscovered its watchdog role over the executive, the media and the judiciary will have to be as energetic and vigilant as they were at the end of the Zuma era. Starting now.

Perhaps many citizens will fall in love with Cyril, but few of us will ever really trust a national leader again or give him/her so much free rein.

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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