Melanie Verwoerd: CR17 accusations – A dangerous race to the bottom

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Instead of dealing with the issues plaguing the country such as unemployment, service delivery and the various SOE meltdowns, the politicians are like a pack of hyenas tearing this country apart, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

I'm just back from addressing and meeting with a number of international investors in London. Without exception these investors were extremely negative about South Africa's future. They raised some legitimate concerns around the SOEs and the economy in general, but their bigger questions were linked to the messy political dramas playing out in the country, particularly those around the president.

It was stated very clearly that for them to even consider South Africa as a possible investment destination, President Cyril Ramaphosa's continued leadership of South Africa is an absolute prerequisite. He is quite simply the only game in town.

It is not a healthy situation to have all hope and trust in one man, but it is the hand we have been dealt and the hand we now have to play with.

Any serious suggestion that Ramaphosa might be challenged for his position would undoubtedly have a very serious impact on the currency, markets and economy in general. Thus, the current noise about the CR17 campaign is creating jitters among the money people – adding to their already significant reservations about South Africa.

I say noise because if we interrogate the whole CR17 donations issue, there seems very little, if any, substance to it. The only questions that need to be asked in relation to the matter are firstly whether Ramaphosa did anything illegal and secondly whether he lied to the Public Protector during her investigation into the Bosasa donation.

From what we know so far the answer to both of these questions is no – yet those who seem hell-bent on getting rid of Ramaphosa, together with certain commentators and analysts, continue to create the impression that something illegal happened.

Let me be clear that I find the amount of money involved in the CR17 – and presumably the NDZ campaign – obscene. Of course a lot was at stake – the future direction of the country was at play – but to have spent hundreds of millions of rands on who knows what, seems morally questionable.

The ANC should certainly look at the manner in which funds are raised during these campaigns. However, raising and spending vast amounts of money for political campaigns will always remain part of the political landscape. Nothing that the CR17 campaign has done has proven to be illegal, or even seriously suggested as such.

Secondly, nothing I have seen has suggested that Ramaphosa lied to the Public Protector. Those behind leaked emails that appeared on social media clearly wanted to create the impression that Ramaphosa, contrary to his evidence to the Public Protector, was personally involved in raising funds for the CR17 campaign.

Assuming that they are authentic, the emails do suggest that Ramaphosa was asked by his campaign managers to speak to potential donors. However, curiously we have not seen Ramaphosa's response to these requests. Clearly if he had agreed to do so, the leakers would have also put that into the public domain. Hence it is probable that Ramaphosa either responded negatively to the requests and never spoke to these donors, or if he did, he asked the donors not to reveal their willingness or intention and took the matter further with his staff.

It is important to be reminded that none of this is illegal, nor would it contradict his testimony to the Public Protector.

What is clear is that the CR17 donation drama is part of the fight against Ramaphosa and it is not only damaging to him, but to the country as a whole. Frustratingly, it's not only part of the factional fighting taking place inside the ANC, it's the opposition as well. Yet, again, the opposition is unable to stop themselves from engaging in petty political mudslinging instead of doing what is best for the country. (If you don't believe me, watch the manner in which the opposition behave during question time tomorrow in Parliament.)

Instead of dealing with the real issues plaguing the country such as massive unemployment, service delivery, the various SOE meltdowns, etc. the politicians are like a pack of hyenas tearing this country apart, bit by bit.  

A senior asset manager (with an ANC background) sent me a text yesterday which read: "It is so *&^% stupid. How have our politics sunk so low that instead of focusing on the highest unemployment rate since 2006, we have politicians of all stripes trying to score cheap political points against the one guy who is trying to do good for a change?"

Good question!

In this race to the bottom, the only victims will be the country and our collective futures. The opposition both inside and outside the ANC might relish the idea of getting rid of Ramaphosa with these continued attacks, but the question we should insist they answer is this: "What happens then?"

Let me assure you, they won't have a credible answer, because they know that the economy and currency will collapse, making any possibility of growth impossible for a very long time.

Clearly the battle between those who would destroy our future for short-term political gain, and those trying to salvage that future for our children, isn't over.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

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