Ramaphosa's one chance


Cyril Ramaphosa's first major test will be the announcement of a reduced Cabinet. He has said that the executive needs to be trimmed and his supporters will hold him to this promise, writes Adriaan Basson.

The people have spoken. They have handed President Cyril Ramaphosa one chance to save South Africa and clean up the mess left by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

The ANC's electoral victory has been the country's gift to Ramaphosa, a trade unionist-turned-millionaire-businessman who played the long game and remained in Zuma's slipstream during the "nine wasted years".

Had Ramaphosa not emerged victorious from the ANC's Nasrec conference in December 2017, the party may have been voted out of power this week. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has subsequently become one of Ramaphosa's closest allies, was just too close to the Zupta's state capture fire.

Ramaphosa has literally saved the party from extinction. Enough South Africans believe him that he will lead the country out of the depths of state capture, corruption and rent-seeking that was the hallmark of the Zuma era.

They believed that he did not know about his son's dealings with Bosasa and has forgiven him for his role in the Marikana massacre, for which he apologised. They accepted his apology for his own complicity in not standing up firmly against state capture.  

It is now up to Ramaphosa to make or break their fragile trust.

His first major test will be the announcement of a reduced Cabinet. Ramaphosa has said that the executive needs to be trimmed and his supporters will hold him to this promise.

A developing, struggling country like South Africa simply cannot afford 33 ministries. He can shave off at least ten of these ministries and merge departments that do not deserve to be alone.

His next move will be the appointment of his new Cabinet. Ramaphosa inherited Zuma's final executive and was bound by ANC loyalty to preserve the peace and not fire all the Zuma-ites like Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane and Michael Masutha.

He simply has to appoint the best the ANC has to offer to his new team. Be prepared to see some new faces and names when Ramaphosa announces an executive for the next five years.

Much has been said about the need for Ramaphosa to ensure the state capturers in his midst are arrested and prosecuted. He cannot do that.

The best he can do is to ensure that our law enforcement agencies, chiefly the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), are led by the best, most competent and squeaky-clean individuals who will do their jobs without fear or favour.

He has done this, and it is now over to advocates Shamila Batohi, head of the NPA, and Godfrey Lebeya, head of the Hawks, to make sure that justice is not only done, but also seen to be done.

They have to use every single legal instrument available to them to extradite the Guptas and bring them back to face justice. They have to ensure that Zuma receives a fair and speedy trial on the outstanding arms deal and Schabir Shaik matters. They have to charge Bosasa kingpin Gavin Watson with his former colleagues and address the perception that whistleblowers are being charged to protect the big fish. They have to bring Markus Jooste and the Steinhoff mafia to court before they leave our shores. They have to speedily investigate a decade of state capture in the Free State under Ace Magashule and bring him to book if he should be prosecuted.

Ramaphosa should give them the space to do their jobs without fear and protect them from political interference.

He has shown the ability to address the fears of both investors and workers and will need to aggressively work with them to create sustainable jobs on a large scale.

He must address racism and not only preach non-racialism, but actively set an example that embraces all South Africans.

Ramaphosa has shown the ability and will to reignite the dream of a country that unashamedly faces its unfinished business, but do so with our eyes firmly set on a better life for all.

It is a dream he dares not defer.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.

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