FRIDAY BRIEFING | Phala Phala report: The end for Cyril Ramaphosa?

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Phala Phala report: The end for Cyril Ramaphosa?

In framing this editorial, the phrase "it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy", kept running through my mind. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa is likeable. He is immensely popular with voters, more popular than the ANC. He also incepted, almost invisibly, an astute renewal programme for his party and a reform and rehabilitation programme for public institutions. But poor judgment, errors - perhaps even in good faith but errors nevertheless - a laxity and accommodationist and consultative approach to governance have let him down. Perhaps even politically fatally.  

Who can forget the feeling of "Ramaphoria" and the hope that we were finally turning a corner when he made promises of a "new dawn" after nine years of state capture under the auspices of Jacob Zuma's government?

Then the frustration kicked in. Why was the economy not growing, but unemployment and crime were? Why were we subjected to continuous load shedding with no end in sight? Despite the disappointment, public opinion was determined in favour of giving him a chance to continue the good work he had started. 

This narrative remains very much alive, even though a Section 89 panel has recommended that he be investigated further. They do, however, already suggest that the president may have violated some laws, and perhaps even his oath of office - which even the narrowest of readings of the report suggest. Violations of his oath of office and subversions of the law are discernable even in his own submission to the panel.  

South Africans frequently remark enviously when a minister, prime minister or president resigns elsewhere in other countries. Who can forget the glee with which Boris Johnson's resignation was met in the UK - when he was forced to resign over his indiscretions in office and after he lost the support of his party? But now that a popular person, like Ramaphosa, has behaved in questionable ways and is under scrutiny, standards of probity and accountability become lax.

On occasion, this laxity is justified on the basis of impending instability, or the bogey of hyenas returning to office to feast on public resources or the reversal of renewal and reform. These fears, justified as they are, make the project of reform and probity the work of a messiah rather than the public. 

Ramaphosa needed to be honest. He wasn't. He needed to come clear and explain what happened at Phala Phala. He couldn't.  

The consequences of Ramaphosa resigning or being out of office, whether by design or by default, could be dire and bleak. It may even be unstable for a time. But at some point, we as a society have to draw the line. We cannot continue with authority without accountability and power without responsibility. 

Ramaphosa is a good guy. But he has made errors in judgement in dealing with the Phala Phala scandal and as News24's resident cartoonist beautifully illustrates in his cartoon, Ramaphosa basically stuffed himself. 

Read the views from News24's team on the matter in this week's edition of Friday Briefing. We have submissions from assistant editor Pieter du Toit, analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela, legal journalist Karyn Maughan and investigative journalist Kyle Cowan. 

It's a difficult moment but a necessary read. 

Best, 

Vanessa Banton 

Opinions editor. 


A country on edge: Ramaphosa under siege, weakening resolve and state capture 2.0

President Cyril Ramaphosa's presidency started with great promise, but four years later state capture 2.0 looks poised to return if he decides to resign, writes Pieter du Toit.

Cyril Ramaphosa's fall from grace

After failing to convince the Justice Sandile Ngcobo panel that he doesn't have ethical, constitutional, legal and criminal charges to answer regarding the storage, theft and cover-up of theft of dollars on his farm, President Cyril Ramaphosa now has limited options. Mpumelelo Mkhabela breaks down what those options are.

Ramaphosa unlikely to challenge 'prima facie' suspicions – here's why

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who maintains that he did nothing wrong, has sought legal advice on a possible challenge to Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo's report on the Phala Phala break in but has been advised not to review it, writes Karyn Maughan.

Arthur Fraser's Phala Phala gambit - when spies play politics, democracy loses

Former spy boss Arthur Fraser is not a patriot and, in laying charges against President Cyril Ramaphosa, he has not acted out of some sense of duty to his country. While Ramaphosa must answer, Fraser's conduct should be seen for what it is – the act of a desperate man, keen to see a repeat of his previous miraculous escape from prosecution, writes Kyle Cowan. 

No option for Ramaphosa but to resign, successor unclear - political analysts

If Cyril Ramaphosa resigns, David Mabuza may take over as president, but a new president will have to be elected in 30 days as per the Constitution, writes James de Villiers.


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