Cyril's scorecard: Why he still deserves our faith
Sure, he's had his failures, but the problems he's dealing with need very delicate handling
With the post-transition bliss from the Zuma era now fading, opinion appears to be divided on whether President Cyril Ramaphosa is a strong or weak leader.
The rollercoaster of public opinion appears to be based on anecdotal evidence – for example, Ramaphosa acted decisively on South African Revenue Services commissioner Tom Moyane but is dithering on action against abusive ANC MP Mduduzi Manana.
Ramaphosa’s approach to the crisis in North West is perceived in different ways. Some believe his early return from London when protests turned violent in Mahikeng showed he is a hands-on president. Others believe he should not be personally involved in fighting every fire in the ANC, and the fact that he has to shows he does not have strong surrogates to act on his behalf.With regard to the position of the premier, Supra Mahumapelo, Ramaphosa appears to have hemmed him in with simultaneous interventions from government and the ANC, but was caught off guard by the fight-back campaign. Mahumapelo therefore remains in limbo while the various processes unfold.It is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of Ramaphosa’s leadership only three months since he became president – especially because public expectations of his presidency were so high.
The distinction appears to be what Ramaphosa is able to do as president and ANC leader.
In the state, Ramaphosa has more leeway to act – he delineated his focus areas from the very outset and has the constitutional powers to take action.
He was able to reshuffle the cabinet, purging most Zuma loyalists and Gupta proxies. With Pravin Gordhan appointed as Public Enterprises minister, Ramaphosa has an effective lieutenant to effect a massive clean-up in badly run and corruption-riddled state-owned companies.He was also able to throw the book at Moyane, and continues to play hardball with the suspended commissioner on his disciplinary hearing.
One area where Ramaphosa intended to act swiftly but tripped up was the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). As soon as Ramaphosa became ANC president, he was determined to remove Shaun Abrahams as national director of public prosecutions, and then roll out a clean-up of the criminal justice system.
Perhaps it is due to Abrahams’ pending appeal on the court judgment against his appointment, or maybe he has given Ramaphosa an undertaking that he will shake himself out of the self-induced coma that has bought him time.
But for as long as there is little demonstrable action on corruption, particularly because it became evident months ago that prosecutors and investigators at the NPA were ready to proceed with about a dozen cases, it undermines Ramaphosa’s clean-up agenda.
In his maiden state of the nation address, Ramaphosa flagged a number of task teams, seminars and summits to determine the programme of action. These appear to be taking time to get moving. He also said there would be a process to rationalise the government system and it now appears this will only take shape next year.In one area where the bureaucracy appears to be a drag, Ramaphosa has found an alternate means to pursue his agenda. His appointment of four investment envoys, or “hunting pack of lions”, to draw $100-billion in investment, means that he does not have to rely on a lethargic state system to get things moving.
But it is in the ANC that Ramaphosa clearly has problems.
Due to provincial fortresses and factional divides, Ramaphosa has to walk a tightrope. He clearly wanted swift action in North West but Mahumapelo’s counter strategy is based on his ability to manipulate his political powers and support base in that province.
KwaZulu-Natal is a veritable powder keg and any attempt by Ramaphosa to crack down on the shadowy groups at play could have deadly consequences.
Ramaphosa basically needs the support of the ANC officials and the national executive committee to shepherd interventions in all the problematic provinces. But with a split top six, colliding agendas and factions still thriving in the NEC, this is not easy.
The gallop towards Ramaphosa’s 100th day in office has therefore been complex and a mixed bag of successes and duds.
But South Africa remains hopeful and there is still a lot of goodwill around his presidency.
So another round of targets on goal ought to keep the new dawn aglow beyond Ramaphosa’s 100-day landmark.