ANALYSIS: Is Cyril in charge? Will he tackle ANC thugs? Well, don’t ask him
He failed to reassure voters that he will tackle his enemies, and that his agenda, not corruption, will triumph
The one thing you cannot accuse President Cyril Ramaphosa of is being direct.
Sunday was his opportunity to close the deal, to make the case as to why people should trust him and vote for his corruption-infested party.
The ANC’s Siyanqoba rally was the final chance to confront a concern many people who went to vote Wednesday or decided not to vote, had.
Is Ramaphosa really in charge and will he assert his authority over the degenerates in the ANC?
The question was not answered. Instead we had to again read between the lines.
On the day of the rally, the Sunday Times led with a story about the involvement of former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule in the formation of the new African Transformation Movement.
There had already been media reports for about a year about Zuma being the secret hand behind the decision by the leaders of the messianic churches to establish a political party.
The suspended general secretary of the South African Council of Messianic Churches in Christ, Buyisile Ngqulwana, outlined in an explosive affidavit how they held consultations with Zuma at his Nkandla home and with Magashule at the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, before registering the new party.
Ngqulwana claimed Magashule even came up with the name of the party.
The ATM is not the only party Zuma – until a year and a half ago the president of the ANC – has been philandering with.
He has endorsed Andile Mngxitama’s BLF party, including saying: “This is a clear political line, you can’t not vote and let people vote for the wrong party. Vote for this man [Mngxitama] because he wants issues to be resolved speedily.”
Mngxitama is one of Ramaphosa’s harshest critics.
The formation of the ATM was engineered for several purposes.
The messianic churches represent one of the biggest organised formations in the country and the leaders have immense influence on their members. The idea was to translate that influence politically and financially.
The ATM was to propagate the “radical economic transformation” narrative by fostering the false impression that Zuma was removed from office for trying to address racial inequality.
Some of the church leaders became uncomfortable when a plan was hatched to use their congregations to pump money into the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank so that it could continue being used for political financing. The idea was for each member to deposit R500 into the bank to make it liquid.
The ATM was also to serve as political safety net for Zuma and his camp should they be sidelined in the ANC.
Ramaphosa was made aware of this scheme several months ago but did not confront those in the ANC who were effectively mobilising against their own party.
The media reports on Ngqulwana’s affidavit on Sunday presented the president with a golden opportunity to take on those involved in the fightback campaign against him.
Ramaphosa could have made it clear that colluding against the ANC and its leaders was in violation of the party’s disciplinary code, and warned those conspiring against him that they would face disciplinary action and expulsion for doing so.
He need not have named anyone involved or even mentioned the ATM. But Ramaphosa could have drawn the line against the skulduggery and duplicity of some of his comrades.
The message would have passed, not only to those waiting to stick the dagger in his back, but also to the electorate, that he will not tolerate being messed with.
The president opted for a more nuanced approach.
He did not mention Magashule in his salutations at the beginning of his speech, and people interpreted that as Ramaphosa giving him the cold shoulder.
Ramaphosa warned to “expect resistance” against efforts to combat corruption and state capture from those who have benefited from wrongdoing.
“We will not submit and we will not retreat. We will fight with every means at our disposal to ensure that those who occupy positions of authority serve only the public interest,” he said.
He also said those involved in state capture would “not be allowed to occupy positions of responsibility, either in the ANC, in parliament or in government”.
But in the written text of his speech, this sentiment was somewhat diluted.
The speech stated that those “found guilty” of corruption or involvement in state capture would not occupy positions of responsibility.
Magashule and others have used the excuse of no convictions to justify the inclusion of implicated people on the ANC’s election list.
Ramaphosa’s speech was not a categorical commitment to exclude those implicated in corruption from positions of authority, even though appointments to his cabinet are his prerogative.
Court cases on state capture could take years to come to finality, which means Ramaphosa could have opened the door to the devil’s advocates for an indefinite amount of time.
In their closing rallies at the weekend, both DA leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF leader Julius Malema stated everything their core constituencies wanted to hear.
Their ability to deliver what they promised is another matter altogether but Maimane and Malema presented effective closing arguments.
Ramaphosa received the bulk of attention and airtime on the campaign trail. His charisma and goodwill fired up the ANC campaign.
People listened to him and recognised that he changed the country’s trajectory for the better since taking power.
But for millions of people who queued yesterday to make a cross next to Ramaphosa’s face, the worry remained about the factional dynamics and deceit within the ANC.
It is still not clear whether his agenda or corruption will triumph.
For the sake of “unity” in the ANC, Ramaphosa did not take this matter head on. It is that very “unity” façade that shields those plotting to regain power and evade justice.
With each vote being counted, our fate is being decided. But what the final tally will not tell us is whether our next president will use his mandate to lead boldly in this brand new dawn.