Cyril can’t be ‘decisive’ like FW. Here’s why

Ideas

Cyril can’t be ‘decisive’ like FW. Here’s why

SA is in a very different place from 1990, not least in what politicians’ hidden motives are

Columnist

As South Africa noted the thirtieth anniversary of FW de Klerk’s momentous speech, a couple of inevitable thinkpieces asked a curious question: why can’t Cyril Ramaphosa make the kind of tough decisions De Klerk made, putting the needs of the country before the positions and egos of party hardliners?

I understand why people might lunge for this extremely tenuous historical parallel. The politics of South Africa feel so utterly exhausted that encouraging the incremental improvement of existing systems feels naive. Voluntary regime change of the sort De Klerk initiated seems like a much more sensible approach.

Indeed, the fact that otherwise rational people are comparing Ramaphosa to De Klerk speaks to the desperation of our position: you know you’re suffering a catastrophic shortage of leadership when the most pragmatic political moment you can remember is the negotiated surrender of the apartheid state...

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