Today the Cyril-Zuma tango ends
Ramaphosa proved on Sunday that he's had enough of negotiations. It's time to show who's boss
Many people forget that President Jacob Zuma and ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa are South Africa’s most accomplished negotiators.
They are so skilled at high-stakes negotiations and mediation that we exported their talents to conflict zones in other parts of the world.
So when the two went head to head, as they did over the past week, it was to be expected that they would stare each other down.
After all, they are negotiating over the presidency – which they are both personally and politically vested in.Negotiations can go on in perpetuity. Ramaphosa, it would seem, decided he has had enough.
After a week of trying to coax Zuma to step down and negotiate an exit package, Ramaphosa intimated on Sunday that a special NEC meeting on Monday would be the cut-off point for the transition process to conclude.
As reported in the Sunday Times, Ramaphosa had presented Zuma with legal options available to him to avoid prosecution or receive reduced sentences in the state capture cases.
The reason Ramaphosa embarked on this course was to avoid the state having to endlessly pay Zuma’s legal costs while he exhausts every means possible to dodge prosecution – as he has done in his corruption case.
Ramaphosa therefore wanted to extract a commitment from Zuma to co-operate with the police and National Prosecuting Authority to secure successful prosecutions of the primary perpetrators of state capture.Once Zuma undertook to co-operate with the authorities and tell the full truth, it would be up to the NPA to negotiate a plea bargain agreement with him.
But based on Ramaphosa’s statements on Sunday, it would appear that no deal could be reached between the two leaders. This means that Zuma is refusing to admit wrongdoing or resisting turning on the Guptas.
Using the platform of the launch of the Mandela centenary celebrations in Cape Town on Sunday, Ramaphosa said he knew that people wanted the transition issue “finalised” and committed that this would be done when the ANC national executive met for a special meeting on Monday afternoon.“The NEC will be meeting tomorrow to discuss this very matter and, because our people want this matter to be finalised, the NEC will be doing precisely that,” said Ramaphosa. “We know that this matter has to be finalised, we know you want closure.”He said it was important to manage the discussions “with care and purpose, ensuring that we place the interests of South Africa first”.
It was perhaps surprising that Ramaphosa came out from behind the veil of secrecy around the negotiations. It was a tactical manoeuvre to show he is directing the process, not Zuma.
He also knew how symbolic it was to deliver that message from the balcony at the Grand Parade, where Nelson Mandela delivered his first public address on his release from prison 28 years ago.
The clock is now ticking. Zuma must resign or be recalled by the NEC on Monday. He could of course still resist resigning, but that would cause the ANC’s patience and goodwill to expire. He will be voted out in a motion of no confidence in parliament and then face the full wrath of the criminal justice system.
This is Zuma and Ramaphosa’s last tango. At the end, only one will be left standing.