What Cyril has to do if he wants to win
He's shown he means what he says, but there's a lot to do, and a few heads have to roll, before the polls
For the first time, Cyril Ramaphosa’s face will appear on the ballot paper in next year’s elections.
This is likely to be a major factor in how people vote, or whether they vote at all. Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader has been a major game changer in South African politics since he has the potential to arrest the governing party’s downward trend at the polls.Without Ramaphosa, the recall of Jacob Zuma as president would have been unlikely and the sense of hopelessness in politics, certainly among many traditional ANC voters, would have prevailed.
With Zuma no longer the focal point, opposition parties will have to develop new campaign strategies and the content of the elections discourse is likely to be markedly different to the 2014 and 2016 polls.
The past few months have shown that having Ramaphosa as head of state is not a magic fix, particularly in terms of the country’s economic performance. Neither does it mean the ANC will be able to return to its glory days when elections were about determining by what percentage the party would win.
There are many people who have turned their backs on the ANC and do not believe a new figurehead is sufficient to mend the trust deficit. While responsibility for much of the damage to the ANC’s reputation can be borne by Zuma, the party cannot escape the fact that it defended and excused corruption and state capture for most of the former president’s term. That will be difficult to airbrush on the campaign trail.The ANC’s elections workshop held in Irene this week was a deep dive to analyse where the party stands and how it needs to engage the electorate. It was an interesting exercise to draw in thought leaders and expertise from outside the ANC in order to broaden its perspectives.
However, despite the outsourced expertise, the ANC leadership remains largely the same as when the party and government plunged into decline. If anything, the party looks much worse now with some of the biggest perpetrators of corruption and the Guptas’ partners in crime at the ANC’s top table.
While the ANC is commendable in its ability to self-diagnose, it is also predisposed to repeating mistakes. Why else would it claim to be “shocked” by the scale of corruption and looting in the state?
An internal elections document, entitled ANC Briefing Notes: Key ANC Policies and Government Programmes, states: “The last year has revealed many new cases of corruption and, like all South Africans, we are shocked by the scale of corruption and the allegations of state capture, which we are determined to root out.”This type of dishonesty is likely to further erode trust. After the Nkandla and Gupta-wedding fiascos, as well as Zuma’s finance-minister juggling acts, there is nobody in the ANC who can honestly claim to have been ignorant or shocked by the revelations of corruption.
It also does not help the ANC’s case to have Zuma lingering around like a post-nasal drip and people like convicted felon Tony Yengeni leading its discussions on crime and corruption.
No matter how smart its elections campaign might turn out to be, the ANC’s biggest opponent will be its internal dynamics and factional battles.
Its special national executive committee meeting last week revealed the state of discord and uncertainty in the provinces, which will only be exacerbated once the process of compiling election lists begins.Secretary-general Ace Magashule’s office appears to be wholly incapable and unprepared to deal with the competition for positions on the national and provincial election lists. In fact, Magashule’s own agenda might aggravate the battles.
However, the ANC does have the biggest show-and-tell platform with which to impress the electorate. There remains a lot of goodwill around Ramaphosa’s presidency and many people are willing him to succeed. He seems to have emptied out his bag of initial deliverables with his clean-up campaign in the state and removal of a number of compromised people in senior positions.
But there is a long way to go.
Ramaphosa can reshuffle his cabinet and remove people who are clearly dead wood, disastrous in their portfolios and continue to be a drag on delivery. Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane are easy picks for the scrap heap.He also needs to get moving on the clean-up of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). While he is hamstrung by the courts on the appointment of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), he is able to make changes lower down in the hierarchy of the NPA, including the deputy NDPPs.
South Africa’s economic recovery will be Ramaphosa’s biggest test. Already the dividends of his special investment drive announced in April are beginning to show.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa announced that Mercedes-Benz would invest a further €600-million (about R10-billion) into South Africa. “South Africa has embarked on an ambitious investment drive to encourage companies like Mercedes-Benz to see the country as an attractive investment destination,” Ramaphosa said at the announcement in East London.
“In all our efforts, we are focusing on investment which, like this announced here today, expands the country’s manufacturing sector, increases our export capacity and contributes to job creation.”
It is projects like this that will show Ramaphosa means what he says and is capable of leading real change despite the constraints of ANC baggage.