Cyril must act now and act quickly, while the Zuma wolves are circling
Now, at the beginning of his tenure, Ramaphosa has the most power he will ever have. He must use it
Fikile Mbalula is absolutely right. The ANC would have polled 40% or way less if the party still had Jacob Zuma (or one of his proxies) as its head.
Ramaphosa has now helped the ANC win a comfortable 57.5 % of the vote. He has clung on by a hair in Gauteng. He has rescued the ANC from nine years of Zuma and his thugs.
He now needs to act, and act fast. There is no time.
The first thing he has to do is to assert his authority and power swiftly, and transform the ANC. He will never be as powerful as he is now. He won the Nasrec conference in 2017 by a sliver. He has helped the ANC scrape through now. He mustn’t waste the moment. He is the president of the party and he is its chief spokesperson.
He therefore has to put his stamp on the party because people such as Ace Magashule are trying to keep the party on a war footing with him. The post-election warring has already begun, with the party’s general secretary quoted on Friday as saying:
“I want to see a cabinet of men and women who work hard; people who are loyal to the people of SA, to the Constitution, to the ANC. People who know they are in parliament because of the party. It is not their conscience that is leading them, it is the party.”
Well, that’s a recipe for disaster. As the Zuma years showed, this “philosophy” of blind party loyalty is exactly what led to the horror of that wasted decade. A man who says conscience matters for nothing and party is everything essentially says he will issue the orders. Magashule’s grip on the ANC must not just be loosened. It must be ended if the party is to succeed.
The first thing Ramaphosa must do is ask his comrade Tito Mboweni to raise a hand at the first meeting of the national executive committee of the party (which starts today) and propose that all future pronouncements on the economy and matters of crucial economic importance will be answered by the president, the finance minister or the ANC’s head of economic transformation only.
This situation where Tony Yengeni or Magashule or some other ignoramus swans about pronouncing on economic policy – an area in which they have neither expertise, interest nor competence – has to come to an end. There are too many cooks in the kitchen. Magashule, Yengeni and so many others are mere howlers who are more interested in slogans than policy. This one act of keeping economic pronouncements to a few will remove uncertainty from investors’ minds. The rand will strengthen and some investment will begin to flow through.
Second, Ramaphosa has to transform that toothless entity called the ANC Integrity Commission. Liars and thieves take pride of place on the party’s parliamentary and provincial legislature lists. They are now going to parliament. Yes, everyone from Malusi Gigaba to Nomvula Mokonyane to Bathabile Dlamini – implicated in key scandals from Guptagate to Bosasa to social grant system collapse – will be jostling to stand in front of the speaker of parliament and take the oath of office. Where is the commission?The masses will not swallow this forever. Cyril or no Cyril, this 57% win will dwindle into a 45% or worse in 2024 if the next five years are the same old, same old.Away from internal ANC problems, Ramaphosa started well in fixing the state. He must continue. The cleaning up of Sars, the NPA, Hawks and others must pick up pace.Ramaphosa’s biggest problem is the ANC and its train of sycophants. He must trim the cabinet and the state bureaucracy. This may be difficult because he is beholden to the trade unions. Yet he must act. Delivery is possible with smaller, more efficient, teams.Ramaphosa and the ANC have to transform the economy. Such a transformation lies in doing the things the party has failed spectacularly at: accelerating land reform within the framework of the law without resorting to populism, running SOEs efficiently and ethically so that they deliver to the people, cutting the red tape from the visa regime and allowing tourists and businesses easy access to SA.
Corruption is now sadly part of the DNA of the ANC. Ramaphosa is surrounded by the likes of Magashule and others implicated in terrible deeds. Don’t expect the ANC to discard all of them with vigour. Many will end up staying in the ANC. Ramaphosa preaches unity. That includes unifying with the corrupt, too. That is the limit to his power. He cannot escape the gift and the monster that is his beloved home, the ANC. But for now, at the beginning of his tenure, he has the most power he will ever have. He must use it. Every day that he waits means power drains away from him. And the Zuma wolves are waiting to exploit his weaknesses.