Following Cabinet’s farewell cocktails in honour of former president Jacob Zuma in Cape Town on Tuesday, one political analyst believes the gathering was President Cyril Ramaphosa’s way of rewriting the narrative that he and Zuma are enemies.
Asanda Ngoasheng – who is also a political and business reporting lecturer at CPUT – said it was important for Ramaphosa to host the farewell event because of the tone he is setting for his presidency. She was of the view that Ramaphosa had modelled himself on the late former statesman Nelson Mandela’s principles of reconciliation, unity and being a great negotiator.
“He wants to be seen as peacemaker … This is evident in his state of the nation speech that spoke to all the different sectors of South African society and even had a different language for each point he wanted to emphasize,” Ngoasheng said speaking to The Citizen on Wednesday.
“It therefore makes sense that he would hold out an olive branch to Zuma and bring him back into the fold,” she added.
The country has seen rapid political changes over the past few weeks since the ANC held its elective conference in December, which elected Ramaphosa as the governing party’s new leader.
Despite resistance in the beginning, Zuma resigned as state president last Wednesday after being recalled by the ANC’s highest decision-making body between national conferences, the national executive committee (NEC). The recall paved the way for Ramaphosa to be elected by a majority of MPs as the country’s president last week in the National Assembly.
While some might have thought Zuma would have been hostile and angry about being forced to resign, pictures posted on social media depicted a cordial mood among colleagues in Cabinet as they said goodbye him. Zuma even remarked that the event was unprecedented in the country.
Ngoasheng said the farewell event had significance because it created the impression that all was well in the ANC and its leaders got along. She said this was particularly important as it sent a positive message to Zuma’s supporters who were not chuffed with Ramaphosa’s ascendency to Luthuli House and the Union Buildings.
“It’s very important because people read a lot into Zuma’s absence at Sona [State of the Nation Address] and I think that Cyril wants to rewrite that narrative of him and Zuma as enemies.
“He also wants people to feel assured that the ANC is in safe hands and there is unity within the party. As the public, I think he also wants to remind us that he and Zuma had a good relationship during Zuma’s presidency as he was his deputy and this event creates the impression that all bad blood is gone and any fights are now water under the bridge,” she said.
And for investors and foreign observers of South Africa, Ngoasheng said the farewell event dispelled any rumours of a potential backlash by Zuma supporters within the ANC.
“It sends the impression that Ramaphosa is a man who has empathy, is peace loving and able to negotiate a settlement that works for all involved.”