President Ramaphosa is being cornered from two sides – or at least that is the impression created by The Citizen’s cover story, ‘Cyril fights enemy within’ (December 9).
In keeping with a narrative that has dominated the ‘Ramaphoria’ season, the president is said to be prevented from enacting real reform by a “campaign from inside the party’s headquarters’ to oust him, led by Ace Magashule”.
The pressure from the Zuma camp inside the party is tremendous and all the dirty tricks of the Zuma-era are back in play. Ramaphosa is accused of being a puppet to “white monopoly capital” for allowing appointments that are “against transformation”. He is cast as a fat-cat who “favours big business” and surrounds himself “with white CEOs who would never have an interest in improving the lives of the poor”.
In short, there is an open attack on Ramaphosa using the same race-baiting tactics that allowed Zuma to dodge charges since ex-NPA chief Bulelani Ngcuka was falsely labelled ‘impimpi’ by Zuma’s stooge in 2003. In this country, when the corrupt are cornered, they leap for “race politics”, which, as SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago says, is “the last vestige of the scoundrel in South Africa”.
The problem is that if the media is willing to buy this line and echo it unquestioningly, then those who should be cornered by their own corruption will use these race-baiting tactics successfully to flip the situation so that Ramaphosa becomes the one with nowhere to go but down and out.
This is not the only challenge to Ramaphosa. He also has something to fear from ordinary South Africans sick of the ‘lost decade’ on its way to a sequel.
Last year, Ramaphosa was the most popular person in the country across all races, and eNCA polling showed that in 2017 he enjoyed the greatest popularity among the poor rural section of the ANC base.
Why? He held the promise of putting SA back in business.
The number one priority for South Africans, especially the unemployed, has always been Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! and Ramaphosa looked like the man for the meta-job of creating more jobs. Instead, unemployment has gone up under his leadership. In the last two years, half the time the economy has been shrinking.
Why? Because Ramaphosa has been appeasing the race-nationalist looters in his party all along. Although he surely knows that threats to expropriate without compensation hurt investment and do nothing for the almost 20 million who live without title deeds. This is what the Zuma camp wanted and that is what Ramaphosa has given. Why? Because if he doesn’t make such ‘strategic’ concessions the Zuma-camp will double-down on calling him a ‘white monopoly capitalist’ and drive him all the way out.
The Citizen’s “ANC source” said that at the upcoming ANC conference next year “they will challenge Ramaphosa around land expropriation without compensation” for not VeneZimbabweing the economy fast enough. The other issue, unsurprisingly, is to go after Kganyago at the SARB since he refuses to print money willy-nilly to keep paying for the R60-billion-plus in irregular expenditure.
In short, Ramaphosa has given enough to the Zuma-camp to hurt the economy, especially the poorest, but not often enough to placate Magashule. Feeding the Magashule crocodile has only made it hungrier for more concessions. So what to do?
Change the ANC’s party voting system. Simple as that.
At the moment, the system is for branches to elect delegates who then go to the party conference to make big decisions about policy and leadership. The last conference, at Nasrec, had 5,000 delegates. It is clear for all to see that the system at Nasrec was thoroughly corrupt.
A reported R1 billion was spent on the election which resulted in delegates voting Ramaphosa in with a paper-thin majority, even though he was six times more popular than Dlamini-Zuma, according to the same eNCA polls. The conference was challenged in the courts and, in the build-up, chairs flew even as reports leaked that brown-envelopes were frantically changing hands at the last minute to buy votes.
The exercise was so corrupt that two EFF MPs were tangentially bought out and have subsequently been forced to resign from parliament. When an ANC party election gets to the point where it is de facto bribing EFF members and even the EFF shows more accountability than the ANC, then you know the system is broken to the backbone.
The result is paralysis of the country while only the parasites prosper.
Instead of this, the ANC should allow all its members to vote for the leader directly, just like major parties do in many other countries that have had more time to mature their democratic systems. There are between 800,000 to 1,000,000 ANC members, far too many to bribe or win over through powerplays. In a new system, the way to win would be secured not by backroom dealings but by a proper popular mandate.
If Ramaphosa was facing the ANC’s entire base, rather than the Zuma-camp kleptocrats throttling half the 5,000 delegates, then he would not have to pull punches on corruption or continue to overlook the fact that the Constitutional Court and the Motlanthe Panel Report both found that the problem with land reform is the corrupt ministry stealing from the poor.
Every time someone says Ramaphosa is a puppet of “white monopoly capital” for wanting to cut out the corrupt, he can simply reply, “Let’s see what the people say.”
ANC MK Veterans like Omri Makgoale have seen this coming and since 2012 have been laying the seeds for real democratic processes in the ANC. Since everyone agrees the status quo cannot go on – and that Ramaphosa’s “enemy” lies “within”, as The Citizen notes – now is the time to make a change.
If Ramaphosa wants to get himself out of the corner, he should echo the veterans’ call for all ANC members to vote for him directly, as that would prove that he really believes that whatever corner he is in, he’s in it with the rest of us. That is exactly where a real president should be.
Gabriel Crouse is a writer at the Institute of Race Relations.