A pat on the back for Cyril Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa cheers during the election results announcement ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, 11 May 2019. Picture: EPA-EFE / Yeshiel Panchia

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa cheers during the election results announcement ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, 11 May 2019. Picture: EPA-EFE / Yeshiel Panchia

He has embraced all, including those that wished he would not ascend to power within the ANC and the country.

The 2019 elections that saw the ANC being declared the winner – in what its president Cyril Ramaphosa has described as “a tough campaign” – have come and gone.

In the words of Ramaphosa: “In this phase we’re going to renew the ANC and cleanse it of all bad tendencies – making the organisation to be seen as the leader of society.”

Addressing the recent Siyabonga (thank you) celebration gathering outside ANC Luthuli House headquarters, Ramaphosa also took his comrades to task.

“The ANC must be an organisation of disciplined comrades. Our leaders must always speak with one voice, show unity and not hang our dirty linen in public,” he told the cheering crowds – a veiled response to an unwarranted attack on ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula, who has acknowledged the role of the party leader in the elections victory.

Wits School of Governance professor Ivor Sarakinsky could not have put it better in explaining Mbalula’s reasoning that the ANC would have scored less than 40% in the elections without Ramaphosa at the head.

“If one looks at the disparity between provincial and national votes, the ANC national number is a bit higher than the combined provincial ANC votes,” he said. “This suggests that many gave the ANC a vote of support at national level as a result of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s actions and him providing hope for a better immediate future.”

Amid what has now turned into an ugly spat, with former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters calling Mbalula by all names – like “a charlatan, careerist and a young chap” – the fact is that Mbalula’s assessment was correct.

In the run-up to the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec national conference, where Ramaphosa was voted party leader, we saw an ANC characterised by a high level of factionalism, with comrades referring to each other as if they were dealing with adversaries from the apartheid era.

There were those who were left eating humble pie after having declared they would not be prepared to serve under Ramaphosa as president.

But, in a show of unity, Ramaphosa extended an olive branch to all. I can only think of Nelson Mandela who would do that.

I cannot imagine Thabo Mbeki – one of the most decisive presidents this country has ever had – extending such a hand. Mbeki came up with a Cabinet that reflected him, his values and leadership style – something Ramaphosa has now been mandated by voters to do.

Upon taking over the reins, Ramaphosa has shown true leadership in all respects.

He has embraced all, including those that wished he would not ascend to power within the ANC and the country.

Ramaphosa – despite having a prerogative to pick his own team – has largely inherited a Zuma Cabinet, rocked by scandals, corruption and involvement in state capture – appointing his opponents as ministers, including Dlamini-Zuma who is the current minister in the presidency.

Given Ramaphosa’s corruption-free background, stature, values and vision – a stark contrast to Zuma – it came as no surprise that when he was voted party president, the country rallied behind him.

Brian Sokutu.

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