With his relatively scandal-free background and his deep experience in the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa edges Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – who can’t shake off ties to her ex-husband – as the better option to lead the movement, writes YONELA DIKO
It is the year 2017, the ANC and South Africa are in deep crisis which has cast considerable doubt on the ANC Leadership and credibility following the disastrous Presidency of Jacob Zuma. The ANC government today is seen as synonymous with corruption, unprofessionalism of the state, grand looting state-owned enterprises, violation of the constitution, disastrous governing project, regular reshuffles with dire economic consequences, sheer lies and hubris.
We find ourselves, as South Africa, in a state of the nation where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Young people are getting deeper and deeper into a state of despair due to lack of employment opportunities, women have never felt so vulnerable to predatory men, businesses are bleeding profits and jobs, unions have been losing ground and membership for a while now, and the country’s mood and disposition is in a permanent state of discontent.
Whilst this is the worst time for South Africa in the last 23 years of democratic dispensation; historically, these are exactly the conditions that give birth to great leaders. The reason is that there is clarity of what has gone wrong and therefore there are clear measurable deliverables that if met with great sense of urgency and efficiency, would make a great leader out of anyone who emerges as the next President.
The ANC Branches have put two choices before us. One ANC leader defines the ANC conference as a clear contest between radical economic transformation, led by the parasitic network that is using white monopoly capital as currency vs the renewal and clean governance team that wants to see the ANC taking a new upward trajectory. Cyril Ramaphosa is said to represent the latter. Is he the weapon to save the dynasty from a fearful demise?
The other side of the coin of the Zuma Presidency is that for the first time in our country, the whole population has woken up and become politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. The political devastation so publicised and so metastasised has made everyone politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are daily defining this country.
This political activism, largely through the ever growing social media and mainstream dialogue platforms is causing a surge in ordinary people’s quest for specific qualities from our leaders, personal dignity, respect for diversity and more importantly, a deeper understanding and appreciation for economic growth drivers and the role of the state as an enabler of economic activity in a country painfully scarred by memories of recent apartheid and imperial domination which still glares at us all over our beautiful country.
The perceived illegitimacy of the Zuma Administration – regardless of how you see the results of the 2007 polokwane election – for many people, Zuma was never viewed as the appropriate quality for the Presidency of the ANC. The 2007 conference was exceedingly controversial and would likely have been reversed in 2012 if not for extensive patronage and (former ANC Deputy President) Kgalema Motlanthe’s overall weakness as a presidential candidate.
Many people still viewed Zuma as a poor choice in 2007, and saw him as a candidate chosen simply to prevent Mbeki going for a third term. Zuma’s rather inept performance, coupled with the ANC NEC’s rather highhanded insistence that those who questioned Zuma were undermining the ANC, and the subsequent beneficiation of NEC members who could keep him in power meant that whoever ran against Zuma in 2012 had a steep hill to climb.
It’s now 2017, Jacob Zuma ideally cannot run for another term in the ANC unless he wants to put himself in the same position as Mbeki in 2007. However, he has a preferred successor, his ex-wife. Are these the right conditions for Ramaphosa to rise?
It is easy to say that Ramaphosa’s rise to the Presidency has been aided by all these things around Zuma, which if they hadn’t occurred would have made it difficult for him to ascend to the throne.
The difficulties involved in selling Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who happen as a presidential candidate – even with her stellar record as an efficient administrator – speaks to the evil by association scenario. Besides her being unable to exude personal warmth, it is her marriage to the President Zuma whose Presidency have been a monumental disaster that makes NDZ a very difficult candidate to sell. More so for any genuine supporters (the ones who have become zealous believers in radicalism) who are finding it a herculean task to sell her as the next President of the ANC after her husband. Perhaps a different candidate without all these attachments would have posed a much more serious threat to Ramaphosa.
He has a relatively stable background. His long-term marriage to a woman from a credible family, his children and the absence of damaging scandals have helped him as it is certain that if he were corrupt, an abuser or any sort of degenerate, the NDZ camp would have discovered this and used it to smear his name and his campaign. Even his extended family seems stable and do not pose a serious threat to his rise. It has become clear that the NDZ camp, particularly those who depend on her election to survive are ready to mine any scandal that might give them an edge.
Ramaphosa is also a well-educated man. He went to Ivy league schools and studied and taught in those institutions. There are no questions about his intellect, and his past leadership of the ANC as its Secretary-General and union leader gives him the credence he needs in a battle for authenticity and wholeness. Even his past gaffes are minor.
More critically, he is not in the pocket of any known political interests (except the silly accusations about white South Africans) and he was able to carefully navigate the turbulent waters of a racially divided country.
Is this enough for ANC delegates to elect him and is it enough for the country to pin its hopes on him? Given the low base that President Zuma has created, where he does not tick any of these boxes, Ramaphosa then becomes the candidate we should have had ten years ago.
The country does not need any grand programmes and vision, the ANC has those policies aplenty. The people are looking for personal erudition and integrity, things that ordinarily should come standard with any leader but have eluded us in the past ten years.
The ANC Conference will decide.
Diko is a media strategist and consultant