Cyril Ramaphosa probably best person to lead SA
There’s a lively debate under way in the media over support for Cyril Ramaphosa as the best person to lead SA over the next five to 10 years.
The current debate was sparked when former Business Day editor Peter Bruce – one of the most respected journalists in the country – endorsed Ramaphosa for next week’s election.
On cue, Douglas Gibson, a blue-blood Leonist (a reference to the ultra-conservative politics of former DA leader Tony Leon), came out fighting and criticised Bruce in rather strident terms. As may be expected, other DA politicians joined the chorus.
Last week, The Economist – probably the second most-important international publication on the global political economy (I am partial to the Financial Times) – endorsed Ramaphosa on its front page.
“Cyril Ramaphosa is the rainbow nation’s best bet, despite his rotten party. South Africans should back him,” read the headline.
The Economist explained, “Cyril Ramaphosa faces a daunting task [repairing his ‘rotten party’] if he wins South Africa’s election: He has brought the country back from the brink, but it is still teetering.”
Both main claims are factual. The task of restoring the ANC to former glories is daunting, and Ramaphosa has been quite central to bringing the country “back from the brink”.
This endorsement by The Economist provoked a powerful response from Western Cape premier and leading DA member Helen Zille.Zille went on the offence (on Twitter, as has become customary) with the statement that their endorsement of Ramaphosa will come back to haunt them.The problem with the DA’s response, besides the knee-jerk anti-ANC stuff which is their prerogative as the official opposition, is that they either don’t know, or they don’t fully understand the scope and the depth of the problems the country faces – with respect especially to state and institutional capture.Maybe they do, but believe that reciting an anodyne poem will dissolve structural iniquities.Nonetheless, based on his proximity to the ruling party, and his role as deputy chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) over five years – after which he became president of the ANC, Ramaphosa appears to have a very finely developed sense of what is “wrong” with the state, and its agencies and institutions. Based on sound evidence, I also believe that he has the courage to do what is necessary.At this point, I should probably disclose – if I have not previously done so – that I worked in the secretariat of the first incarnation of the NPC.I was appointed for purely professional reasons.I did not go to school with, I have no family ties, nor did I grow up in the same township as any of the politicians on the NPC.I am, for what it’s worth, not a member of any political party or association.I was never part of the “internal” faction of the ANC during the 1980s and early 1990s, and I cannot vote.With that out of the way, I will emphasise that Ramaphosa’s sense of what has to be done, is reflected in the actions he has taken over the past 18 months or so, to reverse some of the woeful placements and decisions made by the state, its agents and the extended cadre of loyalists deployed across society.There are officials across the state, its enterprises and agencies who are desperately unqualified to hold positions.Either that or they have been handed positions and privileges under shady terms and conditions.Others again have built small satrapies around them and keep docile bodies – people who are too scared of losing their jobs to actually disagree or show any independence – in place to shore up their own powers.Consider the ways in which former president Jacob Zuma forced out people who showed any integrity and independence, and put pliable people in place – only to ensure his own tenure.The objective now is to make those courageous decisions that are required to break up small circles of friends and cronies, and networks of undue privilege.I have every reason to believe that Ramaphosa will not prevent any decisive action in order to save his reputation or protect his image.He has shown, since the removal of Zuma last February, that doing the right thing requires courage – and the long view. Any review of the evidence of the past 12 to 18 months should confirm this.Besides the appointment of Shamila Batohi as National Prosecuting Authority head, we have seen the dismissal or departure of malcontents from the SABC, Sars and Eskom.You have to be blind or cruelly oppressed by your own ideologies not to accept that he has done more to bring the country “back from the brink” since last February, than anyone may thought possible towards the end of the Zuma presidency.Perhaps, then, Ramaphosa is the right person for what seems like an impossible task.He has shown doing the right thing requires courage..