Little by little – Ramaphosa’s way


There are some expressions that are very particular to the South African vocabulary.Many have fallen into disuse, but I suspect we are going to have to dust some of them off because we will need them over the next five years of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenure.One that is popular in several of our languages comes to mind.In isiZulu, they say “kancane kancane”.In Afrikaans, they say “bietjie, bietjie maak meer”.They both mean “little by little”. They mean things being undertaken in small, incremental steps.These expressions, it is becoming clearer to me, are what encapsulate the Ramaphosa way.There will be no revolutionary change here.We may get to the hopedfor 6% economic growth.We may cut unemployment to 20% and perhaps even less, but it’s going to take time.It’s going to be “kancane kancane”.Ramaphosa’s cabinet, announced last week, should not have surprised those who follow his particular “kancane kancane” style of politics.In the pre-1994 elections he, together with the likes of Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki, realised that they could not deliver a revolution.They opted to concede certain points to the National Party and homeland leaders, and put faith in the fact that history is long and that in time those concessions will fall away. And so it has come to pass. In 2012, when he realised he had no chance of winning the ANC presidency from Jacob Zuma, he joined up with the kleptocrats so that, little by little, he can get to the centre of government and the ANC.At the December 2017 ANC conference at Nasrec, he made his move, but came away with a very narrow win.His “slate” suffered major setbacks, particularly in the battle for the top six positions of the party.Ace Magashule, a fervent Zuma lieutenant, won the secretary-general position.Ramaphosa’s supporters wanted a legal challenge to the top six result, particularly the position of secretary-general, which Senzo Mchunu lost by nine votes.Ramaphosa begged them to accept the result, saying that they should “protect the integrity of the conference”.He told them that with him and just a few of the other members of his camp who had won positions they had a toehold at the seat of power and they would use this, ultimately, to win.He said the meagre win they had “gives us a beachhead, a beachhead to be able to start the process of reinstilling the values of our movement in the ANC”.That is the key to Ramaphosa and his tenure.The country, the financial markets and everyone else should realise that this is how things will be for the next five years at least.Why? That is how long it will take to get rid of the Zuma detritus, little by little.That is how long it may take to turn the trade unions around to allowing some loosening of the labour market.So look at that cabinet announced last week.It is on all fronts an accommodationist, “kancane kancane” cabinet that tries to make small movements forward and yet not alienate or make any ANC faction too unhappy to walk out.He got rid of the favourites of the ANC Women’s League, Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane, but brought the number of women in cabinet to 50%.How can the ANC Women’s League complain?Many of us have been crying out for the axe to be put to Zuma’s massive cabinet.Ramaphosa merged some ministries in the economic cluster, named some new ministers and shuffled others sideways.Yet he wanted to accommodate some of the dead wood, and so we only went from 34 cabinet members to 28.We still have more ministers than India or Nigeria – countries that are far bigger in population sizes.Not a revolution there.“Bietjie bietjie”. Ramaphosa has spoken of capability to do the job.Ten out of 10 to him for picking Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan to the key finance and state-owned enterprises ministries.Yet, to put Thulas Nxesi, a key figure in the Nkandla scandal and a former leader of the quite frankly useless SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, in charge of employment is to insult the word itself.Then he appointed Ebrahim Patel to the trade and industry department.Patel is the complete antithesis of Mboweni and Gordhan.He thinks the state creates jobs.How he will work with Mboweni boggles the mind.Other aspects of the cabinet are the same: small moves forward (getting rid of some statecapture superstars while keeping the likes of David Mahlobo, for example) and some backwards.Expect no revolution here, folks.It is all ‘kancane kancane”.

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