THE RISE OF CYRIL RAMATHUSIASM
Every time the deputy president speaks, his followers are gripped by excitement. But what is he really saying? Or is he leading by following? Is the tide more important than the principle?
Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech to the SA Communist Party conference last week sent the media into apoplexies of delight and affirmation. Headlines like “Cyril’s slam-dunk speech” and “Ramaphosa 2.0” soon followed.
In truth though, he said nothing new, he rarely does. It is just that the need to believe has many in its grip. Any excuse to see the definite in the ambiguous will do. And noone benefits more from this affliction than Ramaphosa.
Let’s call it Ramathusiasm.
“If you don’t vote, the boers will come back to control us,” Ramaphosa said in 2013. It was a revealing statement, now long forgotten. Part of Ramathusiasm is the conviction that he is a potential tonic for all the rampant demagoguery that defines the politics of Jacob Zuma and his ilk.
To believe that would be a mistake. He might demonstrate a little more self-control — but the base instinct to populism is there, just below the surface.
“You should really see this, when we go to Davos, we all wear our colourful scarves and there is no other country that has claimed that space like we have . . . wearing that scarf on [sic] itself just begins to make your message cohesive.” That was Ramaphosa earlier this year, in response to a parliamentary question. He was asked about how the ANC could best represent SA’S interests to investors when it was so fundamentally divided about ideas like radical economic transformation.
Ramathusiasts would have it he is a democrat, serious about accountability in a way Zuma isn’t. There is little evidence for this; he treats parliament with almost the same contempt the president does. The same kind of inanity marks his obfuscation.
“I for one will not remain quiet,” Ramaphosa said to the SACP, with reference to the Gupta family. The media lapped it up. His standard line on the subject is to call for a judicial commission of inquiry. It’s a clever piece of rhetoric allows him to appear decisive; simultaneously, vague enough to avoid any real confrontation with the powers that be. After all, Zuma himself says he supports such a call.
Ramathusiasm would have it that he is a bulwark against corruption and maladministration.
He isn’t Zuma; that much is true. But then he isn’t Eliot Ness either. He is complicit in the damage Zuma has wrought, and he has kept quiet about it all. And much more besides, going further back in time. On all the great modern tragedies — Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS, Eskom, Nkandla — there is no singular Ramaphosa school of principled thought or deed.
This appears to illustrate that he is not a man of action, but of words — and selective words at that. Ramathusiasts cannot tell the difference.
There is the idea of Cyril Ramaphosa and then there is Cyril Ramaphosa.
Never shall the two meet — outside of Ramathusiasm, that is. It is a religion
What it means: While Ramaphosa may not be Zuma, he is complicit in the damage Zuma has wrought