Ramaphosa must act decisively to lance the Zuma boil on our nation
President Jacob Zuma always promised that he would not go quietly, dropping threats along the way that he knows of colleagues stealing and hinting at having the “dirt” on them. That may well be so, and Zuma must do his damnedest, as he no doubt will, to go out in the blaze of controversy that would be a fitting end to his ill-fated presidency. Call it irony or just mere coincidence, but today, February 11, marks 28 years since Nelson Mandela made the last steps on his long walk to freedom, walking out of Victor Verster prison as South Africa and the world watched. Would it be too much to expect of Zuma that he mark this historic day by announcing his resignation, and letting South Africa continue its own, interrupted, long walk to freedom? Probably.
But in any event, the show must go on, and the sooner Cyril Ramaphosa is given the keys to the presidency, the better.
Unfortunately for Ramaphosa, the past week has not reflected well on his command of the situation, and indeed the inexplicable delay in seeing off Zuma and the secrecy surrounding the talks, or negotiations, or whatever they are, have not engendered confidence.
Of course, Ramaphosa is drawing on a deep reservoir of goodwill from South Africans across the board, and no doubt our patient people will give him the benefit of the doubt — for now.
And when he does finally climb into the presidential saddle, Ramaphosa can rally the country behind him by making a few obvious yet badly needed steps.
First up is the cabinet. If Ramaphosa does, as reported on our pages today, appoint Lindiwe Sisulu as his deputy president, that will go some way towards rectifying the glaring gender imbalance in the ANC’s top structures that emerged from the party’s December elective conference. It will be a welcome appointment.
Second, Ramaphosa needs to excise from the cabinet the deadwood of Zuma loyalists whose presence there has long baffled dispassionate observers. The performance of some Zuma ultra-loyalists in particular has left a lot to be desired. Surely a Ramaphosa cabinet cannot find a place for the likes of Social Development
Minister Bathabile Dlamini, whose handling of the social-grants crisis has been nothing short of catastrophic and has earned a stern rebuke from the Constitutional Court. Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi should surely also be packing her bags after the mess she made at the communications ministry, and the poor example her jobs-for-pals tendencies have set for the public service.
And how long can Lynne Browne, the minister of public enterprises, survive? On her watch, state-owned entities such as Eskom and SAA have become liabilities, and the power utility, reeling from Gupta plunder, has become a danger to the whole economy. Ramaphosa has identified a clean-up of our state-owned entities as vital to re-energising the economy and restoring confidence. Brown is not the person to make that happen.
And Mosebenzi Zwane, the former Free State agriculture MEC who has been implicated in the Vrede dairy farm scandal, and who has become a one-man wrecking ball aimed at our once-vibrant mining sector, must surely now also face the chop.
Perhaps the cabinet is the easy part. More difficult, possibly, is handling the legal fallout that must inevitably follow the Gupta scandal. First up is putting NPA head Shaun Abrahams out to pasture, and bold steps to reinvigorate the entire law-enforcement sector.
It will take nerves of steel to navigate the tricky terrain that Zuma’s reluctant departure is throwing up. But only bold steps will allow South Africa to fully capitalise on the hope that Ramaphosa’s election has engendered in an exhausted nation.
Ramaphosa needs to excise the deadwood of Zuma loyalists