Ramaphosa must act de­ci­sively to lance the Zuma boil on our na­tion

Sunday Times - - Opinion -

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

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