PRO­FILE / Team Ramaphosa


Af­ter the ini­tial eu­pho­ria, crit­ics now say Cyril Ramaphosa does not have the foot sol­diers to gov­ern ef­fec­tively. In the face of pop­u­lar protests and fac­tion­al­ism in the ANC who can he count on to help re­build South Africa?

Past ANC lead­ers have quickly as­serted their author­ity. Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa – who prefers a more con­sul­ta­tive style – is hav­ing a rougher time. If he is to suc­ceed in fixing South Africa’s prob­lems, his key min­is­ters and of­fi­cials need to know that he has their backs

TThe early Septem­ber World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) was meant to be Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s big mo­ment: ad­dress­ing African peers and global busi­ness to ramp up the in­vest­ment drive so des­per­ately needed. South Africa had dif­fer­ent ideas: xeno­pho­bic at­tacks and protests against an up­surge of vi­o­lence to­wards women in the coun­try grabbed cen­tre stage.

“Where is the Pres­i­dent?” went up the cry. It took more than 24 hours to get a re­sponse from him. To many peo­ple’s sur­prise, Ramaphosa can­celled his WEF ad­dress and sent fi­nance min­is­ter Tito Mboweni in his stead. Pro­test­ers re­fused to sing the na­tional an­them, chant­ing “Enough is enough!” and singing the strug­gle song ‘Sen­zeni Na’? (‘What have we done?’).

‘Ramapho­ria’ – the term coined when Ramaphosa took of­fice in 2018 – was short­lived. Many saw in Ramaphosa’s back­ground as a union leader, busi­ness leader and con­sti­tu­tional ne­go­tia­tor (TAR107) the skills needed to turn the coun­try around quickly from the rot pro­moted un­der the lead­er­ship of for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

So who is in his cor­ner? Who are the women and men who are driv­ing his agenda? And when will they fi­nally be able to get to work?

Right now Ramaphosa’s cri­sis-man­age­ment teams have their jobs cut out for them. In late Au­gust, the CR17 scan­dal erupted about leaked emails from Ramaphosa’s cam­paign for the African Na­tional Congress (ANC) lead­er­ship in 2017. While the econ­omy con­vulses – with an all-time high un­em­ploy­ment rate of one in three peo­ple with­out a job and the mis­man­age­ment of paras­tatals like South African Air­ways and Eskom be­ing felt every day – South Africans got to see the millions of rand Ramaphosa had spent and re­ceived. Leaked bank state­ments

de­tailed do­na­tions from the prison ser­vices provider Bosasa (im­pli­cated in the state cap­ture probed by the Zondo Com­mis­sion) and pay­ments to a host of cab­i­net min­is­ters in­clud­ing Khum­budzo Nt­shavheni, Fik­ile Mbalula and deputy min­is­ter Zizi Kodwa. Ramaphosa had promised a “new dawn” but things quickly took on an air of busi­ness as usual.

These mo­ments also fuel in­tra-anc ri­val­ries, just at the mo­ment where Ramaphosa and his al­lies need to keep the gov­ern­ing party to­gether and en­sure that sec­re­tary gen­eral Ace Ma­gashule does not plan a move against him at the 2020 Na­tional Gen­eral Coun­cil. There is no doubt that Ramaphosa is un­der tremen­dous pres­sure, not only on the eco­nomic front but in pol­i­tics too.

Af­ter the CR17 cri­sis broke out, a con­fi­dent Ramaphosa ad­dressed par­lia­ment for his quar­terly ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion. Ramaphosa

was forth­right and to the point, an­swer­ing some hard ques­tions on the fund­ing scan­dal and on the state of the econ­omy. He said: “Un­em­ploy­ment is the sin­gle big­gest risk the coun­try is fac­ing – par­tic­u­larly amongst young peo­ple. Busi­nesses are now panel-beat­ing var­i­ous job pro­pos­als. We have to move much faster and quicker. It’s a na­tional chal­lenge. We all need to work to­gether to ad­dress it. It’s a ma­jor, ma­jor risk.”

Lis­ten­ing in­tently were key cab­i­net min­is­ters and al­lies like in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor, min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency Jack­son Mthembu and deputy min­is­ter for state se­cu­rity Zizi Kodwa. Com­pared to Zuma’s back­ers this may seem a thin crew.

Fac­tions run­ning deep

Through­out Ja­cob Zuma’s ten­ure as pres­i­dent, his sup­port­ers were a force to be reck­oned with. Even dur­ing his tes­ti­mony at the Zondo Com­mis­sion into state cap­ture, for­mer min­is­ters Malusi Gi­gaba, Des van Rooyen and Mosebenzi Zwane, and Umkhonto we Sizwe chair­per­son Kebby Maphat­soe, were there to back Zuma, to name but a few.

This im­bal­ance has led Ramaphosa crit­ics to say he lacks a strong con­stituency, which has made gov­ern­ing dif­fi­cult. For­mer ANC mem­ber of par­lia­ment and am­bas­sador to Ire­land Melanie Ver­wo­erd tells The Africa Re­port: “I do not buy that […]. What we know is fac­tion­al­ism is very deep, and I feel at times his sup­port­ers are less vo­cal than Ja­cob Zuma sup­port­ers. And I am not al­ways sure how they or­gan­ise the fight­back in the Ramaphosa camp, or whether they’re just fo­cus­ing on gov­ern­ing.”

For­mer se­nior Congress of South African Trade Unions ex­ec­u­tive Tony Ehren­re­ich is also fight­ing Ramaphosa’s cor­ner. “He is clearly the only one that can take the coun­try for­ward. No one else has the trust – half of the ANC is dis­cred­ited and fight­ing fac­tional bat­tles. He is the only one in the coun­try stand­ing be­tween us and a bailout from the IMF.”

Ehren­re­ich also cred­its Ramaphosa’s choice of team mem­bers. In the min­is­te­rial ap­point­ments an­nounced in May, Ramaphosa had a free hand on two choices, with the rest agreed on with the ANC lead­er­ship. He picked the GOOD party’s Pa­tri­cia de Lille to be pub­lic works min­is­ter (see box) and Ebrahim Pa­tel to be min­is­ter for trade and in­dus­try. Ehren­re­ich tells The Africa Re­port: “I have seen coun­tries go­ing to war be­cause of the ten­sions. And Ramaphosa is mea­sured. He has some good min­is­ters, like Ebrahim Pa­tel in trade and in­dus­try. There are clear plans and ac­tions […]. You have com­pe­tent peo­ple with no greed and the fo­cus is on peo­ple.”

The con­sen­sual style also jars with the po­lit­i­cal cul­ture of the past. The au­thor of Ramaphosa’s Turn, Ralph Mathekga, tells The Africa Re­port: “The ANC is a tra­di­tion­al­ist party – it thrives on author­ity. [Peo­ple] are ask­ing, where is the author­ity? [...] With CR, we have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to lead­er­ship. He might not be aware. He comes from the United Demo­cratic Front, the move­ment [where] no one knew who was the leader.”

Ramaphosa’s past is sig­nif­i­cant, of course, and will be for as long as the his gen­er­a­tion is still around. Un­like Zuma and many of Zuma’s sup­port­ers he was in ‘inzile’ – mo­bil­is­ing civil dis­obe­di­ence from within rather than plan­ning armed strug­gle from ex­ile. Many of Ramaphosa’s trusted al­lies share this his­tory – Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gord­han and Maria Ramos to name but three.

Par­lia­men­tary divi­sion

While in­tra-anc ri­val­ries are less vis­i­ble in cab­i­net, they are on dis­play in the ANC’S choice of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ma­gashule had a key role in ap­point­ing peo­ple like Zuma sup­porter Zwane, ousted North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and dis­graced com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Faith Muthambi. Mthembu used to be Ramaphosa’s en­forcer in par­lia­ment as chief whip. Now par­lia­men­tary speaker Thandi Modise has stepped into the en­forcer’s role, chal­leng­ing pub­lic pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane as she tar­gets Ramaphosa and his ap­pointees.

Zuma’s peo­ple are still a force to be reck­oned with at the grass­roots of the ANC. An ANC MP says: “Im­por­tantly, some [of Ramaphosa’s key peo­ple] are not rooted in their branches. This means they are not on the ground to hear what ANC branches are say­ing. If you do not do that, then there will be prob­lems.”

An­other se­nior ANC mem­ber adds: “We as ANC mem­bers feel CR is too re­liant on out­side opin­ions, es­pe­cially from busi­ness. This means he is not lis­ten­ing to what the rum­blings are within the ANC, and that means he does not have the foot sol­diers needed when he is at­tacked.”

It can some­times feel like Ramaphosa would rather not have the po­lit­i­cal fight, but would pre­fer to con­cen­trate on busi­ness. He reg­u­larly turns to his wider pool of friends from the busi­ness world for ad­vice and to help over­haul state-run in­sti­tu­tions. For­mer Absa head Maria Ramos and Smile Tele­coms chief ex­ec­u­tive Irene Charn­ley, who worked with Ramaphosa dur­ing his MTN days, have been brought in to the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s board

He reg­u­larly turns to friends from the busi­ness world for ad­vice

to over­see its clean-up af­ter the oust­ing of for­mer PIC chief ex­ec­u­tive Daniel Matjila.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Wil­liam Gumede says that white English-speak­ing busi­ness lead­ers like for­mer Bid­vest CEO Brian Joffe, Dis­cov­ery CEO Adrian Gore and Investec CEO Stephen Kos­eff are close to Ramaphosa. An in­sider who re­quested anonymity adds: “There is also so much ar­ro­gance in the pri­vate sec­tor. When I hear how they talk and around eco­nomic is­sues, they know they have the ear of the Pres­i­dent.”

Out­side of gov­ern­ment, politi­cian Roelf Meyer is one of Ramaphosa’s trusted ad­vis­ers. He keeps a low pro­file but when it comes to key pol­icy is­sues Ramaphosa calls on him – as with the land ex­pro­pri­a­tion de­bate, where Meyer was dis­patched to speak to key busi­ness and farm own­ers. Their re­la­tion­ship dates back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing of the con­sti­tu­tion in the 1990s.

Min­ing am­bi­gu­ity

Given his his­tory, Ramaphosa has deep con­nec­tions to the min­ing and en­ergy sec­tors. But James Mot­latsi, who came up with Ramaphosa in the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers, protests he does not have the pres­i­dent’s ear. “We have been work­ing to­gether since 1982,” he told ENCA. “We are friends, but I am not his adviser!” Mot­latsi over­saw the fundrais­ing for Ramaphosa’s elec­tion cam­paign.

Bil­lion­aire min­ing mag­nate Pa­trice Mot­sepe, how­ever, is close – he is Ramaphosa’s broth­erin-law. Eye­brows were raised when Mot­sepe was seen ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Pres­i­dent on an of­fi­cial trip to Saudi Arabia and the Mid­dle East. Also along for the ride was Jeff Radebe, a long-serv­ing min­is­ter and Ramaphosa con­fi­dant who is mar­ried to Brid­gette Radebe – the older sis­ter of Ramaphosa’s wife, Dr Tshepo Mot­sepe, and her­self ac­tive in the min­ing sec­tor.

Other than chal­lenges like fight­ing cor­rup­tion, turn­ing around ail­ing paras­tatals and im­prov­ing the econ­omy, Ramaphosa and his team have been slow to come up with de­tailed

Team CR has been slow to come up with de­tailed plans for change

plans about what they want to change in South Africa. With the first few big pro­grammes an­nounced, the re­cep­tion has not been very warm, even amongst fac­tions on Ramaphosa’s side.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Mboweni is a lynchpin of Ramaphosa’s eco­nomic team and came back into gov­ern­ment af­ter last be­ing Re­serve Bank gov­er­nor in 2009. While Julius Malema and the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers have been out­flank­ing the ANC on the left, Ramaphosa’s main eco­nomic team mem­bers favour ne­olib­eral eco­nom­ics.

Af­ter Mboweni’s Trea­sury pub­lished a frame­work for South Africa’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion in Septem­ber, the South African Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) – part of the gov­ern­ing tri­par­tite al­liance – came out guns blaz­ing for Mboweni. The SACP’S Blade Nz­i­mande panned the plan to the me­dia: “It’s a one-sided call for the poor and the work­ing class to make sac­ri­fices, with­out say­ing what sac­ri­fices it’s ex­pect­ing from the rich.”

The Mbeki crowd

Mathekga, the au­thor, says that he finds it very in­ter­est­ing how Ramaphosa has brought back a lot of peo­ple that were prom­i­nent un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki – him­self a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive – like Maria Ramos and for­mer Re­serve Bank gov­er­nor Gill Mar­cus to lead the PIC probe. “It’s very in­ter­est­ing who he has been bring­ing. [...] The prob­lem is that they were not as bad as JZ peo­ple, but when you bring them in you re­sus­ci­tate the old guard be­cause this is also mak­ing the Zuma peo­ple hard­ened.”

Not much is pub­licly known about Ramaphosa’s big ide­o­log­i­cal in­flu­ences. He has the reputation for be­ing a prag­ma­tist and a keen ne­go­tia­tor. Those who know him say that re­li­gion shaped his world­view at an early age. He is an avid reader and of­ten uses poetry – es­pe­cially from the gen­er­a­tion of strug­gle artists – in his pro­nounce­ments. He in­voked Hugh Masekela’s ‘Thuma Mina’ lyrics in his first ma­jor State of Na­tion ad­dress and ended it by quot­ing from a poem by Nige­rian writer Ben Okri: ‘Our fu­ture is greater than our past.’

Ramaphosa’s first term will be judged not so much by what he reads but by how he leads and how the teams he chooses are able to ad­dress the coun­try’s big­gest chal­lenges on the ground (see left). That means find­ing ways to at­tract the in­vest­ment needed to cre­ate jobs, pro­vide qual­ity and af­ford­able ed­u­ca­tion to the coun­try’s young peo­ple, keep the lights on and bal­ance the books so that the coun­try does not go into debt that it will strug­gle to pay off. Ramaphosa will have to play the long game if he wants to shift the dial, as weed­ing out cor­rup­tion and turn­ing around huge loss-mak­ing state-owned en­ter­prises take years of sus­tained ef­fort that can eas­ily be de­railed by the day-to-day news cy­cle

Surf­ing a wave of sup­port: Ramaphosa just be­fore the elec­tions in May 2019

Though sev­eral women have claimed that Ja­cob Zuma tried to rape them, it is on the watch of his suc­ces­sor Cyril Ramaphosa that women’s anger against a wider rape cul­ture has ex­ploded into street protests

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