Cyril, and me, and mag­i­cal think­ing

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - ● Bruce is a for­mer ed­i­tor of Busi­ness Day and the Fi­nan­cial Mail.

Ideas for this col­umn come from a va­ri­ety of sources. Some things you read, some you hear. The ones you hear are best be­cause you can lis­ten around to see if you hear the same again. Noone writes the same thing twice.

This hap­pened to me a few weeks ago in a pub in the Western Cape, and I made up my mind to write about it. I might as well have been putting a hun­gry fer­ret in my trousers, so alarm­ing and an­gry and ir­ri­ta­ble has been the re­sponse.

Mmusi Maimane has writ­ten three weekly news­let­ters about it. Julius Malema has in­sulted me about it. Long dron­ing let­ters have ap­peared about it in the Sun­day Times. Just a few days ago I was forced to block a Twit­ter mob from the DA who were at­tack­ing me about it.

What I wrote, based on my sam­ple of three, was sim­ply that it seemed to me that quite a few white males more or less my age (over, say, 57) might ac­tu­ally vote for the ANC in the up­com­ing elec­tion as a way of sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, the rea­son­ing be­ing that if he doesn’t get a ma­jor­ity his party would pos­si­bly force him into a coali­tion with the EFF.

It seems a rea­son­able as­sump­tion that many 57-yearold-plus white males would rather that didn’t hap­pen and our so­lu­tion may be to vote for Ramaphosa (and yes, sadly, his rot­ten party) so he gets close to 60% of the vote. Our rea­son­ing is that this might make it slightly less cer­tain that his party would block re­form at ev­ery turn and pos­si­bly even throw him out of of­fice early.

But no. It turns out this might be mag­i­cal think­ing, ac­cord­ing to a host of peo­ple and com­men­ta­tors, most of them dear friends. We Cyrilists have com­pletely for­got­ten all the forces ar­ranged against him. They will get him, and peo­ple like me who con­tinue to write and think this way are de­luded fools, syco­phants and dan­ger­ous to so­ci­ety.

But the more I read what a fool I am the more cer­tain I am that I’m right. Of course, we all make mis­takes. The DA got rid of He­len Zille as leader. What­ever you may think of her, turns out that was a big mis­take; the party is now un­led. And I’ve made some too, though I can’t re­mem­ber any.

But you have to keep re­mind­ing your­self where we are and what might have hap­pened had Ramaphosa not won the ANC lead­er­ship a lit­tle over a year ago. We have a bril­liant new na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions in the form of Shamila Ba­tohi, who di­rectly warned upon her ap­point­ment on Tues­day that she would make state cap­ture a pri­or­ity. Tom Moy­ane has gone from the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice and will soon be re­placed by some­one im­pres­sive, I have no doubt.

And the coun­try is be­ing run by some solid politi­cians — Ramaphosa, Pravin Gord­han, Tito Mboweni, Ebrahim Pa­tel and Lindiwe Sisulu are good for us. Do they make mis­takes? Of course, yes. And they’ll al­ways have an eye on an elec­tion or a party congress. That’s just life. Ask Theresa May.

The thing is, noth­ing’s per­fect and nor will it be. Not here. Not in the life­time of any­one read­ing this. But there is a bet­ter or a worse. It took a huge fight to win the ANC lead­er­ship vote.

Imag­ine any of the above hap­pen­ing had he lost last De­cem­ber. Ja­cob Zuma, by the way, would still be pres­i­dent to­day, not fac­ing trial for cor­rup­tion. There’d be no Zondo com­mis­sion into state cap­ture. No in­quiry into the rev­enue ser­vice, into the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion. We’d know noth­ing.

And yes, we get that Ramaphosa is trapped. By peo­ple, unions, loot­ers, by events, by an un­rav­el­ling econ­omy and by a moun­tain of debt. We know he was Zuma ’ s deputy while the loot­ing went wild. He stuck it out be­cause had he not he would not have been in a po­si­tion, now, to be­gin to set it right.

RW John­son, the his­to­rian too crudely ig­nored in his own coun­try, isn’t al­ways com­fort­able when I quote him on Ramaphosa, but he re­cently wrote that “the sad irony is that Ramaphosa is prob­a­bly the best pres­i­dent that the ANC has yet pro­duced. But he has taken power at a junc­ture when the cu­mu­la­tive mis­takes and squan­dered op­por­tu­ni­ties of ANC rule have not only be­come a crush­ing bur­den but have largely worn out the pa­tience and pub­lic sup­port on which the party has de­pended un­til now.”

De­press­ing but true. Ramaphosa is our least worst op­tion, the best man for the top job. If we are to have any hope of climb­ing out of the hole Zuma and the Gup­tas and the ANC gen­er­ally have dug for us, it is with him in the Union Build­ings.

The mar­kets will lis­ten to him and he has de­vel­oped a way of get­ting what he wants with­out spark­ing fac­tional bat­tles in the party. Those can only hurt him.

So things take a lit­tle longer? So what? They are hap­pen­ing. I reckon I’ll keep the fer­ret where it is for the mo­ment. It lets me know when some­one takes my name in vain.



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