Re­sound­ing win may not help Ramaphosa


Will an over­whelm­ing elec­toral man­date bol­ster Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s hand to ef­fect the kind of change SA and the ANC need?

It is log­i­cal that with re­sound­ing sup­port from the elec­torate, he should be able to di­rect gov­ern­ment pol­icy with a firmer hand and take charge, in con­trast to the “tran­si­tional” ap­proach wit­nessed since he took of­fice in Fe­bru­ary 2018.

A 61% or 62% vic­tory for the ANC in the up­com­ing elec­tion could have a huge im­pact both in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally for Ramaphosa — par­tic­u­larly after his nar­row in­tra­party win over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at Nas­rec in 2017.

There are two dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles on this ques­tion. Ramaphosa’s de­trac­tors be­lieve even such a man­date would not al­ter the dy­nam­ics in­side the ANC and he would con­tinue to be ham­pered by his slim vic­tory.

They say the “re­align­ment” would be­gin after the elec­tions and peak at the party’s next na­tional gen­eral coun­cil.

Ac­cord­ing to this view, the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) has more than 80 mem­bers and un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma the ma­jor­ity of these lead­ers had been ac­com­mo­dated ei­ther in the cab­i­net or as deputy min­is­ters. This en­abled Zuma to ex­er­cise al­most com­plete con­trol over the NEC.

Ramaphosa in­di­cated in his first state of the na­tion ad­dress that he would re­con­fig­ure the cab­i­net, in essence that it will be stream­lined. Work has been un­der way to en­sure this hap­pens after the 2019 polls, set to take place in May. The process to re­con­fig­ure the cab­i­net has been headed by Ramaphosa him­self, who has been work­ing with pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo.

In March 2017 the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive un­der Zuma stood at 74. This in­cluded 35 min­is­ters, 37 deputy min­is­ters, the pres­i­dent and the deputy pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions. If Ramaphosa cuts his cab­i­net down to 25 and elim­i­nates some deputy min­istries, a large num­ber of NEC mem­bers could find them­selves with­out posts.

A host of po­si­tions have been cre­ated in Luthuli House, but not enough to ac­com­mo­date all those who could be left out.

The ar­gu­ment goes that this is what led to the fall of for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki, whereas bloat­ing the cab­i­net by cre­at­ing more posts en­trenched Zuma’s power. He used cab­i­net posts in an elab­o­rate game of party chess to main­tain a steely grip on power. There were 14 re­con­sti­tuted na­tional ex­ec­u­tives from the time he took of­fice in 2009.

An­other fac­tor count­ing against Ramaphosa is his “con­sul­ta­tive” lead­er­ship style. The fact that he does not overtly as­sert his au­thor­ity could con­trib­ute to his down­fall, ac­cord­ing to his de­trac­tors.

The op­pos­ing view is that an over­whelm­ing win for Ramaphosa would reaf­firm his stance on the econ­omy, state cap­ture and cor­rup­tion, and strengthen his hand within the ANC. With a new man­date he would im­ple­ment new ways of grow­ing and trans­form­ing the econ­omy, and these are set to be re­vealed at the party’s man­i­festo launch on Satur­day.

Ramaphosa’s sup­port­ers say if so­ci­ety as a whole came on board, his hand would be strength­ened both in­side and out­side the ANC. This would be to SA’s ben­e­fit, as it is be­cause of his pop­u­lar­ity that the party has pulled back from the brink.

Ac­cord­ing to this per­spec­tive, there are other ways to ac­com­mo­date lead­ers of the ANC in the gov­ern­ment with­out hand­ing them cab­i­net posts. It is clear that the ques­tion whether Ramaphosa would have greater con­trol over the ANC after a re­sound­ing elec­toral vic­tory re­mains a com­plex one. But an in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment in the po­lit­i­cal space pro­vides some clar­ity. This is the man­ner in which the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Zuma era — think Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng and Mzwanele Manyi — have gone out of their way to weaken the ANC ahead of the elec­tions.

Zuma him­self has done so, whether in­ten­tion­ally or not, by his con­tin­ued pres­ence at NEC meet­ings, his at­tempt to hold a par­al­lel pro­gramme while cam­paign­ing in KwaZulu-Natal this week, and the video he re­leased that aligned him more with the views of the EFF than the ANC on land.

The EFF has jumped on the band­wagon with the Zuma group­ing, de­fend­ing the likes of axed SA Rev­enue Ser­vices boss Tom Moy­ane in his bat­tle with Ramaphosa. Many for­mer Dlamini-Zuma sup­port­ers have in­di­cated that they would vote for the EFF or Black First Land First after her loss at Nas­rec.

This shows that the pres­i­dent’s op­po­nents fear the po­ten­tial strength­en­ing of his hand in­side the ANC.

It is go­ing to be fas­ci­nat­ing to see which per­spec­tive proves cor­rect after the gen­eral elec­tions. It all boils down to whether in­di­vid­ual ANC lead­ers can keep their own am­bi­tions in check and put SA first for once.


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