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.
RAMAPHOSA’S DETRACTORS BELIEVE EVEN SUCH A MANDATE WOULD NOT ALTER THE DYNAMICS INSIDE THE ANC AND HE WOULD CONTINUE TO BE HAMPERED