Ramaphosa’s care­ful egg dance

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE [email protected]­press.co.za

This year it is easy to speak about Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa in glow­ing terms. He has, in­deed, achieved a lot un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.

Ramaphosa worked hard to earn the pub­lic’s ad­mi­ra­tion. At the be­gin­ning of the year, he frog­marched for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma out of the Union Build­ings and the whole coun­try breathed a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief.

It did not mat­ter that dur­ing the pro­tracted episode, he demon­strated a bout of over­con­sul­ta­tion and in­de­ci­sive­ness, al­low­ing Zuma to take him on a merry-go-round and re­fus­ing to abide by the ANC’s de­ci­sion that he step down.

Ramapho­ria took off rel­a­tively smoothly and, when the pres­i­dent hit a bump, it came from peo­ple’s un­hap­pi­ness about his sup­port for the land ex­pro­pri­a­tion de­bate, the ris­ing petrol prices and in­creased value added tax.

Min­ing com­pa­nies com­pli­cated his life by threat­en­ing mass re­trench­ments. In Sep­tem­ber the coun­try was plunged into a tech­ni­cal re­ces­sion and he had to come up with an­swers fast, in­clud­ing the eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age and sum­mits for ev­ery­thing that mat­tered, es­pe­cially jobs and in­vest­ment.

As the cur­tains close on 2018, Ramaphosa could proudly claim un­der his belt fix­ing of state-owned en­ti­ties by ap­point­ing new hands, the ap­point­ment of the head of the Hawks and that of the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, the shake-up at the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) and ac­tion on state cap­ture. Some of Zuma’s dead­wood min­is­ters were shown the door.

What fas­ci­nated some in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape is how, in driv­ing all these mile­stones, Ramaphosa shrewdly shielded his min­is­ters from dirty­ing their hands to avoid claims of a po­lit­i­cal purge. For most In one of his most sig­nif­i­cant low­lights Ramaphosa back­tracked last month on a re­sponse he gave be­fore the Na­tional As­sem­bly over the in­fa­mous pay­ment from Bosasa CEO Gavin Wat­son, al­legedly for the ben­e­fit of his son, Andile

of the time he ran the show on his own with the help of ex­perts.

Re­ly­ing on ex­pert ad­vice to make tough po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions has been Ramaphosa’s modus operandi. In do­ing so any po­lit­i­cal back­lash could be pushed back by a claim that the de­ci­sion en­joyed le­git­i­macy be­cause it was pro­cessed by com­pe­tent and in­de­pen­dent peo­ple.

But po­lit­i­cal an­i­mals would protest that the out­comes of po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses are al­ways de­ter­mined even be­fore the process starts and that Ramaphosa is not as hands-off as he pre­tends to be. But how do you prove it?

We know Zuma’s modus operandi was to ap­point a litany of in­ter­min­is­te­rial task teams that made big de­ci­sions and were ac­count­able only to him be­cause Par­lia­ment is not al­lowed to re­ceive re­ports from such ad hoc struc­tures. As a re­sult Zuma man­aged to get away with a lot of con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions, such as the pur­ported ap­point­ment of an in­quiry into banks to fight the bat­tle of the Gup­tas.

Mov­ing to Sars, a school of thought deep in the Ramaphosa camp sug­gests the en­tity was al­ready cap­tured even be­fore Tom Moy­ane cap­tured it to serve Zuma’s agenda. These voices are closely watch­ing what next steps Ramaphosa will take to

heal Sars. Par­tic­u­larly, they are wary that it might be a re­sus­ci­ta­tion of the old cap­ture. And the fact that some of the peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the old cap­ture are play­ing a role in the Sars’ in­ter­ven­tion does not bode well for them.

In his most sig­nif­i­cant low­light Ramaphosa last month back­tracked on a re­sponse he gave be­fore the Na­tional As­sem­bly over a R500 000 pay­ment from Bosasa chief ex­ec­u­tive Gavin Wat­son, al­legedly for the ben­e­fit of his son, Andile.

The pay­ment was ac­tu­ally a do­na­tion to­wards his ANC pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which Ramaphosa said was made with­out his knowl­edge.

The ANC closed ranks around Ramaphosa and “ac­cepted” his cor­rec­tion, but many in the party would know that it sends a wrong mes­sage to the struc­tures that big money forms a part of elec­tion cam­paigns – re­gard­less of whether Ramaphosa knew.

The op­po­si­tion treated the Bosasa episode cau­tiously be­cause, if they pushed harder, the most im­me­di­ate ben­e­fi­ciary could be Deputy Pres­i­dent David Mabuza and many find him un­suit­able.

A re­cent murky chap­ter in Ramaphosa’s score­sheet is the short ap­point­ment and re­cusal of Brian Dames into the Eskom task team over claims of con­flict of in­ter­est. Dames is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of African Rain­bow En­ergy and Power, a cleanen­ergy in­vest­ment com­pany founded by Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law, Pa­trice Mot­sepe.

City Press learnt that Ramaphosa would have re­ceived the list of peo­ple to ap­point from the min­is­ters in charge, in this case, Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gordhan for state-owned en­ti­ties and Jeff Radebe as the en­ergy min­is­ter.

And, be­cause he does not pre­fer to frus­trate his min­is­ters un­nec­es­sar­ily, un­less the sit­u­a­tion re­ally calls for it, he might have in­no­cently ap­proved the list. But, for a shrewd busi­ness­man, Ramaphosa is ex­pected to spot a con­flict of in­ter­est in his sleep. So, how did the Dames’ is­sue fall through the cracks? If any­thing, it bol­sters the of­fen­sive that a new cap­ture is tak­ing shape around Ramaphosa.

Oth­ers say Ramaphosa’s re­la­tion­ship with Mot­sepe is so frosty that it could not come close to a cap­ture of any sort.

City Press has learnt that Ramaphosa had not even been men­tioned as part of the plans for the Global Ci­ti­zen Fes­ti­val that Mot­sepe hosted re­cently un­til some peo­ple started ask­ing ques­tions.

But what about his re­la­tion­ship with Radebe, who is mar­ried to an­other of Mot­sepe’s sis­ters? In­side Radebe’s of­fice there are al­ready sus­pi­cions that his chief in­ter­est was to sign the In­de­pen­dent Power Pro­ducer’s clean-en­ergy project and since then he is more in­ter­ested in run­ning his pol­icy of­fice in Luthuli House.

But Radebe, just like Ramaphosa and Mot­sepe, would prob­a­bly dis­agree with their op­po­nents that there is any form of new cap­ture or that they are in­volved as al­leged by the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers.

In the first half of next year Ramaphosa will have to work hard to get the ANC its “love back” from the vot­ers to start his first full term of pres­i­den­tial of­fice. He should not al­low all the nig­gling ques­tions from this year to fol­low him into the new year.

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