Mr Thuma Mina win­ning over the ANC

One by one, the wily politi­cian ap­pears to be deal­ing with prob­lems and con­sol­i­dat­ing his po­si­tion

Mail & Guardian - - News - Niren Tolsi

Just two days af­ter Ja­cob Zuma’s ig­no­min­ious re­moval from the pres­i­den­tial of­fice, the newly elected “num­ber one”, Cyril Ramaphosa, stood up in Par­lia­ment to de­liver the State of the Na­tion ad­dress.

Quot­ing ex­ten­sively from Thuma Mina (Send Me), a song by the late, great Hugh Masekela, Ramaphosa ap­peared to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of a na­tion de­flated af­ter al­most a decade of mis­rule, and si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­voked a new spirit of ac­tivism among the cit­i­zenry.

The thuma mina campaign — dis­missed by po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts such as Ralph Mathekga as noth­ing more than an ANC elec­tion­eer­ing campaign with one eye on next year’s polls — was un­veiled this week.

Ramaphosa, who launched the campaign in Tem­bisa on May 18, still re­tains a mea­sure of good­will among South Africans, es­pe­cially among the mid­dle and busi­ness classes, and the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets con­tinue to be paci­fied by him and his back­ground as a busi­nessper­son.

The South African Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) is be­ing cleaned up, as are the state-owned en­ter­prises, which had be­come the per­sonal piggy banks of Zuma, his po­lit­i­cal al­lies and busi­ness friends such as the Gup­tas and their fam­i­lies.

In the three months since Ramaphosa took of­fice, he has demon­strated enough po­lit­i­cal will to sug­gest that Zuma syco­phants in the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity and other state in­sti­tu­tions will be weeded out to start re­build­ing the pub­lic ser­vice.

Those close to the pres­i­dent see “fix­ing Sars and the in­tel­li­gence ser­vice” and “gen­er­at­ing jobs while at­tract­ing in­vest­ment” as the keys to turn­ing the coun­try around and cre­at­ing a more equal so­ci­ety.

But the re­alpoli­tik of push­ing re­form within the ANC and gov­ern­ment, which Ramaphosa promised to do be­fore the party’s na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber last year, was al­ways go­ing to be sub­ject to the bal­ance of forces and fac­tions in the ANC.

That was clear, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing his slim mar­gin of vic­tory, the ANC’s top six be­ing split down the mid­dle and along fac­tional lines, and a na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) that re­tains some of Zuma’s klep­to­cratic cronies.

Ramaphosa in­sid­ers ac­knowl­edge this, as much as they re­alise that how de­ci­sively he deals with chal­lenges to his ANC pres­i­dency — from sub­ter­ranean issues in KwaZulu-Natal to out­right de­fi­ance in North West — will de­ter­mine whether his re­formist vi­sion suc­ceeds.

How well has the pres­i­dent fared in cor­ralling the ANC be­hind him?

Ramaphosa back­ers point to the swift­ness with which the ANC’s NEC moved to re­move Zuma from the coun­try’s pres­i­dency ear­lier this year as a sign that not all Zuma sup­port­ers in the NEC were com­pro­mised by the state cap­ture net­works and that they had been won over.

Some at­trib­uted this to the lengths Ramaphosa had gone to reach out to NEC mem­bers and con­vince them that “it’s not us against them”.

Zuma’s re­moval trig­gered a Cab­i­net reshuf­fle, which steered clear of a whole­sale purge. Although for­mer min­is­ters such as Mosebenzi Zwane and Faith Muthambi, who were bathed in the stench of pigsty trough feed­ing, were swiftly dis­missed, other Zuma sup­port­ers were re­tained.

Wily Ramaphosa de­ployed many pro-Zuma min­is­ters to port­fo­lios where ei­ther they or their pre­de­ces­sors had wreaked havoc in the name of state cap­ture. Then fi­nance min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, for ex­am­ple, was moved to home af­fairs and very quickly had to an­swer ques­tions about the Gupta mess he had cre­ated dur­ing his first stint there.

Batha­bile Dlamini, the pres­i­dent of the ANC Women’s League, was moved from the train wreck she had caused at so­cial de­vel­op­ment to the min­istry in the pres­i­dency re­spon­si­ble for women, chil­dren and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, a depart­ment with one of the small­est bud­gets in gov­ern­ment, to min­imise her na­palm­ing of ev­ery­thing around her.

In a stroke of strategic ge­nius, which went some way to­wards quash­ing any mur­murs of fac­tion­al­ism, Ramaphosa’s com­peti­tor for the ANC pres­i­dency, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was kept close — she was ap­pointed min­is­ter in the pres­i­dency in charge of plan­ning, eval­u­a­tion and mon­i­tor­ing.

One Ramaphosa in­sider de­scribed her de­ploy­ment as “in keep­ing with her sta­tus and abil­i­ties”, which it is. But the im­pres­sion that the gov­ern­ment was not ar­tic­u­lat­ing and fol­low­ing through on ANC pol­icy was strong at the party’s na­tional con­fer­ence in Nas­rec — and she will share the blame with Ramaphosa if the gov­ern­ment is not seen to be per­form­ing.

Dlamini-Zuma, as demon­strated by her lead­ing the in­ter­min­is­te­rial task team to re­solve the grow­ing cri­sis in North West, will also have to clean up the pro­vin­cial messes that are a con­se­quence of the self­ag­gran­dis­ing power net­works that en­trenched them­selves dur­ing the Zuma years.

The North West, where Premier Supra Mahumapelo, with the sup­port of his pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, re­fuses to leave of­fice, is Ramaphosa’s first big test — although it will be shared by the rest of the NEC.

As one Ramaphosa in­sider pointed out, the ANC’s na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee de­cided that Mahumapelo should go, and the Cab­i­net de­cided to place the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion, so his re­fusal to com­ply is a chal­lenge to both these in­sti­tu­tions and not just to Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa, his sup­port­ers in gov­ern­ment and the ANC say, is on a jour­ney to win over ANC struc­tures in the up­com­ing months.

What will cer­tainly as­sist him is the na­tional elec­tions next year. The ANC in­evitably unites and heals it­self in campaign years, es­pe­cially when the threat of a de­crease in elec­toral sup­port trans­lates into a loss of gov­ern­ment jobs.

In that sense, thuma mina will mean much more to ANC mem­bers, but quite pos­si­bly much less to the elec­torate.

Send us in: Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s thuma mina campaign kicked off in Tem­bisa on Fri­day. But will he man­age to cor­ral enough ANC sup­port­ers be­hind his unity campaign? Photo: Paul Botes

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