ANC rift mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for pres­i­dent to take charge

The race towards Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa’s 100th day in of­fice next week has been com­plex and a mixed bag as he tries to har­monise prob­lems be­sieg­ing both the ANC and government

Sowetan - - Opinion - Nom­pumelelo Runji ■ Com­ment on Twit­ter @Nom­pumeleloRunj

As 2019 edges closer, there is an air of in­sta­bil­ity and un­cer­tainty about Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s abil­ity to hold things to­gether.

The out­come of the ANC’s 54th elec­tive con­fer­ence at the end of last year, which saw Ramaphosa take over as head of the gov­ern­ing party, elicited op­ti­mism both at home and abroad.

The eupho­ria was greater when Ramaphosa forced Ja­cob Zuma’s hand and left him lit­tle choice but to re­sign, al­low­ing him­self to rise to the high­est of­fice in the land.

This was a tri­umph that opened the door for “the new dawn”, as Ramaphosa has termed it – do­ing away with the rot en­trenched dur­ing Zuma’s ten­ure.

It has be­come clearer since then that Ramaphosa is merely an in­terim pres­i­dent and is hav­ing an up­hill bat­tle in gain­ing the con­fi­dence and ac­cep­tance of sig­nif­i­cant fac­tions in the party.

In­deed, those that op­pose him are not con­cerned about the fu­ture of the party but are more con­cerned about their nar­row in­ter­ests.

Given the his­tory of guar­an­teed elec­toral vic­to­ries for the ANC in pre­vi­ous gen­eral elec­tions, it has been gen­er­ally ac­cepted that Ramaphosa is the pres­i­dent-in-wait­ing.

But the odds head­ing towards the 2019 poll seem to point less to a guar­an­teed vic­tory for the ANC and for Ramaphosa.

This is likely to scut­tle Ramaphosa’s vi­sion and bid to clean up government and to place the coun­try on a dif­fer­ent de­vel­op­men­tal tra­jec­tory.

Given that the op­po­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly the DA, is en­gaged in its own messy in­ter­nal bat­tles, scor­ing own goals, the ANC should be us­ing the op­por­tu­nity to come out look­ing fo­cused, confident and com­pe­tent un­der its new lead­er­ship.

In­stead, there is a stand­off be­tween Ramaphosa and those in the party who op­pose him be­cause of the threat he poses to their for­tunes.

As things stand, Ramaphosa is con­stricted. He is in a weaker po­si­tion than his pre­de­ces­sor when he came to lead the party.

Noth­ing il­lus­trates this bet­ter than the sit­u­a­tion in North West and KwaZu­lu­Na­tal, where fac­tions sup­port­ing Zuma are dig­ging in their heels and openly pit­ting Ramaphosa against Zuma.

It’s a bat­tle that should have been left at Nas­rec, if they had any con­cern for the fu­ture of the party in 2019 and beyond.

The mes­sage to Ramaphosa is clear – he may have been elected the pres­i­dent of the ANC but he is not ev­ery­one’s pres­i­dent.

A ma­jor chal­lenge that Ramaphosa has to grap­ple with is a pre­de­ces­sor who re­fuses to step out of the lime­light and give him the space to lead.

Hav­ing re­treated to his base in Nkandla in KwaZu­lu­Na­tal, Zuma has opted against a quiet re­tire­ment. He has been seen at of­fi­cial party meet­ings and has been asked to ad­dress events.

His mes­sage is not one that in­spires con­fi­dence in the new lead­er­ship.

He has gone out of his way to hit back, claim­ing a po­lit­i­cal plot and con­spir­acy against him.

Zuma has con­tin­ued the re­frain that he does not know why he was forced out of of­fice and main­tains that those that pushed him out did so be­cause they are op­posed to his ef­forts to trans­form the coun­try’s econ­omy.

Zuma’s con­duct has the ef­fect of em­bold­en­ing other mem­bers and lead­ers of the party to un­der­mine Ramaphosa’s lead­er­ship.

It is deep­en­ing dis­unity and mak­ing Ramaphosa’s abil­ity to put to­gether a well-oiled elec­tion ma­chine an up­hill bat­tle.

More con­cern­ing for Ramaphosa is that it is jeop­ar­dis­ing his pres­i­dent-in­wait­ing sta­tus at a time when the coun­try needs the kind of lead­er­ship that prom­ises not only to re­turn to good gov­er­nance but to em­bark on build­ing the so­cial com­pacts needed to re­verse the racial po­lar­i­sa­tion that is over­tak­ing so­ci­ety.

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