A wave of Cyril mania engulfed the country during the second half of January 2018 when it appeared that ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa (CR) was taking control of the ANC. He started to implement plans to create a more favourable image about South Africa by demonstrating that he was taking action against state capture and corruption.
The fact that he was able to announce a new Eskom Board prior to his departure for the World Economic Forum’s summit in Davos, Switzerland on 21 January 2018 was popularly received. This together with the action by the Hawks and NPA in connection with Vrede dairy project was interpreted that CR was taking steps against alleged wrongdoers.
While at Davos CR appeared to be well received with his campaign of “South Africa’s open for business” assuring partner governments, investors and finance institutions that South Africa is politically stable, that the country is improving governance of state-owned enterprises and that investment opportunities are plentiful.
It was never reported if he was asked questions about the expropriation of land without compensation or the disputed mining charter, the investment limiting Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill or the future of the Protection of State Information Bill – better known as the Secrecy Bill. Nor do we know what his answers were if these questions were asked.
However, since his return to South Africa the wheels seem to be falling off the bus and chaos is once again reigning supreme in the ANC and government. The ANC’s structures remain divided, Ace Magashule and Jessie Duarte are publicly supporting that Zuma must stay while the other four say he must go. Recently Duarte stated that “Jacob Zuma is here to stay”. The divisions in the NWC and NEC are equally stark.
While all these divisions in the ANC play out South Africa has to stand still. Of course Jacob Zuma has previously told us that “the ANC comes before South Africa” and the previous Secretary General of the ANC stated that “ANC members must only have an ANC conscience” when voting in parliament, once again the ANC comes before South Africa.
Currently CR is handling the “transition” arrangements so as that Zuma is not humiliated, unity is maintained in the ANC and finally that it is in the best interests of South Africa. But in these discussions the ANC is once again conflating the position of ‘party’ and ‘state’.
These negotiations are being carried out behind closed doors and the voters are being given the standard answer is that the “talks are on-going”. Gwede Mantashe’s latest pearls of wisdom are that people and the media must back off and allow the ANC to handle the situation their own way, and we must not expect a statement from CR soon.
CR seams to forget that he is dealing with the President of South Africa and not a normal ANC cadre; therefore we the voters have a right to know. It is irresponsible to negotiate in a dark smoke filled room with no communication and treating the voters like mushroom. The state of the nation address was postponed indefinitely with everyone trying to claim the credit, Zuma, the Speaker Baleka Mbete where in actual fact the credit should go to the 11 opposition parties who demanded the action in the first place.
As I write this the rumours are that the talks should be wound up this weekend, it is also rumoured that Zuma is making demands which he expects to be guaranteed before he resigns. The demands are said to include that government will pay all his legal fees, that his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma be appointed Deputy President of South Africa and that the state should supply security for him and his family. Security for him is part of any president’s retirement package but for the family is outrageous.
Demands such as these are tantamount to bribery, a criminal offense, and by entertaining these demands Ramaphosa is an accessory to the crime.
While the ANC and the government is in a state of paralysis one would expect to see the opposition parties making hay while the sun shines – but no, they too have their problems.
The DA with its ‘Mr Clean’ imagine has been grappling with the fast deteriorating organisational and image crisis in its heartland of the Western Cape.
The Patricia de Lille episode which started in October 2017 is far from resolved and is now taking on racial overtones. In the true liberal tradition the DA is following ‘due process’ and handling the whole case by the book. While it may be the right thing to do it is frustrating voters and particularly supporters It is now starting to appear that the party is deliberately stalling for time, a matter of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
The DA has also not covered itself in glory with their handling of the drought crisis in Cape Town. Much of this is linked to the de Lille saga and undoubtedly the Department of Water and Sanitation must carry their fair share of the blame the DA has let the ball slip and in so doing antagonised many people who voted for them, some for the first time in 2016.
Inevitably the old adage of kicking the man when he is on the ground comes into play, these days social media carries numerous posts of DA Councillors or public representatives not performing nor returning phone calls this is then propagated as the DA does not perform and they are like all politicians, just talk.
The DA rode on the crest of the wave after their last Federal Congress in May 2015 when Mmusi Maimane was elected party leader. Now it will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat when the next Federal Congress is held in April. It will be no good for the party to hold a well-choreographed slick PR rally attended mainly by public representatives and a few party activists. There are going to have to be clear and popular strategies adopted that will ensure that the average activist through their local branch is enthused and excited.
While the DA has its problems the EFF has its own problems. With the ANC having adopted many populist policies at their December congress such as expropriating property without compensation, nationalising the Reserve Bank and free tertiary education for poor and working class students the EFF policy platform has been eclipsed.
With no clear blue water dividing them from the ANC they have resorted to their high profile actions such as storming H&M stores across Johannesburg and Cape Town for their alleged racist advert. Party members have also demonstrated outside the Overvaal school in Vereeniging over 55 Black English speaking learners being denied entrance to this Afrikaans medium school. Here they have resorted to using racist slogans and singing “kill the boer” to attract publicity.
While these actions may gain them news headlines and provide sound bites they do not attract the average voter who wants a safe prosperous society where children can get a decent education and a proper job.
In my opinion the only opposition leader who has grown in stature is the UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, this, despite his association to the controversial Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani. The party however does not have the profile or resources to mount a creditable threat to the ANC in next year’s general election.
Up until recently many voters regarded it as a foregone conclusion that the ANC vote would drop below 50% in the election. Taking into account, particularly if CR can resolve the Zuma debacle, clear out his cabinet and ensure that a number of high profile criminal cases are in progress the ANC would win the election and possibly increase vote. Such a result would have dire consequences for both the DA and EFF.
The general election is scheduled to be held within 90 days of 7 May, it would not surprise me that if CR starts to deliver on his mandate and a wave of Cyril mania hits the country that he will enact Section 50 of the constitution and hold a general election late this year or early next year to capitalise on his honeymoon.
Considering the current position that South Africa finds itself in I wonder if the best solution would not be a government of national unity where everyone is encouraged to work together to put South Africa on the right road. There should be an agreement amongst the parties that no controversial constitutional changes are made but that everyone one works on growing the economy, reducing unemployment, fighting crime and eliminating corruption.
Is it worth a thought?
Cool heads, soul searching and hard work is what lies ahead for our politicians in 2018.
Until next time…….
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.