Survival of the iffiest

Andrew Donaldson says Ramaphosa has nothing to lose by cleaning house pronto


I WOKE on Thursday a little worse for wear and I must confess the first thought that entered my head was, Jeez, I’m already missing the bozo. Happily — and unlike the after effects of the previous evening’s rum and fermented thistle wort cocktails — this notion soon passed.

In fact, sobriety (of a sort) returned the moment we switched channels, here at the Mahogany Ridge, for the live broadcast from the National Assembly of Cyril Ramaphosa’s nomination for state president.

It was immediately apparent, even to the most befuddled among the regulars, that Accused Number One’s legacy was very much still with us. The tail of that particular jackal, you could say, was certainly long and thick.

Proceedings began with the usual fun and games. The Economic Freedom Fighters walked out in protest prior to Ramaphosa’s nomination, but not before Julius Malema had suitably riled up Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu with a jibe about “illiterates” in the ANC benches. 

The pugnacious Zulu was bellowing away across the floor at the departing EFF MPs when one of them turned and shot back at her with all the rosy cheer of an anthrax toddy, “Bye, Ginger!”

There was nothing new in this, of course. The EFF have been goading Ginger ever since they arrived in Parliament, but the thought did occur that oppositions MPs may soon be bidding farewell to quite a few other ministers, and in circumstances that could be quite bitter for elements of the ruling party.

True, it was a moderate and civil performance from Ramaphosa, who presented himself as a gracious and humble servant of “our people” in his comments to the National Assembly after his election. But there’s no denying he has inherited a gargantuan mess; fixing things, to put it bluntly, will inevitably require bloody and dirty toil.

There will be heads on spikes. Ministers will need axing.

Cheerio, then, public service and administration minister Faith Muthambi. Auf wiedershen, social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. Totsiens, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen.

So long, mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Au revoir, finance minister Malusi Gigaba. Hamba kahle, energy minister David Mahlobo. Ditto, public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. You too, state security minister Bongani Bongo … and we could be here for hours if we had to list all the dead wood walking in that captured cabinet.

There are those who suggest that Ramaphosa will have to tread carefully here, that he is in a difficult position as he first has to reconcile opposing factions within the ANC to unite the party behind him.  

But recent events suggest otherwise. Zupta Inc’s teeth have been pulled, the Nkandla-Saxonwold axis is broken, and allegiances have swiftly shifted. 

By the time this column is wrapping fish, the ranks of the Buffalo faction will have swollen considerably as scores of Zuma “loyalists” continue to jump ship. It’s not the fittest who survive here, just the craven and self-interested.

Ramaphosa, in other words, has nothing to lose by cleaning house pronto. And, of course, if the present mood of the country is any indication, he may even win back lost support for the party. It seems a no-brainer.

Which brings us to the week’s other fun: the arrests and ongoing investigation by the Hawks into the massive Estina dairy farm fraud. 

It’s taken a while, but the cows have finally come home and it really does appear as if our lust for revenge remains as healthy as ever. 

As I write, the manhunt for the former president’s son, Duduzani Zuma, is still underway. 

The boy has had quite a chequered career with the Guptas. They first employed him when his father was deputy president of the country. They summarily dismissed him when then President Thabo Mbeki sacked his father. According to some reports, they didn’t even give poor Duduzane taxi money. Then, when uBaba’s fortunes turned, they rehired him, throwing in a Dubai apartment as part of the deal. 

Now Ajay Gupta’s on the run, too. And what a terrific story this is turning out to be, the stuff of a cheap thriller: hopping from one safe house to the next all over Gauteng, heavily-armed bruiser goons in tow, always one step ahead of the Hawks.

Yesterday, Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told radio listeners that Ajay was still in the country despite earlier reports that he’d left almost two weeks ago on a flight to Dubai.

But I wonder if the authorities are still keeping an eye on OR Tambo International Airport. We hear unconfirmed reports that a heavily-jowled individual wearing a burqa has alarmed some passengers in the Emirates business class departure lounge. 

It was the moustache that reportedly raised their suspicions. That, and the heavy-duty black garbage bags that appear to be stuffed with cash.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.