Why Ramaphosa can't save the ANC

Jack Bloom also questions description of ANC DP as a brilliant businessman


Cyril Ramaphosa's election as ANC Deputy President has aroused a lot of comment. He was chosen to bolster Jacob Zuma against the challenge by Kgalema Motlanthe. His admirers date back to when he was Secretary General of the National Union of Mineworkers.

He played an admirable role in negotiating the new constitution, then went into business after Thabo Mbeki became president. It's been quite a shift from militant unionist to billionaire businessman.

Many of his fans were shocked in April last year when he bid up to R19.5 million for a buffalo cow on auction. He's really an enigma as he plays his cards close to his chest so one never knows his real views.

He is certainly capable, but I disagree with a report that described him as a "brilliant businessman". What new product or service did he pioneer? The Shanduka Group which he founded has shareholdings in companies like MTN, Bidvest, Liberty Life, Standard Bank and Lonmin.

He is either non-executive director or chairman of at least 10 companies. It's hard to see how anyone could properly contribute in all these positions. As with former Gauteng Premier Tokyo Sexwale, he owes his board positions largely to political connectivity.

We saw this during the Marikana strike that led to 34 deaths by police shooting when he interacted directly with high-level ANC politicians. The real job-creating businessmen that I admire are people like Richard Maponya and Herman Mashaba.

They were successful even under apartheid, taking risks and succeeding by serving their customers' interests.

Maponya says: "The key to success in business is self-reliance. Everything I've done in business has created value and employment." He has called for Black Economic Empowerment to be scrapped as it encourages corruption and does not create value.

Government can best boost entrepreneurs like Maponya and Mashaba by cutting unnecessary red tape and regulations. Big businesses are not unhappy with costly regulations as they keep out smaller competitors.

To be "pro-business" is not the same as being "pro-market". Big business leaders often lobby government to rig the rules of the game in their favour. This includes subsidies, trade protection and incumbent-friendly regulations.

Pro-market people, on the other hand, want to bring down such barriers. Businessmen like Ramaphosa are comfortable with the iron triangle of big government, big business and big unions. But this is not what will unleash the entrepreneurs who will create the massive number of jobs we need.

It's not guaranteed that Ramaphosa will succeed Zuma as president, and more years of ANC drift will be difficult to reverse. His recent description of Zuma as "action man" shows great cynicism. If he continues to be Zuma's uncritical praise-singer his own reputation will sink rapidly.

The ANC famously defers to the collective when we desperately need visionary leadership. Its internal contradictions will worsen unless it can break free of its patronage and cadre deployment policies that cripple effective delivery. Ramaphosa will remain a compromised figure so long as he is unable to challenge this.

Real change will only happen when the ANC loses at the ballot box.

Jack Bloom MPL is DA Leader in the Gauteng Legislature. This article first appeared in The Citizen.

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