Karma gives CR a klap

William Saunderson-Meyer says the President’s pusillanimity has come back to bite him


Cyril Ramaphosa came into office widely touted as South Africa’s master strategist and its unrivalled conciliator. Five and a half years later both those reputations are deservedly in ruins. 

The country is on its knees as measured by almost any social or economic index. The fragility of our democracy is not only more evident, but the social cohesion necessary to sustain democracy has eroded alarmingly.

While no modern politician long survives the turbulent media-curated cycle of unrealistic expectations followed by angry disappointment, CR had a better chance than most. When he ousted the corrupt and useless Jacob Zuma he was hailed across the political spectrum. In effect, he had at his command a government of national unity. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

But he blew it completely. At every turn, he sacrificed the long-term interests of the nation to instead favour the narrow and often dishonest positions of the African National Congress. 

His primary mission, he has told us repeatedly since 2018 — and the nation should have taken him at his word —  was to keep the ANC united at all costs. So while it was Zuma who set the house alight, it was Ramaphosa who, focused solely on rescuing his party, failed to douse the flames. 

And it’s all been to no avail. He has sacrificed the country — desperate levels of unemployment; escalating violent crime; entrenched corruption; continued deployment of thieving and incompetent cadres; chilling legislation for expropriation without compensation; increased race quotas in business procurement and employment; and grandiose lunacies like the dismantling of private healthcare — but through his actions has also accelerated the decline of his party. In a deeply satisfying manifestation of cosmic karma, Ramaphosa has inadvertently and singlehandedly done more to destroy the ANC over half a dozen years than the combined efforts of all the opposition groupings have achieved in three decades.

The latest polls suggest that almost one in three of the ANC voters who gave him his governing mandate in 2019 will switch to another party in May. From commanding the loyalty of almost 70% of the electorate in 2004 (Thabo Mbeki’s second term) and 62% in 2014 (Zuma’s second term), the ANC has been rocked by three successive surveys that peg its support somewhere between the mid-30s and mid-40s. In KwaZulu-Natal, all three surveys have the ANC at a catastrophic 11%-13%. 

To add to the ignominy for Ramaphosa, and the tragedy for South Africa, it seems those abandoning the ANC will not be voting for any of the opposition parties that have even vaguely coherent plans for sorting out the mess. Instead, they will be voting for Zuma, with the four-month-old MKhonto weSizwe (MK) party estimated to be at 10%-15%.

This week, further compounding Ramaphosa’s undoubted anguish, the Electoral Court overturned the decision by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to remove Zuma from MK’s electoral list, asserting that his candidature was unlawful because of a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court. It rubs salt in the wounds inflicted on Ramaphosa just a week earlier by the same Electoral Court, which dismissed an ANC application to have the MK’s electoral registration declared unlawful.

The reasoning behind the Electoral Court decision has not yet been delivered. Given the time pressure, the IEC has however lodged an urgent appeal with the Constitutional Court.

The final spin of the tumblers needed to score an MK trifecta — which will bring much relief to its advocate, Dali Mpofu SC, who has an abysmal record in his many other appearances on behalf of Zuma, as well as for the Economic Freedom Fighters — is a judgment awaited in the Durban High Court. There the ANC argued that it held copyright on the MK name and symbols. 

Unfortunately for the ANC, it never registered a trademark on the name of its now disbanded armed wing, nor did it timeously object to the IEC’s registration of MK’s name and logo. Given this and the onerous burden that would be placed on MK, were it at this late stage be compelled to change its name and reprint and reissue all its posters and propaganda, the judicial odds are definitely in MK’s favour. There’s also the fact that the ANC in 2009 failed to prevent the breakaway COPE faction from using the name Congress of the People using the same arguments it is trotting out against MK. Namely that the name “belonged” to the ANC by dint of its struggle heritage.

The situation that the ANC finds itself in is not because of an unforeseen event, the political equivalent of the insurers’ Act of God. Rather, it results from the naïveté and lack of backbone of Ramaphosa in acting against the criminal elements in his party. In another act of cosmic karma, the pliancy of CR’s moral spine has led to him biting himself in the arse.

It is Ramaphosa who has done nothing to fast-track the prosecution of ANC bigwigs implicated by the Zondo judicial inquiry as having looted the state. Not only has he indulged, possibly quietly applauded, a moribund National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), but some of these looting scum are still in his Cabinet, as well as frothing at the top end of the ANC’s electoral list. 

It is Ramaphosa who repeatedly gave the monstrous Zuma and his Radical Economic Transformation (RET) cohort a second chance by always staying the fatal strike. By tacit complicity in Zuma’s medical parole — it’s simply not believable that the Correctional Services minister and hence Ramaphosa, was not forewarned — he has literally unshackled his own nemesis.

It is Ramaphosa who granted the conveniently timed nationwide remission of sentence that spared Zuma from having to go to jail when the parole was overturned judicially. It is Ramaphosa who tolerated the failure of the NPA to prosecute any of the RET ringleaders of the July 2021 insurrection in which at least 355 people died and R50-billion of infrastructural damage was done, further strengthening the Zuma faction’s sense of immunity.

And, for goodness sake, it’s the ANC of which Ramaphosa is the national leader, which bizarrely has suspended Zuma from the party, but has not yet dared to expel him. How useful for Zuma when, post-election, he makes a reverse takeover bid for the ANC which he once said would rule until Jesus returns. 

Unless the Rapture occurs over the next decade or so, Zuma may have it right. While very few commentators see the ANC surviving beyond the 2029 election, that could change should the soft-left ANC team up nationally with their hard-left offspring lurking in the basement.

The arithmetic is straightforward. Take the ANC’s predicted 35%-45%, add in 10%-15% for MK and 9%-16% for the EFF. Such a coalition would have at least a comfortable majority, around what Ramaphosa managed in 2019. With all cylinders firing, it could match Mbeki’s 2009 achievement of a two-thirds, Constitution-changing majority. 

In other words, the centre-right opposition parties may by exception win provinces singly, as the Democratic Alliance has done in the Western Cape. And conceivably they could collectively, through the Multi-Party Charter, win Gauteng and KZN provinces. However, despite 30 years of valiant effort, the centre-right bloc is as far from outright national victory as it ever was.

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