Mbeki's attack on Ramaphosa is a watershed

Douglas Gibson on the former ANC President's criticism of the current ANC President's failure to live up to his promises

Former President Thabo Mbeki is a highly respected figure among many South Africans and especially among ANC supporters. His recent unprecedented attack on President Ramaphosa came as a shock. This could be a watershed moment for Ramaphosa who seems to be working hard at alienating as many ANC activists as he can while switching off an increasing number of voters who looked to him as the best of a bad bunch within his party.

Many people thought any alternatives to him in the ANC line-up were too ghastly to contemplate and even when Ramaphoria had faded to a fond memory for most, they still backed him reluctantly because they saw no other way out of the mess South Africa has become under his leadership.

Mbeki excoriated Ramaphosa for making idle promises and then producing nothing concrete to show that he has implementable plans. Our president has failed to show that he is determined to fix the cost-of-living crisis, the crisis of crime, the energy crisis, the unemployment crisis, the education crisis, the governance crisis in state departments and state-owned enterprises, and the food crisis with so many of our children suffering mental and physical stunting because they do not have enough to eat. Mbeki also predicted that we could be heading for widespread rioting like the Arab Spring that brought revolution and profound changes to many countries.

Mbeki is not Carl Niehaus. He is also not Zweli Mkhize. Or Jacob Zuma. He is certainly not Ace Magashule or any of the numerous ANC leaders who face criminal trials for corruption, looting, and stealing the money that should have been spent on uplifting the poor. Whatever Mbeki's other failings were, when he was in charge South Africa's economy grew significantly and unemployment and hunger were far less than they are now.

The bonkers RET (Radical Economic Transformation) group who want to introduce socialist policies that have failed wherever they have been tried in the world would seem to be quite happy to follow the path of Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and other failed economies.

Mbeki does not belong to the RET group but it is highly significant that just as they are determined to rid South Africa of Ramaphosa, (that clown Niehaus even wants to expel him from the ANC) he has clearly and plainly expressed his loss of confidence in the president.

Mbeki does not say so, but the Phala Phala scandal and Ramaphosa's failure and refusal to explain it must have been about the last straw. People who are innocent of wrong-doing, or who have a reasonable explanation, generally do not have difficulty in putting the record straight.

People who are accused of wrong-doing and take advice to say nothing are generally regarded as being guilty. One hopes that the president will still give a reasonable and believable explanation of the whole sordid and pathetic-seeming affair.

The ANC has established a tradition: at some point, their party and MPs become tired of the incumbent president and turf him out. This is one of the strengths of the presidential election by parliament rather than directly by the public.

Mbeki was "recalled," Zuma was "recalled," and one suspects President Ramaphosa may face the same fate after only one term in office. If he wants to avoid it, Ramaphosa needs to listen to the overwhelming barrage of advice he receives from those who want only the best for South Africa. He has failed, but there is still time, just, for him to fix his presidency.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com.

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.