Ramaphosa's chance and Maimane's crossroads (and snotklap)
The African National Congress (ANC) has no means of knowing whether the man who ran its recent election campaign, Fikile Mbalula, was wrong in claiming that without Cyril Ramaphosa the party would have garnered not 58% of the vote but 40%. This creates an opportunity for Mr Ramaphosa to shift power back from party headquarters at Luthuli House to the presidency and Parliament.
The ANC and its communist and trade union allies will no doubt be outraged, but there is little they can do if Mr Ramaphosa now (albeit belatedly) asserts the supremacy of the Constitution over his party. Since the end of the Mbeki era, South Africa has increasingly adopted the Soviet model of rule, making the institutions of government subordinate to those of the party.
This is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. Nor is there any obligation upon the president of the country to consult anyone at Luthuli House when he appoints his cabinet. The only constitutional requirement is that all except two ministers must be members of the National Assembly. The Constitution also stipulates that members of the cabinet are accountable to Parliament. There is no mention of party headquarters.
Despite this, power in the Zuma era shifted from government to party. President Ramaphosa needs to reclaim it. There is no better way to move decisively in this direction than to appoint a cabinet of his own choosing. Nor is there any better time to demonstrate who is boss than when he is fresh from his personal election triumph and with the secretary general of the ANC, Ace Magashule, hardly in a position to resist when he is presented with a fait accompli.
If Mr Ramaphosa won the election for his party, Mmusi Maimane has taken responsibility for the poor performance of the Democratic Alliance (DA), whose growth he has reversed. Some months ago this column criticised him for his mendacious attempts to defend his federal youth leader, Luyolo Mphithi, for race-baiting behaviour in Schweizer-Reneke, which helped to terrorise a white schoolteacher, Elana Barkhuizen.