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Just how brightly will South Africa’s star shine under Ramaphosa?

May 17 2019 05:01
Solly Moeng

The ANC’s vote tally may have dropped to below 60% for the first time since the end of apartheid in a general election - and many will agree that this is deservedly the case - but it remains in the driving seat.

The party has been given another chance to prove itself willing to honestly and diligently serve the people of South Africa.

The material legacy of apartheid remains a massive yoke on our collective shoulders due to a decade lost under the leadership, for lack of a better word, of Ramaphosa’s wrecking-ball of a predecessor Jacob Zuma. And post-apartheid developmental obligations are mounting while we run around arguing over what could, should, or would have been.

If the ANC fails to clean up its act and remove the many rotten people from its leadership structures and our public institutions, we would have to be declared as suffering from an advanced cases of Stockholm syndrome if we fail to revolt when we again go and vote. 

Those who have been making strident calls for President Ramaphosa’s hand to be electorally strengthened - following a narrow December 2017 victory at Nasrec that has proven to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice - should be happy that he has now been strengthened. He can lead from the front without anyone making the excuse that he might be removed from office, or 'reshuffled', if he acts.

He’s now completed his political initiation and is the full Sheriff in town. He’s no longer an interim president having to walk on eggs when taking strolls through Luthuli House as he completes his predecessor's term.

All that is now in the past; at least it should be. After his inauguration on May 25 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Ramaphosa will be president for all South Africans in his own right, having earned the 2019 electoral victory.

The list of expectations from the broader South Africa population remains quite lengthy. Many understand that some things will require a little more time to accomplish, while others will be happy to allow him the customary 100-day honeymoon often accorded to newly elected leaders.

But time is the one commodity we’re running very short on. 

Low-hanging fruit

Were I in his reported "War Room", I would urge him to place all the low-hanging fruit from his campaign messages at the top of his five-year plan, and ensure that implementation is adequately resourced. His first words and actions will be closely watched by all, as they will confirm to us whether his political initiation has been a success or a damp squib.

The two most obvious telltales will be the Cabinet he will put together and the size of it.

The answers to these questions will inform many professional commentaries and analyses over the next few weeks, as well as many more unprofessional ones, by citizen journalists and others on social media. 

Even though we all know that the ANC was elected and not Ramaphosa, whatever faith remains is more in the man than in the party, whether Ace Magashule is ready to acknowledge it or not. This is Ramaphosa’s time to shape the legacy he will leave behind, and inform the content of future history books about his role; the chapter on the ANC is almost cast in stone…the last paragraph will be shaped by him.

As things stand, our world – and it certainly goes beyond our geographic – is wondering if Ramaphosa can be boss without Magashule’s permission. The latter seems to simply enjoy the thrill of contradicting whatever policy pronouncements Ramaphosa makes.

He has also made it quite clear that, in his view, the ANC’s electoral victory is no more due to Ramaphosa's appeal than hard work by the leadership collective. We all know he is wrong, of course.

We can be polite all we like about the strange relationship between the two men and we’d be wasting time our country can no longer afford. Magashule and whomever he speaks on behalf of when he makes his increasingly outrageous remarks, are bad for South Africa. They’re bad for Ramaphosa, and they’re certainly bad for the ANC if this party wants to start giving any semblance of unity - no, scratch that - self-correction. Unity cannot reasonably be achieved when there is more than one aggressive cock in a coop.     

The DA has a historic chance to regroup in the Western Cape, the only part of the country it still controls with a comfortable margin, and to ask itself some uncomfortable questions about what it wants to be known for and whom it wants to appeal to.

The strategy of trying to be everything to everyone has failed. Fearing that it has abandoned its liberal policies their interests while pursuing the black electorate it desperately needs in order to come anywhere close to beating the ANC, many of its traditional supporters left it for the safe comfort of the Freedom Front Plus.

This is probably a blessing in disguise for this party, but it mustn’t celebrate too loudly and risk burning bridges. At least some of those who left might yet return when they wake up to the reality that the future of South African politics is not on the extreme left and right fringes, but in the centre. 

The EFF might have grown significantly to 10% but, just like the DA, it has failed to dislodge a truly wounded ANC from power. Its future prospects also depend on how the initiated Ramaphosa will play his hand over the next five years.

Will he ensure that our institutions are strengthened again and given the leadership they deserve and the resources they will need to deliver on their mandates, some of which stands to help him clean up his own party without dirtying his hands? Will he stand up to be the president South Africa has not had for over ten years?

How brightly will South Africa’s sun shine under Ramaphosa?  

* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

,election 2019

cyril ramaphosa  |  politicians  |  elections 2019
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