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No red-card likely for Ramaphosa despite Phala Phala own goal

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Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA) – Nomsa Maseko and Damian Zane of BBC News, wrote this week about how President Cyril Ramaphosa “came to power pledging to tackle corruption but has now been caught up in his own crisis”.

By Kim Heller

The latest storyline that South Africa cannot survive without either Ramaphosa or the ANC is the speak of a narcissistic, self-serving ruling party so out of touch with real-life that it believes that the fate of a nation revolves around its existence. Supporters of Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC have become increasingly desperate.

Over the last week the President and party saw a real-time drama unfold after the Section 89 independent panel report found that Cyril Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution and the country’s anti-corruption laws. The Phala Phala political scandal reverberated across South Africa and the globe. A royal embarrassment for the President, the party, and the people of South Africa.

Nomsa Maseko and Damian Zane of BBC News, wrote this week about how President Cyril Ramaphosa “came to power pledging to tackle corruption but has now been caught up in his own crisis”.

Ramaphosa’s predicament is of his own making. It is his calamity not the country’s crisis as some would want us to believe. Stories of how things will be dire for South Africa if Ramaphosa goes, is the talk of the day. We are being told that if he goes the country will be plunged into an abyss of deep corruption. Stellenbosch Professor, Jonathan Jansen, is one of those who seems to hold this view.

Jansen, posted on twitter last week that “If President Ramaphosa steps down, expect state capture on steroids”.

The far-fetched narrative that corruption will reach crazy heights if Ramaphosa goes, can only be told by those who have chosen to look away from the glaring corruption by many senior ANC government officials under the Ramaphosa administration, and who have closed their eyes to how state capture has not come to a close but simply been refashioned.

According to the ANC’s chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, if Ramaphosa steps down there will be chaos for both state and party and that his exit would damage the South African economy and currency. If Ramaphosa had renewed the party, lifted the countries prosperity level, and elevated the economy and currency, Mantashe’s posture would have some legs. But in the face of a dismal first term on all fronts by Ramaphosa, this is nothing but desperate spin and fear-mongering.

In sharp contrast to this perspective, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu argues that the removal of Ramaphosa will not cause any disarray for, in Shivambu’s eyes Ramaphosa is no longer fit to stay on as President. In Shivambu’s words, “We are not the Ramaphosa Republic, we are the Republic of South Africa. Ramaphosa is just occupying the role of President temporarily and when he violates the Constitution he must be removed from office. He is not a pillar of South Africa; he is not the heartbeat of South Africa.”

Last week, there were incredulous murmurs of Ramaphosa wanting to resign. But these cries, which sounded more like the first draft script of a rather wet behind the ears Trump apprentice, then the authentic talk of a President, were quick to fade. In a plot that is more set-aside than step-aside, the President has now decided to challenge the report finding and has filed papers to the Constitutional Court.

And his band of supporters are campaigning hard. The Ramaphosa-must-stay call is hardly a fight being fought on behalf of ordinary South Africans. Rather it is a desperate war-cry of those who are set to lose political and economic advantage if Ramaphosa is removed. Over the course of Ramaphosa’s first term, the lives of ordinary South Africans have not improved. If anything they have gotten worse under the reign of a President who seems royally removed from the everyday woes of the South African majority. More comfortable in an easy courtesy to British Queens and Princesses than in kneeling down, in forgiveness, before the widows of Marikana, Ramaphosa is no People’s President.

On the Phala Phala affair, Ramaphosa has a case to answer if his review is unsuccessful. In the end, he could face not only political impeachment but criminal charges. Even if he escapes both, which is the most likely scenario, his reputation would have taken a dreadful tumble. He has been tripped up by his own words and deeds. Whether he steps down or not, the tale of Ramaphosa as an upstanding corruption busting President is in tatters. Make-belief, as charming as it is, has a short-life span.

Carefully spun scripting went into crafting the story of Ramaphosa as a super-sized hero in whose hands South Africa would magically transform into a paradise of prosperity. Portrayed as a noble man of impeccable ethical standing, and elevated to leadership heights beyond his reach, a fall from such dizzy heights, was just a matter of time for Ramaphosa. True-life has a knack of bringing one down to size and right now, the stature of Ramaphosa is seriously diminished.

In his opinion piece in the Mail & Guardian newspaper, Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh writes that “when Ramaphosa assumed the presidency, doubts already circled regarding his ability to separate fortune from power”. “These doubts first arose through his involvement at Marikana, where his dual roles as a senior ANC politician and a mining non-executive director of Lonmin Platinum collided.”

Mpofu-Walsh continues, “the doubts deepened when Ramaphosa’s internal ANC campaign attracted stupendous sums from powerful business interests”. “Yet, on the wave of soaring public sentiment and a friendly media environment, Ramaphosa was able to dodge these doubts.”

He writes that now Ramaphosa has “lost the moral authority to wield the country’s apex office” and that “Ramaphosa’s resignation would do more for accountability than any of his attempts in office to reverse the ANC’s longstanding record of corruption”.

For now Ramaphosa is holding on to his crown for dear life. For a man who so delights in the world of royal chariots and kings and royal lavish, his fall from grace will be a tough blow for him. Less so for South Africa. If Ramaphosa is the best we have, we are in deep trouble. The notion of Ramaphosa’s exit causing chaos in the ANC and placing it in jeopardy for the election in 2024, also holds little merit. It speaks to a political party vested on personality rather than policy and ignores that ANC has long been a party in chaos, through its factionalism, poor service delivery, policy paralysis and engorged personal enrichment orientation. The ANC with or without Ramaphosa is likely to continue to struggle on the political field, it’s team in disarray, it’s leadership weak and without a real game plan.

In an editorial piece this week, news24’s editor in chief Adriaan Basson wrote that the new dawn; is over and that “South Africans should let go of the fear that, without Cyril Ramaphosa, our democracy will implode”. Basson writes: “It’s time to let go of the myth that, without Ramaphosa, our constitutional democracy will evaporate as fast as the German team from the Soccer World Cup.”

For now, Ramaphosa is still in the game. There is no red card for Ramaphosa despite the Phala Phala own goal.

Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’

This article was exclusively written for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.