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South Africa: Eskom tough nut to crack for President Cyril Ramaphosa

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Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA) Sea Point, Cape Town during early evening load shedding. There is no end in sight to Stage 6 load shedding, which has been implemented since Sunday, September 18, 2022.

By Sihle Mavuso

Modern South African history has taught us one thing – political scandals are not easy to bury, no matter how powerful you may be.

You can temporarily suppress them, but one way or another they will find a way to come back to bite you.

Ramaphosa and the Phala Phala ghost

One example of those scandals is Phala Phala, where it is alleged millions in US dollars were illegally stashed at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm at Phala Phala in the Limpopo province. Instead of reporting the matter to the police for investigation and possible recovery of the loot, Ramaphosa allegedly took an illegal route and abused state resources in the process.

It took the bravery of former South African spy boss, Arthur Fraser, to open a case with the police, thus also opening a can of worms on Ramaphosa who until then, was seen as “Mr Clean” by his backers.

Since then, Ramaphosa has been on the back foot, trying to deflect the scandal and weather the storm. He has tried to hide behind claims that law enforcement agencies are probing the matter and as such, he cannot publicly comment and be held accountable until they have completed their work.

However, all his effort to bury the scandal have came to nil as last week the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Maphisa-Ngqakula has announced a panel of three experts to look at whether there is a case for impeachment.

That completely changes the game for Ramaphosa and his backers.

But, it is still too early for detractors of Ramaphosa to celebrate the developments of the past week. The three-member panel is comprised of former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, Judge Thokozile Masipa and Richard Calland, a professor at the University of Cape Town.

Calland’s inclusion is a red flag since he is known for his support for Ramaphosa and his presidency. His inclusion in matters that are likely to seal the fate of Ramaphosa in power and possibly taint his political legacy for good, is bound to be met with suspicions – as is already the case in some quarters.

Another inclusion that is bound to set tongues wagging is that of Masipa, a judge whose known achievement was handing a lenient sentence to murderer Oscar Pistorious. The sentence was later increased by the Supreme Court of Appeal after the NPA decided to appeal following an outcry.

With Masipa on the panel, we may find someone who will fall for the lame argument that Ramaphosa should not be hauled before because the money that was stolen belonged to him.

They forget that the argument here was that the country deserves to know the source of the money, why it was not banked as dictated by the country’s banking laws and why the theft was not reported.

Expect more tricks and deflections this week as the scandal continues to haunt Ramaphosa.

ANC nominations: Mkhize’s bid and Gauteng’s slate

ANC NEC member Zweli Mkhize last week took his bid for party power a notch higher when he signalled his availability for the job once again after addressing a gathering in Durban.

His signal indicates that once again he will take on Ramaphosa and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for the party’s top job.

To clear the biggest hurdle before him as he bids for power, Mkhize took the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to task over its Digital Vibes report. He told the body to prove the allegations against him now or shut up.

It appears that Mkhize wants to use the remaining months driving a narrative that the SIU was used to eliminate him from the national cabinet and is now being used to contain his bid for power.

By the look of things, this week and in the few months to follow before the December conference of the ANC, Mkhize will be taking the battle to the court of the SIU.

The coming week is crucial as the biggest province of the ANC, KwaZulu-Natal, will start branch meetings to nominate their preferred leaders. This is crucial for Mkhize and Dlamini Zuma as that will show them how branches feel about them.

This is more crucial after the province of Gauteng has announced its slate where it wants Ramaphosa to be given a second term, with Paul Mashatile as the deputy president.

What was notable was the inclusion of Nomvula Mokonyane to take over the position of deputy secretary-general, a place left vacant after the death of Jessie Duarte. This now means that Mokonyane has completely turned her back on the RET grouping, which once saw her as their member.

These slates are not final as in the coming months we will see negotiations and the amalgamation of slates. As things stand now, KwaZulu-Natal will again not get any of its leaders in the national top six as the province is deeply divided.

The killing of councillors in KwaZulu

KwaZulu-Natal continues to be a bloody zone with many councillors killed in the past six months alone.

Just last week two councillors of the IFP and the ANC were killed, reviving fears that political killings could be now the order of the day.

What is even more suspicious is that most of these councillors killed are in hung municipalities like KwaMaphumulo where the ANC and the IFP are fighting for power.

In the coming weeks, we could see a spike in those killings after the EFF and the ANC agreed on a coalition pact that would see a change of power in 15 municipalities in the province.

Eskom’s load shedding – pressure on Gordhan and Ramaphosa

Over the weekend Eskom announced yet another unprecedented stage 6 of load-shedding, meaning that during almost half of the business day, consumers will be without power.

Pressure was piled on Ramaphosa, justifiably, with allegations that he failed to deal with the matter while he was still the chairperson of the war room set up under former President Jacob Zuma. He has also been lashed for failing to fire minister Pravin Gordhan for the disaster.

Gordhan is fingered for allegedly protecting Andre de Ruyter, the failing CEO of Eskom, under whose leadership the country has recorded the worse incidents of load shedding.

In the coming days, Eskom issue will be a political one and it has armed those who would like to see the back of Ramaphosa.

Mavuso is a journalist at and writes on current affairs in South Africa and parts of the SADC region.

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.