There has been an avalanche of positive hype emanating from several gatherings addressed by President Ramaphosa in recent weeks: the investment summit, the jobs summit, the Discovery Leadership Summit, several walks in communities across the country to address issues of crime, women and children’s rights, as well as the influential company he keeps in the likes of former US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, former US Secretary of State and presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton, etc.
In other words, people who’d probably not want to be seen in the company of Zuma if they could avoid it. In view of this, one could be persuaded that South Africa is finally on the mend following almost ten years of destruction under Zuma, his people and the ANC.
But is it really?
South Africans have been hungry for some good news emanating from government and politicians for a long time. They have been emotionally battered, racially abused, socially polarised and, in many poor communities across the country, selfishly deprived of crucial services because the money that could have paid for such services was stolen, used for other things, discouraged from being paid to SARS for fear instilled in some taxpayers that their contributions would only benefit political thieves and their enablers in the private sector, or simply allowed to get away with not being paid into the tax system by politically connected tax dodgers who managed to extract lucrative favours from state capture enablers.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, like his predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, has been doing what he does best, spending time in front of media microphones and television cameras, relating success stories of arrests of common criminals – for a whole basket of unlawful activities, none of which, conveniently, involve politically connected criminals in VBS, state capture, the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves, and other forms of theft from the people of South Africa in recent times.
If Cele hates crime so much, why is he quiet on these crimes of massive proportion against South Africa?
Caution, more pre-electoral sweeteners ahead
In addition, laudable attempts are underway to restore a semblance of order in key state institutions, especially SARS – arguably the most important of them all – following the firing of its former wrecking ball of a commissioner, Tom Moyane.
With one eye on the 2019 general elections, the ANC at national level is most likely to fall in line with its Gauteng provincial leadership when it comes to the fate of e-tolls in that province; at least until after the elections.
And, if the governing party is to avoid the wrath of its trade union alliance partners, it is unlikely to reduce the bloated civil service before the elections. All of these are great pre-electoral sweeteners that will please some people some of the time; but not all the people all the time.
Charm or vigilance?
South Africans are left with two options. The first is to focus exclusively on the positive moves Ramaphosa has been able to make in what many agree is a politically tight environment – wherein he continues to be surrounded by comrades who would have a lot to lose if criminal investigations were to focus on what they have been up to, over the past ten years.
The second option – which I advise – is to acknowledge Ramaphosa’s achievements but to keep insisting on more, mindful that we’re not safe while the people responsible for a lot of what happened continue to roam our country’s corridors of power, at party and government levels. They do, after all, influence key government decisions.
Some of them even have to sit it in high-level meetings where Ramaphosa needs to discuss strategies to deal effectively with them; poor president!
An irreversible clean-up is still needed
While it is fine to fall in love with Ramaphosa’s leadership style, as many have, we should never forget that we do not vote for individuals, in South Africa. We vote for political parties. Ramaphosa is therefore quite possibly an inadvertent front and Trojan Horse for a party filled with corruption, arrogance and impunity.
In the best of worlds, he’d probably stand a much better chance winning the hearts of South Africans if he were to break up from the ANC and present a brand-new political offering to South Africans. There is sufficient hunger for it out there. But we know that is unlikely to happen.
While the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture continues to do its work, and in the absence of life on the part of the criminal justice system regarding the people who aided, abetted and benefitted from state capture, it is in our interest to remain vigilant. Ramaphosa needs to be appreciated and to be encouraged to keep going, no doubt; but he must also be reminded that he’s asking too much of South Africans when he expects us – on the basis of the laudable path he has embarked upon – to prepare to vote for a political party that may well be using him as the front it needs in order to get five more years in power.
He cannot play police commissioner, Hawks’ Head or NDPP, but he can make it clear in the beautiful way only he can that, as president of South Africa and Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, he would be delighted to see action being taken against the many in and around the party he leads who have criminally wronged our country.
If he can hand his own son in for arrest should he commit a crime, he should be able to do the same to his corruption- and state capture-implicated comrades.
Many men and women of good standing in our criminal justice system – yes, they still exist – are waiting for an unambiguous signal from Ramaphosa that there will be no negative political ramifications for them if they start acting on their mandates.
Ramaphosa is very unlikely to save the ANC from its self-inflicted wounds; he stands a better chance to save South Africa from the ANC if he makes the right choices. The question is, will he?