The internecine war currently underway in and around the governing party affects us all. It no longer matters whether people voted to “strengthen Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa” or not, in 2019.

There was an opportunity, in May, to significantly reduce the governing party’s political grip over the affairs of our country and the power that comes with it, or to remove it from power. That opportunity has come and gone.

The next opportunities will come when we go to the polls again in 2021, for Local Government Elections, and for the next general elections in 2024.

Until then, and whether we like it or not, President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be the only hope we have. He, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and a few others who form part of their core team intent on saving South Africa from the state capture brigade.

Ramaphosa is by no means perfect and still owes us a number of answers; Gordhan is no angel either. But if we’re going to look for perfection in these challenging times, we risk throwing the good or, rather, the not-so-bad, out the window with the worst.

If not out of love for them, which we should caution against when it comes to politicians in any case, we should stand behind them for the sake of our country.

If they have done wrong, our increasingly emboldened institutions should – and will – see to it that they, too, get the loud knocks on their doors when the time comes; for no one, even the president, must be above the laws of our republic.

Until then, we’re reduced to choosing between them and the relentless state capture brigade that we know does not have the interests of South Africa and all its diverse people at heart.

Ongoing legal and political battles are pitting our president – who must lead the country as far away as possible from state capture – against the relentless criminal clutches of those who brought SA’s institutions and global reputation to their knees.

It is clear that the culprits have become too used to tasting blood, and they want more. It is also clear that they have everything to fear, should President Cyril Ramaphosa succeed in effectively removing their grip from our country’s institutions and ensuring that they never get to control them again.

At the heart of these internecine battles lie greed and fear of criminal accountability. But the clock is ticking more loudly by the week and they know it. If Ramaphosa loses the war, we all stand to lose, and ‘project rebuild’, as well as the country’s reputational recovery, will be even steeper to realise. A lot is at stake.

For understandable reasons, many South Africans – including countless traditional supporters of the once-glorious liberation movement – did not vote for the ANC in 2019. And it deserved their abandonment, because it has long moved away from the values and principles that once made it the only viable vehicle South Africa had for leaving a painful past behind and, watched by the whole world, becoming a new world democratic model for others to emulate.

As the older generation of liberation fighters died away, they were replaced by others – a handful of whom were old enough to have walked the road with Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Kathrada, Kasrils, Goldberg, and many others. Sadly, some members of the new generation became rent seekers and who, now we know, got into public office only for their own selfish ends.

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Not only did they betray the original ideals of the ANC in which they grew up, they also betrayed us all and turned our country into one whose representatives around the world, and ordinary South Africans travelling or living abroad, have to answer uncomfortable questions.

Going by the announced 2019 election results, however, most South Africans chose to stay with the devil they know.

Had that not happened, the ANC would possibly have been humbled a bit and made to look into the mirror and acknowledge what it has become. Instead, the rent seekers in its ranks have become emboldened, having read another electoral win – albeit weaker than before – as an endorsement of their ways and citizen approval for them to keep doing what they do.

The South African public cannot afford to watch helplessly. Civil society in all its formations; the media, including its investigative elements; whistle blowers and others, must remain vigilant and keep looking those in power in the eyes, pushing back against attempts to make sure South Africa remains just another African statistic.

We should never disappoint those, elsewhere on the continent, who still look to South Africa for democratic leadership. Their eyes are on us.