“For every bad thing you pull out to criticise US action around the world,” he used to caution, “someone else will pull out something good that America has done to help others.”
There is no denying that Myron was correct, even though we know countries often act only to advance their own interests.
There are those who want us to focus our attention only on the good steps Ramaphosa has taken since taking the state presidency out of the clutches of his kleptocratic predecessor; the one whose name we shall not mention in this column, just this once.
A necessary pressure
No doubt, Ramaphosa has taken some good steps that he has already been praised enough for. But none of the steps he has taken, even though they’re good for South Africa, have posed any significant challenge to the party he leads. It almost seems South Africa has benefited only coincidentally from such steps.
I’m being unkind to the man, I know. But this is deliberate, because he needs the pressure from the rest of us in the media, civil society and other non-partisan formations – to keep looking him in the eyes and reminding him of the interests of our country. Those interests which most of us know, by now, do not always coincide with those of the party he leads.
It is no wonder that even now, after the Constitutional Court has finally announced its considered ruling on the National Director of Public Prosecutions, many comments from South Africans remain cautiously optimistic. Ramaphoria has worn off for many.
Instead of expressing unconditional excitement and optimism, many have taken to cautioning that they will hold their breath until they see who Ramaphosa will appoint as successor to the hopeless Shaun Abrahams.
While one understands that a prescribed process has to be followed, it is a pity that an acting NDPP must be appointed first, instead of a permanent one.
Understandably, questions abound as to what will happen next.
Hanging in the balance
Among all the unethical people with all sorts of showers hanging over their heads and a lot to fear, who will Ramaphosa consult before appointing the (permanent) NDPP?
A weak NDPP will play into the hands of the many people we all know still need to receive their special kinds of “Thuma Mina” visits from our law enforcement agencies, hopefully ahead of the next elections.
Would those who aided, abetted, and benefited from state capture – still in the Cabinet and top ANC leadership structures – feel safer without a permanent appointment, someone on the standard 10-year mandate who, we hope, might turn out to be like Advocate Vusi Pikoli or Professor Thuli Madonsela?
We know that what is good for the ANC is not always good for South Africa, and what is good for South Africa is not always good for the ANC, but that poor Ramaphosa has to serve both “gods”.
We also know, from the evidence thus far, that this is not an easy twin set of responsibilities for any one man to manage in the current South African political climate.
So, while Ramaphosa has to ensure that the party he leads stays more or less united, so that it can present a semblance of unity when it contests the 2019 elections, the rest of us owe it to our country to keep appealing to the good Ramaphosa.
He did, after all, help lead the making of our Constitution. If he helps keep the country’s heart beating, it might come to serve us well one day, and him.
Heads in the sand
We also owe it to ourselves and to our country to keep having the difficult conversations that, if ignored or badly managed, will lead to our collective downfall.
Such conversations include stories that some farmers have taken to moving farming equipment, out of a feared tsunamic path of Expropriation Without Compensation; that the planting of new crops is being delayed in parts of the country, for fear of farms being taken away by force; that weapons are being prepared for possible self-defence; that other investment decisions are being held back for the same reasons, including listings on the JSE, until fog begins to lift on the political and policy fronts.
Many either fail to connect the dots between these things and the economic well-being of our country, or simply feel better about themselves with their heads buried beneath the sand.
So, assuming that the Ramaphosa we had hoped would have awoken by now and turned into our knight in shining armour can still be revived – despite the shady characters that surround him – let’s keep a door open for him, while we continue to push back against the forces of evil threatening to rip our country apart.
Much is still at stake. This is the only South Africa we have.