South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa: Mandela’s favoured son, Malema’s true target

By Ranjeni Munusamy 9 December 2015

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says he wants to revive a love affair – with the ANC, that is. In his first comments on the issue of leadership – a subject he has been careful to stay clear of – Ramaphosa said people’s love for the ANC needed to be revived. He also said ANC members should not be bullied into choosing their leaders. While Ramaphosa is the most obvious choice to be the next president, his campaign is in all sorts of trouble. He also has a powerful enemy on his case. Julius Malema is targeting what would have been the pinnacle of Ramaphosa’s achievements. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

At last! Cyril Ramaphosa has finally acknowledged that a leadership race in the ANC is on the go. It would be too much to expect for him to declare that he is in the race, what he would stand for if he were to be elected or to take a shot at his challenger, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose campaign seems to be falling in place around her.

Ramaphosa is staying within the confines of the ANC’s backward campaign rules – no declaration of ambition, no canvassing of support, no pronouncement of vision. Branches of the ANC vote for leaders based on their struggle credentials, who lobbies for them and sometimes on the basis of provincial loyalties and ethnicity. The ANC has modernised in many ways; the way it handles leadership succession is stuck in the time it operated in the underground.

Speaking at the launch of an ANC volunteer campaign in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape at the weekend, Ramaphosa said advised his party members to choose the leaders they want and not to be manipulated by others.

“Other people should not choose leaders for you. You should elect your own leaders because if other people do it for you by giving you a list, and say ‘this is the slate, sign’, you will vote for these people – do not agree to that.

“You are the ones who should say this is the leader we want. You [need to] scrutinise that leader in full, asking if this person is worthy of being a leader,” Ramaphosa was quoted by TimesLive.

In the context of next year’s local government elections, he could of course have been referring to ward candidates. But in light of the looming succession battle, and campaigning already underway, the double entendre cannot be overlooked.

Ramaphosa has always maintained that he did not want to engage in any contest for leadership in the ANC. When he was drawn back into active politics in 2012, ahead of the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung, he was given the assurance by supporters of President Jacob Zuma that they would back him to be the next ANC leader in 2017. That would have given him a defined support base to lead his campaign.

But after Ramaphosa helped the Zuma camp sweep to victory, the deal seemingly evaporated. As there is officially no succession race in the ANC yet, Ramaphosa cannot take to task those with whom he had the undertaking. Besides, it was a gentlemen’s agreement, and a foolish one at that. Ramaphosa must have realised by now that he has outgrown his usefulness to Zuma and his supporters, and they have now left him stranded. Some of them are openly campaigning for Dlamini-Zuma while others are floating the idea of a third term for Zuma.

So far, only Cosatu unions have spoken out in support of Ramaphosa as their candidate for president. ANC structures have not. The bloc forming around Dlamini-Zuma is widening and as she is outside government – and officially outside the country – she has the liberty to promote herself and the issues she will model her campaign on.

Ramaphosa is stuck reading the ANC and government script and has no room to manoeuvre. He is careful to praise Zuma every chance he gets, so as not to raise suspicions about his own ambitions.

But Ramaphosa also has a new problem.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema set his sights on him after the Marikana massacre, and kept the pressure that Ramaphosa should be held accountable for his role in the shooting of mineworkers by the police. The EFF taunts Ramaphosa as a “murderer” every chance they get. They have also laid charges against him, which Ramaphosa acknowledged is under investigation.

Over the past few weeks, Malema has opened a new point of contact: the compromises the ANC made during the negotiations to democracy and the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Yes this attack is aimed at the ANC generally. But let’s not forget who was the head of the ANC negotiating team and is credited for achieving a final settlement in the multiparty talks. After the 1994 elections, Ramaphosa was also the chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly that drafted South Africa’s Constitution.

You cannot throw stones at the compromises during the negotiations process or the constitutional guarantees such as property rights without them inflicting pain on Ramaphosa. It was Ramaphosa, not Mandela, who was responsible for the wording of the negotiated settlement and the Constitution.

But there is a reason why Mandela’s legacy is also being hammered. It is no secret that Ramaphosa was Mandela’s choice for president. Mandela saw qualities in Ramaphosa that he admired and he wished that he would be his successor. But the ANC had other plans.

When Ramaphosa’s campaign for president does take off the ground, the fact that he was Mandela’s favoured candidate will definitely be factored in. This endorsement is likely to win Ramaphosa favour inside and outside the ANC, as well as internationally.

But if Mandela is branded a sell-out, it would create doubt, especially amongst disenchanted and restless sections of the population, about his judgment of leadership qualities. And if Mandela is accused of capitulating to the will of white business, how much worse for the politician who spent 16 years in the embrace of capital, accumulating wealth, before returning to politics?

Malema has spent much of his time since becoming EFF leader targeting and taunting Zuma. Whoever is Zuma’s anointed candidate to succeed him will be tarred with the same brush. They will have to carry the burden of extending Zuma’s voyage of ruin, whether they in fact do so or not. But Ramaphosa has to be pounded down through a different strategy and that is exactly what Malema is setting up.

Speaking last year during the EFF’s first elective conference, Malema said Ramaphosa was worse than Zuma. “Cyril is a criminal of note… all he thinks about is making money.”

“The ANC will not change. If they move from Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa, do you think they will adopt the Freedom Charter?” Malema asked.

It is not an easy thing to chip away at the legacy of South Africa’s founding father and a beloved global icon. But Mandela appears to be a means to an end – discrediting Ramaphosa before his campaign even takes off.

Ramaphosa cannot hit back at Malema, although he did come to Mandela’s defence. Speaking at the Mthatha event, Ramaphosa said Mandela spent 27 years in prison because he refused to sell out the people of South Africa. “To those who are rubbishing his name, shame on you. He was the hero of our revolution.”

Ramaphosa also seems to be hoping to remind people about the ANC’s glory days, which he and Mandela were part of.

“Reclaim the ANC so that it becomes your ANC. That will help us eliminate the disease of selling votes and money for votes; it will end. The ANC of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela is not for sale,” Ramaphosa said. “Go to our people and remind them that the love affair that they had with the ANC must be revived. Even those who left us, we want them to love us again. We want [their] love back.”

But it will take more than love to win Ramaphosa the presidency. There are campaigns inside and outside the ANC to make sure he does not ascend to the top spot. The longer he lies low with no defence mechanism and no defined support bloc, the more his chances will be eroded.

If Ramaphosa is not careful, he could end up being the poor rich guy who had the presidency snatched from his grasp twice. DM

Photo: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking about the SoNA at the New Age Business Briefing breakfast at Grandwest in Cape Town. 18/06/2014 Kopano Tlape (GCIS)

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