South Africa

An open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa

By Bongani Mabusela 6 July 2017

When you are finally elected as ANC president I beg of you to stay above the fray and become magnanimous in victory... I beg you to keep an open mind and constantly reach out to your competitor in the spirit of fair competition. By BONGANI MABUSELA.

In the interest of saving you time, allow me to observe all protocols and ingene emxholweni (go straight to the matter at hand). From the comfort of my couch, I have come to believe that your race to succeed President Jacob Zuma has probably gathered enough momentum to decimate the putative challenge of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. For once, I am willing to suspend all doubt, quite irrationally it may turn out, and believe that bar some creative spreadsheet management of credentials, you have this thing in the bag.

For many of those who have tired of hearing the surname Zuma, this is one of the most positive things to happen to our body politic since 2007. You and your team are probably holding yourselves back from smiling at how easy it is turning out to be. After all, we have all been told about how you lacked a constituency in the ANC and how out of touch you had become with the core constituencies of the ANC, that being black folk – rural and urban – who continue to vote for the ANC despite the carnage wrought by President Zuma and his cohorts.

Pleased as I am about your seeming success, I must admit that I am pained by the probable loss of the talents of Dlamini-Zuma to the transformation project. Being non-aligned in the current bunfight, I would like to think I am objective enough to recognise that Dlamini-Zuma is a force for good in her own right and that her surname is probably an albatross around her candidature. I am also honest enough to admit that in all her time in government, Dlamini-Zuma has conducted herself with exemplary fortitude, using her formidable talents to build institutions imbued with their own character and resilience.

Looking at her time at the Department of Health, I marvel at the manner in which she was able to bring change to the debate on tobacco at a time when it was not popular to do so. I marvel at her strong push to make primary health care the core of our health policy. At the Department of Foreign Affairs (as it was known before the inexplicable name change in 2008), I can only be impressed by how she built a strong team of technocrats, led by the indisputably talented Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba as Director-General. Her time there is perhaps marked by the rise of South Africa’s stature in foreign policy debates and unwavering commitment to the betterment of the developing world, especially Africa and South Africa’s place therein. At Home Affairs, she once again built on processes instituted before her time and imposed her strong will to ensure that today there are many positive experiences of the department. I say nothing about naturalisation regimes post her term in the department.

Why the long story that you already know, you may ask. Well, quite simply, there are many people in this Republic who recognise Dlamini-Zuma’s commitment to the transformation of this country and the empowerment of the black child. There are many comrades (I use the word in its most vacuous sense) who find her current company distasteful, but recognise that she still has a lot to contribute to making our country “a better place for all who live in it”. You yourself may share the same sentiment. It is probably the hope of these and many others that the ANC will survive December 2017 when all is said and done. One can only hope that as you both criss-cross the country, you have created enough back channels to maintain cordial relations, dial things down when they get ugly and to put the interests of the party above your respective personal ambitions for the job of No 1. The unfortunate truth is that things will get ugly. They will do so because there are too many vested interests who have it all to defend. There are too many stomachs on the line who stand to lose their opportunity to feed at the trough when you become successful. Thus, “damn the torpedoes” is more likely than singing around a camp fire singing Khumbaya.

The tragedy of it all is that at the end of the elective conference, there is a very real danger that the winner will take all. That those around the losing candidate will want to press play on the nuclear option in defiance of the party faithful and choose to walk out with chunks of the party’s members to form other Congresses of the People and Economic Freedom Fighters is a very real possibility – that would be a pity. Not only would this denude the ANC further, it would also ensure that 2019 is a lost cause. It would put paid to the dreams of many an African child to have the party of their forebears continue the fight to empower the African child.

Thus, I beg of you to stay above the fray and become magnanimous in victory when it comes. I beg you to keep an open mind and constantly reach out to your competitor in the spirit of fair competition. I ask this of you because I suspect those in her current team may be too myopic to recognise that December can either be a momentum of renewal or a moment of calamity for the party. Actually, I ask this because those in her ranks may not even recognise that December is an opportunity for renewal, given their constant denial of the crisis we are in and their constant batting for corrupt personalities. DM

Bongani Mabusela is ANCYL Convenor for the Nelson Mandela Region, writing in his personal capacity as an activist for congress movements.

Photo: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC Policy Conference (Ihsaan Haffejee)

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