South Africa

2018 South African Person of The Year

President Cyril Ramaphosa (and his team) – What a Difference 179 Votes Make

President Cyril Ramaphosa (Gallo)

South Africa swims in a sea of darkness right now. For the sake of the country’s survival, it’s crucial that there is at least one person who can see the light. For the first time in many years, that person happens to be the country’s president.

As I write this, it has been announced that the ANC President, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, will address the nation to wish all within it the happiest Christmas, while the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, will wish the nation the merriest New Year. This way, we get to hear HE JZ once more, and remind ourselves of how great an asset to the country he is/was.

It has been an interesting year indeed for our country. South Africa has slipped into what the Western Imperialist Powers describe as a “deep recession” after Nkosazana Zuma defeated Cyril Ramaphosa at Nasrec in December 2017.

The credit agencies, the ever happy slaves of global capitalism, immediately and repeatedly downgraded SA’s debt to junk, though at C (low) we’re still above the rock bottom D rating.

The twin-Zuma leadership, along with their government, tried their best to alleviate the worst effects of the recession imposed by the conspiracy of imperial powers. In April 2018, Ministers Tina Joemat-Pettersson and David Mahlobo worked extra-hard to make sure that the nuclear deal with Russia was signed in record time, at a record low price of R800-billion, give or take a few billion. The deal, they promised, would bring at least 5,000 new jobs to an employment-starved population, though “some of the job gains will be temporary” – as all jobs are.

Vicious media reports insisted that the deal was closer to R1-trillion, and that didn’t make sense in the age of improving renewable energy technology. But those were dealt with swiftly and efficiently by the Hawks’ now full-time chief, Berning Ntlemeza. Along with the newly-invigorated NPA boss, the indefatigable Shaun Abrahams, and his loyal comrades Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, the law and order back-line managed to submit the prosecuting dockets to the freshly-rebuilt courts under new Chief Justice John Hlophe, who replaced a suddenly exhausted Mogoeng Mogoeng in June this year. (He wanted to spend more time with his family.) It is expected that the three accused journalists will be sentenced quickly and with no prejudice — their guilt was clear for all to see, as was so clearly reported in the New Age, the SABC, and ANN7.

In a press briefing, held exclusively for the already mentioned high-quality media outlets, General Ntlemeza addressed the rumours that he has a far longer list of media personalities who would soon be arrested and charged with treason. After he insisted that the rumours were entirely untrue, 23 editors and journalists left South Africa in a hurry. In unrelated news, over the course of September, the ANC President, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, praised the SA print newspapers’ newly-found civility in a series of interviews with the New Age.

In more welcome news, the Gupta brothers’ Shiva Uranium mine was designated a main fuel source for the incoming nuclear power stations. The deal was announced at a low-key ceremony a few days after the Russian deal was signed; the appreciative audience was addressed by Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who praised the brothers and their incalculable service to South Africa, wishing them “many more years of good health and business acumen”. Asked how long do they think they will be doing business with the South African government, Ajay Gupta responded, “as long as is necessary”.

Another victorious Gupta-linked project, the McKinsey & Trillian-led consulting consortium, has finished its Eskom restructuring project in record time, for which they were rewarded with a full R9.4-billion payment. Such was the quality of their work that Minister Brown decided that McKinsey-Trillian is the winning combination for the entire State-owned Enterprises department. Transnet, Denel, SAA, and other SOE boards hailed minister Brown’s decision as “visionary” and “critical for SA’s future”. The short-term difficulties in the Eskom electricity production were defined as “mere teething problems — the energy production will soon be huge, we promise”.

In March 2018, just before the nuclear deal was signed, Faith Muthambi returned to her post of Communications Minister, in order to solve the SABC challenge once and for all. Just before the December break, she announced the strategic alliance between the State-broadcaster, the Independent Media and The New Age group, citing the lack of skills in the SABC and the abundance of them in the Gupta and Surve-led media. The alliance will be consulted by the MultiChoice leadership. In August, Muthambi lamented that the media “dissidents” have decided to take their “anti-revolutionary, racist anger” with them and continue to write terrible things about South Africa in their exile hidey-holes. She also said she considers them “unpatriotic” and “cowards”.

Social Development Minister, and still the ANC Women’s League boss, Bathabile Dlamini, thanked CPS for maintaining their “excellent levels service to the poorest of the poor”. She also paid tribute to the security services of South Africa for their “swift and precise action against the NGOs financed by the western capitalists and their destructive tendencies of spreading discord and fear amongst the previously mentioned poorest of the poor”. Dlamini had only the kindest words for Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s help in rounding up the activists, and for the Ntlemeza and Abrahams team in their dealings with the “horrible, lying media”. Dlamini saved her warmest words for the state security boss, Arthur Fraser, who managed to “wrest the dangerous rural situation out of the hands of foreign agents”.

Minister Gigaba’s steady hand was credited with the Rand staying above 26.5 against the US dollar. SA Treasury was hit by the repeated imperialist credit downgrades and Gigaba’s fiscal heroism was “the only thing between us and the abyss”, said Presidents Z&Z.

SARS made a “great contribution to SA’s fight against rampant western financial pressure”. Helmed by the commissioner Tom Moyane and his no 2, Jonas Makwakwa (their contracts were extended for another five years, and they graciously accepted to serve the country “into eternity”), SARS under-collected only by R160-billion, a “miracle in the prevailing global conditions”. Commissioner Moyane promised to strive for even better results, now that the Bain-led restructuring was finalised and the legal work by Hogan Lovell has established a firm framework of dealing with the leadership of the organisation…

The preamble of the 2018 SA person of the year story, Cyril Ramaphosa, could have been much, much longer. Thank you for indulging us. We felt that we needed to start by listing the events that did not happen, and remind us all of the really destructive characters who have either been purged, or have had their power severely downgraded. They could have done South Africa much more damage. We didn’t include Supra Mahumapelo, Nomvula Mokonyane, Des van Rooyen, Brian Molefe, Ben Ngubane, and many others. It will take years, if ever, to get their poisonous legacies behind us.

Before Nasrec 2017, South Africa was a country in deep trouble. Without Ramaphosa’s win, the situation would have almost certainly graduated to “desperate”.

South Africa is hurtling toward the general elections of 2019. It is not a happy place, our country. Many challenges face us. Tens of millions are unemployed, most of them young and with no discernible hope of their lives improving economically. Inter-racial relations are strained, often sacrificed at the altar of political agendas. Many political leaders advocate straight violence against other racial groups. The Eskom crisis appears almost unsolvable, at least in the short run, as is the case with the SABC, SAA and many others in that space.

Land reform is bound to cause even deeper rifts. It could, if not conducted expertly and transparently, end up in a near-open war in SA’s rural areas.

South Africa swims in a sea of darkness right now. For the sake of the country’s survival, it’s crucial that there is at least one person who can see the light. For the first time in many years, that person happens to be the country’s president.

In the year since he ascended to the top of the ANC’s hierarchy, Ramaphosa managed to effect great changes on South Africa, without resorting to violence or causing instability.

Many of the still-powerful opponents from the Zuma years were ground out of their positions through careful Cabinet shuffles. Some were removed either through speeding up of processes that were supposed to be started in Zuma years but had no visible beginning- or end-date, like the Zondo commission, or fired only after the safety net of independent inquiries was stretched between the Presidency and the offenders.

(In SARS commissioner Moyane’s case, it took two commissions of inquiry.)

Many were left to shoot themselves in the foot, like the hapless Malusi Gigaba, whose many misdeeds over the years finally caught up with him. Some, like Arthur Fraser, were shunted sideways, inhabiting positions in which they can be less dangerous. Ramaphosa’s political opponents, like Mahumapelo, were left to the ANC’s NEC to deal with – it took longer than many hoped, but he was out of North West, eventually.

In achieving this, Ramaphosa was crucially helped by the team of ministers and experts, like Pravin Gordhan, who dealt with the systemic threat of a mess called SOEs; Gwede Mantashe, who finally managed to finish the Mining Charter after the chaos left in the wake of Zwane; Tito Mboweni, who stepped into the void after the first Ramaphosa-era scandal that saw Nhlanhla Nene axed (his wild tweets notwithstanding); Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago; and Treasury Deputy Director-General Ismail Momoniat, along with many more.

Ramaphosa’s critics may have forgotten, but this is the first time that, through media and bodies like Zondo commission, we have ever had an opportunity to truly assess the sheer magnitude of State Capture under Zuma, and the scale of the damage — material, emotional and spiritual — that was inflicted upon us all.

Even as the country’s punting class spent a year baying for blood and criticising Ramaphosa for not executing a proper political “night of the long knives”, in the real world it was just not a realistic solution. His Nasrec victory margin was too narrow for comfort, and Ramaphosa doesn’t have the luxury, or the space, for mistakes. Neither does South Africa.

One should not forget that Ramaphosa is a cunning politician too. His national brief may be to help reclaim our future, but Ramaphosa the Politician’s brief is to win the 2019 elections. There are certainly pacts with the devil that will be made. The provincial ANC organisations are mired in corruption and legendary levels of non-delivery, but without them, Ramaphosa the Politician’s chances of claiming his own mandate are seriously diminished. What will that price be? No one knows the response to that question yet.

While he is the country’s most popular political figure by far, there are many disconcerting issues that may also come to bite both Ramaphosa and his party soon. The Bosasa investigations, uncertainty over the land reform, the precarious balance of power within the ANC, and the still little-understood deal with the deputy president David Mabuza, as well as his mysterious trips to Russia, are but a few of issues can come back to turn Ramaphosa’s support into mush.

The truth is, his proposed campaigns will take years to implement, if ever. Asking people to listen to their better angels is great, but it will have to be accompanied by big victories, and soon.

For now, South Africa at least has a fighting chance to own its future – the polar opposite of where it was a year ago. What a difference 179 votes made. DM


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