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21 November 2017 19:35 (South Africa)
Opinionista Siya Khumalo

#CyrilRamaphosaLeaks: What we should do about it

  • Siya Khumalo
    Siya-Khumalo.jpg
    Siya Khumalo

    Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex. He is currently working on a book. Follow on @SKhumalo1987 

We should channel our discussions about those emails against the whole ANC’s chances of winning 2019 general elections. This way, even if the Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma faction wins the December elective conference, its choice to use Cyril Ramaphosa as a sacrificial lamb would have cost it more than it was willing to sacrifice along with him.

Assuming Cyril Ramaphosa’s emails were uncovered by an ANC faction to smear his name before the December elective conference, it won’t matter what the court of public opinion does with the information.

By December, Ramaphosa would have had a “scandal” to his name that would have “upset” “the public”. That will be excuse enough for the conference delegates to prefer Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over him.

This smear campaign’s purpose isn’t stirring the public against him. Even if people support him through this, a pro-Zuma ANC can still say his private life was such that it could be used to create unfair bias and sympathy towards him, pitting ANC against ANC. Heck, this invasion of Ramaphosa’s privacy could garner so much sympathy for him that the Dlamini-Zuma faction could intimate he caused it himself for the attention and to demonise the other side.

They’ll then argue that scandal that incurs public sympathy foreshadows scandal that incurs public outrage, tacitly admitting they gave Jacob Zuma a chance when people rallied around him during his scandals, only to find he was good for nothing but scandal. My point is they can reduce any conversation about those emails to “outrage”, Ramaphosa to a “moral liability” and the public’s reactions to “upset” regardless of those reactions’ tones, contents, natures, directions or general conclusions about the Ramaphosa affairs.

We should instead channel our discussions about those emails against the whole ANC’s chances of winning 2019 general elections. This way, even if the Dlamini-Zuma faction wins the December elective conference, its choice to use Ramaphosa as a sacrificial lamb would have cost it more than it was willing to sacrifice along with him.

Turning the tables like this would serve even people who want Ramaphosa to become national president in 2019. It would warn the Zuma faction to quit dirty tactics ahead of the December conference. This would force the ANC to contest the 2019 elections with a candidate who won the 2017 elective conference fairly, or not bother contesting national elections at all.

What a political faction is prepared to do for supremacy within its party foreshadows what it will do with the country. There’s a good chance the country will get an ANC president replete with the karma of however (s)he got there. And when political karma collects (as blackmail, as favours owed), it’s the country that pays.

Ensuring the ANC doesn’t get a leader who plays dirty may sound like helping it clean its act enough so it can rule until Jesus returns. But it’s just covering all the bases for all possible eventualities. If the ANC is beyond salvation, then leveraging its factions’ dirty tactics to work against the whole party is the fastest way to deepen its 2019 losses; if the ANC wins in 2019, we’d want to have leveraged its factions’ tactics in influencing its choice of leader. What covers all possibilities most shrewdly is our taking every ANC-led smear campaign against any of its members, and making them about the whole party.

In Ramaphosa’s case, that means exchanging the discussion on whether he used his status and wealth to prey on economically vulnerable young women for another discussion. This other discussion would encompass the role of the ANC-led government in letting the economic displacement of women grow to the extent that chauvinism developed both a symptom and a cause of its tribalism and indifference on economic inequality. That alternative discussion would centre the example set by the ANC’s current leader, President Jacob Zuma, and implicate the party through its choice to protect him in the motion of no confidence.

Pontificating on the details of what Cyril did or didn’t do makes us pawns in their game of scapegoating their opposing factions. But the narrative, “They’ve all been doing it anyway and they proved it on the 8th of August, 2017”, makes them one another’s albatrosses. This way, the ANC stops the dirty tricks or, if it’s beyond salvation, gets its factions’ smear campaigns used as ammunition in a larger discussion on its total depravity – 2019, gone.

Were the women Ramaphosa was supposedly associating with financially independent mistresses with true agency, or acquaintances whose studies he was paying for? Irrelevant: that discussion will be weaponised against him to Dlamini-Zuma’s favour in December, and the Zuma faction can go on to steal the ballot in 2019. The confusion on who these women really were in his life must be absorbed in a larger discussion on the ANC’s failure to secure black women’s participation in the economy. We wouldn’t need to ask whether these particular women were exceptions to the norm if the norm looked better.

Questions on if he took advantage of what circumstances must be secondary to what’s known about the typical South African woman’s economic situation’s structural origins in the ANC’s failure. We have the videos of Mduduzi Manana; we have none of Ramaphosa.

We must broaden the political discourse. If you agree with any of this, tweet me. Let’s talk about translating some of it for a newspaper in that town where the discussion is stagnant or dominated by one voice. Let’s talk about hosting seminars where we thrash thoughts about and ensure the free flow of information between now and the next general elections.

Let’s 2019. DM

  • Siya Khumalo
    Siya-Khumalo.jpg
    Siya Khumalo

    Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex. He is currently working on a book. Follow on @SKhumalo1987 

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