The ANC’s governance structures were designed to ensure collective leadership. This is why the Top Six meet every Monday, and why the National Working Committee should meet frequently between meetings of the much larger National Executive Committee.
Despite these requirements of the ANC Constitution, Zuma managed to have his own way when he wanted to. Fortunately, given the complex situation he has inherited, Ramaphosa has been able to take the initiative to make some vital pronouncements which depart significantly from previous positions. Indeed, given the make-up of the new Top Six his 13 January statement is a remarkable reformulation of what has gone before.
It is appropriate to ask therefore, whether the absolute imperative to sustain a united front will not stand in the way of promises of renewal which in effect mean the eradication of the wrongdoing so prevalent in the Zuma era. Will it also mean a return to connecting with the masses on real issues and not merely on rhetoric.
Ramaphosa is known as a clever tactician with safe hands who spent his first days as ANC president staking out his claim and thereby somewhat displacing Zuma from central stage. This was a clever move made within the accepted procedures of the ANC to establish the decisive power of the ANC vis a vis the state. It places Zuma’s future firmly in the hands of the ANC, undercutting any possible direct appeal to the masses Zuma may contemplate.
But Ramaphosa went a lot further than that. His repeated insistence on tackling corruption and collusion creates the correct environment for taking action on wrongdoing, State Capture and the like, without waiting for any commissions’ findings. What is unlawful can now be prosecuted and Ramaphosa, in his dual capacities as Deputy President of the country and president of the ANC, has plenty of authority to make it happen.
His proposals for renewal in the economy are also reasonable such as preferential procurement, promoting demand for locally manufactured goods, reducing manufacturing costs presumably by lower cost services by state agencies, insisting on greater competition in the market, and a possible social compact.
Ramaphosa’s insistence on returning to the traditional values of non-racialism is also a departure from the single-minded populism of black advancement arguing that the two positions are not necessarily in conflict. South Africa desperately needs this kind of sensitive balancing if we are to make any headway with social peace.
Ultimately, the test of Ramaphosa’s leadership will be in the actual measures he takes to instill discipline and order in ANC structures to stop the incessant squabbles about jobs and whether he can persuade his colleagues to remove dud personnel from state institutions including state enterprises even if they were Zuma appointees.
He will also have to deal with the tradition that the ANC deputy president, now David Mabuza, chairs the ANC Deployment Committee and the Political Committee overseeing Parliament.
All in all, a new situation faces all of us. It is incumbent that every organisation and institution pays close attention to developments in the ANC and the state and we do all we can to overcome the dreadful damage done to our country and society by corrupt elements, and to restore integrity in both private and public spheres. DM