Defend Truth


Where are we heading? What is the game plan?


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

A succinct look at the ANC parliamentary list suggests that some kind of deal must have been concluded between CR, the President of the ANC and Ace, the secretary-general. You get to decide who the party includes on the list to Parliament, Comrade Ace, and I in return have carte blanche about putting my Cabinet together post the election.

If this hypothesis holds, then the question must be what is the game plan?

But I suspect there is no such deal, and I’m saying so because it would have been a bad deal for the President. He knows that he’s engaged in a battle for control. The list as it stands clearly tells us that President Ramaphosa still does not have the support of the majority of members in the NEC of the ANC. Regardless of all manner of wrongdoing on the part of some in the NEC, they hide behind slogans such as “allegations”, “innocent until proven guilty” and “I have not had my day in court”. It seems to me that they have forgotten about virtues such as ethics and morals. The ethical thing to do is to withdraw your name for consideration. It is a moral imperative, given the level of corruption we are exposed to in SA.

Oh no Sir, to hell with all that, I have to be, no, I need to be, on that list because it somehow guarantees me some measure of safe passage. Safe perhaps from future prosecution, future imprisonment and defamation. These culprits are saying to the general public, we don’t care what you think, it’s about saving my own ass. And if it means going up against the President of the ANC and the country, then so be it.

Another reason it would have been a bad deal is because, if, as we suspect, these sinister forces in the ruling party still plot and plan to remove President Ramaphosa post these elections, then he would have strengthened Ace Magashule’s hand because one of the ways we now know to get rid of a sitting President is to instruct Parliament to table a motion of no confidence, thus getting rid of not only the President but his entire Cabinet as well. So, for these reasons, I don’t think the rumours of a deal hold true.

I wish things could be as black and white as that but there’s too much turbidity. The bottom feeders move too much and muddy the waters. What this then means is that patronage constantly changes, money constantly moves, alliances constantly shifts too. Where does it all leave us the electorate, the citizens of Mzansi?

I don’t think we should be too despondent as citizens though, I think that President Ramaphosa does have a clear plan with Cabinet. Constituting Cabinet is a President’s prerogative and his alone. He does not have to consult with the party faithful on this matter. The Constitution of the Republic mandates him and him alone. Besides the demand to trim the Cabinet, which I’m sure Ramaphosa will adhere to, he has most certainly applied himself as to who should be in his Cabinet.

I have written elsewhere about the gerontocracy element within the ANC and will not belabour the point here again, suffice to say that Ramaphosa will have to take a hard look at the current crop of Cabinet ministers and leaders throughout the State, including those who lead our State-owned Enterprises. Striking a delicate balance between experience and institutional memory on the one hand and energetic youngsters with new and innovative ideas on the other is going to be a must.

Jeff Radebe (who has been there since 1994), Naledi Pandor, Pravin Gordhan, Aaron Motsoaledi, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Senzeni Zokwana, Angie Motshekga, Nomaindia Mfeketo, Bheki Cele, Gugile Nkwinti, to mention a few.

There are those that I’m sure will inform the President that they are not available, not because they do not support him but because they have had their fair share of serving the executive branch of government. I think, Comrades Jeff Radebe, Bathabile Dlamini, Pravin Gordhan, Motsoaledi, Mfeketo and Baleka Mbete will fall into this category. Perhaps in their twilight years, they can best serve the nation as ambassadors.

Others simply know that they will be excluded from the selection process because of all manner of allegations hanging over their respective heads. The President cannot afford to select persons that in the coming months will bring dishonour and shame to the executive branch of government. It would be cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face; surely people like Malusi Gigaba and Nomvula Mokonyane must know and appreciate this. No doubt the President must be at pains to strike a balance between all the competing factors he has to juggle in putting this Cabinet together.

Ramaphosa continuously states that he is all about unity. He wants party unity more than anything, without which he implies he cannot accomplish all these demands. He wants there to be unity in the Alliance between his ANC, the SACP and the trade union federation, Cosatu. He wants unity between labour and business. It’s about meaningful construction, in order to make sense of this landscape, we must all do it together. It seems to me that Ramaphosa is acutely aware that he requires the buy-in and unequivocal support of the masses of the people in order to give effect to the difficult choices he will have to make over the coming years.

In wanting to avoid overt disunity in his party he would have to think very carefully about which Ministers and deputies to retain. He must ensure that more young people are accommodated. Here I’m sure he will think of persons like David Makhura, Alvin Botes and possibly Febe Potgieter among others.

Last, though no one wants to mention it in the ANC, the President will have to take a long and hard look at how he will satisfy the ‘National Question’ which in the ANC refers to the non-racial element within the party. Under Jacob Zuma, the ANC became increasingly narrow Africanist in its approach at the expense of other equally qualified comrades. This Ramaphosa will also have to address.

So, as you can see, Ramaphosa’s strategy I think is to ensure that he constitutes a good Cabinet with a healthy dose of a generational mix, gender equity, and in keeping with the non-racial principle of the ANC. Not an easy task but a doable one. I have every confidence that Ramaphosa will not disappoint and before any of you say let’s wait and see, let me also hasten to say that it will not be a perfect Cabinet. All we can hope for is that those that the President selects will be loyal to him and his agenda for growing South Africa together.

As I was watching one of my series episodes on Netflix last night, Designated Survivor, I came across these words, “Loyalty is the consequence of leadership and leadership is the touchstone of competence.”

In short, it means where there is loyalty, there is leadership. Looking at the followers of the leader is a prime way to identify strength in leadership. Strong leaders produce a strong team and, in return, they produce strong results. So, for as long as President Ramaphosa demonstrate qualities such as competence, honesty, consistency and integrity, he will remain a strong leader. Including candidates that are not loyal nor competent will not result in a strong team. DM