First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

The genie is out of the bottle: Zondo evidence strips b...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

The genie is out of the bottle: Zondo evidence strips bare the great Ramaphosa myth

mm

Dr Leon Schreiber MP is the DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration.

In the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s evidence before the Zondo Commission, the genie is out of the bottle, and now all South Africa knows it: he chaired the ANC deployment committee that captured our state, refused to act against corruption to protect his own position, and put the interests of the ANC above those of the South African people. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021 was a moment of truth for South Africa’s constitutional democracy. It was on this day that the myths that Ramaphosa had so painstakingly constructed around himself over the past decades came tumbling down all at once. The political consequences of the busting of the great Ramaphosa myth will be felt by us all for a long time. 

In the decades before becoming President, Ramaphosa carefully cultivated a series of myths about himself in the public mind. First came the great negotiator. Then the brilliant businessman. And finally, at precisely the right moment to best suit his ambition for power, came the myth of the great anti-corruption governor. Key to the success of the Ramaphosa myth was the fact that he rarely, if ever, took firm positions on any issue. Instead, throughout his career, Ramaphosa has relied on a powerful PR machine to project onto him any and every virtue the country was longing for at any particular moment. 

When Thabo Mbeki became too authoritarian, the PR machine wanted us to yearn for “Mandela’s chosen one” with the gift for “consultation” and “social compacting”. In the face of Jacob Zuma’s vulgar excesses, we were supposed to long for the sophisticated and smooth-talking billionaire who had so much money that he would never defend corruption – regardless of the reality that Ramaphosa’s billions were derived from the spectacularly corrupt crony enrichment scheme called BEE. 

But it was in the face of Gupta-era State Capture that the PR machine did its finest work yet. Without even a shred of proof that Ramaphosa had ever confronted corruption in his party or in the state, it built a new myth in record time that he had secretly been an anti-corruption crusader all along, just waiting in the wings to make our collective dreams come true. 

It was the perfect ruse for a practiced political chameleon.

As public anger towards Zuma escalated, Ramaphosa continued to speak in vague and meaningless generalities, using his old trick of enabling South Africans to project onto him the anti-Zuma virtues they so desperately longed for. In the waning days of the Zuma presidency, the Ramaphosa myth grew to epic proportions. It reached its crescendo shortly before the May 2019 election, when the myth-making around the supposed need for a “bigger mandate” for Ramaphosa saw some publicly declaring that this ANC politician – who was in charge of cadre deployment and government business as our state collapsed – is God’s anointed one.   

Looking back on the desperate frenzy to pledge fealty to the anointed one, which played out only a few short years ago, from the vantage point of Ramaphosa’s testimony on 11 August 2021 in front of the Zondo Commission, it all just seems rather sad. 

After years of empty platitudes and dodging the truth about his role in State Capture, Ramaphosa finally ran out of runway last Wednesday. For perhaps the first time in his political career, he was pinned down on specific details by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and his team of evidence leaders. In what must have been an entirely foreign sensation to him, Ramaphosa was confronted head-on with the truth, rendering him unable to spin some grand myth to avoid accountability for his complicity in South Africa’s decline. 

Ramaphosa was visibly surprised and perplexed when advocate Paul Pretorius started his questioning by producing minutes of ANC cadre deployment committee meetings. The minutes provided clear proof that, under Ramaphosa, the ANC continues to exercise unconstitutional influence over appointments to powerful positions in the state in order to benefit the party rather than the people of South Africa. 

But the moment that will probably go down in history as the one that best encapsulated the death of the Ramaphosa myth, came when he was confronted with evidence that, as recently as March 2019, the political party he leads sought to influence the appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court. 

At that moment we saw Ramaphosa’s true colours – possibly for the first time. In responding to that evidence, a true statesman would have simply admitted the truth that had just become obvious to the whole nation, namely that cadre deployment is an evil and unconstitutional practice that sits at the heart of State Capture and needs to be abolished. But, it turns out, that’s not who Ramaphosa really is.

His true face is that of a man who sat in front of the whole country trying to defend and justify why the ANC should have the power to appoint cadres who are loyal to the party to the highest court in the land. Stripped of his myths and the PR machine that sustained them, Ramaphosa was reduced to begging Zondo not to do away with cadre deployment. In the glare of truth, he sat exposed as a man who would have us believe there are no records of decisions from when he chaired the deployment committee during the Zuma years – in all likelihood because those records reveal his complicity in the appointment of the people who looted our state to the point of collapse. 

As Ramaphosa will soon learn, the problem with myths is that, once they are shattered, you can never put them back together again. The genie is out of the bottle, and now all of South Africa knows it: Cyril Ramaphosa chaired the deployment committee that captured our state, refused to act against corruption to protect his own position, and remains determined to continue putting the interests of the ANC above the interests of the South African people. 

Our country’s moment of truth arrived on Wednesday, 11 August 2021. From that day on, South Africans will forever see Ramaphosa not through the lens of the deceitful myths he sold us for so many decades, but for who he really is: just another ANC cadre. DM

 

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 30

    • Fully agree.
      South Africa’s biggest enemy is the ANC. The ANC is also the primary source of the enormous danger facing this country.

  • This opinion piece is sadly very true.

    Under Cyril’s watch we have a corrupt Kodwa as a deputy minister of state security, the nomination of Marisa-Nqakula for Speaker, Fraser and Mahlobo in senior leadership positions, Cele and Dlodlo still in cabinet despite their failure to prevent the July insurrection and so the list goes on. It is a myth that Cyril is a corruption buster. South Africa is in a deep dive and Cyril is the captain guiding us to the crash site!

  • This country is changing for the better. Perfect no, but better.

    Can you truly not feel it in the news we see every day?

    No one can paint themselves as perfect in this country. There was this thing I remember called apartheid…

    We would do better to focus our energy on what’s in front of us rather interminably raging at what is behind.

    • I agree with Mr Harding…rather the devil you know than the devil you don’t! Pray tell who would be a better option than CR? There is no one…only further trouble waiting in the wings to take over the central stage! A Capitalist Democracy ( with CR at its head) is still better than a Socialist Dictatorship – anyday!

    • Richard, the feeling one get probably depend on the source of the news you receive every day. We all remember apartheid but despair when slaying of the dragon did not bring improvement to the people that suffered most.

      • Thankfully “didn’t” does not equate to “won’t” and “can’t”.

        We need to look forward and work with what we have. There is simply no other option.

        • “we” walked away from minority rule willingly and the ANC came into power on the ticket of high moral values, being opposed to the evil apartheid system. Sadly, their system is evil too, ruining our country as they steal it bare.

          Whilst it’s true that things appear better under CR as compared to JZ, it would be unwise to give up high moral expectations and the dream of a successful country, providing a home for all its people.

    • Richard, I agree and particularly with your last sentence but we have to be careful about wearing rose tinted glasses because the past is continually being regurgitated and coming back as our future.

  • Over the past few weeks a number of observers, commentators, politicians and academicians came to the same conclusion: our Big Man is naked.
    The claim that there is no-one else to fill the hot seat is false. That is extremely pessimistic, fatalistic and naive to assume there is no-one with better leadership skills, higher morals and a stronger ethical code than the current incumbent.
    To continue doing what one has done before will produce the same results as before. It is only the faint-hearted that will be to scared to move on and get out of the quagmire SA finds itself in. Rather sit in the stinking mud that surrounds us forever, because, hey, we are doing just fine with a peg on our noses.

  • The ANC is not a basket with a few rotten apples. It is a basket of rotten apples. Some more rotten than others, but they are all rotten and fatally compromised. They have robbed us not only of money. They robbed us of our pride as South Africans. Apart from some sport people, we have nothing to be proud of, we only have lots of reasons to be ashamed.

    One cannot redeem a basket of rotten apples. One must throw away the whole basket with the apples – all of them. We must clear out the ANC cadres from the government, from their miserable occupation of the civil service. But how do we achieve that? Civil society must unite and start organising for change. Elections are not going to bring about any change. The party political system written into the constitution is itself one of the problems.

    We need a new CODESA.

    • I agree, elections are unlikely to bring about meaningful change especially with such a centralist ruling party in power. But how will a new CODESA be any different from the old CODESA if politics remains a dirty game played by dirty people who think that the only way to play the game is to play dirty?

  • A lot of money and media whitewash went into promoting #CR17 in the “Anyone But Zuma” campaign. Cyril was the only viable choice at the ANC table. He had vital Cosatu support, as did Zuma, having constructed the National Union on Mineworkers from the ground up, waged labour wars with Anglo and the mining houses until the Lusaka negotiations that saw him emerge in 1994 as the first overnight BEE billionaire prince – courtesy, Anglo.

    A master tactician, CR spearheaded the creation of an extra parliamentary body – Nedlac – for unelected unions to have the deciding say in SA’s economy, law. Since 1994, SA is is not so much a democracy, as a three wing circus extension of a crumbling uni0n.

    He’s a clever man, married to fellow 1994 Anglo BEE beneficiary Patrice Motsepe’s daughter, yet sits “caught between two stools” of profiting by capitalism while politicking ias a socialist with the taxpayers purse. All of their clique, the NEC and tripartite alliance are personally heavily invested in BBBEE, one party, one race cadre deployment – unwilling to admit what the problem is, that this corruption has resulted in state capture, the enrichment of an elite (themselves) at the cost of impoverishing the poor.

    Iff any of our leaders are capable of a revelation in a morning bush moment, it is Mr Rmaphosa – but that appears to be wishful thinking. Like SAA, that dream just won’t fly.

  • So tired of the DA just slinging mud, pointing fingers and telling us whats so wrong. Why dont you DA start making better policies, become a change for good and focus your energies on something positive rather than just sitting in the sidelines shouting at the ref?
    Maybe I should vote Freedom Front next time.

    • @ Fox Bravo – Umm, do you realise what “opposition politics” entails? One man’s mud-slinging is another man’s check and balance against abuses of power. Would you rather they remained quiet in the face of our myriad abuses of power over decades from the ruling party?

      And what exactly do you mean by ‘start making better policies’? They are not the policy-makers. They have a manifesto to indicate their positions on important issues, just as all parties do. Or do you simply not like their policies because they won’t benefit you personally if implemented?

  • Sad that we cannot find one person worthy in this ANC-led government. No wonder the politicians and Public servants stole with impunity from the billions set aside to ensure that the public is kept healthy during the pandemic. They knew that the promise of Cyril Ramaposa, that no corruption would be allowed, had a hollow ring. He refuses to act against ANC members or deployed cadres. The time for the people of South Africa to get rid of this party that is rotten from its head has arrived. I have lost all confidence in this corrupt government.

  • Does any rational person think that the “unthinking” voters will install any other party to lead the government other than the ANC. Also politicians are chameleons in adapting to their context. Remember the time when Boris Johnson of the UK was “in the dogbox” . Now that he has “adapted” to the circumstances his rating is amongst the highest in recent times in the UK and the Conservatives have virtually decimated the Labour party.
    Also all the iniquities of the NP including an atrocious “human rights” record and jobs reserved for Broederbond pals seem to be things of the past to many people. So give Cyril a chance to “adapt” and hopefully save SA from people like the EFF as well as the “unrealistic” and “naïve” DA. Does any thinking person really believe that the DA and EFF could play a role in government other than as a minor coalition partner. If you do, you are living in “cloud cuckoo land” I suggest.

  • Wishing Thuli Madonsela would consider entering politics, a brave hearted women with sound principles and enigma to lead SA into a new era

  • And in his appearance at Zondo Commission he was close to tears in knowing he did nothing when he should have and just left it to the other ANC whistle blowers. The whistle blowers are worth more than Cyril, but we rely on Cyril now to correct his errors and grow some.

  • Every government the world over installs its own people. Even in western governments, successive administrations install their own “cadres”, from Biden to Johnson to Merckel. Stop carping and give us a reason to vote for you. Shouting louder isn’t it.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted