Cyril Ramaphosa’s Political Minefield

The 54th African National Congress (ANC) elective conference has now passed and Cyril Ramaphosa has emerged as the President of the ANC, victorious over his rival for the presidency: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

 

However, despite his victory, Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC are faced with a number of challenges that urgently need attention and tact.

 

Some of the issues that the new ANC president has to deal with can be listed as follows:

 

Factionalism and Tribalism

 

Unfortunately, president Zuma’s reign as ANC president saw tribalism and consequently factionalism permeating the organisation like never before.

 

In fact President Jacob Zuma’s politics at the helm of the ANC can be described as a form of “ethnic nationalism” where ethno-nationalism can be defined as “support for the political interests of a particular ethnic group.”

 

For example, Jacob Zuma managed to beat Thabo Mbeki at the 2007 ANC elective conference in Polokwane by wooing the ethnic demographic of Zulu speaking ANC supporters particularly from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

This is the same strategy that he used to be reelected as ANC president in Mangaung in 2012, and it is the same strategy that the Zuma camp attempted to implement on behalf of presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in 2017.

 

However, in 2017 that strategy has failed.

 

One of the reasons is because some of the ANC delegates from the Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) of KwaZuluNatal ,Free State as well as some ANC branches from the North-West were not  allowed to vote as a result of a court ruling.

 

This was a blow to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid and she narrowly lost by just under 200 votes.

 

Her loss has upset a significant number of pro-Zuma supporters from KwaZuluNatal.

 

As a result, the new ANC president has to hit the ground running and work tirelessly in order to placate disgruntled supporters and unite the party as a whole.

 

The first best course of action for him is perhaps to offer incentives to senior ANC National Executive Committee   (NEC) members who belong to the pro-Zuma faction; particularly those from KwaZulu Natal.

 

If he fails to do so, he risks losing votes to an ethno-nationalist movement in the form of the resurgent Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) when the 2019 elections arrive.

 

Corruption

 

Besides tribalism and factionalism, President Jacob Zuma leaves the ANC  with a legacy of corruption.

 

During his two terms at the helm of the organization, the ANC has been scandalized by ‘Guptagate,’ Nkandla, ‘State-Capture’ and a nuclear deal, notwithstanding President Zuma’s 783 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

 

Unfortunately the scandalized and tarnished perceptions of the ANC as a corrupt organization will take more than political will to fix.

 

Even if Cyril Ramaphosa determines to root out corruption in the ANC, he must  remember that a significant number of the ANC NEC members are staunch supporters of the Zuma faction.

 

Such members include David Mabuza who is the Premier of Mpumalanga and now also the deputy President of the ANC.

 

David Mabuza has staunchly supported Jacob Zuma since 2007.

 

During his reign as Mpumalanga Premier , Mabuza has earned a reputation for ruling by fear and violence, and has allegedly left a trail of political assassinations and allegations of wide-scale corruption in his wake.

 

At some point, Mabuza  allegedly took a trip to Russia with the Guptas on their private jet.

 

This all spells out trouble for Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters who generally thought that voting for Cyril Ramaphosa would mean an end to Jacob Zuma’s legacy of corruption.

 

That misconception is soon to become apparent as the pro-Zuma faction members in the ANC NEC are likely to coalesce around David Mabuza and continue with their corrupt tendencies as normal.

 

Conceivably, there are too many senior members in the ANC implicated in corruption, and there is no way for Cyril Ramaphosa to punish them all without causing disunity in the organization.

 

It is therefore likely that Cyril Ramaphosa will secretly offer amnesty to senior ANC members like David Mabuza in exchange for individual loyalty and general party unity.

 

Populism

 

As part of his legacy, it must be noted that President Jacob Zuma leaves his party members doused with unconstructive populist rhetoric and the latest dance moves.

 

President Zuma will be remembered for songs like “Umshini Wami” and phrases like “White Monopoly Capital” and “Radical Economic Transformation,” which are all populist in nature, and have stirred an expectation among the ANC laity which Cyril Ramaphosa will have to fulfill.

 

On a continent like Africa (and particularly in countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe) where clarity on policy is needed in order to lure investors, populist rhetoric like “radical economic transformation” can be likened to very cheap liquor which quickly intoxicates but has long lasting side effects like headaches and nausea.

 

That is what President Zuma’s populism has done to the ANC and the South African economy- it has left a lot of headaches for his successor.

 

His last populist blow was his announcement that the South African government will subsidize free higher education for the poor and working class students and Cyril Ramaphosa will be obliged to fulfill this promise.

 

If he fails to do so, we can expect a return to the “fees must fall” protests in February 2018.

 

Ultimately Cyril Ramaphosa has a lot of work to do in order to repair the damage caused by 10 years of Jacob Zuma’s politics.

 

The claims that President Jacob Zuma has ‘left the ANC in tact’ are ridiculous, if not laughable.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

zimrays@gmail.com

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The Politics of Dynasty

I’ve taken time recently to research around the issue of whether or not Nelson Mandela “sold out” as some African radicals have suggested in the recent past.

 

According to reports, sometime in 2010, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a British Publication that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu had “sold out” to the whites.

 

“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded,” Madikizela-Mandela told the London Evening Standard.

 

Also, elsewhere, Julius Malema stated that former president Nelson Mandela turned his back on parts of the revolution after being released from prison- whatever that means.

 

It has also been reported that certain of South Africa’s cabinet ministers alongside certain African presidents also share this sentiment.

 

Perhaps when one says that “Mandela sold out,” one means that the late statesman didn’t do enough to take the means of production and economic wealth out of the hands of the minority, and systematically transfer both political and economic power into the majority black hands.

 

I suppose that this is what many radical-cum-populist-politicians think the struggle against apartheid and colonialism was all about.

 

Nonetheless, I beg to differ.

 

Perhaps the debate about former president Mandela’s legacy should not be about what he didn’t do, but rather, about what he did do.

 

For those who would care to know, here are some interesting facts about South Africa’s democracy today which we can still accredit to Madiba.

 

  • Firstly, South Africa has strong institutions that support the notions of accountability, equity and rule of law. This is in contrast to many African countries which hide behind radical rhetoric and colonial finger-pointing in order to justify unaccountability and oppression.

 

  • Secondly, South Africa is one of Africa’s “big three” economies alongside Egypt and Nigeria. In fact in 2016, South Africa’s GDP stood at approximately 295 billion dollars. To put this into perspective, consider that Botswana (a country with a population of 2.2 million people) had a GDP of around 15 billion USD in 2016, while the self-proclaimed “regional revolutionary,” Zimbabwe had an inconsequential GDP of around 16 billion USD in 2016.

 

All in all South Africa represents 61% of SADC’S regional GDP while the so called “revolutionary” countries like Zimbabwe are underperformers given their vast mineral and agricultural potential.

 

Inevitably the question arises, why is it that Nelson Mandela is labelled a sell-out when the economy that he presided over is still institutionally strong and growing (albeit minimally), whereas other “revolutionary” states in SADC remain economic non-entities?

 

Perhaps the answer lies in the dynastic ambitions of avaricious African leaders.

 

Allow me to explain.

 

 

Political Dynasties

 

“It is not easy for a person to do any great harm when his tenure of office is short, whereas long possession begets tyranny.” Aristotle

 

To be honest, Nelson Mandela deserves every iota of respect that he has earned as a statesman. It’s not that he was perfect, because no man is perfect, and I know that I’m certainly not perfect.

 

However, after studying politics and African politicians for many years, I can safely conclude that Nelson Mandela did not “sell out” as some would have us to believe.

 

Instead, he took the straight and narrow political path of a single term in office and brutal accountability which is unlike many of his African political counterparts who cannot comprehend the meaning of the terms “step down” or “transparency.”

 

Here are some interesting observations.

 

In 2015, Togo, a country of approximately 7 million people voted for incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé for a third time.

 

Gnassingbé is the son and immediate successor of Togo’s fifth president—Gnassingbé Eyadema—and, once he serves out his third term, his family will have run Togo for 48 years.

 

Of course, this was not taken lying down by the Togolese public, and today in 2017, there are increasing calls and protests for President Faure Gnassingbé to step down. To date, it is reported that up to 13 people have been killed and hundreds of people have been rounded up, in what appears to be a crackdown on anti-dynasty protests.

 

Elsewhere, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kabila dynasty was established after a bloody coup d’état in 1997, when the Laurent Kabila militarily overthrew the long-ruling despot Mobutu Sese Seko.

 

That dynasty almost ended when Kabila senior was assassinated in January 2001.

 

Since then Kabila’s son Joseph has been at the helm of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and consequently he has presided over a nation characterized by repression instability and volatility.

 

Now that Joseph Kabila’s second term is over, he is refusing to step down, and as a result he is facing increasing protests and opposition to his continued stay in office.

 

Contemporary voters detest dynasties. Period.

 

In fact, public resistance to dynastic political projects is not uniquely African either.

 

In the United States Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump partly because of the abhorrence society has for political dynasties.

 

The bottom line is that in the modern world the people don’t like political dynasties.

 

Conceivably, in his political wisdom, Nelson Mandela caught this revelation.

 

I mean had he wanted to, he could have orchestrated his own dynasty. It’s not that he couldn’t have done it-He could.

 

In fact, He had the charisma, he had global support, he had the power, and he had the intellect to do so.

 

But instead he chose the politically straight and narrow path, and not the wide road of profligacy, wanton power, repression and egocentrism.

 

The fact that today so many African migrants live in South Africa is a testimony to Mandela’s legacy, and that is corroborating evidence that he in fact did not sell out, and instead believed that strong institutions, constitutionalism and accountability were the building blocks of a better South Africa.

 

Those who denounce him as a sell-out today, do so because his legacy of constitutionalism limits their liberty to loot.

 

Nevertheless it remains, as illustrated earlier that contemporary voters do not appreciate dynasties.

 

Now, with the ANC elective congress fast approaching, I perceive that the ruling African National Congress is caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

On the one hand, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma is a revered and an experienced politician who has served well both nationally and internationally and perhaps would make a brilliant state and party president.

 

On the other hand, despite her positive attributes, as the ex-wife of sitting President Jacob Zuma, she is perceived as a pawn in a greater political dynastic agenda, and as mentioned earlier, contemporary voters do not respond positively to political dynasties.

 

Look at Togo, look at DRC, go ahead and ask Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush- in contemporary politics the dynastic agenda is bad for national business.

 

If anything, I would hope that the frontrunners in the ANC presidential race heed this warning and consider that the voting South African Public will not respond well to the Zuma dynasty political agenda- especially not in the context of a fledging economy, student protests, social problems and a slow growth.

 

If the ANC pursues its dynastic political agenda in December, it risks losing everything come the 2019 elections.

 

Already, the 2016 municipal election results show us that voters are unhappy with the ANC. The dynastic politics president Zuma is currently pursuing will only worsen the discontent.

 

The same can be said of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe. If reports are true that President Mugabe is pursuing a dynastic political agenda, then ZANU-PF should prepare for perpetual political unrest in Zimbabwe, just like we are seeing it in Togo and the DRC.

 

At the end of the day this is what is clear to me: the politician that walks in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela will prosper. He was a politician’s politician, and his legacy lives through the strong institutions that he fought for.
Forward with democracy. Down with dynasty.
 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

Email

zimrays@gmail.com

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