Barely two months after the ANC 54th national conference, and over a year before the end of his term of office President Jacob Zuma surrendered to the decision of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to recall him from the top office in the country. He resigned, though the night before the motion of no confidence against him.
The interregnum has ended, at last I must add. The past is dead and the new is born. The past nine years were nightmarish for the ANC and the country. Internal problems in the ANC saw the party stumble from one crisis to another. This perennial state of crisis eroded support and confidence in the party.
Over this period the ANC electoral support dropped by 20 percent. The party went on to lose Joburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipalities. Then there was the spectre of corruption looming large over the organisation and the country. In this state of endemic malfeasance, the ANC stumbled on helplessly.
Rating agencies issued one downgrade after the other. The country tottered on the brink of collapse, politically and economically. Then along came Nasrec 2017. It was a make or break moment for the ANC. On the side lines the opposition saw an opportunity to power grab.
For the thousands of branch delegates who converged for the party 54th national conference in Johannesburg last December, this was the opportunity for renewal, unity and hope.
Against all odds, the ANC emerged united and stronger from what was supposed to be its death
throes. This marked the arrival of one Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, the man the country calls Buffalo from his passion to game farming. Soon he would drive a new beginning for the country.
Since President Zuma tendered his immediate resignation a week ago, transition to the Ramaphosa
Presidency immediately went into full swing. The parliament that was forced into recess, resumed business with Ramaphosa elected as State President and sworn into office by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
It was a beautiful moment. Just like when President Nelson Mandela went through the same ritual on the grounds of the Union Building in 1994. The cherry on top would be when Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address. It was the SONA that the ANC secretary general Ace Magashule swore it would be delivered by the now departed President Zuma. By then things moved at breakneck speed and the original address would be overtaken by events.
Even the party chief executive officer’s prediction was buried beneath the fast moving wheels of time. Ramaphosa’s address struck all the right chords. For this, it was well received by even the ANC sworn enemies like the EFF and DA. His address, form and content, was so good he received a standing ovation before he conclude it. This was another Madiba Moment.
Even the day long debate on the address, bar COPE leader, Musiuoa Lekota’s aberrations on land appropriation without compensation, went on smoothly.
The National Assembly was the real august house, members were really honourable. Opposition parties have welcomed Ramaphosa’s SONA address, and said they will work with him as long as he sticks to promoting the interests of the people, the majority of whom are poor and black, This week (yesterday) the Minister of Finance, it may have not been Malusi Gigaba who the opposition and big business want out who would have tabled the national budget. The details of the budget will make clear the direction Ramaphosa
is steering the ship of state.
Will the much anticipated budget be pro-poor as espoused by the ANC radical economic transformative agenda of its 54th national conference, or will it be pro-big business. Former President Thabo Mbeki’s two nations will have watched over the budget speech with keen interest. In there would be their fears and aspirations.
Provinces have until the end of March to table and adopt their budgets. Municipalities’ financial year ends in June. By this time the future under President Ramaphosa will become much clearer.
The country waits with bated breath for his announcement of a deputy president and members of
his cabinet. There is talk of Lindiwe Sisulu as Deputy President and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma too. Who will retain and who will take the walk of shame is the question in the constitution of Ramaphosa’s new cabinet.
The ACDP’s Rev Kenneth Meshoe has called for Gigaba, the Minister of Finance, to be fired. There were similar calls on Bathabile Dlamini, Mosebenzi Zwane, Faith Muthambi, Des van Rooyen, and
Names touted for inclusion are Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom, Jackson Mthembu and current Speaker Baleka Mbete-Kgomo.
The composition of cabinet will reveal Ramaphosa’s vision for the country. It remains to be seen if it
will be winner takes all, or will it be a balance of the two leading factions in the ANC of the build up to Nasrec – those who supported Ramaphosa and those who supported Dr Dlamini-Zuma.
In his SONA address Ramaphosa expressed the need to tamper with the cabinet to align it to government priorities. If what he said is anything to go by, we are in for a lean and mean cabinet.
Speaking on the occasion of the SONA Ramaphosa said, “It is critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources. We will therefore initiate a process to review the configuration,
number and size of national government departments.”
As the opposition and everybody else outside the organisation are saying, let us give Ramaphosa a
chance to prove himself to renew and restore hope in our freedom and democracy. We are still reeling from decades of damage to the country by successive apartheid regimes. Many years are still required to get out of the settler-colonial woods of our past. It will also take a while to repair
the damages of the past nine years.
The great journey to repair the broken country, as Mmusi Maimane calls the republic, starts in earnest after the tabling and adoption of the budget. I wish President Ramaphosa good luck as he steers the country out of purgatory. He will need as much luck as will be forthcoming.
Writing in The Washington Post, former US ambassador to South Africa during Barrack Obama’s last year in office, Patrick Gaspard has this to say about the state of South Africa, “Fortunately there is nothing wrong in South Africa that cannot be fixed by all that is right in South Africa.”
It is appropriate that this year has been declared, “100 Years of Nelson Mandela: The Year of Renewal, Unity and Jobs.” This way Mandela’s dream of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa is revived.
Molebatsi Masedi is a Polokwane based proponent of radical socio-economic transformation.