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“Many false assumptions are being made about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s power and the state of the ANC on the downhill run to the sixth democratic elections.”
“The first is that he can steam ahead with his agenda irrespective of who features from number two downwards on the ANC election list. Even Ramaphosa knows this is not possible.”
“From the get-go, he panicked. Immediately after he was elected ANC president at the party’s national conference in December 2017, Ramaphosa’s face fell as the names of the other top six were revealed.”
“The ANC is not a one-man show. Major decisions are made by the collective.
While weighted in Ramaphosa’s favour for now, the ANC national executive committee can still swing against him.”
“Unlike Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa has not yet asserted his authority in the ANC. This is evident in his vacillation on issues such as land expropriation without compensation and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.”
“Secretary-general Ace Magashule runs the engine room of the ANC and can tap into every structure across the country. Ramaphosa is unable to constantly watch over Magashule’s shoulder to see what he is up to.”
“The ANC does not have some sophisticated algorithm that allows a democratic selection and arrangement of candidates on the election lists based on the will of the membership.”
“As Magashule chairs the national list committee, he ultimately arranges the deck. This is why the ANC’s national list looks like the second coming of the Zuma Death Star.”
“The perception that Ramaphosa will have carte blanche to do what he likes after the election is a fallacy. He must choose his ministers and deputy ministers from the contingent in the National Assembly.”
“The constitution stipulates he “may select no more than two ministers from outside the assembly”.”
“So while Ramaphosa has been able to assign important tasks to firefighting teams and special envoys to circumvent the dead wood in the executive, after the elections he has to play with the cards he is dealt.”
“It has become tradition that the president consults the ANC’s top leadership on cabinet appointments.”
“Testimony at the Zondo commission into state capture confirmed that the ANC secretary-general sits in the room when the president informs ministers and deputy ministers of their appointments.”
“This means it is more than likely that some of the charlatans who had aided state capture or had been completely hopeless in their portfolios will be returned to the cabinet.”
“Another false expectation is that Ramaphosa can appoint disgraced people and they would then be flushed out naturally when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) starts taking cases to court.”
“This is a Hail Mary pass. There is no telling how long it will take to bring cases to court and what the damage will be to the incoming government in the meantime.”
“It is also not known whether there is sufficient evidence to charge members of the executive who facilitated and benefited from corruption.”
“The Zondo commission has shown it is not as easy as people have hoped to nail those involved in state capture, especially since the criminal justice system itself had been contaminated and cases sabotaged to protect high-flyers.”
“Also, it has been seen before how the ANC protects people implicated in corruption, so there is no guarantee that the bad apples will be thrown out once they are charged.”
“It is unfair, furthermore, for Ramaphosa to shift the heat to the national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, to sort out political issues.
If he is unable to take the hard decisions, why should she face the pressure?”
“Batohi should focus on building a credible team at the NPA and bringing winnable cases to court.”
“She is not there to mop up the ANC’s messes. In fact, Batohi said at her first media briefing that she had asked Ramaphosa for an assurance there would be no political interference in the work of the NPA. He gave her such assurance, she said.”
“So decisions to prosecute should be hers and hers alone, based on the strength of cases. There cannot be a back-door arrangement to use the prosecuting authority as an apparatus to exorcise bad elements from the government.”
“Another false assumption is that because he is in charge of the state, Ramaphosa can do what he likes and ignore the chaos in the ANC. He derives his power from the party, not his fan base outside the ANC.”
“It is true that the constitution affords the president substantial powers, but he remains accountable to the ANC. Ramaphosa cannot colour outside the lines of ANC policy and decisions. He must implement these or it will be used against him.”
“Then there is the parliamentary caucus. If there are sufficient people in the opposition faction in the ANC caucus, this can become problematic for Ramaphosa.”
“Parliament can sabotage Ramaphosa’s in many ways, including by targeting his key ministers and point people.”
“We have already seen how people in the ANC and the alliance have gone after members of Ramaphosa’s frontline in the likes of finance minister Tito Mboweni and public entreprises minister Pravin Gordhan.”
“Ramaphosa, Mboweni and Gordhan cannot make the tough decisions necessary on state assets if the ANC keeps yanking them back.The protection public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is getting from the ANC caucus means she can also continue targeting people such as Mboweni and Gordhan”
“In his evidence at the Zondo commission last week, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas testified about the hostility towards the Treasury from others in the government who railed against expenditure management and refused to abide by legal and constitutional precepts.”
“He told the commission how Treasury officials were hounded and ostracised because of their refusal to succumb to populist pressure.”
“If largely the same troublemakers return to parliament and the cabinet, the problems of the past few years will be recycled and the pressure will remain on the Treasury to play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money.”
“There is much hope that Ramaphosa is hanging back and will flex his muscles after the elections.”
“But the president cannot and will not do anything that will endanger his political survival. It is a delicate balance to act to effect a turnaround in the government but also to keep as much of the ANC onside as possible.”
“Ramaphosa’s strongest enemies are inside the ANC and will remain chained to him for the foreseeable future, trying every means possible to trip him up.
As unpleasant as that image is, it is the reality that he and all those who support him must contend with.”
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