Act. Act now.
So goes the cacophonous chorus of exhortations to President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the scandal-weary public and the general commentariat clamour impatiently for a series of decisive actions to undo the deleterious legacy of the Zuma era. The President finds himself routinely called upon to do so much within such a short period, if only to demonstrate that he is fully in charge of our country’s affairs and that there is, indeed, “a new dawn” afoot.
Understandably, given the despicable era from which we have just emerged and the continuing arrogance of those who had grown accustomed to acting with impunity, Ramaphosa has routinely been called upon to execute one miracle after another within the blink of an eye. Such calls for him to take various forms of decisive action against certain individuals who have been fingered for all types of malfeasance have grown to a crescendo in recent weeks, and many within the ranks of the opposition parties have begun to dismiss the euphoria – called “Ramaphoria” – that greeted his election first as ANC president and then as our Head of State as having been misplaced.
First he was expected to recall his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, from Government immediately after his election as ANC president. When this did not happen right away, Ramaphosa was soon dismissed – wrongly – as having been timid and impotent. Then he was called upon to dismiss South African Revenue Service Commissioner Tom Moyane, without due process, and to move swiftly against the allegedly spineless National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams, before the Constitutional Court’s pronouncement on the latter’s appeal against the December ruling by the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court that his appointment was invalid.
Some have also harshly criticised the President for his retention in his Cabinet of inefficient, scandal-prone individuals as Ministers. The names of two ladies – one of them the President of the ANC Women’s League – immediately come to mind in this regard.
In recent weeks, Ramaphosa has come under excoriating criticism for his failure to date to recall controversial and scandal-dogged North-West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. Some have used very colourful language, describing Mahumapelo’s continued premiership in that province as an indication – some say a confirmation – of Ramaphosa’s alleged timidity. Critics point out, not with justification, that the President’s early return from the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting in London in April when protests spun out of control in the North-West had created the impression that he would immediately ensure Mahumapelo dismissed as Premier.
The clamour for speedy, decisive action by Ramaphosa and his Government and the ANC leadership is both legitimate and entirely understandable, given the depths to which we had sunk as a country during the Zuma presidency. It is, indeed, crucial that everything possible is done to undo the mess that came to characterise the Zuma era and to eradicate the widespread culture of corruption which had come to be so deeply rooted.
However, it has to be borne in mind that President Ramaphosa is no magician. He has no magic wand that he can wave and, abracadabra, our problems are a thing of the past. We need to keep in mind not only that, given his slim electoral majority at the ANC’s 54th national conference in Nasrec in December, he cannot afford to be seen to be embarking on a witch-hunt against those who were opposed to his rise to the presidency. It is in his and the ANC’s best interest for him to do everything possible to weld the disparate factions within the organisation together ahead of next year’s important national elections.
More importantly, the President must be seen to be following due process. The abovementioned individuals and those of their ilk must been seen to have had their day in a disciplinary hearing or a court of law and to have been found guilty of the charges against them.
Such processes take time – and they are not within Ramaphosa’s control. He simply cannot afford to be seen to have been too gung-ho to take action prematurely against certain individuals, only to have these actions subsequently questioned, criticised or, worse still, reversed by a court of law.
Only a president with a political death wish would succumb to the deafening public calls for him to act – and act now – against individuals against whom serious allegations have been made, without following due process. As far as I can tell, Ramaphosa is not such a man.
Therefore, South Africans will have to learn to be a little more patient. We have no choice but to give processes such as the disciplinary hearing against Mr Moyane, the Constitutional Court in the case of Advocate Abrahams, the ANC’s National Executive Committee in the case of Mahumapelo, the Commission into State Capture in the case of many others, etc., an opportunity to run their course. I am certain that, when presented with guilty rulings against these individuals, President Ramaphosa will move swiftly to do what needs to be done, comfortable in the knowledge that there will no comebacks.
Until then, South Africans have a responsibility to furnish whatever information that may be in their position to the Commission into State Capture and other similar structures to enable them to do their work successfully. Hanging onto information that would help the Commission to do its work is tantamount to sabotaging Ramaphosa’s commendable efforts to wean our beautiful country off the staple diet of corruption.
For its part, the business community must reach out to the President and the Government and partner with them in their efforts to rehabilitate South Africa Inc. in the global community of nations. It must be exemplary in its observance of the country’s laws and outspoken in its efforts to lobby for policies that will result in inclusive economic growth.
Kaizer M. Nyatsumba
Chief Executive Officer