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Playtime is over. But Ramaphosa’s next moves are his toughest

2019-05-12 12:32

A group of ANC veterans has warned President Cyril Ramaphosa that new deployments to Cabinet and public positions should take into account the fact that the fight against the perpetrators of state capture and corruption is not over.

This as Ramaphosa begins what are expected to be tough consultations with senior leaders and advisers as to who to appoint to his reduced Cabinet and how to balance issues of age, gender and factions in his divided party.

Read: Ramaphosa celebrates election results, ‘the vibrancy of our democracy’

In a document – written this month by a group of ANC veterans, who include Wally Serote, Snuki Zikalala, Aziz Pahad, Thami Ntenteni and Fazel Randera – the veterans highlight the apparent modus operandi used by the party’s own leaders and members to weaken government and thus block the party from achieving its objectives.

Citing revelations in the Zondo and SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissions of inquiry, the authors say that the rot goes “further than individual instances of corruption and bad governance by particularly bad individuals”.

“It now seems that the problem is far greater than corruption, but is organised chaos.”

Regarding the Sars commission of inquiry, they say that the intention was to collapse the revenue collector, which in turn would collapse government.

REDUCED CABINET HEADACHE

Ramaphosa will assume power for his first proper term on May 25, after his inauguration, and has promised a leaner and more effective government.

This week, the ANC obtained a 57.51% share of the national vote, representing a 5% drop since the 2014 elections. The party lost support in all of the nine provinces and barely held on to Gauteng, which it kept by 50.19%.

But party leaders who spoke to City Press said they were not too disappointed because it could have been worse, given the scandals and infighting the party has been through.

City Press has learnt that Ramaphosa is expected to trim Cabinet to just 25 ministers, from the current 35. He is also expected to reduce the number of deputy ministers, keeping them only in key portfolios such as international affairs.

This will be his most delicate balancing act in deciding which ministries to cut and which departments to keep.

A former government official said the planned reconfiguration of departments and reduction of ministries had been informed by the fact that some portfolios duplicated responsibilities, which also led to the bloating of the public service bill.

The world will also be watching to see if Ramaphosa has the courage to exclude party leaders who have been implicated in corruption and state capture from his Cabinet.

He is likely to run into opposition from within the ANC should he be perceived to target the likes of Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane only, as he could be accused of pursuing a purge against the supporters of former president Jacob Zuma.

The ANC’s integrity commission earlier tried to assist the party by drawing up a list of 22 people who it identified as unsuitable for public office. But the ANC has not acted on the recommendation, which would have affected leaders as senior as Deputy President David Mabuza.

‘THOSE OLD ONES MUST GO’

There have also been calls for the older generation to make way for the younger generation.

Read: People’s confidence in the ANC is on the rise: Duarte

A member of the national executive committee (NEC) said: “Remember, you cannot cut everything at once, so that is where we will start. Those old ones must go, but I doubt the president will listen to us on that, especially on people such as Jeff Radebe.

“The final decision will be up to the president. He does not have to bring that discussion to the NEC because then you are saying people must decide on their futures. But there may be some consultation with the subcommittee on governance.”

A close ally of Ramaphosa said that, among the factors he had to look into when considering a new Cabinet, were balancing the issues of gender and youth, the representation of alliance partners, geographic spread as well as ethnicity.

“Those implicated in state capture will also have to understand that their fate will come under heavy scrutiny,” said the person, who is also a member of the ANC’s NEC.

With the opposition DA and EFF increasingly fielding youngsters into leadership positions, Ramaphosa would be hard-pressed to prioritise a “generational mix” in his new government team. However, this was likely to prove contentious as senior leaders such as Naledi Pandor, Pravin Gordhan and Radebe had accepted nomination, signalling that they were ready to make a comeback.

But Ramaphosa will also be wary of the pending findings by the office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane regarding her probe into Gordhan, as well as the implication of the funds that his ANC campaign received from controversial government service provider Bosasa.

Senior government officials said ANC candidates who had ambitions to serve in Cabinet would have to provide evidence, in the form of data from the election results, that in areas where they had been deployed they managed to secure votes for the ANC — which would be another indicator of their popularity.

WHO WILL BE PREMIER?

Today Ramaphosa and his ANC top six colleagues will receive presentations from the provinces on the candidates preferred for premier posts.

ANC provincial structures had been ordered to meet this weekend to finalise the names of three potential candidates.

In the North West, where the party’s provincial task team no longer exercises power because their election campaign mandate has expired, the top six are expected to receive submissions from the alliance partners, including labour federation Cosatu, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civic Organisation, as well as the groups that formed part of the task team.

ANC insiders told City Press that for the sake of continuity and stability in the embattled province, previously run by former provincial chairperson and premier Supra Mahumapelo, it was likely that Mahumapelo’s interim successor, Job Mokgoro, would be retained as head of government until the party succeeded in holding a provincial conference to elect new leaders.

In Limpopo, ANC chairperson and premier Stan Mathabatha was also expected to come back, as the threat of having two centres of power seemed to weigh heavily on the minds of senior ANC members in the province.

ANC chairpersons in the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are expected to be nominated as premiers, but this would violate gender considerations as they are all male. But the party is expected to nominate women as speakers in an effort to compensate for this.

VETERANS WARN OF COUNTER-REVOLUTION

Meanwhile, the ANC veterans said in their document that the ANC had long since 1994 been infiltrated by elements of the apartheid regime – including, but not limited to, the security forces and defence intelligence.

The document warns of three ways in which the ANC has come under attack.

Firstly, it cites the distortion of party policies – veering away from ANC objectives “either through populist stances or through downright revolutionary adventurism”.

“Secondly,” say the document’s authors, “the enemies of the revolution would make sure that they formed part of the cohort of deployees in state institutions.”

Thirdly, “the ANC deploys a cohort of incompetents who then wittingly or unwittingly become part of the counter-revolution through no fault of their own”.

“In truth, these have never stood for what the ANC represents,” the veterans say, adding that the modus operandi of these members is that they identify state institutions whose destruction will result in the defeat of the ANC’s objectives.

PLAYTIME IS OVER

The fact that the ANC was likely to lose a significant number of seats because of lower electoral success in comparison to 2014, meant that Ramaphosa had to play even more delicately to avoid a potential implosion.

Read: Liberation doesn’t mean much to the youth: Magashule justifies ANC’s slump

Ramaphosa has made it clear that he means business when it comes to governance.

When he addressed professionals two weeks ago, Ramaphosa vowed: “We are going to fix service delivery. I am clear about this. After May 8, playtime is over. Now is the time to implement.

As president, I no longer want to hear excuses from ministers. Our premiers must stop accepting excuses. No more excuses; we must just now implement because our people deserve the best.”

Laziness is not the only challenge the president faces. He must also deal with a lack of confidence in his leadership, as displayed by secretary-general Ace Magashule. He disputed comments by head of elections Fikile Mbalula, who had said Ramaphosa had saved the party from a worse electoral performance.

“We ran a splendid campaign and we are here because of this leadership led by President Ramaphosa, who became a game changer in this particular election,” said Mbalula.

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October 13 2019