Mondli Makhanya: Judge Cyril on turnaround rather than on how many Zumarites he got rid of

2018-11-26 00:15

When the results of the ANC’s presidential race were announced on December 18 at Nasrec, there was a huge sigh of relief throughout the country.

The era of Jacob Zuma was about to end.

When this year began, the question on many a lip was when the new leadership of the ANC, headed by Cyril Ramaphosa, would either nudge or push him out.

And so, on February 14, when Zuma gave a rambling interview to the SABC, in which he was expected to resign but did not, there were thunderous moans of disappointment.

Later that night, when he did resign, the nation whooped in exhilaration.

Shortly after the newly minted president’s inauguration, when he was about to announce his Cabinet, there was huge anticipation about which dullard would go and what fresh blood would come in.

Alas, when Ramaphosa made the announcement, there were gasps of disbelief about the retention of some of Zuma’s worst ministers in the Cabinet.

Ramaphosa, many argued at the time, lacked the testicular fortitude to get rid of some serious detritus in his executive.

Why on Earth had he retained the ever-chewing minister who had less brain function than PW Botha after his unfortunate January 1989 incident?

Why, they asked, had he kept that sticky-fingered person who had once offered to lead a buttock defence of Zuma and willed the rand to fall?

They also could not understand why he kept the amateur Lothario around.

He made some inexplicable decisions that perplexed the nation and somewhat doused the excitement around Zuma’s departure.

Last week, there was further grinding of teeth as Ramaphosa fiddled with his executive when he had been expected, wrongly, to make radical changes.

It was naive to think he would make sweeping changes. There were never going to be any fireworks in this Cabinet reshuffle, and there are not going to be any until after next year’s elections.

We should all just live with the fact that some detritus is going to be with us for a while longer.

The reason for this is obvious – Ramaphosa does not need to risk arming those who want to harm him but have little ammunition at their disposal.

He also does not need to do anything to expedite what natural processes can do anyway.

Let us take the case of the amateur Lothario. When he was retained in Cabinet with others who were also suspected of being party to the state capture project, there was an outcry.

However, it was just a matter of time before legal processes – and his own hands – caught up with him.

So, Ramaphosa did not need to pluck up political courage and do a complex job of managing constituencies to rid government of someone who had rendered himself unfit for office.

The same could happen to the other undesirables who are still in office. If not, they will be kept in safe quarantines until then.

It may not be a nice thing for our rhino and our climate to know they are being looked after by someone who imperilled the nation’s water supply.

But at least that portfolio is where she will do the least harm over the next few months. So the climate and the rhino population should relax and realise that they are taking one for the team.

Less easy to accept is the presence of the ever-chewing one in the portfolio that looks after vulnerable groups.

How should South African women and children – particularly in poor communities – feel about their cause being championed by a person who nearly collapsed the grant system that is a lifeline for so many in our country?

It does send a rather sour message to them.

On this score, the country should know that this department was never worth anything anyway – it was just one of Zuma’s creations that was a means to guarantee a pay packet for pals and loyalists.

She will do no damage there. The only damage will be that done to our pockets until May.

Rather than fixating on who Ramaphosa has not fired and putting pressure on him to endanger himself politically, South Africa should be holding him to account for what he is doing about the mess that Zuma left the country in.

The main thing we should be monitoring is how the progress in returning a semblance of normality to governance is going.

We all know that the previous president had no interest in running the country and we know how this led to ministers paying scant attention to their real jobs.

This would, in turn, have seeped into all tiers of the government system.

South Africans should be looking at the speed at which state-owned entities are being fixed and how this is being done.

We should be looking at the criminal justice system, which was nearly brought to its knees by Zuma – thus endangering our personal security and sense of safety.

The economy and the condition of the fiscus are obviously the primary preoccupations of South Africans, and they should be.

Here, we cannot judge him too sternly as those wheels take time to turn.

What we should judge him on is sentiment, which, down the line, should translate into a trickle of growth and, over time, into a trickle in job creation.

So, when Ramaphosa’s short first stint as president ends in May, we should judge him on tangibles, not just on how many Zumarites he got rid of.

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May 19 2019