Editorial

Wishing Mr Ramaphosa well

Friday, December 22, 2017

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Mr Cyril Ramaphosa's election to the presidency of the African National Congress (ANC) has basically set him on the path to becoming the next president of South Africa.

Until he faces the electorate in 2019, when general elections are due, Mr Ramaphosa has what is likely to be the difficult tasks of uniting the ANC and restoring the movement's credibility.

The French news service, Agence France Presse reminded us this week that the 54 per cent of the vote that the ANC won in 2016 local elections was the worst result since it came to power in 1994, underlining the damage suffered to its reputation under President Jacob Zuma.

Readers will recall that the centre-right Democratic Alliance, led by Mr Mmusi Maimane, emerged from that poll with 93 of the 214 seats in the capital, Pretoria, compared to the ANC's 89 seats.

The ANC also lost its majority in the business capital, Johannesburg, and in Port Elizabeth, which is officially known as Nelson Mandela Bay in honour of the late revered freedom fighter who, after spending decades in prison because of his opposition to the evil apartheid system, was elevated to the position of South African president.

Mr Ramaphosa may succeed in strengthening the ANC's base mostly because he has managed to steer clear of major corruption scandals, unlike Mr Zuma.

This week, at the close of the ANC conference where he was elected party leader, Mr Ramaphosa signalled his intention to tackle corruption and pursue a policy of what he described as “radical economic transformation”.

How he goes about doing that will be interesting to see because, as is widely known, kickbacks and bribes have become a deeply embedded culture in South African politics and business.

Political analysts have speculated that the potential prosecution of Mr Zuma on corruption charges relating to 783 payments linked to arms deals which he is alleged to have received before becoming president could prove a test of Mr Ramaphosa's resolve to tackle this issue.

The fact that Mr Zuma, tainted though he is, still has strong support in the party will likely influence Mr Ramaphosa's push against this problem plaguing the ANC. However, if he intends to return the party to its core values he should not be intimidated.

Mr Ramaphosa should find support in the message delivered to ANC candidates just before the August 3, 2016 local government election by the ANC's national chairperson, Ms Baleka Mbete.

She urged them “to draw on and emulate the values”, not just of the great leaders of the ANC, like the late Mr Mandela, but the founding values of the organisation itself.

“These values,” she pointed out, “include selflessness, humility, and discipline and, above all, an unwavering commitment to the communities they have been elected to serve.”

Given his history, Mr Ramaphosa, we believe, has enough political capital to do what is right. We wish him well.

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