President delivering SONA at the parliament in Cape Town. Picture: GCIS
President delivering SONA at the parliament in Cape Town. Picture: GCIS

An interesting aspect of the upcoming general election is the extent to which the biggest party, which has been in power for 25 years, has focused its campaign almost entirely on the person of its leader, Cyril Ramaphosa. In many ways this is hardly surprising given the disgraceful and disastrous track record of the ANC over the past decade.

If our future is so dependent on one person, the questions that need to be asked are: what can one expect to happen given the context in which he operates and what are his underlying motives?

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Cyril the saviour or Cyril the cynic? There is some common ground between the two points of view: Ramaphosa is intelligent, ambitious, urbane and very rich. But there the common ground ends. The “Cyril the saviour” school of thought is based largely on fallacies and some shaky analysis.

Fallacy number one: We vote for parties not individuals, so a vote for the ANC is not just a vote for Ramaphosa but also a vote for David Mabuza, Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba and David Mahlobo etc, for expropriation without compensation and for nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.

Fallacy number two: The more ANC MPs there are, the stronger Ramaphosa will be. Irrespective of the number of votes the ANC gets, the composition of its national executive committee (NEC) does not change as it is elected to serve until 2022. The NEC is the body that recalled Mbeki and Zuma, not the parliamentary caucus, and it is the NEC that will decide Ramaphosa’s fate.

Furthermore, it was Ace Magashule who presided over the drawing up of the ANC’s election candidates’ lists, so it is Magashule rather than Ramaphosa who has determined the makeup of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus.

Fallacy number three: A vote for the ANC will empower Ramaphosa to protect the constitution. On the contrary, the best way to prevent the constitution being amended is for the ANC and EFF combined to get fewer than 66% of the votes cast in the election.

In 1992, I attended a seminar in New York on the fringes of the US Democratic Party’s convention. A speaker made the point that there were two types of people who stood for US president. One category was people who wanted to bring about change; the other was people who were personally ambitious and just liked the idea of being president.

What kind of president is Ramaphosa likely to be? The best way to answer that question is to ask the following: when there is a choice between acting in the interests of SA and acting in the interests of the ANC and its unity, what is Ramaphosa likely to do?

The evidence to date is not promising, even if one ignores the Marikana and Bosasa issues and the fact that Ramaphosa remained silent for a decade while Zuma did his best to ruin SA and enrich himself.

Let’s examine some of the facts:

Ramaphosa initiated a high-profile drive to encourage investment, yet he must know that expropriation without compensation and nationalising the SA Reserve Bank will discourage investment and significantly harm SA. And they could contribute to the rand being given junk status.

The ANC supported an EFF motion in parliament to set up a committee to investigate amending the constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation. The committee held hearings all over SA, but before it had a chance to issue its report Ramaphosa announced that the constitution would be amended.

In 2018, a week after Julius Malema and the EFF encouraged illegal land invasions in Tshwane, Ramaphosa said Malema belonged in the ANC and should come back.

“Cyril the saviour” protagonists argue that he is bound by ANC national conference resolutions, but then choose to ignore the resolutions that call for the deployment of ANC cadres in all spheres of government and in state-owned enterprises and in support of the communist-inspired National Democratic Revolution.

Ramaphosa is president of the republic but he talks about “our people” in a context in which he clearly is not referring to all the people of SA.

Much is made of Ramaphosa’s steps against corruption, even though he chose to appoint people who he knew were corrupt to his cabinet. Setting up commissions to investigate the Revenue Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Public Investment Corporation was commendable, but one should not forget that the dubious characters in those institutions posed a threat to Ramaphosa as they were all Zuma acolytes.

The setting up of the Zondo inquiry into state capture had nothing to do with Ramaphosa or the ANC. On the contrary, the ANC fought against it and it was a court order that forced the ANC to implement the recommendations of former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

Ramaphosa defenders argue that he is playing the long game. That may be so, but is that in the interests of SA or the interests of the ANC? Or is it “Cyril the Cynic” just liking the idea of being president?

• Andrew is a former DA finance spokesperson and was the first chair of parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) after the advent of democracy.