JJ Tabane Columnist
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president has opened a window that was fast closing for the party to retain power in 2019.

It has pleased several sectors of society and was met with jubilation across SA and abroad. The markets reacted well, with the rand strengthening to its best level in months. But whether this outcome will ensure the ANC is not relegated to the opposition benches in Parliament in 2019 depends on what Ramaphosa does with his newfound power between now and the general elections.

It was clear from the ANC presidential campaign that the approach to state capture and the economy were the major differences between the two camps now represented in the national executive committee (NEC). The real test of Ramaphosa’s courage will be what he will do about it — starting in the top leadership of his party where there are people who are implicated  in wrongdoing.

The ANC has lost credibility in a big way after they were seen defending Zuma against all odds. Ramaphosa’s litmus test is to stop this prioritisation of the defence of Zuma — or any individual for that matter — at the expense of the ANC’s electoral chances in 2019. It is that simple.

Zuma’s continued tenure as head of state has to be terminated urgently if the ANC wants to restore credibility. This can be done in a variety of ways including a negotiated settlement. There is no need to chase Zuma away as though he does not have a constituency — Ramaphosa must get
David Mabuza to persuade Zuma to quit amicably for the sake of unity.

Getting rid of Zuma requires the sophistication that Ramaphosa deployed at Codesa — he took the National Party to electoral slaughter in a way that they looked forward to it.

The stick to ensure Zuma’s early departure is Ramaphosa’s appointment of a no-nonsense national director of public prosecutions as well as the immediate appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. This must happen fast to ensure that the ANC has enough time to deal with the horrendous fallout if ANC leaders and ministers were implicated in state capture — ammunition for the opposition’s election campaign.

It will go a long way to restore confidence if Ramaphosa reshuffled the Cabinet to exclude unapologetically "Gupta ministers". He must use his prerogative to clean up the executive after he has ascended to power soon after getting rid
of Zuma.

Improving the economic wellbeing of the country relies heavily on cleaning up governance within the ANC and the government. The 2016 local government elections have demonstrated that voters have an appetite to try an alternative or at least punish the ANC. The skies have not fallen in the metros the ANC has lost in the local government elections.

Unless Ramaphosa deals with the Zuma albatross, he will find himself on the opposition benches in 2019 and Zuma will have the last laugh as the last ANC president to become a head of state.

If the new NEC fails to find its backbone, voters will be convinced that the Ramaphosa-led ANC is still remotely controlled by Zuma who is a wrecking ball on the economy.

Ramaphosa’s stint in the National Union of Mineworkers and Codesa prepared him for this moment in history — the man who helped write the democratic constitution, and the National Development Plan can write a new chapter for the ANC and SA — good or bad.

• This is my last column in Business Day after almost three years. My thanks to Songezo Zibi, Tim Cohen and Dave Marrs for this great opportunity to shape the thoughts of society.

•Tabane (@JJTabane) is the author of Let’s Talk Frankly and host of Power Perspective on Power 987.


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