There are certain cycles that define politics. They appear almost inevitable. One of them goes like this: weak leaders produce weak administrations; the desire, then, is for strong leaders, who can impose themselves, and reinforce and repair a failing state with control and conviction. Unchecked, that can produce over-centralisation. Finally the demand is for more devolved power, which can produce a new, weak leader, and a weak state.

As far as SA is concerned, the theory is that if Jacob Zuma was weak and his effect chaotic, then Cyril Ramaphosa is strong and his effect regenerative. The cycle, however, has already played itself out once — as the election of Zuma himself was a response to the perceived centralised autocracy of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki. The question is whether the wheel still turning?..

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