President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: FRENNIE SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: FRENNIE SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES

It is time for President Cyril Ramaphosa to move on from unifying the ANC at all costs, cut his losses and work with those who are willing to do what is necessary for the party and, most importantly, the country.

It is more than two years since Ramaphosa was elected as president of the ANC on an unexpected ticket that caused different factions to merge in the top leadership of the ANC.

Given the fractious nature of ANC politics, it was never going to be an easy project to unify the different factions in the party.

But two years down the line, what is abundantly clear is that there are those in the party who want to work together for the good of both the country and the party, and those who are just not interested.  

If party members are still not on the same page in terms of cleaning up the ANC and taking the fight against corruption seriously, Ramaphosa and the party should move on without them.

There can be no clearer case to be made for this than the lead-up to a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee at the weekend.

While factionalism is a permanent undercurrent in the party, the battle lines were clearly drawn in the responses to a letter Ramaphosa wrote to the ANC’s members saying the party was accused No 1 in the dock for corruption.

The letter came in the wake of growing public anger as more allegations surfaced of corruption related to Covid-19 relief funds, and shortly after former Ethekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was appointed as a KwaZulu-Natal MPL, despite facing corruption charges.

The responses to the letter came from obviously hostile quarters in terms of the party’s divides, with the most notable being that of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma, who faces corruption charges and was forced to resign as president of the country by the ANC shortly after Ramaphosa was elected head of the party, said in the letter leaked on Friday that the move of saying the ANC was accused No 1 was rather “low and disappointing” as it implicated the entire ANC and its working-class members, while it was party leaders and those deployed in the state who had to account for the allegations they face.

The kid gloves had to come off, as gentle prodding was clearly not working on those who continued to act with impunity

Zuma was at pains to say that his letter did not attempt to undermine Ramaphosa or attribute every weakness or challenge facing the party and the state to him, but that it was merely a request that each of them must face allegations as individuals.

The reality is, however, that the ANC’s ability to protect individuals under the guise of the collective necessitates exactly that: rebuking the collective and demanding that it fix its ways.

The message came far too late, given the cost of corruption to the country. The kid gloves had to come off, as gentle prodding was clearly not working on those who continued to act with impunity.  

It was the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal that cut to the heart of the matter when the provincial leadership had to do damage control over the appointment of Gumede. It has now demanded that all those facing charges step aside from their positions.

Asked whether requesting those who face criminal charges to step aside will not undermine the unity forged over the past two years, provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said unity is supposed to be based on certain values and those values are anchored in the character and the mandate of the ANC. “We are not united for the sake of unity,” Ntuli said.

If ANC members are therefore not on board with this idea of eradicating corruption in its ranks, the ANC should say “good riddance”. If not, the public may well just make that decision for them.

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