President of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during a campaign rally at the Alexandra Stadium on April 11, 2019, in Alexandra, South Africa. Picture: WIKUS DE WET / AFP
President of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during a campaign rally at the Alexandra Stadium on April 11, 2019, in Alexandra, South Africa. Picture: WIKUS DE WET / AFP

In reading Peter Bruce’s column advocating a vote for President Cyril Ramaphosa I could not help but compare another situation, when John Vorster succeeded Hendrik Verwoerd in 1966.

Like Ramaphosa, Vorster had stood by and endorsed another of the most destructive periods of our history, the apartheid years. Despite his deep anti-English sentiment and his uncompromising, rigorous enforcement of apartheid as police minister, after the implacable coldness of Verwoerd he seemed — even to Helen Suzman — to be quite human.

Vorster had both charm and humour, and even played golf. His promises and ideas for change even impressed a coterie of high-level English business leaders enough for them to publicly endorse his vague reform initiatives — if “allowing” Maoris to tour with the New Zealand rugby team and “allowing” black diplomats to live in white areas could be termed visionary moves.

After the years of despair and economic damage under Verwoerd, Vorster seemed to hold out the hope of a new dawn. Of course it was not to be, as he became embroiled in scandal and retreated into history, only to be replaced by another implacable verkrampte in PW Botha. That’s the thing: leaders are important but typically not the soul of the party.

A vote for Ramaphosa is a vote for the ANC. And hemmed in against change by extremists on the fringes, its “soul” is not embodied in Ramaphosa’s public rhetoric. Surely even Bruce can sense a lesson from history somewhere in this?

RWT Lloyd
Newlands