Peter Bruce Columnist

Almost as sure as night follows day, President Jacob Zuma will not be delivering the state of the nation address in February.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s victory as the new ANC president virtually guarantees that Zuma will be gone soon. He is by any standards an electoral liability. Even had Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma won, there was general agreement in the party that Zuma would have to vacate the Union Buildings quickly.

It doesn’t matter that the new national executive committee might be divided. Ramaphosa would have no trouble persuading it, should he need to, to recall the sitting president. Zuma is history. Talk of how Ramaphosa is "hemmed in" by the Zuma faction is babble from people who don’t appreciate how much leaders matter in our politics. Zuma will soon be gone.

But because of the narrow vote (with a recount threatened for the position of secretary-general) Ramaphosa will try his utmost to hold the party together. Any political leader would. He will become head of state when Zuma goes in the next few weeks and his cabinet picks will be careful and critical. He will need to ensure that KwaZulu Natal is adequately represented. Two names are easy to add: former KZN ANC boss Senzo Mchunu and Zweli Mkhize, the former ANC treasurer-general. Some KZN ministers would obviously go. Bathabile Dlamini should already be clearing her office. Police minister Fikile Mbalula is a tricky call. My guess is that Ramaphosa would find something for him.

But the big question would be about finance minister Malusi Gigaba, brought in to national treasury in an extremely unpopular cabinet reshuffle earlier this year. Gigaba was home affairs minister at the time and his landing at treasury has been hard. Zuma had already made a mess of the economy by hiring and firing finance ministers, cosying up to the corrupt Guptas, making bad policy or not making decisions. His ministers either lived in fear of him or were totally secure because they were not only loyal but believed he knew what he was doing.

Gigaba fell between the blind loyalists and the fearful. It’s where he has spent much of his adult political career. He’s an interesting man because he has made his own way and he holds on to his own ambitions. Sure, he dresses foolishly at times. And his dalliances with the Guptas have been poorly judged. But in the absence of a judicial inquiry into state capture or an actual trial, real malfeasance on his part has yet to be proven.

His ministers lived in fear of him or were secure because they believed he knew what he was doing

I know for a fact that he kick-started state capture when, as public enterprises minister, he fired the chairmen and boards of Eskom, Transnet, Denel and other state-owned companies and replaced them with Gupta proxies in many instances.

But that reveals his strengths and weaknesses. He follows orders. He could not possibly have known the people he was appointing. Zuma was given a list by the Guptas and Zuma gave it to Gigaba and Gigaba implemented it.

Special arrangement for ANN7

Much the same would have applied to the special arrangement the Guptas used when Gigaba was home affairs minister, to bring Indian citizens to SA illegally to start up their TV channel, ANN7.

Nine months in treasury will have taught Gigaba invaluable lessons, the main one being that money doesn’t grow on trees. Real economic success has nothing to do with radical economic transformation. It has to do with hard, painstaking work, attention to detail and integrity.

He went in wet behind the ears. He will come out a man. Integrity is what he sacrificed to please Zuma.

I don’t think Ramaphosa will keep Gigaba at treasury. He’d try to bring back Pravin Gordhan or perhaps put Mkhize in the job.

But Ramaphosa would, I think, rather keep Gigaba inside the tent than outside.

Please sign in or register to comment.