President Cyril Ramaphosa was clear-eyed about a few things when he became president in early 2018. For a start, all meetings would start on time. Second, he was going to wage war on corruption inside the ANC, of which he had a few weeks earlier become leader.

Those were heady times. “Thuma Mina,” he declared, send me, channelling trumpeter Hugh Masekela to a cheering National Assembly as he ended his first state of the nation address in February 2018. The DA’s Mmusi Maimane, leader of the official opposition at the time, was so overcome that he leapt to his feet and hugged him. In the mornings on the Cape Town western seaboard, Ramaphosa took walks with former finance minister Trevor Manuel as crowds celebrated alongside them...

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