Is Cyril Ramaphosa losing his battle to reform? Has he, to borrow from Oklahoma, the musical, gone about as far as he can go? Is the mask slipping? There’s a sense almost of deflation abroad since he gave that briefing after an extraordinary ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting on the last day of August.

He splendidly brushed aside a crude letter from former president Jacob Zuma, intended to deflect the party and government leader from pursuing strong action against corruption during the coronavirus pandemic and before. Ramaphosa had declared the ANC “accused number 1” as the national mood turned against the party after shocking details of fraud surrounding the procurement of protective personal equipment were laid bare. ANC members, he said the NEC had agreed, would be asked to vacate their positions if they found themselves under investigation for, or charged with, corruption...

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