Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Is Cyril still testing those condoms?" asked one cheeky wag over the weekend, a reference to the brand of prophylactic that SA’s deputy president was espousing in parliament two months ago.

But the comment was of far greater profundity, taking aim at the fact that Ramaphosa had become increasingly invisible in recent weeks, as the storm over President Jacob Zuma and the criminal charges against finance minister Pravin Gordhan grew fiercer.

In April, the Financial Mail asked a similar question on our cover — echoing the wider plea from society that, amid a lack of leadership from Zuma’s office on the economy, the fees debacle or pretty much anything, people were looking to Ramaphosa to fill the vacuum.

Until now, he has demurred. Ever since becoming SA’s deputy president in 2014, Ramaphosa has been missing in action while his boss, Zuma, has taken a sledgehammer to SA’s institutions of accountability.

Ramaphosa’s silence was so deafening that when he did briefly reappear, the cynics believed he was being hauled out only at Zuma’s convenience to lend credibility to his ruinous administration, holding up the clothes to spare SA’s naked emperor further blushes.

It seems unlikely that it was the scorn of the Twitterati that finally shook Ramaphosa from his slumber. Still, he exceeded all recent expectations by publicly announcing his "moral and political support" for Gordhan on Saturday.

It may seem tepid, but by the low standards of late, it was deeply significant. Whether his break with Zuma’s cabal can guarantee his survival after Zuma goes is unclear. It may just be too little, too late.

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