A year ago a freshly minted President Cyril Ramaphosa — days after finally grabbing the mantle he’d craved all his life — mounted the podium in parliament to deliver his inaugural state of the nation address. By the time he finished, the gallery was in raptures, the opposition was a bit confused, and everybody else was either dancing or whistling Thuma Mina, the ditty that Hugh Masekela had sung with gusto without anybody noticing until the new leader latched onto it.

The ANC, well, it couldn’t believe its good fortune. It had dodged the bullet, it must have thought. All the looting, the corruption, the sheer greed and debauchery over which it had presided, the poverty it had failed to address as its leaders feasted on the gravy train, the criminals who are running amok. All that seemed to be forgotten. The party had done everything but govern. And yet that didn’t seem to matter now. It had escaped the noose, it figured. The ANC had found its messiah in Ramaphosa, the magician who’d play tricks with the electorate. He’d wave the magic wand. “I wanna lend a hand/send me,” Ramaphosa crooned. Only Faith Muthambi, Lynne Brown and Mosebenzi Zwane, the Guptas’ loyal sycophants, didn't seem impressed. Morose, they sat with arms folded as everybody around cheered. They were a study in defiant disinterest amid the hubbub. There was already a celebratory mood thanks to the resignation of Jacob Zuma, the great Satan. “We will meet somewhere,” he said somewh...

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