It was a crucial stress test for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday when he appeared in Parliament for a question and answer session with MPs.
Analysts would have expected the Deputy President to have been more courageous and critical against the government after an array of scandals have plagued the news cycle. Most importantly, it is an election year for the ANC, and Ramaphosa has the only option of branding himself as the outsider of the Zuma network.
Many within and outside the ANC have placed their bets on CR, most notably because he does not parallel the populist shallow rhetoric that his boss so unabashedly assumed when he was vying for the ANC top spot in 2007.
Instead, CR is the neoliberal figure within the ruling party. Providing that slim hope for his faction that wishes to snatch their much loved party away from the traditionalist Zuma army.
However, evident of his answers during his Parliamentary appearance, CR does not seem to be in rush to distance himself from the President and his close network.
When the DA caught the attention of the House with a leaked document pertaining to the consideration of Cabinet and more specifically, Malusi Gigaba, to sell a portion of government’s shares in state-owned enterprise Telkom in order to bail out SAA, Ramaphosa did not make use of the opportunity to condemn the motion.
Yes, he’s in Cabinet, and yes it’s not his decision to make unilaterally. But CR knows deep down, that such a bail out is an unfeasible exercise and SAA should be left to rot or government should sell what is left of the failing state-owned enterprise.
Nonetheless, the South African people have now grown familiar with the sentiment, that for as long as Zuma is still president, SAA will always have Treasury to bail them out everytime they carelessly default. Why? The chairwoman of SAA is Dudu Myeni, who is also chairperson of the Jacob G. Zuma Foundation and coincidentally a close friend of the President.
Unsurprisingly, the Deputy President defended the consideration of the decision by firstly lashing out at the DA for having in their possession such a confidential document, citing the opposition party to possibly be liable to criminal charges and then went on to elaborate that Cabinet is still weighing all their options on matters relating to SAA.
What CR failed to do was firstly, condemn such a possible decision. Seeing as he is a capitalist, we at least expect him to call out any bad investment proposals. Secondly, he is running for the ANC presidency! It is time for the Deputy President to draw s distinct comtrast between him and his most threatening opponent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the corrupt network that have United behind her.
With just a few months left until the elective conference, this is the make or break moment for the man that is currently one heart beat away from the South African presidency.
If CR has any desire to obtain the ANC top, the anti Zuma faction are going to seeking refuge from him in the form of criticism against this administration.
Nevertheless, Ramaphosa’s defence of the Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity is a failure to deliver this expectation among his core support.
The facts are simple; Grace Mugabe physically assaulted a woman which is against the South African law. It purely does not matter what diplomatic status she has in the world – she came to South Africa and violated a South African’s constitutional right.
It is unacceptable. We needed more from CR. He is the the progressive figure in the party and his desire to run for President demands him to speak out against violence – especially against women, and call for the prosecution of those who commit such offences. The awarding of diplomatic immunity is the aiding and abeding of a criminal
Ramaphosa failed at a perfect moment to distance himself from the Zuma presidency. And the reason is simple. CR is a product of the Zuma machine. Zuma brought him back from the ashes after his defeat to Mbeki in 1997.
Therefore, the question those in the ANC should really be asking themselves right now is; is Ramaphosa really that different from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?
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