If you want a dictatorial leader, you won't find that in me: Ramaphosa

President 'has collaborative leadership style' and won't be moved by rival views

24 May 2024 - 07:09
By Sisanda Mbolekwa
President Cyril Ramaphosa says his leadership is underpinned by consultation and consensus.
Image: Sisanda Mbolekwa President Cyril Ramaphosa says his leadership is underpinned by consultation and consensus.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa believes those seeking a dictator in him will be disappointed because that is simply not his leadership style.

Ramaphosa was reflecting on his time at the helm leading the sixth administration, saying that he has weathered insults at his perceived lack of decisiveness.

“I remember standing in parliament talking about various forms of social compacting and saying, for instance. on climate change I want to set up a body of a diverse number of people to help us. I was laughed out of court, with people saying I should be taking decisions, 'he's a weak leader, he hasn't got the strength'.”

Ramaphosa was addressing an ANC town hall meeting at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, where young professionals had convened for a conversation with Ramaphosa as part of his campaign trail.

The president said he has a collaborative leadership style and won't be moved by rival views.

“When they asked why I don't take decisions on my own, I said no. That's not my style of leadership. People also have views and suggestions to put forward and that is what I've always sought to embrace — and for that I am guilty as charged.”

Ramaphosa said this is not unique to him, because this is woven into the social and historical fibre of his country.

“As South Africans we are experts in social compacting. This is not focusing on saying that government must drive social compacting. Together we worked to defeat apartheid through social compacting. We amassed ourselves together as the people of this country through various organisations.

“When the UDF was formed, when the ANC was still banned — that was one of the most outstanding social compacts ever formed in our country. Social compacting also goes back to the 1950s when the Freedom Charter was drafted. It excluded, obviously, the oppressors, because they could not chant for freedom because they already had their own. That was through social compacting.

“It was not only the ANC that participated in the drafting of the Freedom Charter. That was a consolidation of a number of organisations that drafted the most iconic document produced in the history of our country — which became the north star which led us to where we are today.

“To defeat the monster of apartheid, it needed a social compact. The mere drafting of the constitution itself was another form of social compact.”

Even in recent times, Ramaphosa said, the country has seen social compacting among citizens in defence of the country and the public good.

“Many of us responded to the whole ugly spectre of state capture, we were against it and that was a display of social compacting of a special kind. 

“People were chanting in the street, wanting a commission of enquiry, saying this must stop. That then eventuated in the setting up of the commission on state capture but the remnants of state capture leave many people disaffected and that compacting we had set up over the years for the development of our country started cracking and weakening.”

Called “the president of commissions”, Ramaphosa maintained this is why his administration has approached problem solving in this manner.

“We must accept that the problems that were inherent at the time really were a challenge to the concept of social compacting. In the sixth administration, when we started, we realised that we want to bring back the spirit of social compacting.

“The ANC that I come from firmly believes in social compacting, that we must bring diverse people together and build a consensus. I started the process then, of getting special compacts being put together — on a number of things.

“For instance, on corruption I said I want an advisory group to help us build a consensus and compact on corruption. When Covid hit, I put together diverse groups of people, to deal with compacting and the pandemic.

“I did this on almost a variety of areas, firmly believing that many minds put together can come up with a better solution.”