JUSTICE MALALA | This is why Cyril is so scared to get rid of Zweli Mkhize

Cyril Ramaphosa is stuck between a rock and a hard place with his allies, but his renewal campaign demands action

30 May 2021 - 19:48 By justice malala
If President Cyril Ramaphosa acts against his allies they will find comfort with his enemies. If he doesn't, his anti-corruption campaign will be laughable.
WHAT TO DO? If President Cyril Ramaphosa acts against his allies they will find comfort with his enemies. If he doesn't, his anti-corruption campaign will be laughable.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa is not short of enemies, poor man.

If we are to believe the likes of Ace Magashule and Jacob Zuma, two men who hate him with a passion, he has had it in for them for decades. Zuma expects us to believe Ramaphosa was machinating against him as far back as the 1990s.

Zuma was deputy president of SA from June 1999. In April 2001 Steve Tshwete, the late minister of safety and security, announced on television that there was an investigation into an alleged plot by Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa to oust then president Thabo Mbeki. Zuma wants us to believe Mbeki and Ramaphosa were in cahoots even then to oust the man from Nkandla.

Magashule and others use the same convoluted logic. If it’s not a Machiavellian Ramaphosa coming for them then it’s the CIA, white monopoly capital, the whites, the clever blacks ... The list is endless. Evidence? Nothing.

Yet it’s not these losers that Ramaphosa has to worry too much about. The revitalised crime-fighting institutions have begun grinding away and before long many of these “victims” will have to answer questions in the dock. The next challenge for Ramaphosa is his friends.

It is inevitable, given the recent corrupt history of the ANC, that many of the president’s allies are at least as dirty as those considered to be his enemies. The more we learn the clearer it is that there are very few clean hands in the top echelons of the party. That presents a huge problem not just for Ramaphosa and the ANC, but for the country. The deterioration of investor confidence and the instability that is associated with the movement of the compromised from Ramaphosa’s camp into the hands of his opponents will continue.

What a sorry bunch Ramaphosa has around him! Take the state security deputy minister, Zizi Kodwa. It now transpires that this Ramaphosa ally accepted at least R2m in payments, allegedly bribes, from tech company EOH. If Kodwa is charged he will have to step down from his positions, just as the ANC has correctly forced Magashule to do.

The health minister is, strictly speaking, not an ally of the president, but as someone who ran his own presidential campaign in 2017 he is an opponent who has become a useful ally in the fight against the looters of the Zuma era.

Now, being state security deputy minister is not just any old job. The incumbent is privy to incredibly sensitive state security information. If a foreign enemy has what is called kompromat (damaging information about a politician) on someone such as Kodwa, then they can easily blackmail him. It is incredible that for this reason alone Ramaphosa has not put the man on leave.

Then there is Zweli Mkhize. The health minister is, strictly speaking, not an ally of the president, but as someone who ran his own presidential campaign in 2017 he is an opponent who has become a useful ally in the fight against the looters of the Zuma era. Ramaphosa should fire this man immediately. If Mkhize is not corrupt, then he is clearly out to lunch because the looting of R150m that happened on his watch could have been detected by a baby, yet he did not see it.

It is extraordinary to me that Mkhize can claim to be oblivious to the fact that a tender awarded to Digital Vibes, a company associated with individuals very closely linked to him and his family, was not dodgy. Even now, after his own investigation found it contravened government processes and constituted irregular and wasteful expenditure, the minister is trying to play ignorant and innocent. Ask any journalist who covered the ANC in the run-up to the 2017 conference and they will know that the main mover and shaker in Mkhize’s campaign was the key person implicated in this scandal, Tahera Mather. At his press conference last week Mkhize washed his hands of Mather, saying she was not his personal friend, but a comrade. Hear me laugh. Hear me cry.

Mkhize cannot claim to have not known about his close friends amassing an astonishing R150m in the space of a year — and paying his son R300,000 and doing house maintenance for him.

Then there is Gwede Mantashe, a staunch ally and key cog in the Ramaphosa universe. A losing bidder in the multibillion-rand tender for the supply of emergency power has sworn that the tender was rigged by top bureaucrats and associates of Mantashe’s. If I were Ramaphosa I would cancel this tender immediately. Mark my words, this is the next arms deal. It stinks to high heaven.

These are just some examples of the conundrum Ramaphosa faces: some of his closest allies may have to go. Many of them will find a home in his opponents’ bosoms. Will he be able to act against them, his own?

It doesn’t matter. If he fails to do so it will undermine his own renewal campaign.

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