Booby-trapped Ramaphosa must stand his ground and try to combat the enemy within
The first thing Cyril Ramaphosa did after being elected president of the ANC was sit in the wrong chair.
From the start of the ANC's 54th national conference, he had been sitting on the stage in the chair to the left of President Jacob Zuma. After he was announced the winner on Monday night, Ramaphosa walked to the table in a daze. He sat in his old chair, clasped his hands in front of him and took in the moment.
The tears came.
For a while he seemed transported from the din in the hall and the orchestra of camera shutters in front of the stage. This was his long-awaited coronation and he was now in control of the colossal and turbulent creature that is the ANC.Ramaphosa, the 14th man to lead the organisation since its inception, has an arduous period ahead of him.
While Oliver Tambo had to hold the exiled ANC together at the height of apartheid, Ramaphosa has to save the party from losing state power and imploding.
The ANC is in danger of losing its electoral majority largely because of the trail of destruction left by the 13th man. Yet, because Ramaphosa will lead the ANC into the 2019 elections, history would record the fall as having happened on his watch.
Emerging from his brief reverie on Monday night, Ramaphosa realised he had mistakenly sat in the deputy president's chair.
He got up and took his rightful place.That was the sum total of Ramaphosa's adjustment period before the honeymoon ended.
As the rest of the ANC's top six officials were announced, the unease was evident on his face.
The hullabaloo over the 68 missing votes over the ensuing days provided fleeting hope that Ace Magashule could be replaced as secretary-general by Ramaphosa's preferred choice, Senzo Mchunu.
But despite a protracted battle over the votes, Magashule remains the chief administrator responsible for the overall functioning of the ANC.
The relationship between the new president and secretary-general is bound to be awkward, if not hostile.As the conference petered out in the early hours of Thursday, Ramaphosa must have been wondering what he had got himself into.
The Nasrec conference effectively booby-trapped his term with the leadership corps it elected and the cocktail of policies it adopted.
The composition of the national executive committee, divided between heavy hitters from both his and the Zuma factions, will constrain his plan of action.
Zuma's key allies are still firmly ensconced in the NEC and will be hellbent on retaining their grip on the ANC. They will continue to serve as Zuma's storm troopers in the key decision-making body.
Instead of commencing with his envisaged clean-up operation of the state capture network, Ramaphosa will have to walk on eggshells and try to establish the rhythm of the new NEC.As president of the ANC, he must also take ownership of the controversial policies that were adopted - and which will cause further restlessness in the economy.
This includes the ANC resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation. Although he is bound to tread water on this issue, the resolution can only be undone by the next ANC conference.
The populists in the ANC will be drumming it up, along with decisions on nationalising the South African Reserve Bank and free higher education, particularly once the 2019 election campaign begins.
This will cause further jitters among investors and throw Ramaphosa's "New Deal" economic plan off course.
The hype about Ramaphosa's presidency has now been tempered by the reality of the outcome of the conference.Ramaphosa was nevertheless optimistic and statesman-like in his closing address, placing heavy emphasis on the battle against corruption and abuse of office.
"At the state level we must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families, through the exercise of influence and the manipulation of governance processes and public resources," Ramaphosa said.
"This has led to the weakening of our state-owned enterprises, whose governance structures need to be revamped."
This is likely to be a major point of struggle in the new ANC leadership as some of those who partnered with the Gupta family to plunder the state remain in the NEC or have a new access point to the government through Luthuli House.