Ramaphosa a far better president of SA than of his fractured, fractious ANC
Can we confidently say President Cyril Ramaphosa is in charge of the ANC? Many of his supporters and advisers would like us to believe that Ramaphosa is in control. But the events of the past few weeks suggest that he may be losing his grip on power, and is slowly handing it back to those he defeated when he was elected ANC president in December.
There is no denying that Ramaphosa was handed possibly the most difficult job of all ANC presidents when he ascended to power at the party's elective conference last year. It was also clear from the minute he won the bruising battle for the party's presidency, with a slim margin, that he was not going to have it easy at Luthuli House.
Ramaphosa inherited a wounded party. It is divided down the middle, with many in his inner circle of senior party leaders - who are supposed to help him lead the party - yet to trust him and possibly even working against him.The ANC is at its weakest point in post-apartheid history. Its popularity among the voting public is declining sharply. The party's own internal poll, made public in an article in this newspaper last month, showed that it was facing the risk of losing power in next year's general elections. In the survey, which was presented to the party's national elections planning workshop attended by its most senior leadership, the party acknowledges that it could win less than 50% of the vote.
Ramaphosa is doing a much better job as head of state. His focus has been on cleaning up corruption in state-owned companies. Since coming to power, Ramaphosa has wasted no time in booting out all those who aided the state capture project. This is progressing well. Eskom has a new board and a new chief executive, and the focus has now moved to Transnet.
It is only a matter of time before some Transnet senior executives, including its CEO, Siyabonga Gama, get the boot. Dan Matjila, the head of the Public Investment Corporation, is facing myriad allegations and clinging on for dear life. Some board members are believed to be so concerned about the allegations that they want him suspended. Denel, the state weapons manufacturer, is also under new management.
But it is in the ANC where Ramaphosa appears to have lost control. Uniting the ANC and running a successful campaign is a priority. This is, however, proving to be a much larger task than anyone could have imagined. The ANC is fractured, divided and at war with itself. Decisions, even those of its national executive committee, are forever being challenged in court.One of the early signs that Ramaphosa was not firmly in control was when he dilly-dallied in removing Jacob Zuma as president. The party adopted a similar approach in removing former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo while the province was burning. Zuma's supporters remain very much in control of the provinces that did not support Ramaphosa. Even the appointment of Mahumapelo's successor shows that Ramaphosa had very little influence in the process, which left Mahumapelo to effectively hand-pick his successor.
It was the same in the Free State when Ace Magashule - now secretary-general of the ANC - was left to appoint his preferred successors both in the government and the ANC. Free State premier Sisi Ntombela and party provincial chairman Sam Mashinini are known Magashule supporters. In KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma's supporters remain firmly in control of the party.
Ramaphosa's job is made even more difficult by Zuma. The former president has attended every NEC meeting since being pushed out of office. This is his right, but he needs to give Ramaphosa space to lead the party in the way he was given space by his predecessor.