It's time for Ramaphosa to be his own man

19 May 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

If ever there was a time when we needed President Cyril Ramaphosa to be bold, resolute and decisive, this is it. Ramaphosa will be sworn in as state president on Saturday - just a few days after 400 public representatives would have taken their oaths as members of our sixth parliament. As soon as he has taken his oath to respect and uphold the constitution, everyone's focus will shift to the makeup of the cabinet that he is expected to announce immediately thereafter.
So spare a thought for this resident of the west wing of the Union Buildings.
The next few days are going to be his most difficult as he thinks hard on whom he appoints and who makes way.
As we understand it, Ramaphosa sits with a huge dilemma. Different interests are lobbying him to appoint people sympathetic to their causes.
While he has been president for a little over 14 months, it is only in this administration that he will get to do things his way, and to make his own appointments. When he announced his cabinet last year, soon after taking over from Jacob Zuma, who had been shown the door by his own party, his hands were tied.
While he dropped a few people from his cabinet and rearranged the chairs, he largely had to make do with the cabinet left behind by Zuma. He also had to do this just two months after winning the ANC presidential race by a close margin. As he put his team together, he also had to think about almost half of the ANC delegates at the elective conference in December 2017 who had voted for someone else as leader.
He has spent the past few months selling his vision for a united ANC and getting party apparatchiks to trust him. The appointment of Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane to his cabinet when he reshuffled it soon after taking over must be understood in that context. He had no choice. He needed to be careful and not rattle the empire of chaos.
But a lot has changed. The president owes them nothing and does not have to keep them. This is because Ramaphosa and his people have worked hard in neutralising and defusing the Zuma loyalists in the ANC.
One of his first appointments was Fikile Mbalula, a staunch Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma lobbyist in the build-up to the conference of 2017. Mbalula has been given a position of power and influence in Luthuli House, the party's headquarters. Mbalula, together with Zizi Kodwa, has defended the president against the onslaught from the office of the party's secretary-general, Ace Magashule.
The nomination last week of Sihle Zikalala, another Zuma praise singer, as premier-elect of KwaZulu-Natal, was also a masterstroke. This will go a long way to winning over the ANC members in that province because Zikalala is a very influential leader. Not only did Ramaphosa appoint Zikalala, in the Free State he retained Sisi Ntombela, who is seen in certain quarters as a proxy for Magashule.
Many people now expect Ramaphosa to move with lightning speed to fix this country. For many people it has been frustrating to see how slow he has been in implementing certain key decisions and delivering on his promises. Many feel he is too cautious. Maybe he needed to be.
But his hand has now been strengthened by the party's showing in last week's national and provincial elections. Last week we reported that there were almost 700,000 people who voted for the ANC on the national ballot but did not do so in the provinces. There is no denying that this is the effect that Ramaphosa has had on these elections.
He may not be known for being a courageous fighter, but all we need from him now is that he take courage and be decisive in delivering on his promise. He must drop Dlamini, Mokonyane and all those implicated in wrongdoing. If he is serious about fixing the problems, there is no time to nurse internal ANC dynamics...

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