Surprise, surprise! The fly in Ramaphosa's Covid-19 ointment is a Zuma flunkey

22 March 2020 - 00:03 By STHEMBISO MSOMI
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

There was a brief period when quoting the late 1970s Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was in vogue among ruling ANC politicians. The favourite quote, often cited without reference to Deng, was: “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect flies to blow in.”

Deng said these words to defend himself against Chinese Communist Party colleagues. They had criticised his policy of opening up China through economic reforms that would allow “dangerous influences” into the country.

Of course our local political mandarins were not using the quote to justify their own set of proposed economic reforms. They used it to explain and justify the disparate alliance they had hastily put together in the campaign to have Jacob Zuma succeed Thabo Mbeki as the country's president.

They would say they knew that some of the people involved in their campaign were politically dodgy and often had dubious motives, but they needed them on their side to democratically defeat a president whom they accused of using state resources to stay in power.

Many ruinous years later, some of these leaders would grudgingly admit that their strategy had fundamental flaws; that not only was Zuma unsuitable for the presidency, but that the flies did not just “blow in”, but took over the house.

The country is still counting the cost of those painful years, especially the latter part of the period, which was dominated by what became known as state capture.

But SA is recovering, slowly, even though remnants of that period come out of the cold now and again just to be a fly in the ointment.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa's press conference on the coronavirus outbreak last Sunday, South Africans have demonstrated a strong sense of unity and solidarity as they work together to contain the spread of Covid-19.

There has been no finger-pointing among political parties. Instead, they have all tried to rally citizens behind efforts to fight the virus.

Civil society, too, is playing its part, with the business sector, religious organisations and sporting codes making sacrifices in a bid to protect lives.

SA is speaking with one voice. Well, almost, because there is always that fly in the ointment.

In this instance it is in the form of one Bheki Ngcobo, a self-styled bishop of the South African Zionist Church Association based in Ndwedwe, near Durban.

Ngcobo dominated news headlines this week for his vow to defy the president's prohibition of mass gatherings of more than 100 people as part of the measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“Ramaphosa is not God,” Ngcobo told one newspaper as he declared that his Nkanyezi Church of Christ and other affiliates of his association will be “going to the Easter pilgrimages to fight the virus together”.

“This Covid-19 is Satan, who is attempting to stop Christians from going to praise God as we wish,” he told another media house.

But don't mistake Ngcobo for a misguided religious zealot. There are many other God-fearing religious leaders who have heeded the president's call and have now cancelled their mass Easter weekend gatherings and replaced them with much smaller prayer meetings.

Ngcobo is playing politics with the lives of people.

Lest we forget, the bishop shot into the limelight in Durban as one of the religious leaders who publicly associated themselves with the Zuma campaign for the presidency.

After Zuma's removal from power, Ngcobo became one of the key figures of the so-called fightback campaign, often leading scores of the former president's supporters outside the courts whenever Zuma was scheduled to appear on corruption charges.

In the run-up to last year's elections, presumably still unhappy that the ANC had removed Zuma from power, Ngcobo announced the formation of his own African Freedom Revolution (AFR). The party did not do well at the polls.

But clearly he is still in fightback mode and will oppose anything from the current administration, even when it is clearly in the interest of us all.

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