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Cyril Ramaphosa has been modelled in the media as the great constitution man for being the man who negotiated SA’s constitutional transition from one of apartheid to a constitutional democracy. What is less said about his involvement is that he was invited by the then ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member and chairman of the constitutional review committee Thabo Mbeki, who together with President Oliver Tambo played an important role in the talks before talks in the mid to late 1980s.
Due to his media engagements and friendship with Roelf Meyer, one of the negotiators on the apartheid oppressors’ side, comrade Cyril was elevated by SA’s media and dressed in borrowed robes as the constitution man, with brilliant and virtually exclusive negotiation skills.
This perception of Cyril Ramaphosa held ground for a considerable amount of time because no one paid attention to the complexities of negotiating a new constitution and the entire transition process, which was evidently characterised by various internal and external dynamics.
Like all borrowed robes, those given to Ramaphosa are beginning to wane down through his inconsistent application of principle, particularly as it relates to the ongoing disciplinary proceedings of the ANC against the leadership of the ANC Youth League.
If comrade Cyril was really the man of the constitution who presided over a transition that everybody in the world celebrates today, how did he fail to manage what is vividly an injustice against the leadership of the ANC Youth League?
How is it possible that he could have allowed for the utter persecution and conviction of youth leaders for expressing political views, while he indeed sailed through the most tumultuous transition in the history of politics possibly in the whole world?
It is common cause that with all the evidence that was presented in the ANC disciplinary hearing, what the leadership of the ANC Youth League, particularly youth league president Julius Malema were convicted on were resolutions of the league’s 24th national congress.
Worse is the fact that these resolutions were contained in the statement of the ANC Youth League national executive committee, which was read by ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa in the presence of all NEC members of the ANC Youth League.
How is it possible that the man of the constitution, the great negotiator and lawyer could not notice this anomaly and dismiss the findings of the ANC national disciplinary committee?
We ask these questions because out of all these developments, there is an honourable option of educating and moulding the youth to be future great leaders in a manner that will not undermine the ANC Youth League’s relationship to the ANC.
It will be difficult to understand because some things, such as class prejudices and personal interests do override objective truths and principles.
This often derides Kwame Nkrumah’s advice and clarion call to revolutionaries in the national liberation movement to never surrender principle on the altar of political convenience.
Under no circumstance should anyone who considers himself a true revolutionary and leader of the people sacrifice principle on the altar of political convenience.
What Ramaphosa is doing and has done is to sacrifice principle on the altar of political convenience.
Ramaphosa delivered the outcome of the national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) in a language, tone and words which are clearly not part of his vocabulary.
Words like “absurd, hilarious, preposterous” and so on were used to define what the comrades of the ANC who represented the ANC Youth League said.
What he was basically saying was that the leadership of the ANC Youth League, or their representatives or both, were basically “stupid” and “foolish” in saying and doing what they did in the NDCA.
Since when do great negotiators and men of the great transition use words like “foolish” and “stupid” to refer to other comrades?
We initially did not know what the real reasons why Ramaphosa could degenerate to that level or language and derision of principle were, but certain facts and recent developments shed the light on what could be the basis of ignoring principle.
The fact that a faction in the ANC has promised him the position of deputy president, which he so dearly wanted in 1994 could be one of the reasons why he took such a stance.
The fact that day after day, he is the only one closing massive business deals with established and big mining capital could be the reason.
The fact that he benefits directly from government endorsed business deals with the Chinese and Americans could be one of the reasons.
We would not know now, but reality is that all, or one of these factors contributed to his approach and attitude on the disciplinary hearing appeals of the leadership of the ANC Youth League, because if Cyril is really the man of principle, he could have not done what he did.
Politics in the ANC is not as simple as he might imagine, because if there are those who promised him the position of deputy president of the ANC, it will not happen because the ANC does not make mistakes.
The ANC will never forget that in pursuit of business interests, and in protest over the possibility that he was not appointed deputy president by the then president, Nelson Mandela, he resigned his position as secretary general of the ANC in 1996.
Resigning from an elected position without the approval of the leadership of the ANC to pursue personal interests and enrichment is not only unprecedented, but amounts to undermining the national liberation movement and what it stands for.
The ANC will never elect Ramaphosa into any official position, and the sooner he realises that, the better.
It was not the decision of the ANC that Comrade Cyril resigned as a Member of Parliament and subsequently as secretary general of the ANC.
The resignation was his personal decision because Mandela said in a press statement on April 13, 1996 that comrade Cyril wanted to leave an ANC elected responsibility before the general elections, but “I prevailed on him that the time was not right to do so, but this time I have allowed him to go, because of the critical role he’s likely to play in ensuring that this wide gap between white and black business is closed”.
Comrade Cyril’s business mentor, Dr Nthato Motlana said “we won the political battle, but real power is economic… We need to mobilise young men as able as Cyril Ramaphosa, who can help to economically empower black people.”
It does not need a rocket scientist to notice that the noble aspirations of Nelson Mandela and Dr Motlana were never achieved, because what Ramaphosa has not done anything significant to close the gap between black and white business, and not economically exported black people, he instead sits and generates personal income on an unmanageably big number of boards of big corporations.
As the leadership of the ANC Youth League, we spent a considerable amount of time analysing and discussing what the approach of Ramaphosa would be on the disciplinary hearing.
Some argued that he would be objective and the majority knew his class position and prejudices would compromise him and that he would do anything to please the powers that be, because of what the ANCYL stands for– in direct contradiction to mining capital which has since co-opted Ramaphosa.
Those who argued that he would be objective did so on the basis that others who desperately want the leadership off the radar of ANC politics towards the 53rd National Conference once labelled him an apartheid collaborator and spy.
In his approved biography, it is confirmed that Cyril Ramaphosa was investigated and found to have had a questionable security status as a freedom fighter by a commission led by then chief of ANC counter intelligence Jacob Zuma.
At the end of the day, the social scientific observation that one’s social position determines one’s consciousness is true, but we never thought that Ramaphosa’s conscience would be eroded at the altar of political convenience. Indeed, a turkey cannot vote for Christmas.
Some of us will not be shocked if Ramaphosa is among those spearheading constitutional amendments that will be aimed at protecting individuals or grant them immunity from possible prosecution.
As it relates to the ANC NDCA, President Zuma has already announced the outcomes of the entire process, and Ramaphosa will be part of the executioners who will fulfil the master’s misty ambitions.
Like mist, their political ambitions and short-cut victories will be short-lived.
* Shivambu is a National Executive Committee Member of the ANCYL