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An economic imperative and not a choice

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture, Jeffrey Abrahams.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture, Jeffrey Abrahams.

Published Jun 15, 2022


By Masibongwe Sihlahla

The Office of the State President of South Africa serves a twofold purpose: on the one hand, the state president is the head of state, but on the other, the State President is also the head of government.

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While we as citizens may compromise if the head of government has done something untoward, when it comes to the head of state, where the country and all its citizens are represented and affected, it is a different matter entirely.

In an instance such as the one our current head of state is facing at present, it is no longer a matter of choice for Cyril Ramaphosa to step aside but an imperative.

The Office of the State President is vested in the person of Cyril Ramaphosa.

Thus, it is only fitting that he step aside and vacate the post, albeit temporarily, to protect the dignity of the Office of State President while, as the President says, the investigation takes its course.

If Cyril Ramaphosa has any honour, he would not waver, for a moment, to do the right thing and step aside.

There is a moral and material imperative for him to step aside. Morally, as the head of state, he needs to set an upstanding example to not only the citizens of the country, but the world.

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He cannot preach one thing and do another.

Materially, for as long as Cyril Ramaphosa inhabits that post, he is representing South Africa, and what he is representing is not how we, as the country, wish to be embodied.

It is reprehensible in the sense that we exist in a time where the gap between the poor and the rich is increasing indirectly proportional to each other.

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Unfortunately, in a country like South Africa, where capitalism is paramount, and the concept of Parecon or Participatory Economics is foreign, the poor remain receivers of the crumbs, which just informs the poor that structural Apartheid has remained albeit in a different apparition.

The world is watching as America and Britain, our biggest traders and investors, see South Africa as the most important partner in Africa and the gateway into Africa.

Because Cyril Ramaphosa, as State President, also represents the State, any mud thrown at him as a person or Head of Government (in his personal capacity) also sticks to the office of the State President as head of state.

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Perception is everything, and in the world of investment, even more so.

There have been many signs, over many years, that investors are becoming ever more reluctant to invest in the country. “Farmgate” is yet another nail in the country’s perception coffin.

We don’t need more investment for the elite to plunder, but we do need substantial investment to help us get back on track as a country so that we can become sustainable in our own right without the need to rely on others.

We must remember that when people put money in, they expect a return.

Money that flows in and out of the country is strictly monitored, and thus, any transactions cannot be undertaken in cash without the consent or knowledge of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) or the Treasury, as it will affect our balance of payments.

No-one can bring cash above a certain threshold into the country without declaring it or take out of the country without the express permission of the Treasury or Reserve Bank if it is above a certain personal discretionary allowance, which is currently R1 million per annum.

It is rumoured that the President’s safe on the farm was already stuffed chock-a-block with cash, that’s why the $4 million was in the lounge stuffed in cushions.

The imagination thus runs riot at the contemplation of how much was in the safe.

The myth of it being normal to carry such large amounts of cash on hand to affect sales and purchases of wildlife, aside from being wildly impractical, is also, I believe, illegal. How is this money accounted for if in cash? It opens the doors to off-the-books trading and, therefore, undeclared income.

The contrast between what our State President allegedly keeps in his safe and stuffed in his furniture and what millions of people trapped in poverty across the country have in their pockets has been made stark. It is a reminder of how far we still must go to realise the equality that democracy was supposed to have delivered us all.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has always maintained a moral high ground and has been admired in this regard, now is the time for him to act on that notion and protect his good name but also that of the office of State President.

Just as worrying as the belief that these sums of foreign currency were stashed on his property was the President’s statement saying that he had never stolen anything. Unless I missed it, no one accused him of stealing anything. Why would he make such an incoherent statement?

At present, our State President is doing irreparable harm to his own reputation and to that of the country, and for that reason, I believe it is incumbent on him to step aside while the investigation runs its course. After all, is that not what he would expect of his cabinet if they were in such a compromising position?

As long as he remains in his position, and as President of the ANC, he also does damage to the party. Elections just around the corner…

Masibongwe Sihlahla is an independent writer.