TOUGH CHALLENGE: Cyril Ramaphosa is at the mercy of factions within the ANC and the opposing camp can easily sabotage him, says the writer. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency/ANA
The ascendency of Ramaphosa to the helm of both the ANC and the government raised high hopes.

Nobody could be blamed for this because the nation is hungry for a leader with integrity after a series of wrongdoings, especially corruption. Even Nelson Mandela wanted Ramaphosa as his deputy. As one lawyer once said of him during his ANC presidential leadership campaign: just like Mandela, he has a legal background. He possesses business and negotiations skills and the character, which adds to the rest he has, makes him the full package.

He was a Black Consciousness activist, a trade union leader as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and in the Mass Democratic Movement leadership. His skills were on full display as an ANC chief negotiator during the negotiations at Codesa. Therefore, Ramaphosa has unquestionable Struggle credentials, credibility, calmness, constitutionality and character.

After a political comeback he found himself in Zuma’s camp in the contest between Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, who later appointed him as his deputy. After the ANC presidential succession race he scraped through as ANC president. His two stronghold provinces Gauteng and the Eastern Cape were not that strong. Luckily David Mabuza’s bargain for the deputy presidency worked in Ramaphosa’s favour.

That he scraped through to win reflected his weakness as the ANC leader. Even the ANC top six and national working committee are divided. That automatically compromises him as a leader. It wouldn’t be easy to take decisive action. Should he miss a step he can be sabotaged - tantamount to a recall. The worst would be finding it difficult to stand for a second term should he wish. We must not fail to acknowledge that even in the attempt of asking Zuma to step down he was saved by some from Zuma’s camp.

That he has shady characters in his cabinet does not help either. Deputy President Mabuza has a bad reputation. He is implicated in corruption in Mpumalanga. Bathabile Dlamini is known even by ordinary people for the South African Social Security Agency debacle.

Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba are questionable. These reflect Ramaphosa’s worst compromises after the cabinet reshuffle. He was compelled to compromise the country for the party. It can also be said he was saving the country by having a temporary change. The cherry on top is the Marikana incident, which refuses to die down like a ghost haunting a person for the rest of his life.

In essence, inside and outside the party there is a tide against Ramaphosa.

Inside, is how he won with the slightest of margins and as a result he has to live under fear of a force that can re-emerge against him.

That cannot be underestimated. Rallying people around Zuma inside the ANC is not a minor thing.

Those disgruntled people from different provinces and especially from KwaZulu-Natal cannot be underestimated. They are a sizeable number. Also, even Zuma himself is still appealing to many.

Zuma still wants to know why he was fired. Zuma knows the answer they will give. As Bathabile once said, “we all got skeletonanyanas in our cupboards”. One must remember that Zuma might have damning information on some ANC comrades because he headed the ANC’s intelligence and security in exile. The way he ascended to power and the power relations mean that with the tensions in the ANC Ramaphosa must be vigilant enough especially through the security structure when he leaves the country. Outside the party Ramaphosa has a support base but the Marikana incident is sometimes used.

Ramaphosa’s willing to do his utmost best but he’s limited by willpower.

One thing that can make him survive is building and consolidating a support base more from the outside; he’s not yet safe from inside.

“Matamela march” was a good start. As president of the country he deserves more support from the country to save him from the bayonet of his own party. There are still rumours of endeavours “clean” and “dirty” to oust him.

Clean, is the loophole in the ANC constitution to call for a general council meeting and get enough support to recall him. The Zikalala-led executive would then call for an early ANC national general council meeting, which would be converted to a national elective conference to remove Ramaphosa.

The dirty way is the one reported about the army perceived as loyal to Zuma that intended to overthrow Ramaphosa. South Africa narrowly averted a mutiny by soldiers loyal to former president Jacob Zuma on the eve of his forced resignation in February. Shall we say it is good to have a weak minister of defence because a strong one would have toppled Ramaphosa? If the head of state is elected democratically whether through a direct or representative form of democracy he must be protected. He/she is no longer the entity of the party but of the country.

A party can only be allowed to do so when applying its own mandate but still a nation/country has a right to challenge it. But an army can and must not be given even an inch. Democracy is the will of the people and not of the factions.

The country must challenge removal of a leader without a valid reason who was elected authentically. Ramaphosa has what it takes but he doesn’t have sufficient strength (willpower) from his party. It is unfortunate that you must be deep-rooted in your party even if it put you at the helm to be in the driver’s seat. The willpower for the democratically (direct or indirect) elected person at the helm with a mandate should be sufficient enough to not rely on party factions. Willpower, the will of the people (and not factions), power to the people, that’s democracy.

* Thembile Ndabeni is a writer, researcher and commentator. He holds a master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers

Cape Argus