President walks tightrope as factionalism threatens ANC
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President Cyril Ramaphosa is walking a very tight rope.
So tight that, at the risk of mixing metaphors, it may be extremely difficult for him to successfully steer the embattled ANC ship through the choppy waters that are engulfing it on all sides of a raging factional war.
My biggest concern at the moment is how Ramaphosa will arrest the crippling factionalism tearing the party further apart.
In fact, deep down it is the ANC government itself which in the final analysis is on trial at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.
The Top Six leadership of the ANC, its national executive committee (NEC), and Ramaphosa’s Cabinet are a reflection of the factional divisions which characterised the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference in
This has also determined the staffing of all the ministries, government departments, and state-owned enterprises.
The question is how does Ramaphosa navigate such potentially treacherous terrain - especially in a party racked by a deep crisis?
What makes the crisis within the ANC so much more daunting, and Ramaphosa’s task so much more onerous, is that it comes at a time when to many it appears that, wittingly or unwittingly, he is himself involved in this factionalist war.
How he has handled the contentious issues between Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to many seems to confirm the perception that he has taken a soft line on Gordhan.
Supporters of former president Jacob Zuma sing and dance during a break between hearings recently at the Zondo commission probing state capture. File picture: AP
The other blistering criticism which has compromised him much more is how he has handled the African
Global Operations (AGO), previously Bosasa, debacle involving the funding of his presidential campaign, and money paid by the company to his son.
Ramaphosa must realise that full transparency in all matters he is involved in is imperative if he seeks to instil confidence in his presidency.
He must avoid even just appearing to be defensive of Gordhan, or in fact, of himself.
His conduct is also likely to influence the ANC’s NEC as well as the Cabinet, which are both filled with members from both factions.
But the ANC and this country cannot afford - certainly not at such a perilous time - that this factionalist war, which has already claimed the lives of many ANC members and councillors in some regions, worsens.
If this continues, all the political parties and the entire country will
in many ways suffer grave consequences.
But don’t, however, forget that we all could have faced a worse situation in this country if Ramaphosa had lost the presidential race in 2017.
Besides, there are many people eager to opportunistically exploit the inevitable fallibility of leaders for their own ends, which are not always in the public interest.
Today, there are so many nefarious agendas at play, including ones at pains to appear otherwise, that we need maximum alertness.
The question, however, is not whether the AGO funding investigation by Mkhwebane falls outside her powers which Ramaphosa insists on, but rather whether it was in itself lawful and permissible for an electoral campaign that was ultimately for his presidency of the country.
From what Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has said, it appears that Mkhwebane does have the power to conduct such an investigation.
Ramaphosa is advised to deal with the substance of the allegations around the AGO funding, rather than derail or frustrate that process by legal technicalities and dilly-dallying.
After all, he himself told the ANC NEC last week that they needed to refine and tidy up the law around such funding.
But frankly, the ANC at present does not have the kind of leader to guide this country in its darkest moment since 1994.
The person who has the moral stature and equanimity to make a big difference in dealing with, and rising above, this combustible and destructive factionalism in the ANC and to guide it is former president Kgalema Motlanthe.
But the cagey manner with which Ramaphosa has dealt with this major AGO issue suggests that Motlanthe is not one of his key advisers.
* Harvey is a political writer and analyst.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.