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Will Ramaphosa’s credibility withstand scrutiny from the Zondo Commission?

President Cyril Ramaphosa last night addressed the nation on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic Picture: Siyabulela Duda

President Cyril Ramaphosa last night addressed the nation on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic Picture: Siyabulela Duda

Published Apr 18, 2021


By the time President Cyril Ramaphosa appears at the State Capture Commission he will have used all the aces up his sleeves. If this was a battle, it was one for him to lose. Never have forces and political developments been so aligned in favour of an individual.

The first ace up his sleeve is that he can count on the increasingly favourable media to back him. Ours is a toxic media environment in which certain individuals are sacrosanct. They can do no wrong.

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Their glaring failures or transgressions are either explained away or considered as minor detail that should be ignored in the interest of a bigger picture that they represent a struggle between forces of good against evil.

Others are not so lucky. They can never do anything right. They are guilty by mere suspicion and mere accusations. Reduced to beasts of prey they must perforce be subjected to unrelenting scorn and ridicule.

The mainstream media played a critical role in supporting Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign. All indications are this same media will not abandon him, especially in this hour of need.

Veteran journalist Justice Malala forcefully argues that there is “no accountability in the Ramaphosa administration” (Sunday Times January 10, 2021). Malala writes;

“It must really be nice to be in Ramaphosa’s administration. Imagine we were back in the year, say, 2016 and a virus had come along and killed thousands of South Africans. Imagine the revelation that 29 other countries had begun inoculating their populations, while South African had not concluded any agreements for direct supply with pharmaceutical companies."

“Jacob Zuma, who was president at the time, would have been eaten alive. People like me would have written long columns calling for heads to roll. Ministers and directors-general would have been asked to resign. There would have been threats of marches, lawsuits and parliamentary inquiries. Not so in the age of Ramaphosa. This administration, after a spectacular shambles in the handling of the vaccine roll-out and clear lack of strategy, is continuing in its opaque ways, with little or no noise from most quarters. There is no accountability, no taking responsibility and no consequences. Our government has been sitting on its hands for months and we are silent.”

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The second ace in favour of Ramaphosa is the judiciary.

There is enough evidence from the remarks they make in their ruling to suggest they reduced themselves to being propagandists of political factions in the ANC. Their judgments reflect their master’s voice couched in legal jargon.

In the unlikely event that the state capture commission were to find against him, Ramaphosa can count on his review application succeeding in the courts.

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There can be no clearer judicial bias than comments by a full bench of a Gauteng High Court. The three judges opined that the “new dawn that engulfed the country in 2018 did not miss Eskom Holdings SOC Limited (Eskom)”.

“It brought life to Eskom in that in January 2018, Eskom’s old and inactive leadership was replaced by new leadership with new life to undo years of maladministration and corruption within the organisation.” But facts prove otherwise.

The “new dawn” at Eskom has brought load-shedding back and has asked the nation to brace itself for the “new dusk” in the next five years.

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Judge Dhaya Pillay also nailed her proverbial colours to the mast. As former president Zuma reminds.

Pillay has called Zuma a “a wedge driver with poisonous tongue”, has “issued a warrant of arrest against (him) as she refused to accept a medical report from the surgeongeneral of the South African National Defence Force”.

She could not resist in pointing out that removing Zuma was in the interest of the ANC.

This judge, a publicly declared friend of Gordhan, another self-declared nemesis of Zuma, is a member of a judicial panel that is expected to pronounce on the guilt or otherwise of the former president in the case involving Zuma and the Zondo Commission.

The Constitutional Court further compounded the problem of undue prejudice to Zuma by labelling him accused #1. In doing so it usurped the authority of a magistrate’s court to deal with the matter under the Commissions Act. This effectively circumvents Zuma’s right to have his review application heard in the high court.

The third ace in Ramaphosa’s deck relates to political developments in his own party.

The ANC NEC’s decision in which it directs that those of its members accused or allegedly accused of corruption be given 30 days to step aside has effectively put Ramaphosa’s opponents on the ropes. It is just a matter of time before they are disrobed of their ANC regalia.

Ramaphosa goes to the commission with wind in his sail. The fourth ace in his favour is the chairperson of the commission, Judge Raymond Zondo. In handling anything that has to do with Zuma, Zondo has been openly and embarrassingly biased.

At the same time, Zondo spared no effort in trying to shield Ramaphosa from accusations of impropriety. One should recall how the former chief executive officer of Eskom, Brian Molefe, was hurriedly interrupted when it became clear that his testimony seemed to implicate Ramaphosa for having engaged in unlawful misconduct during his tenure as deputy president of the country.

When the hearing resumed, Zondo focused on doing damage control, insisting that Molefe must concede that he (Molefe) is not making any accusations against the president.

Molefe reminded Zondo that he (Molefe) was only there assist the commission by providing the facts, nothing more. It was up to Zondo and the investigators to decide what to do with the facts.

The joker in this case is that the position of chief justice will soon be vacant. Ramaphosa will decide who becomes the next chief justice.

Zondo has worked too hard to destroy his chances. Ramaphosa can count on Zondo. There will be no tough questions. It will be another public relations exercise.

* Professor Sipho Seepe is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Support at the University of Zululand.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.