Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
Harold Wilson’s famous quote about a week being “a long time in politics” must rate as one of the most tired and overused clichés in existence.

Yet it made a lot of sense over the past few days when South Africans were dragged through a roller-coaster of confusion and apprehension about the country’s future. 

The questions running through people’s minds were: does ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa have the political clout and leadership skills to act decisively on a final exit for President Jacob Zuma? Or will the wily old survivor outwit his detractors yet again?

South Africans are in limbo as they wait with bated breath for the outcome of discussions about Zuma’s future. All discussions have been shrouded in secrecy.

My assessment is that Ramaphosa has failed to live up to the nation’s expectations in this untidy episode - he’s been conspicuously silent for too long.

Granted, he issued a late public statement on Wednesday to reassure South Africans he has the situation under control but by then confusion and apprehension had set in. With little reliable information forthcoming from official sources, the people relied on the media to stay in touch.

They watched in bewilderment as the ANC dithered, passing the baton from the party’s top six to its national executive committee, then to its national working committee and then back to the national executive committee.

Then followed widespread fears about a possible tribal backlash should Zuma be forced out of office.

South Africans could hardly believe their ears when hearing suggestions that Zuma could fire Ramaphosa as deputy president and appoint Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as acting head of state.

They’d also witnessed troubling scenes of violence outside Luthuli House on Tuesday and were sickened by images of an ANC official viciously kicking a woman in the belly in the ensuing clash.

All the people wanted was for Ramaphosa to be transparent and take them into their confidence.

As the deputy president of the country, he holds the key to resolving the Zuma impasse.

His staunch supporters will probably rush to his defence, saying he had to be ultra-cautious and circumspect under the circumstances; that such sensitive issues could not be debated in the public arena.

That might be so, but failing to communicate with people on the ground shows a lack of respect and empathy for the anxiety and insecurity many feel in these troubled times.

The people are not asking Ramaphosa to divulge the fine print of his negotiations with Zuma.

All they want, and deserve, is a clearer picture because whatever is decided will affect all 55-million South Africans he hopes to one day govern as president.

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