President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Is Ramaphosa skipping Davos to try and avert a looming palace coup?

By SIHLE MAVUSO Time of article published Jan 16, 2020

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Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to skip this year’s business trip to Davos and political analysts believe he wants to deal with pressing internal economic issues of the country as well as his party’s internal ructions. 

In an official tweet by the National Treasury on Tuesday, it appears that Ramaphosa has instead assigned his troubled finance minister Tito Mboweni to lead Team SA at the World Economic Forum.  The 50th edition of the annual World Economic Forum will run from January 21 to 24, 2020 in the Swiss city of Davos.

Two of the country’s prominent political analysts, Ralph Mathekga and Xolani Dube of Durban based Xubera Institute, agree that Ramaphosa is ditching Davos in order to close the space for his critics and enemies within the ANC. 

According to Dube, one of the reasons Ramaphosa decided to stay behind was that he wanted to ensure that he chairs this coming Monday’s weekly meeting of the ruling ANC. This is the same meeting that is expected to discuss the crisis faced by Eskom and another issue that is likely to pop up is the growing calls for Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, to step or be fired by Ramaphosa. It is the same meeting that is going to also get caught in the storm created by Mboweni by saying it was “a wrong resolution” for the ANC's 2017 Nasrec conference to resolve that the Reserve Bank should be nationalised.

Dube said Ramaphosa doesn’t want those issues to be discussed in a meeting chaired by his party and country deputy, David Mabuza. Mabuza has already thrown Gordhan under the bus by revealing that together with the board of Eskom, he (Gordhan) misled Ramaphosa regarding the time frames of halting load shedding and regarding the real problems in the state-owned power company. 

“He is seemingly aware that he is under siege and he wants to monitor these ANC’s Monday meetings… where the ANC meets each and every Monday… He cannot leave behind power to someone that he is no longer trusting, he is not trusting DD anymore. So why should he leave knowing that there is this fresh tug of war between him and DD,” Dube said, adding that Ramaphosa has become “a fire extinguisher for his own power." 

Dube added that Ramaphosa is also more concerned with the economic crisis of the country and he wants to be seen as someone whose hands are on deck instead of being seen as another globetrotting African leader. 

Mathekga agreed with Dube, saying Ramaphosa has come to realise that his presidency is in a “precarious and shaky” position. He said it was also good for Ramaphosa to stay behind and face the challenges of the country.  On the other hand, Mathekga said, Ramaphosa does not want to give space to a calculating man like Mabuza who has shown that he likes to show leadership in times of crisis in the country. 

“Sometimes if you become too absent in a crisis like this, somebody else begins to lead. DD (David Mabuza) seems to be very much willing to lead. No doubt about it, he is always willing to step into that. So you don’t want to come back and find that things are moving so well without you. That is not a good thing, especially when your presidency is at stake,” he said. 

Additionally, Mathekga said people like Mboweni, who had added another headache for Ramaphosa on top of the Gordhan-Eskom one, should know that they got their positions through the party. As a result he said they should not “be adventurous outside the party” but instead must raise their views from within. 

Political Bureau

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