Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa File picture: David Ritchie
Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is walking a tightrope after finally declaring his intention to contest the ANC leadership and take the battle to President Jacob Zuma’s camp.

Hours after the tripartite alliance leaders, including Gwede Mantashe and SACP leader Blade Nzimande hit out at Zuma, Ramaphosa joined the chorus of attacks on Zuma and the Gupta family, calling for a judicial commission into state capture.

The state capture allegations centre mainly on the influence that Zuma’s friends, the Guptas, have in the appointment of cabinet ministers and the awarding of government contracts

On Sunday, Ramaphosa used the memorial lecture of slain SACP leader Chris Hani in the Eastern Cape to charge that unity within the ANC could not be used to cover for those involved in wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa’s speech at the Babs Madlakane Hall in Uitenhange could be seen as a point when he finally took the battle to Zuma.

On Monday, he and Mantashe will come face-to-face with Zuma during what is set to be a heated weekly meeting of the top six officials.

Ramaphosa’s chief lobbyists told The Star that as much as he understood that he had to come out, he was managing a delicate situation.

”People have been asking him, saying ‘comrade, you are too quiet and the others are busy campaigning. Cyril, unlike Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, is the deputy president of the ANC and a member of the ANC's top six, so he faces a moral and ethical dilemma,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

“If he goes open and is seen as campaigning, people will question his discipline. I’m sure the same applies to other NEC (national executive committee) members.

"He understands this dilemma, but he is aware that any campaigning at this stage could be seen as divisive and undermining party policies,” he added.

Another source close to Ramaphosa said he wanted his campaign to be different from his rival, former AU Commission head, Dlamini Zuma.

“As much as he needs to come out of his shell, he needs to be smart enough not to look so desperate and stoop to Dlamini Zuma’s level, who is going about making controversial statements and is surrounded by dodgy people in government,” he said.

The Star understands that Ramaphosa’s backers were focusing on building his support base at the branch structures.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa let rip at the memorial lecture, charging that state capture allegations had to be investigated as “we cannot let this rot fester”.

He continued from where he left off last week during a meeting with the Black Business Council, where charged that the ANC had to deal with the corruption in its ranks. He said the infighting, vote-buying and patronage continued to plague the ability of the ANC to achieve its goal of creating a better life for all South Africans.

The problem of “money bags” in the ANC has also been raised by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

With the country’s economic credit rating having been downgraded to junk status by two agencies and the third downgrade looming, Ramaphosa admitted that many people no longer see the ANC as representing their hopes.

“While some may want to contest the use of words such as ‘crisis’ and ‘rot’ to describe the current situation, the undeniable reality is that the democratic movement is undergoing a period of greater turbulence and uncertainty than at any other time since 1994,” he said.

Ramaphosa warned that if the ANC did not address its woes it would lose more votes in 2019, the same way it did during the 2014 elections.

In what can be interpreted as a swipe at Zuma, Ramaphosa said the recent marches calling for the president to step down highlighted the challenges the party faces. This is while Zuma has dismissed the marches as racist.

But Ramaphosa said, when speaking about the protests, some of their conduct and sometimes “sheer negligence" seem to be pushing many important constituencies away.

At the weekend, Mantashe warned against showing those marching a middle finger, in what was also a missive directed at Zuma.

The Star