Gauteng Premier David Makhura, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Treasurer Paul Mashatile share a laugh during the ANC provincial conference in Centurion, in July. Ramaphosa has brought about changes since becoming president, but it’s not ones that will positively impact on the lives of the masses, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Treasurer Paul Mashatile share a laugh during the ANC provincial conference in Centurion, in July. Ramaphosa has brought about changes since becoming president, but it’s not ones that will positively impact on the lives of the masses, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

New dawn poser as Cyril takes reins

By Dumisani Hlophe Time of article published Aug 21, 2018

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So, there is a new dawn. But it is within the same old context. This new dawn comes in bits and pieces. It is not a big bang.

This is where most are mistaken. They look for big bang drastic evidence to conclude whether the new dawn is real or not.

But then, even if one looked for a big bang change, the removal of former state president Jacob Zuma would give that one piece of evidence. The removal of Supra Mahumapelo as ANC premier of the North West, is also supporting evidence for the new dawn.

The change in political loyalties in the leadership of KwaZulu-Natal from Zuma to the Cyril Ramaphosa reign, is also another piece of evidence in the new dawn basket.

These are not necessarily substantive changes. Perhaps they are cosmetic, with the exception of the removal of Zuma as head of state. But, cumulatively, they do form the picture of a new dawn. Albeit, within the same context.

Here is the context: South Africa remains a liberal capitalist society; the ANC remains concerned about fitting into this capitalist system, and not to change it; the ANC remains riddled with factionalism; governance in state institution remains weak; and the overall state performance is weak.

So, what is new in the new dawn? Several issues are: the first is the leadership style of the new, and yet, not so new rulers. In the main, the top six. The new sheriff in town, Ramaphosa, has adopted the status of a statesman unlike his predecessor, who was an extremist alongside those he led such as Fikile Mbalula.

Zuma was openly factional. Ramaphosa attempts to present a unifying father figure.

Rather than lambaste those perceived to be in the wrong within the ANC, he locates himself within the constitution, system and processes of the ANC.

By the time a decision is taken, it comes out as a decision of the organisation, and that due processes and consultation were followed.

This, somehow presents him as the “go to guy” within the ANC, while Zuma was just a “no go area” for some comrades. Even if Ramaphosa may be a “no go area” for some, it is not literally in your face like “that thing of a goat”.

Ramaphosa also plays this statesmanship role within state affairs. The first time he demonstrated this was through the Cabinet reshuffling.

He retained ministers that many would have expected to be released, such as Bathabile Dlamini.

He has also gone to great lengths to showcase a good working relationship with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. There are senior officials that many expected to be fired, and yet, at the most, they are subjected to governance processes.

These include Tom Moyane of Sars (SA Revenue Service); Ziba Jiyane at the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority); Shaun Abrahams, and now some executives at Transnet.

Ramaphosa avoided wielding the guillotine. Instead, he let the system cast out those no longer wanted.

While Ramaphosa plays the statesman within the ANC's top six, there are also hackers. Paul Mashatile plays the role of a sophisticated hacker. His role in the removal of Zuma provides evidence in this regard.

While Ramaphosa was engaging Zuma, Mashatile ran with the real removal of Zuma both within the top six, and through parliamentary processes. He is the sophisticated “here and now guy”. Once a position is taken, and a decision is made, he would fast-track it. David Mabuza also falls within this role with less sophistication, but more cunning. So, the new dawn, is more of an operational model than substantive change.

The capitalist structure and system of the economy, remains entrenched. The new dawn regime has no intention of changing it. But then, the ANC government, since it took over, has never willed to change the capitalist economy.

Rather it has embraced it, and sought accommodation in it.

The new dawn regime has just shown what (former) president Thabo Mbeki did - demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the capitalist system, and the willingness to play within its prescripts.

The danger of the new dawn regime is that it may have more pronounced propaganda than substantive delivery. If the economic structure and system remains the same, as it is, poor cohesion and discipline within the ruling party remains, and also the poor state capacity to perform, then the substantiveness of the new dawn will remain propaganda.

It is for this reason that many within the ANC cannot explain the new dawn.

The new dawn is likely to be more pronounced among the middle class than the poor masses. The middle class now has a president who speaks its language.

The captains of industry through the new sheriff's pursuit of foreign direct investment have an ally both at Luthuli House and the Union buildings. But given the rise in the cost of living, and sustained unemployment, the new dawn may actually be a raw deal.

But how one relates to it depends on where one stands in the food chain.

Those at the consumption points are experiencing it better than those at the production level. The worst off, are those who remain spectators of this food chain called South Africa Inc.

Hlophe is a Governance Specialist at Unisa. He writes in his personal capacity. Twitter: @KunjaloD

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