OP-ED Opinions 

News24.com | Melanie Verwoerd: CR17 accusations – A dangerous race to the bottom

2019-08-20 22:29

Instead of dealing with the issues plaguing the country such as unemployment, service delivery and the various SOE meltdowns, the politicians are like a pack of hyenas tearing this country apart, writes Melanie Verwoerd.

I’m just
back from addressing and meeting with a number of international investors in
London. Without exception these investors were extremely negative about South
Africa’s future. They raised some legitimate concerns around the SOEs and the
economy in general, but their bigger questions were linked to the messy
political dramas playing out in the country, particularly those around the
president.

It was
stated very clearly that for them to even consider South Africa as a possible
investment destination, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s continued leadership of South
Africa is an absolute prerequisite. He is quite simply the only game in town.

It is not a
healthy situation to have all hope and trust in one man, but it is the hand we
have been dealt and the hand we now have to play with.

Any serious
suggestion that Ramaphosa might be challenged for his position would
undoubtedly have a very serious impact on the currency, markets and economy in
general. Thus, the current noise about the CR17 campaign is creating jitters
among the money people – adding to their already significant reservations about
South Africa.

I say noise
because if we interrogate the whole CR17 donations issue, there seems very little,
if any, substance to it. The only questions that need to be asked in relation
to the matter are firstly whether Ramaphosa did anything illegal and secondly
whether he lied to the Public Protector during her investigation into the
Bosasa donation.

From what
we know so far the answer to both of these questions is no – yet those who seem
hell-bent on getting rid of Ramaphosa, together with certain commentators and
analysts, continue to create the impression that something illegal happened.

Let me be clear
that I find the amount of money involved in the CR17 – and presumably the NDZ campaign
– obscene. Of course a lot was at stake – the future direction of the country
was at play – but to have spent hundreds of millions of rands on who knows what,
seems morally questionable.

The ANC
should certainly look at the manner in which funds are raised during these
campaigns. However, raising and spending vast amounts of money for political
campaigns will always remain part of the political landscape. Nothing that the
CR17 campaign has done has proven to be illegal, or even seriously suggested as
such.

Secondly,
nothing I have seen has suggested that Ramaphosa lied to the Public Protector.
Those behind leaked emails that appeared on social media clearly wanted to
create the impression that Ramaphosa, contrary to his evidence to the Public
Protector, was personally involved in raising funds for the CR17 campaign.

Assuming that
they are authentic, the emails do suggest that Ramaphosa was asked by his
campaign managers to speak to potential donors. However, curiously we have not
seen Ramaphosa’s response to these requests. Clearly if he had agreed to do so,
the leakers would have also put that into the public domain. Hence it is
probable that Ramaphosa either responded negatively to the requests and never
spoke to these donors, or if he did, he asked the donors not to reveal their
willingness or intention and took the matter further with his staff.

It is
important to be reminded that none of this is illegal, nor would it contradict
his testimony to the Public Protector.

What is
clear is that the CR17 donation drama is part of the fight against Ramaphosa
and it is not only damaging to him, but to the country as a whole. Frustratingly,
it’s not only part of the factional fighting taking place inside the ANC, it’s
the opposition as well. Yet, again, the opposition is unable to stop themselves
from engaging in petty political mudslinging instead of doing what is best for
the country. (If you don’t believe me, watch the manner in which the opposition
behave during question time tomorrow in Parliament.)

Instead of
dealing with the real issues plaguing the country such as massive unemployment,
service delivery, the various SOE meltdowns, etc. the politicians are like a pack
of hyenas tearing this country apart, bit by bit.  

A senior
asset manager (with an ANC background) sent me a text yesterday which read: “It
is so *&^% stupid. How have our politics sunk so low that instead of
focusing on the highest unemployment rate since 2006, we have politicians of
all stripes trying to score cheap political points against the one guy who is
trying to do good for a change?”

Good
question!

In this
race to the bottom, the only victims will be the country and our collective
futures. The opposition both inside and outside the ANC might relish the idea
of getting rid of Ramaphosa with these continued attacks, but the question we should
insist they answer is this: “What happens then?”

Let me assure you, they won’t have a credible answer, because they know
that the economy and currency will collapse, making any possibility of growth
impossible for a very long time.

Clearly the
battle between those who would destroy our future for short-term political
gain, and those trying to salvage that future for our children, isn’t over.

– Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

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