President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
After finishing off Jacob Zuma’s term, President Cyril
Ramaphosa will officially be sworn in as president of the republic on May 25
after 57.5% of the electorate voted for the ANC with his face on the ballot
The lights at the national results centre in Pretoria were
barely switched off when the Zuma faction in the ANC, unofficially led by
secretary-general Ace Magashule, started grinding their axes.
It is no secret that Magashule and the other Zuma supporters
in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) despise Ramaphosa. Whereas Zuma
abused his executive powers to keep himself and other crooked comrades out of
jail, Ramaphosa has emboldened and encouraged the law enforcement agencies to
act against state capturers inside and outside the ANC.
His presidency is literally a threat to the livelihood of
Magashule and his ilk. A stronger Ramaphosa will be met by an equally stronger
opposition to undermine and hoodwink him at every turn.
These three challenges are Ramaphosa’s most urgent inbox
matters right now.
1. Watch your back
and that of your deputy
Ramaphosa’s power will immediately be challenged from
Luthuli House as the Zuma camp regroups to undermine and ultimately unseat him.
It won’t be easy – the ANC performed better at the polls than most anticipated
and there is no doubt that Ramaphosa contributed vastly to this electoral
Magashule’s psychological warfare against Ramaphosa, by
repeatedly stating that he was not individually important for the ANC to win
the election, is aimed at undermining his stature and respect in the party.
Magashule is hoping to convince ANC leaders and members that Ramaphosa is
The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that Lindiwe
Sisulu and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are both waiting in the wings to take over
from David Mabuza as deputy president.
There are different versions of the back story to this, but
one theory in the ANC is that Magashule and co are betting on Sisulu’s blind
ambition to become president to unseat Ramaphosa. It is no secret that the
relationship between Ramaphosa and Sisulu has been strained. Do not be
surprised if she does not make it back to Cabinet.
The Zuma camp has never forgiven Mabuza for turning against
them at Nasrec and giving his votes to Ramaphosa for president. Ramaphosa needs
Mabuza’s loyalty to buffer him from Luthuli House attacks.
A major headache for Ramaphosa is the list of the ANC’s
integrity committee with names of people they recommend should not represent
the ANC in Parliament. Mabuza’s name alongside that of other Ramaphosa allies
Gwede Mantashe and Fikile Mbalula apparently feature on this list.
The list also includes the names of unsavoury characters
like Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba, but Ramaphosa can
hardly only act against those “rogues” who are seen to be Zuma
2. Cutting Cabinet
without spiting your face
Ramaphosa has promised to shrink his Cabinet and it is the
right thing to do. South Africa’s executive has 36 members and 35 deputy ministers
on top of that. It is obscene and could be cut in half.
He simply has to cut back, but who to cut? Although
Ramaphosa’s position in the ANC has been cemented by the electoral victory, he
is not untouchable and firing a number of experienced, senior ministers could
spell danger for his long-term game.
Ramaphosa is still a politician and will have to reward his
support bases like the SA Communist Party when he decides on a Cabinet. He can
also not afford to alienate the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) and will have to
find a way of giving something if he fires Dlamini.
3. His relationship
with the EFF
Ramaphosa has a charming relationship with EFF leader Julius
Malema, but the party is the biggest threat to the ANC’s long-term existence.
If it wasn’t for suburban voters in Johannesburg taking their national votes
from the DA to the ANC, the governing party may have lost Gauteng due to the
large increase in township voters turning to the EFF away from the ANC.
The EFF has made major inroads in black communities in this
election. The party appeals to a cross-section of middle-class and township
voters who may feel the ANC is not actively championing the rights and issues
of black people.
How does Ramaphosa champion non-racialism and issues
pertaining specifically to the majority African population? Land and race will
be central to the EFF’s continued erosion of ANC support. Ramaphosa will simply
have to deal with these matters in a way that stops the bleeding of ANC votes
in townships and doesn’t alienate white, coloured and Indian voters who have
turned to the ANC in support of Ramaphosa’s “thuma mina” call.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.
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