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Ramaphosa gears up for greater test

By Crystal Orderson, in Cape Town
Posted on Friday, 24 May 2019 12:25

President of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza (L) wave to supporters ahead of the ANC's 106th anniversary celebrations in East London, South Africa

After a relatively solid victory at the polls, President Ramaphosa will be sworn in this Saturday. Then the real politics begins.

Pretoria is rolling out the red carpet for the first-ever presidential inauguration not taking place at the Union buildings but rather on a sports field: Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

Hundreds of police officers are keeping a close watch as the capital city prepares to welcome more than 30,000 well wishers to watch Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa take the oath on Saturday.

Away from the pomp and ceremony, the focus remains on:

  • Cabinet choices
  • Ramaphosa’s internal political opposition

Dealing with the economy and creating jobs tops the wish list for most commentators.

Dawie Roodt, Chief Economist of the Efficient Group says “Ramaphosa has promised us a smaller government and cabinet… [but] we must get efficient people – ministers are often appointed because of loyalties and not for the job they do”.

Fixing the economy

The next few weeks will be crucial for the economic direction of the country. All eyes are on the finance and state-owned entreprises (SOE) ministerial positions.

In particular, the state-owned power utility, Eskom, which needs billions of rand to just survive.

But these are political fights, not just economic ones, says Roodt. “There are about 20-30,000 people working at Eskom – we need to cut down which will not be easy when unions are in alliance with the ANC”.

Dealing with corruption

The second great task for Ramaphosa – again a political one – is dealing with corruption.

“We all know the past ten years that the SA economy suffered because of patronage of the ANC and because of incompetence the question the financial market is asking is will he be strong enough to get rid of the bad corrupt people — the market will be waiting for this”, says Roodt.

Deputy President Dilemma…

And then there is the question of who Ramaphosa’s number two will be following the surprise and shock announcement by David DD Mabuza to not head to parliament for now.

On Wednesday Mabuza asked for his swearing-in to be postponed to make a presentation to the ANC’s integrity commission.

Prior to the election the Commission drew up a list of 22 people it red-flagged on the party’s election lists and sent this to the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule. Mabuza was included on the list.

Speculation is now rife that Mabuza is likely to pass on the position of Deputy President of the country in favour of focusing on ANC activities.

For Ramaphosa that comes with its own risk.

  • ANC history shows how President Mbeki thought he was rid of Jacob Zuma, only for Zuma to spend his ‘down time’ mobilising the branches of the ANC against Mbeki.
  • Mabuza is best known for his switch to support Ramaphosa at the conference where the ANC president was chosen; could he switch again?

Others think that this foreshadows the fate of other ANC ministers implicated in corruption, such as Bathabile Dlamini, Faith Muthambi and Mosebenzi Zwane.

Bottom line: South Africans will get a taste of what is coming in his presidency by watching how Ramaphosa gets a grip on government priorities and cleans up the State in the weeks to come.

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