Cyril Ramaphosa has an enormous task of cleaning the proverbial Augean stables of the ANC. Whether it will be possible for him as he has some members of the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma slate as part of the national executive remains to be seen.
It may work in the party’s favour that the top six does have members from the NDZ slate. There was clearly cognisance of a possible split and taking leaders from both slates shows an ability to make compromises amidst what were surely very tough negotiations.
However, it has become de rigueur among the public and some political pundits to ascribe the crisis of the ANC to one man – President Jacob Zuma. This is flawed in at least two respects: it accords the latter with powers of sole responsibility in a party as big as the ANC. It also omits the fact that without support from within the party, the president would not have managed to do all he has.
In fact, the problem is much the party as it is the president.
Some problems associated with Zuma existed before he assumed power in 2007 – among them rampant corruption, greed, lack of selflessness, factionalism and the gap between the ANC and its followers. These have been growing since the party came to power in 1994.
The late president Nelson Mandela decried the fact that the cancer of corruption was found within the ranks of the former freedom fighters.
The erudite former president Thabo Mbeki in his well-crafted speeches also railed against greed and corruption. And the party itself has referred to these issues as integral “sins of incumbency”.
It’s clear a culture of malfeasance is entrenched among some in the ANC. The removal of Zuma as party leader does not mean deeply ingrained greed, factionalism and graft will simply vanish.
It is this culture that Ramaphosa will have to combat to return the party its former glory.
Regrettably, this culture thrived more under Zuma, reaching its zenith with state capture – where private business interests can direct affairs of government and in which Zuma is deeply implicated via his association with the Gupta family.
It may be good for party unity for members of the top six to have members from the NDZ slate. But the new president of the ANC will have to be nothing short of a modern day Josiah, the ancient king of Judah.
The Good Book relates that this monarch assumed power at the tender age of eight after the death of his father Amon and he reigned for 31 years.
What is noteworthy about his reign is that he brought about reformation and caused the rival of the nation.
He personally oversaw the destruction of idols, reinstated the Jewish priests and reinstituted the Passover.
Ramaphosa is likely to be familiar with this story as his biographer, Anthony Butler, says “he was never seen without a Bible”.
If the ANC needs anything, it sorely needs revival and reformation at this moment.
Its loss of three metros (Gauteng, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay) in last year’s municipal elections is proof that the party is not attuned to the electorate.
Cyril Ramaphosa needs to revive the idea of the “RDP of the soul” among members and rid the party of factionalism.
The rationale behind the notion of the “RDP of the soul” (pioneered during Mandela’s presidency) is cadres should strive to be above reproach.
Ramaphosa needs to remind all and sundry in the party that they’re not in it for the money but are part of what should be a noble cause to help and serve the people.
Indeed, the country may have attained political freedom in 1994 but it still has a long way to go in terms of inequality.
With unemployment hovering at about 28%, strategies to revive the economy and make it as competitive as possible are vital.
Sloganeering about a “New Deal” was acceptable during election hustings but now we need all shoulders to the wheel – and heaving in the same direction.
It’s time to spell out a vision for the future of the party and country.
Another big question Ramaphosa needs to answer is whether the party can arrest the continued decline in support among voters it has suffered since 2007.
Ramaphosa will soon realise that getting rid of Zuma as party leader was relatively easy compared to trying to revive the party to the glory of the liberation struggle period.