Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s President considers the future amid corruption scandal

South Africans wait in deep fear to see if President Cyril Ramaphosa will resign after a scandal that involved cattle and a sofa and which saw hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars stolen.

A meeting between the heads of the African National Congress (ANC), the country’s governing party is now a major focus. It will be held in the next few days.

The most ardent support for Mr Ramaphosa – and he is still a popular leader – frame this moment in an all or nothing fight between a decent person trying desperately to clean up a corrupt country and the chaos-mongering forces with the ANC, who want to remove him to protect their loot, and get out of jail.

Commentator One compared the drama to Shakespeare’s Henry V. He urged Mr Ramaphosa “stiffen his sinews” to fight for his freedom.

It is clear that Mr Ramaphosa’s case was politically motivated, at the very least.

Jacob Zuma is a well-known political opponent. Zuma was implicated in allegations of millions missing from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala Game Farm. Zuma also claimed that there had been an elaborate police cover up.

He loftily claimed that he was innocent, a businessman who is also a former icon of liberation struggle and Nelson Mandela once supported him to succeed him.

However, the story is not over. As new details and denials are revealed, many of Ramaphosa’s supporters acknowledge that his handling of the scandal was poor.

He hasn’t been able answer many questions about the huge amounts of cash. We were told that he had put these businesses in blind trust. Nomboniso gasa, a political analyst, said that he thought he was careless and clumsy.

The ANC is a hotly contested party that has been in power for so many years, its internal conflicts feel like open-warfare. In this environment the jockeying and campaigning are full-swing.

Later this month, the party will select its leader. Mr Ramaphosa is the clear favourite. These calculations are changing quickly.

According to many reports, Ramaphosa is already considering quitting, but his allies are trying to persuade him to reconsider, or to at least buy some time to make sure a smooth transition to someone more credible.

The current vice-president, as well as automatic heir to his position, David Dabede Mabuza isn’t considered the best man.

However, could any of the current ANC leaders – many of whom are tainted by corruption allegations – still garner the same level of popular support as Mr Ramaphosa?

If not, can we be watching the gradual unravelling of South Africa’s former party liberation from apartheid and its election loss in 2024.

The Democratic Alliance is South Africa’s largest opposition party and calls for early elections to capitalize on this crisis. Analysts see the ANC’s fall as inevitable and beneficial for young democracy.

“Most South Africans worry about the future. There is nobody who can [replace Ramaphosa]. This is the end of the ANC – which is a good thing. It has accomplished its mission. The ANC liberated the country. Thembisa Fakude, a political analyst, stated that it was time to do something different.

“I believe South Africa has established very strong democratic shock absorbers. [Mr Ramaphosa’s resignation, if it does happen, would be] an example for Africa. Here’s a leader that voluntarily resigned.”

Although it seems unlikely, but not impossible, that Zuma’s ANC faction will manage to capitalize on chaos and return to power to derail the whole anti-corruption campaign. This would ensure political defeat at the next election.

“The Zuma faction struggles to cohere beyond the fact that a few people might have grievances about corruption. However, it is too soon to tell if they will be back,” stated Ms Gasa.

Even a competent substitute for Mr Ramaphosa will likely shake the markets, drive out the few foreign investors willing to invest in South Africa at this time, when the country is still reeling from the pandemic and the decades of corruption under Mr Zuma.

The ANC feuding triggered riots that killed more than 300 people and damaged billions of dollars last year. It was evident that South Africa was now able to see beyond the abyss, and that its fragile young democracy is in danger.

Although this may be true, there is no credible party that can capitalize on the ANC’s efforts. This means South Africa could end up with a highly unpredictable, unstable, and easily exploited coalition politics.

Many wonder if President Ramaphosa has the guts to fight a long battle. Others are more concerned about whether the businessman who was praised for his institutional-building approach to government but is often criticized for lacking political power, may be able to return to his cattle ranch and leave the ANC fighting its battles.

He did not possess enough fighting instinct or the ability to take on the toughest anti-constitutional people [in the ANC]. Eusebius MacKaiser, a political analyst said that we needed someone who was more muscular.


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