Friends and Foes: Checkmate for the RET faction

Johannesburg – ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa finally wrestled control of his party machinery from the radical economic transformation (RET) – a faction opposed to his presidency – in the most dramatic fashion this week.

It was a victory seen and hailed by those close to the Ramaphosa camp for its sophistication.

It surprisingly drew the attention of Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, who this week did not waste time to mock Ramaphosa’s opponents for the dearth and deficiency of tactics in their political strategy.


Malema’s taunts aside, Ramaphosa’s final assertion of his power signalled a major political shift in party dynamics.

The party has thus far been battling to rescue itself from the lack of political standards South Africa has regularly witnessed since Thabo Mbeki was deposed in Polokwane in 2007.

Ramaphosa’s triumph at his party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting cannot simply be characterised as a defeat of party secretary-general Ace Magashule; the man who has made no secret of his dislike for his party president.

ANC members who were part of the colossal battle fought at the party’s NEC – which culminated in Ramaphosa’s unprecedented statement on Monday evening when he described his ANC opponents as “counter -revolutionaries” – characterised it as a battle bigger than Magashule.

Julius Malema. PICTURE: EFF

The stakes were high. An ANC NEC member who reflected on the meeting said the arrival of foreign elements in the ANC and their legacy, especially the Gupta family and the influence they have had on ANC leaders, was the batt le the ANC sought to finally wrestle from the beneficiaries of the Gupta largesse.

The batt le had many proxies. The Guptas legacy had permeated throughout the organisation’s structures and had steered the party away from the ANC’s “revolutionary morality”.

Contextualising the description of the current governing party’s battles, one ANC leader specifi cally drew att ention to the ANC’s policy document entitled

“Revolutionary Morality”, which sets out the relationship between the ANC and business. The document calls for what is described as a “new cadre” and deals with what it describes as “the aberrations such as careerism, personal enrichment and corruption on the revolutionary morality of the ANC”.

I was reminded to cast back my mind to the early days when the ANC took power. Fearing the sins of political incumbency, the party produced the document as the first comprehensive response to the challenges “posed by the erosion of moral values of the ANC members by the new conditions”.

It is an interesting piece of paper that defines how the development of ANC members should be underpinned not only by codes of conduct, but by the oath and allegiance of members to the constitution.

The opinion from some ANC members is that the RET had deviated from its core values since its core moral principles were abdicated to populist slogans brought about by the Guptas.

Though it is ANC policy, radical economic transformation was hijacked by the Gupta elite. It was turned into a factional batt le within the ANC.

The danger faced by Ramaphosa was how the RET faction had tended to make use of fanaticism in pursuit of its political goals, something which Mbeki warned against long after he had left office.

It is interesting how in the midst of the skirmishes, the RET tried to mould its political orchestra not only around Magashule, but also around individuals such as Carl Niehaus, who has consistently failed to provide and produce melody to the RET orchestra.

Niehaus, as Malema hinted this week, has been the weakest link of the Magashule campaign. He is an example of a man who has consistently failed and refused to become a better person in the face of the many second chances he had been given despite his moral and political unworthiness. He has instead shown to be a misfit who has never carried any noble intentions.

He appears a political mischief who thrives in political chaos. As chief adviser in Magashule’s office, the man’s actions seem to have always been carried out to gain personal advantage or secure political reward as long as he was at the centre of chaos.

These are some of the glaring weaknesses the Ramaphosa camp seem to have exploited as they delivered blow after blow to the Magashule base.

In the wake of Ramphosa’s offensive, the RET forces were left scattered this week.

They were effectively muzzled and told to toe the line if they did not want to face Ramaphosa’s wrath.

Wally Mbhele

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