As the ANC national general council (NGC) approaches, President Cyril Ramaphosa is faced with tough choices to make as different constituencies that catapulted him into power pull him in dierent directions.
Of late, the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners – SACP and Cosatu – have been hinting they are unhappy with some of the key decisions that his administration is making. The party’s left allies are starting to use language similar to that used when turning against ex-president Jacob Zuma.
The SACP is dropping lines such as supporting Ramaphosa was not a “blank cheque”. In their political report for the special national congress, the communists’ theme on the discussion on the economy was “neither the parasitic nor the neo-liberal networks, but a democratic developmental state”.
It was a warning that the party would not support Zuma’s state capture networks – which are said to be fighting back – and would also fight
against those close to Ramaphosa who are pushing for neo-liberal policies.
Cosatu has seemingly stopped being diplomatic about their unhappiness with some aspects of Ramaphosa’s administration.
The trade union federation last month called for Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and former Eskom board chairman Jabu Mabuza to step down for misleading the president on load-shedding.
This is aftter Deputy President David Mabuza told journalists on the sidelines of the party’s 108th celebrations in Kimberley that the president was misled when he told the nation that there would not be any load-shedding throughout the festive season until January 13.
The failure to keep the lights on left Ramaphosa in an awkward situation. Mabuza’s comments that he was misled saved the president the embarrassment of being accused of lying to the nation. Cosatu and the SACP have also been vigilant on how Ramaphosa’s administration is dealing with state-owned enterprises.
There is deep suspicion that government wants to privatise critical state-owned entities such as SAA and Eskom. Ramaphosa had to veer o his statement in Kimberley to address the Eskom matter.
“We are not going to privatise Eskom. We are going to strengthen Eskom. Eskom is too big to fail. We will not allow Eskom to fail. We will rebuild it and support it,” he said The recent decision by the ANC at its national executive committee lekgotla to restructure SAA instead of closing it down was seen as a victory against Ramaphosa, Gordhan and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.
Mboweni have been advocating for the airline to close shop. Cosatu has also opposed Ramaphosa’s plan to split Eskom into three.
Ramaphosa races down Zuma’s path Those who helped the ANC leader ascend to the presidency are growing tired of his lack of decisive action The SOEs have become a battleground of an intensive war over the future of the country and control of the ANC in the run-up to the NGC and the party’s 2022 elective conference.
The SACP, Cosatu and forces aligned to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule are said to be fighting against the privatisation of SOEs and appear to also be against any involvement of the private sector in state companies.
As the economy struggles to grow and unemployment remains stubbornly high, Ramaphosa also faces pressure from the private sector, ratings agencies and investors to implement economic reforms, and in particular to fix debt-ridden Eskom, which has become the biggest danger to the country’s economy.
A fortnight ago, Business Unity SA president Sipho Pityana warned him against ruling by consensus, saying the crisis in the country required bold and decisive leadership.
With the NGC looming, Ramaphosa is at the centre of a changing political terrain that has implications on whether he will win a second term or not in 2022. Forces aligned to Magashule are lining up Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to contest to become deputy president or take over from Ramaphosa.
Sisulu is being pushed on the woman ticket and represents the “exiles” in the party. None of the top six were in exile during the liberation struggle – a situation Sisulu’s supporters are exploiting.
She has been accused of using appointments to her department’s national rapid response team to build a war chest to ascend to the party’s echelons.
Sisulu recently hired top spies Gibson Njenje and Moe Shaik as her special advisers. The two senior spooks were fired by Zuma for investigating the Gupta’s takeover of the state.
She has also appointed one of Magashule’s staunchest allies, Bathabile Dlamini, as chairwoman of the interim board of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority.
Heading down Zuma’s road
Sisulu has denied her appointments are part of a campaign to possibly be the ANC’s first female president.
Her campaign is ensuing while it has emerged that there are tensions between Ramaphosa’s CR17 supporters and Mabuza’s backers, with fears that this is paving the way for Magashule’s allies to gain the upper hand.
The Mabuza camp is consolidating its support to continue to play the role of kingmaker in 2022. Insiders in the Mabuza camp where concerned about the fightback led by Magashule, as it said to have state capture elements. Mabuza’s supporters are pushing for him to serve
another term as Ramaphosa’s deputy and block Sisulu’s campaign to enter the Union Buildings.
But some in the Mabuza camp are concerned about the people around Ramaphosa, whom they say don’t have support in the ANC but are making major decisions about the direction of the country. Ramaphosa is said to be surrounded by an aloof, elitist grouping that doesn’t command support of structures of the ANC.
There are concerns the president is making decisions with this kitchen cabinet that is not grounded in structures of
the ANC. “We need to save the president from self-destruction. The fightback is strong,” said one of Mabuza’s allies.
With Cosatu, SACP and elements in the ANC increasingly raising concerns with Ramaphosa’s kitchen cabinet and his exercise of power, the president risks suffering the same fate as Zuma.
Zuma was accused of mortgaging state power to the Gupta family, together with his acolytes in the government, at the expense of ANC structures.
Although there is no evidence that Ramaphosa was auctioning the state to his allies, his kitchen cabinet is often likened to the Gupta’s power
grab from ANC structures.
There is a palace revolt brewing against the Ramaphosa administration. His hegemony seems to be washing away inside and outside the tripartite alliance. Could Ramaphosa be headed for a Zuma moment with his kitchen cabinet?
By George Matlala