30 August 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa is popular for his legendary negotiation skills. This is epitomised by his leadership during the Codesa talks to usher in a new democratic dispensation in the early 1990s.
Ramaphosa’s deal-making skills were also at play when he headed the Constitutional Assembly process that produced the country’s constitution in 1996.
Since his emergence as the country’s No 1 in early 2018, Ramaphosa has employed his negotiation prowess to try and bring about unity in a fractured ANC he inherited in December 2017.
The former general secretary of the ANC has also used deal-making skills to try and build consensus and a social compact to drive the country out of economic turbulence.
The start of his administration heralded what would be known as the “new dawn”, a new age of fighting corruption and restoring the promise of a better life for all.
It is common cause now that the euphoria that brought about the new dawn has since been replaced by impatience and a yearning for swift action against those who are stealing from the public purse.
Ramaphosa is under insurmountable pressure. The man is caught between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, he risks an internal revolt from within the ANC when dealing with the rogues who have been looting state coffers and hollowing out public institutions.
On the other hand, Ramaphosa is slowly losing the confidence of the populace – and constituencies such as business, labour and civil society – that once believed that he would steer the country to a different and prosperous direction.
The impatience with Ramaphosa is perhaps well captured in Cosatu’s statement this week, after the meeting of its central executive committee.
The trade union federation, which played a key role in catapulting Ramaphosa to the Union Buildings, said: “Workers feel that the president, who campaigned in poetry, is governing in prose and they are not impressed. The president must stop negotiating with criminals and use the only language they will understand, which is prosecution and imprisonment.”
Workers were reminding Ramaphosa that this is no time to be negotiating with those who have stolen from the public – that he cannot build consensus with shameful and brazen thugs who looted the state during a pandemic by inflating prices of personal protective equipment. It is time to act!
Last Sunday, Ramaphosa issued a strongly worded letter condemning corruption in the ranks of his party, saying the ANC was Accused No 1 when it comes to the question of graft.
He said the stealing of COVID-19 funds must be the turning point and urgent action must be taken against thieves. Could this be the moment Ramaphosa takes off the gloves and stops negotiating with criminals?