It is eight months since a lusty CR17 hard-liner group forced Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa to abandon a proper handover and Mandela type of transition that he himself admitted was running smoothly between him and his predecessor. They obsessed to have him deliver a SONA and occupy Mahlamba Ndlopu as the new leader of South Africa in a stark farcical repeat of a 2008 Mbeki removal persuaded him to take the reins. The dust has settled or did it, – SA has a caretaker president who appointed his first cabinet, had his first SONA and has set out a course for his presidency en-route to winning his maiden ballot.
However, the country is in more than inclement weather, it is exposed to much more than turbulence but is in economic crash-landing mode. I hear you saying, yes doomsayer- let us both hope you right and I am wrong. SA is really autopiloted by an unseen yet to be convened summit since the proverbial captain awaits direction how to steer where the flight is heading. His on-off entourage of praise singers tell us the eight months is too short a period to assess the presidency in particular on his economic performance.
It is a common fact that Ramaphosa was never my choice to lead both the ANC and SA on behalf of the ANC, a party I voted for until now. He was less my choice for an economic messiah or saviour for a South African economy. I, therefore, took it upon myself to keep his feet to the fire of ANC resolutions the same I from the start concluded was for him too hot a flame. I also am of the view that Ramaphosa did not really want to lead the ANC, it’s too complex and fractionally devoured by a capital interest of many shades, he may really only wanted to lead an SA.
Eight months into him finishing the fifth administration’s presidential term, my doubts are more pronounced in this season perhaps with adequate evidence to back it up. Those who implore us to be patient today also tell us his predecessor, Jacob Zuma inherited an economy in a similar sense from Thabo Mbeki. Yet some remonstrate, the crisis of 2008 was an international one ushered in by the USA mortgage lending sector. SA’s current economic woes though historical are too large extent in this season self-inflicted and brought about by both decisions and indecisions that must be levelled at the feet of political leadership and those feet occupies Tuynhuis at the moment.
In our search to make sense of what is unfolding in SA under a Ramaphosa leadership, we must find a beginning to appreciate the SA caretaker president, in his early days of public life. Hardly 24 months after the 1976 Soweto Student Uprise, Ramaphosa found himself strategically associated with the Urban Foundation an organisation brought about by among others the late Harry Oppenheimer, a Clive Menell and Anton Rupert the latter who articulated the plan of the UF. We know that the UF came about when a business conference on the quality of urban communities were convened in place of the scheduled housing conference on November 29-30th at the then Johannesburg Carlton Hotel in 1976. Attended by more than 200 business people representing a crossbreed of business interest not excluding cultural and language realities of those who defined business leadership in an apartheid era.
While Oppenheimer organised the event, it was going to be the honour of Anton Rupert the Afrikaans ‘Godfather’ of business to lay out the practical implications for an analysis, his exact words which ushered the establishment of the UF: “we cannot survive unless we have a free market economy a stable black middle class with the security of tenure, personal security and a feeling of hope for the betterment of all our peoples.” On the basis of this analysis, he would advance the seven aspects that contain the challenge confronted namely: job creation, training, a living wage, greater commercial opportunities, extended home ownership, improved housing, and the provision of sporting and other amenities.’
Rupert then shared his solution with the following words; to establish an urban development foundation to accommodate and coordinate, on an ongoing basis the private sector’s endeavours at improving the quality of life in urban black townships. Butler’s biography tells us Ramaphosa was invited into the foundation board by Clive Menell in what is known to have been defined by Irene Menell as a ‘charitable gesture’.
Let us again understand what the aim of the Urban Foundation was, perhaps if we read it slower we will understand, that the mission of the Foundation was never to challenge in reordering boundaries defined by an apartheid racist system. The intention was to maintain what was already established. It was it’s overarching aim if not fundamental aim of the Urban Foundation, to continue confining apartheid’s blacks to these townships. The Urban Foundation therefore as articulated by Anton Rupert, to accommodate and coordinate, on an ongoing basis the private sector’s endeavours at improving the quality of life in urban black townships. The same townships that EFF leader Julius Malema, on August 2018, during a presidential question and answer session referred to as ‘concentration camps’.
Any analysis of a Ramaphosa in public life ontology must be cognisant of this his erstwhile association and ties to the Urban Foundation who later equally would contribute to the formation of a National Union of Mineworkers, that is the springboard from where we know a Ramaphosa. It goes without saying that his epistemology would equally have been shaped by the organisation that thrust him into a public space presence.
When we, therefore, reached 2017 and a campaign for ANC high office was a reality, we may never forget the first steps of public life and from what office it was led. The same CR 17 hard-line campaigners back then told us he is the solution for SA. Organised labour understood in COSATU and an SACP both who have lost the original intent of their existence in November of 2016 told us Ramaphosa must take over immediately. Do we remember the high – heeled and deep-pocketed temporal civil society formation of a SAVE – SA, who abused the late Stofile’s funeral to demand that Ramaphosa take over immediately? They have all gone silent in the dark of our proverbial economic night of misery supposedly after Sipho Pityana was rewarded with a position. Do you recall the vocal SACC clergy who were willing to abandon reason, an ethos of justice, mercilessly in blinded hate of Jacob Zuma demanded his replacement with Ramaphosa in this season equally has faded into oblivion, who knows what personal and group deals they got as a reward? The agony of South Africa where the poor are poorer today does not visit on the diaphragm of their moral convictions to speak up and question this leadership.
Njabulo Xulu in a social media posting asserts: We almost tasted the beginning of freedom from the chains of white monopoly capital (with Ramaphosa as their entrusted “front”) in December but then the likes of Senzo Mchunu, DD Mabuza, Bheki Cele, etc decided no it wasn’t yet time to break free”.
Ramaphosa was touted and sold by the mouthpieces of white monopoly capital regardless of the prevalence of melanin, of as the unrivalled contender for this position. The awaited messiah, whose billionaire status defined him as the solution for SA economic woes. We heard of a fresh breath of air, masked in claims of a ‘new dawn’ packaged with a ‘new deal’ coached in verbose ‘inclusive growth rhetoric’, they pretended Ramaphosa was recently from another planet untainted as they viciously sought to divorce him from the administration he served as deputy president, the same they labelled in executive as captured. He would be the answer to a moral dilemma, the response to corruption and the media invented ‘state capture’ crime. Ramaphosa would be the antidote of a reluctant jobless economy and the messiah that would save SA. Fancy polished and sophisticated public relations ala Steyn Speed would see Ramaphosa fly back from international destinations as the one to fix local challenges the making of a hands-on president.
Early morning strolls on beaches and selfies on toe came to define the man, the drama and the obfuscation what he according to Butler, boast of himself in verbatim of ‘I am an enigma’ Unfortunately the swag and broad smiles could not prevent an economy contracting, with the second-quarter seeing a technical recession and a third-quarter threatening even worse figures. Some lament, we are already in a full-blown recession. All the selfies aboard commercial flights with apartheid’s special identity whites lining up could not stop the subsequent fuel increases, it simply could not unlock the much-needed jobs, neither could it save SA from a recession the same we are currently dealing with. The marked changes to the SA economy as sold by his leadership remained opaque and a distant reflection of a fallen star. Soon we will hear doublespeak defining the ANC on a litany of cornerstone resolutions until Ramaphosa compelled by internal war was forced to hijack a post lekgotla moment to address SA on land, a clear political attempt at exerting himself in a lost centre of economic redress in an organisational setting.
Is it not time South Africa admits it was sold a lie by white monopoly capital and its partners in crime mainstream media that Matamela Ramaphosa is the messiah who was going to solve in particular our economic woes.
One of his ardent well-rewarded campaigners and known anchor advisor, Minister Pravin Gordhan told gatherings to vote for Ramaphosa and the rating agencies will back off. Throughout the full year of a campaign for ANC high office, Ramaphosa’s apparent business status and sense became the aorta from which a South Africa economic heart would beat for its revival and change. We warned back then that it is simply farcical to want to sell us the myth of a businessman’s apparent skill when we know how wealth came to Ramaphosa through a combination of BEE policy-pollution and tactical savvy apartheid beneficiary interest who was willing to give money for political power control. Do not forget at some stage Ramaphosa sat on more than 40 boards, hardly the success of entrepreneurial flair and equally not a sign of effective directorship, but there was a time when every white business essentially had five names they targeted to ensure their continued existence in an unsure black-led government. We know this because Tokyo Sexwale once confessed they as empowered BEE faces had no clue how wealthy they would become.
Well as of this week South Africa is in a recession, the rand has bottomed out and is currently hovering around 15,45 to the USA currency. VAT is at an all-time 15% high, unemployment is higher than a year ago, petrol the lifeblood of an SA economy had seen three increases and it is not done yet. The workers misdirected by a pliable COSATU in its self-interest was sold a living wage of US$ 225 (R3500.00) per month.
In record time since Ramaphosa’s advent Eskom, the targeted cash cow was duped into signing contracts worth R1.4 trillion with 27 companies who ply or would be plying their trade in alternative energy. Needless to say, Patrice Motsepe the singular signpost of our collective economic freedom is again in the mix. Despite the outcry from many and NUMSA protests, this deal was finalised when we all know Eskom has no lack of supply.
It is September 2018; South Africa’s poor are poorer under the leadership of its caretaker president. The nation is more depressed and we are hardly smiling because the smokescreen’ ramaphoria and thuma mina’ public relations campaigns are dead in birth. We are bleeding on many fronts. The claim of an economic messiah is fading a reality and daily we are confronted with the reality of country entrenched in economic disparity.
It did not take long for a rudderless ANC leadership in the emptiness of economic policy and plan to succumb to the as to be expected blame shift to a Ramaphosa’s predecessor. This week Enoch Godwongwana the doubtful character of economic transformation and trust for the black masses, who often plays for him and his wife’s gain with all the public levelled allegations against him, did exactly that. Godwongana has been chairing the ANC economic transformation committee for the last decade and the results of that pathetic non-leadership are for all to see.
There has been neither a clearly defined and articulated policy or a concise plan, what we have is an androgyny of confusion, for which hitherto there exists no parity of articulation on the part of the ANC leadership. I vividly recall how in 2012 when I was invited by the then SG Gwede Mantashe to attend a session where the ANC met with public commentators and intellectuals at Vista University to engage them on policy matters. I raised this same question as to when we will hear the ANC in common economic policy and parity of articulation communicate its economic solutions and direction for SA. I back then no different to today lamented the fact that its tripartite alliance partners lead the debates and are much clearer. Suffice to note, in the season the SACP and COSATU are clearly out to liquidate the ANC and they do so because they decided in November 2016 on a candidate in a combination of personal self-interest anchored in a historical organised labour role.
While the ANC hob-nobs direction and leaderless in an economic concise plan it is prevailed upon South Africans by this leadership to be patient and await the summit where apparently South Africa’s problems will be fixed in a magic wand. We are told of a Presidential advisory panel that is crafting something, that will take us to a summit of solutions. Under the guise of consultation, South Africans are potentially deceived to mark time in delaying tactics of an economically failed leadership whose only and central interest remains a waning public relations gimmick.
I am no economist and do not purport to be one, what I do know is that our lack of investment is not an external problem, Colonial and Apartheid South African beneficiaries who immensely benefitted from both the era from before and including democracy until now unlike their counterparts in any other countries in the world refuse to trust the miracle that made them exponentially richer. That distrust evidence in their conscious and now notorious absenteeism in investing back into SA. We do not need to no DAVOS to beg when South Africans refuse to invest in their own economy and feels justified in their actions.
Can we remind those who often want to give us a sanitised history of democracy’s first administration? Mandela with all his magic that later became iconic as crafted by white interest could not sway the Franshoek – bourgeoise to invest in SA. Let us not forget Ramaphosa was portrayed as the Mandela copy and crowned with billionaire status they for their own reasons told SA this man because he is rich will not steal, and will solve the economic disparities. What they didn’t tell those who believed them was that this man, unlike others, is uniquely the product of white monopoly capital from as far back as 1978. He was groomed over four decades to be the last frontier since he must lead the maintenance of the status of the status quo that white interest always had wanted. They didn’t tell us Ramaphosa is a 40 year project that today is in power as their last frontier, that’s why when he is compelled to speak to ANC resolutions the same that made him the ANC president, they dig their heels in and disrespect him, he is theirs and his wealth is directly extrapolated from them, they made him and his economic presence is as a result of gifts and what I have termed BEE policy pollution.
Ramaphosa increasingly has shown discomfort on seeing through ANC resolutions, the recent UK Prime Minister Theresa May stopover saw to an ANC released a statement on land that backpaddles on an earlier vocalised clear stance. Let us be real we know the ANC adopted resolutions are considered by those who endorsed his campaign to high office, from within and outside the ANC, as radical populistic rhetoric. In view of such definition of adopted ANC policies, the tactic in this season is to delay, frustrate waste time and limp to the elections where an already Gauteng led coalition government will emerge. This will therefore finally afford the Ramaphosa led SA to dustbin ANC resolutions on economic redress and land redistribution by means of expropriation. Ramaphosa will emerge as president of his version of government of national unity, his personal dream to emulate a Mandela, but with a free pass to implement liberal dictate which is really a Democratic Alliance frame for a South Africa.
All this while, ANC resolutions in this season are back paddled on and doublespeak defines the canvas of our tangible universe reality. Let us then again know, Ramaphosa’s ascendance was never to effect change, it was in the aim of maintaining an economic past that is directly linked to the genesis of his public life. That genesis remains the articulated vision and means for an Urban Foundation as presented by none other than Anton Rupert.
If SA teeters in lack of direction on economic transformation it may just be scripted while the burden of necessity prevails radical economic transformation and change, for now, the politics of expediency and an upkeep of a status quo reigns supreme. While some wait for a promised summit, will 2019 allow white monopoly’s protégé to summit Mount-Ballot 2019 and continue keeping the victims of colonial and apartheid for another five more years in the wilderness of doublespeak? Or will the ANC find its true north and rescue itself and SA in an early NGC?
***An extract from a Chapter “Ramaphosa, suspended between legitimacy – SA’s caretaker president.” Due in 2019