/What we can learn from the Mabuza stalemate about Ramaphosas forthcoming cabinet

What we can learn from the Mabuza stalemate about Ramaphosas forthcoming cabinet

2019-05-28 09:00

Mabuza was showing that it if comes down to it, he will instigate a mutiny against Ramaphosa resulting in the president becoming increasingly isolated within the ANC, writes Ralph Mathekga.

President Cyril
Ramaphosa is between a rock and hard place when it comes to deciding who will
be serving in his cabinet. The earlier announcement by the Presidency that he will
announce the Cabinet later in the week is a clear indication of intense
lobbying that is underway regarding individuals that need to form part of Cabinet. 

Even if in
principle it remains Ramaphosa’s prerogative to decide who will be part of his
cabinet, the ANC has traditionally influenced this decision because the party
has to have a say when it comes to who will be responsible to implement its political
mandate in government.

What is
quite interesting about Ramaphosa’s situation is that he has been making veiled
undertakings that only the individuals who are not compromised will serve in
his cabinet. South Africans expect Ramaphosa to stay away from individuals such
as ANC deputy president David Mabuza and others who are implicated in
corruption.

The
traditionally toothless ANC integrity commission has now flagged names such as
Mabuza, resulting in the current standstill in the announcement of Cabinet. The
irony that is playing out before our eyes is that Mabuza is such a powerful
individual that his citing by the integrity commission has made is clear that
South Africa cannot easily avoid him. He is a powerful ANC deputy president who
has positioned himself as indispensable to Ramaphosa’s presidency. Ramaphosa is
fully aware that without Mabuza by his side, his presidency is vulnerable and
may be cut short.

The problem
is that Mabuza’s standstill will certainly embolden other ANC members cited by
the integrity commission to fight hard for their own inclusion in Cabinet. When
Mabuza withdrew from being sworn in as a member of Parliament last week, he
knew exactly that there was no practical way in which he could satisfactorily
clear his name in time for inauguration as deputy president. The point he was
making was clear; the ANC cannot allow a situation where mere allegations of
impropriety are used to exclude people from serving in high positions –
including Cabinet.

Mabuza was
showing that it if comes down to it, he will instigate a mutiny against
Ramaphosa resulting in the president becoming increasingly isolated within the
ANC.

Even if
South Africans may generally approve of Ramaphosa as a credible leader, so long
as a significant part of the ANC is not in on this the president will be
vulnerable. Therefore, Ramaphosa cannot fully rely on South Africans outside
the ANC to protect him in the ANC. It won’t work that way.

Mabuza’s
decisions to confront the integrity commission would certainly send the message
that if you fight hard and remain resolute against the allegations of
corruption, you can actually make it to Cabinet. If he eventually does make it
as the deputy president, it would be difficult for the president to make a case
that others who are implicated should be avoided. People will simply ask why
Mabuza is allowed whilst allegations against him are more serious than the
misdemeanors that the likes of Bathabile Dlamini are confronted with.

Someone
like Dlamini might argue that if each individual’s closet skeletons were to be
weighed, Mabuza’s would crash the scale. This would then imply that it’s not
about the extent to which one is implicated in wrongdoing; it’s only about how
one has positioned oneself in relation to Ramaphosa.

Quite often
in the recent past, Mabuza has made it clear that he is the only pillar of
strength of Ramaphosa’s presidency. He has explicitly undertaken to protect the
president of the ANC. In return for this protection, Mabuza wants full
rehabilitation of his image so that he can be ready to take over as the
president of the country later.

What does this
all say about Ramaphosa’s forthcoming cabinet? Clearly it will have to be a
compromise Cabinet. There will have to be compromises on Mabuza and Gwede Mantashe,
for example. These are two senior ANC leaders who have played a major role in
supporting Ramaphosa’s project in the ANC. To put it simply, Mantashe and
Mabuza are indispensable to Ramaphosa’s survival, whilst Mosebenzi Zwane can be
politically disposed of.  

That will
be the criteria that will most likely influence who is retained in Cabinet and
who is given the boot.

The type of
political calculations that Ramaphosa’s ANC will have to make in deciding who
is in Cabinet simply does not allow for the emergence of a cabinet made up of
creative individuals who could inspire innovation in rolling out government
policy. We are not there yet; the only hope is a marginal shift away from
corruption as part of the broader shift towards clean government.

Since we
have been in trouble regarding corruption, clean government may be a good
principle upon which to start. However, a corruption free government is not
necessarily an innovation in tackling major policy concerns in society. We
should remember that as a nation, we are still dealing with the bare basics of
governance here. We are yet to tackle major issues that require innovative
thinking and approach towards policy. Looking at the debates we are having
about Cabinet, we are still far from finding meaningful solutions to our
problems.

– Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa’s Turn.

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