CAN RAMAPHOSA TURN THE TIDE?

Author:Masie, Desne
Position:President Cyril Ramaphosa - SOUTH AFRICA - Cover story
 
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South Africans breathed a collective sigh of relief following the long-awaited resignation of their unpopular President, Jacob Zuma in mid-February. But after a very difficult nine years of Zumas rule, expectations are high for the new man in the hot seat--Cyril Ramaphosa (right). Will he be able to roll back Zumas legacy and deliver the promise? Analysis by Dr Desne Masie.

The wait to unseat Zuma had seemed interminable and there was much celebrating after he had finally fallen on his sword and resigned. The emotional response from South Africans was exhilarating. For me, the feeling was as great as the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Across the country, the atmosphere was as jubilant as it was during the famous Rugby World Cup win in 1995. A divided nation had been united in its hatred of Zuma--and there is an optimistic sense that this time, the Rainbow Nation can get it right. 'Never again!' South Africans have vowed. Never again will they allow their country to be morally and economically bankrupted by political opportunists.

Zuma's kleptocratic presidency, which began in 2009 when Thabo Mbeki was obliged to vacate the Presidency as a result of the ANC's political machinations and Zuma's grassroots support, resulted in the hollowing out of state institutions and widespread corruption.

This ultimately culminated in the 'State Capture' phenomenon brought about by his cronies, and South Africa's sovereign debt being downgraded to below investment grade in March 2017 alter yet another of Zuma's ill-conceived Cabinet reshuffles.

But whether the post-Zuma era lives up to expectations depends greatly on how his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa manages the days and weeks to come.

Zuma was replaced as head of the ruling ANC's National Executive Committee by Ramaphosa in December, and the pressure on him to step down had been mounting ever since. Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman with a net worth of around half a billion US dollars, has long been the favourite prospect of investors, and was also Nelson Mandela's chosen successor, but he will nonetheless wear a heavy crown.

He'll need to revive South Africa's tarnished international reputation and sluggish economy. He will have to deliver on a nation's hopes and dreams.

Escapologist checkmated

With a nation watching in disbelief, a defiant and troubled Zuma said in an undignified televised statement on 14 February that he had "not done anything wrong", and that he did not "agree" with the ANC's decision to recall him of 12 February. He felt he had been unfairly treated by the party and just wanted to know: "What have I done wrong?"

South African Twitter, a lively political forum, was quick to remind him. The respected former editor of the Financial Mail, Barney Mthombothi, said: "Zuma keeps on asking: 'What have I done?' You're corrupt. You've breached your oath of office. You've gutted the criminal justice system. You've presided over state capture. You've plundered South Africa to enrich your own family...

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