Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa betrayed zero emotion when it was announced that Ace Magashule, the decidedly dodgy ANC chairperson from the Free State, was to be his secretary-general.
The realisation about exactly how big the task at hand his immediately dawned on him. How is he supposed to (a) dismantle the parasitic shadow state that his predecessor has allowed to grow and flourish; (b) reclaim the ANC from the system of patronage and corruption that has gripped the party; (c) while having to manage the ANC alongside the Gupta-compromised Magashule and David Mabuza, the provincial premier implicated in mafia-like activities in Mpumalanga.
It seems an impossible task, and until he is president of the republic it might just prove to be. But there are some ways around it. He will, however, have to be steely in his resolve -- and be prepared to take some political body blows if he wants to achieve his aims. The Nasrec trio of Mabuza, Magashule and Jessie Duarte -- the Zuma-aligned deputy secretary-general -- represents a serious political problem. But if Ramaphosa can out-negotiate Anglo American as a firebrand union man, get a National Party Cabinet to squabble and implode and defeat the combined Zupta forces in an ANC elective conference, he surely can keep those three on a tight leash.
The wily former secretary general must be Ramaphosa's biggest ally. He has been in charge of running the organisation for a decade, he knows every nook and cranny of every floor at Luthuli House, he knows every regional chairperson and knows exactly in which closet every skeleton is hiding. He might not be secretary general anymore, but he has the knowledge and the network to ensure that his boss isn't blindsided. He is a formidable asset to have. He could be Magashule's biggest nightmare.
This man is slippery. He apparently played both sides in the build-up to the election, eventually going to the team that offered him the better deal. His tenure as premier has been beset by controversies akin to a mafia movie more than to stock-standard local government corruption. He changes allegiance quickly and often. Ramaphosa must pull him close and keep him there. He will have to divide and rule and cannot allow the Premier League partnership to flourish on the national stage. Give him a meaningful role. And keep him in the room.
THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Ramaphosa can survive a divided top six, but the composition of the NEC is crucial. The NEC is the body that makes the big decisions in between conferences and he needs to ensure that he is in charge. He will also have to assert his authority, not only over the NEC itself, but over President Jacob Zuma, who (for the next 18 months) will remain his principal in government. Former presidents remain ex officio members of the NEC, but hardly ever attend meetings. Ramaphosa should ensure that Zuma attends and use the platform as a firm show of force. And then he should go back to the Union Buildings and oversee the implementation of party policy.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
It's going to be particularly tricky navigating the choppy waters between the Union Buildings, where Zuma is Ramaphosa's boss, and Luthuli House, where the exact opposite will be in effect. With Mabuza, who needs to be kept under constant watch, and Magashule, beholden to the Zupta network, left to roam the halls of Luthuli House, he needs strong support staff. Ramaphosa must get cadres of the calibre of Joel Netshitenzhe, Pravin Gordhan and Steyn Speed to head up the president's office. They will ensure compliance and subservience.
USE THE OFFICE TO ITS FULLEST EXTENT
Rampahosa won't have any executive state power for more than a year (if Zuma remains as head of state, that is). It means he will have to coordinate the implementation of party policy through cajoling and convincing, while fully expecting that Zuma won't be keen to play ball. It means the ANC president's office, for now, becomes even more important the deputy president's office. If he encounters resistance from either the Zuptaïtes on the top six or from Zuma, the party's constitution and disciplinary processes -- read: the integrity committee -- should be deployed. US President Theodore Roosevelt referred to the American presidency as "the bully pulpit". Ramaphosa must use the ANC's pulpit, every day.
FOCUS IN 2019
The ANC is in trouble. Even slick and social media savvy government spokespeople understand this. Its support is on the wane and it has suffered serious electoral losses in 2016. Ramaphosa and his new team (which probably won't include the Nasrec Trio) need to bang on and on about what is at stake should 2019 go the way many observers are warning. Zuma and the Zuptas' time is coming to an end. Ramaphosa must make the ANC understand it's time to get on the Ramaphosa Express. Or they must leave.
MAKE THE JUDICIAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO STATE CAPTURE HAPPEN
Zuma hasn't yet indicated whether he will appeal last week's ruling, but Ramaphosa now has a platform he can use to actively advocate for its implementation. Zuma probably will appeal last week's High Court judgment that it needs to happen by the end of January -- and Ramaphosa must use the party's machinery to ensure it is done. The office of the deputy president is, for the most part, pretty impotent. But Ramaphosa needs to brow-beat the ANC's deployees into submission.
THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
As with the state capture inquiry, Ramaphosa must insert himself into the government's processes and policy positions in the matter. Zuma has appealed the ruling that ordered that Ramaphosa himself appoint a new NDPP because Zuma was conflicted. Ramaphosa must establish his campaign promise of clean and accountable government pronto. He needn't start a war with his government head of department. He can merely follow the prescripts of the law and party policy.