POLITICS
18/01/2018 11:35 SAST | Updated 18/01/2018 17:12 SAST

Cyrilwatch: 5 Themes The President-In-Waiting Is Making His Own

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is starting to unclutter his message. This is what we're hearing.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (r) with Investec CEO Stephen Koseff on Thursday, at the government breakfast previewing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Twitter/South African Government
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (r) with Investec CEO Stephen Koseff on Thursday, at the government breakfast previewing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

ANALYSIS

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's philosophies are increasingly crystallising into recurring themes. His address at National Treasury's breakfast on Thursday previewing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saw him repeating many of the same ideas he aired in the ANC's January 8 Statement at the weekend.

1. A BREAK WITH THE PAST AND A FOCUS ON THE COUNTRY

Ramaphosa told business leaders – and Cabinet colleagues, some of whom supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – that the new party leadership is committed to "a renewal of government and party". He added that the country is emerging "from a period of uncertainty and darkness".

The implication of the renewal theme is Ramaphosa and his new leadership team's acknowledgement of the mismanagement, decline and corruption under President Jacob Zuma. It was a continuation of the theme in the January 8 Statement, which also referred to the need for repair and the rebuilding of trust – obviously lost under Zuma.

2. CODESA CYRIL COMING BACK

Ramaphosa referred to "compact building" a number of times, which echoed his sentiments in the January 8 Statement (much of which he delivered off the cuff) about consensus seeking. "This (social compact building) will underpin everything that we [government] do," Ramaphosa said. He told the audience the only way that South Africans (one of numerous references to the populace as a whole) can move forward, is if there is understanding and consensus among people.

He referred to business and labour needing to work together, saying that "of course" there will be stops and starts, but that unity should always be the goal. Ramaphosa's great skill is in crafting understanding and consensus – he showed that in the 1980s, when he stared down Anglo American as a trade unionist, and later during the Codesa negotiations. He clearly has unfinished business in government.

Style is probably a difficult metric to consider consistently, but Rampahosa seems comfortable in his new role of party leader, president-in-waiting and torch-bearer of the emerging new order.

3. STATE CAPTURE AND CORRUPTION

Ramaphosa is not afraid to use the term "state capture" – he used it with Zuma sitting behind him on stage at the January 8 event, and he confronted it head-on with business leaders. He was forthright and unambiguous in his views, saying he wants to see law enforcement agencies "increase the tempo" of investigations and prosecutions.

"We want to see more of it happening," he said, emphasising that he understands the impact of graft on society and the economy. It is an important admission, because historically there has been no urgency and appetite to demand accountability and seek justice related to state capture. This is clearly and visibly changing.

4. A NATIONAL EFFORT

Ramaphosa repeatedly spoke of "South Africans" and "South Africa" and the need to do repairs on the country's brand and to society as a whole. As in the January 8 Statement, Ramaphosa looked beyond pure party political issues and made it clear that his leadership will look to be inclusive and focused on national interests.

When he spoke about the future, he said "the country as a whole" is in need of renewal, and that his sole purpose in Davos will be to "sell South Africa". His approach – delivering the January 8 Statement and on Wednesday – has been much more statesmanlike than most public appearances by Zuma.

5. STYLE

Style is probably a difficult metric to consider consistently, but Rampahosa seems comfortable in his new role of party leader, president-in-waiting and torch-bearer of the emerging new order.

His speech was largely delivered off the cuff, talking with the audience and making eye contact while scanning the room and making sure everyone could see him.

He used humour to good effect too, saying he was looking forward to a wine-tasting event in Davos, and that he would consider a meeting with the U.S. president, Donald Trump... if, he quipped, "time allows and I am available".

Of course, his audience were all high-powered businesspeople in the surrounds of a Sandton Hotel – but on delivery and engagement, Ramaphosa is performing.