Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been circling the ring but yesterday, he threw his hat in it when he told PowerFM that he was available to stand. He added the rider that this depended on whether ANC branches asked him to do so, but to all intents and purposes, it is now Game On.
Five reasons Cyril Ramaphosa will be a fabulous president:
- He is a constitutional being.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was convenor of the Constitutional Assembly, the platform from which the constitution was negotiated and launched.
This makes him a constitutionalist. President Jacob Zuma is not. The Constitutional Court said the president had failed to uphold his oath to protect and respect the founding law; the court also said the president should be a constitutional being.
President Zuma has spent years of his presidency dodging the law and in court. Cyril Ramaphosa will run an administration that cleaves more closely to the rule of law.
- He is rich
Now, before you throw tomatoes at me, this is a very important attribute in a president. History (and our present) is a story of leaders' self aggrandisement and accumulation.
A rich president enters high office to build power, reputation and legacy and not build Nkandlas.
Ramaphosa is fabulously wealthy and has quarantined his interests to prevent conflicts of interest since becoming deputy president.
- He will get things done
In his interview on PowerFM with Onkgopotse JJ Tabane in which he officially threw his hat in the ring, Ramaphosa spoke most passionately about his dream of a country that "gets things done".
South Africa has been stuck in a stasis for seven years now with anaemic growth and stratospheric unemployment. He may get the excellent national development plan out of mothballs and into action as he was a deputy chairperson of the national planning commission which drew up the blueprint for a better country.
- He has one wife
The beautiful doctor Tshepo Motsepe-Ramaphosa is the deputy president's only wife. This is not a popular thing to say, but I preferred an ANC whose policy on gender in relationships was "one man (person); one wife".
Of course, the constitution protects and encourages respect for traditional law, which encompasses polygamy, but I kind of like a Michelle-Barack Obama set-up at the Union Buildings and its extensions.
And five reasons he may not be such a fabulous president:
- He is rich
South Africans are highly aspirational, love big brands, study further and dream of owning homes, nice cars and sending our children to good schools.
But the country has an odd and sneering relationship with big wealth.
Ramaphosa's billions could be used as a stick to beat him on the stumps. Still, the working class, as arranged in the country's biggest trade unions, has endorsed Ramaphosa's presidency.
- The M word
Marikana. Ramaphosa was cleared by the Farlam Commission of complicity in the massacre of Lonmin's miners at Marikana.
But as a Lonmin director and shareholder, Ramaphosa was not a transformative empowerment partner. The company remains an extractive miner in the colonial milieu as various revelations after Marikana have revealed.
Ramaphosa has apologised for his language in emails to the then mining minister Susan Shabangu, which pushed for tough action to end the strike and was interpreted as political pressure.
- Ramaphosa is a prince
The deputy president is refined and elegant when this race may require a street fighter who can campaign. The ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe has said that six leaders have stuck up their hands to be party president. Unless the other five are persuaded to stand down, it is going to be a tough race.
- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
ANC leaders close to both Ramaphosa and the African Union commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are trying to get the leaders not to run against each other as it will damage both.
But reports suggest the AU boss will run. Dlamini-Zuma has impeccable ANC credentials to be the party's first female candidate for the top job.
- August 2016
The local election of August was a bellwether poll in that it showed the ANC can be unseated. The party lost (or failed to lead coalitions) in vital cities including Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. While pundits say the ANC is unlikely to lose its governing mantle by 2019, the certainty of high office is not as certain as it was a year ago.