27/02/2018 05:41 SAST | Updated 27/02/2018 18:02 SAST

FIRST TAKE: Ramaphosa’s Brutal Repudiation Of Zuma

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been pretty ruthless in getting rid of the crooked and the corrupt in former president Jacob Zuma's Cabinet.

President Cyril Ramaphosa leaves after announcing changes to the National Executive during a press conference at the Union Buildings on February 26, 2018, in Pretoria.
PHILL MAGAKOE via Getty Images
President Cyril Ramaphosa leaves after announcing changes to the National Executive during a press conference at the Union Buildings on February 26, 2018, in Pretoria.

It has been a remarkable fortnight in South Africa, never mind the last two remarkable months.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has done what every right-minded South African expected of him, and that's to start the process of disinfecting the body politic of the rancid effects of state capture and the shadow state. His Cabinet reshuffle on Monday was a brutal and clinical repudiation of former president Jacob Zuma's use of patronage and power.

In the 70 days since he emerged victorious from the ANC's bruising elective conference at Nasrec, where he won with a wafer-thin margin, Ramaphosa has taken Eskom by the scruff of the neck, ousted the corruption-tainted Jacob Zuma as president, declared the Gupta clan personae non gratae, shocked Shaun Abrahams into life and ripped the heart out of the state capture network in Cabinet.

That, in anybody's books, is some going. Suddenly, the collective gnashing of teeth while everyone was waiting for Ramaphosa to force Zuma's hand is long forgotten. All that we will remember of the last two weeks will be Zuma's rambling SABC interview before falling on his sword later on Valentine's Day.

Ramphosa used every avenue available to him to try to persuade Zuma to leave office. This enabled him to build the broad support base in the still-divided ANC he needed to launch the final assault on the incumbent. Zuma's loyalists very quickly shifted their allegiance to the new party leader and dumped their patron faster than you can say "Tegeta".

He used the same strategy in designing Cabinet. Rampahosa consulted widely and on Monday night he took his time in calling every member of the executive that was to be affected by the reshuffle. He clearly signalled his intent from the very beginning: renewal and civic duty were to be the standard by which he was to judge future ministers, and, by all accounts, someone like Malusi Gigaba tried his level best to impress his new president.

In the final estimation Ramaphosa was pretty ruthless in laying into Zuma's Cabinet. He summarily dismissed the coterie of ministers at the centre of the state capture cabal in Cabinet: Mosebenzi Zwani (mineral resources) an unashamed Guptaïte who must surely now be a flight risk; Lynne Brown (public enterprises) who was the shadow state's enabler and the lame duck Des van Rooyen (cooperative governance and traditional affairs) who was the Guptas' choice as minister of finance.

But add to that list David Mahlobo (energy), Zuma's consigliere and former strong-man at intelligence, whose sole mission was to push through the Russian nuclear deal, and Faith Muthambi (public service and administration), who wreaked havoc at the SABC in protecting the crooked and corrupt. They were truly devious and of dubious character.

And then there was the plainly incompetent. Fikile Mbalula (Twitter name: Minister FearFokkol) as minister of police was an absolute embarrassment. He was never a serious minister and could never move beyond his infantile term of office as ANC youth leader. Not to speak of the sycophant Nathi Nhleko, who as minister of police went around the country selling his infamous "O Sole Mio" report into Nkandla and the firepool.

Of course, there are bad spots.

Bathabile Dlamini (social development) is an absolute disgrace as minister and gets a reprieve, as does Nomvula Mokonyane, who for all intents and purposes has run the department of water and sanitation into the ground. In David Mabuza the ANC and the country gets a leader of questionable integrity and an opaque political and personal history. His appointment as deputy president might hold the seed of discontent and corruption down the line. But, like Ferial Haffejee writes elsewhere on HuffPost: this won't be the last time Ramaphosa appoints a Cabinet. There'll be more casualties in future.

We're moving beyond Zuma. At last.