There is much speculation that Cyril Ramaphosa will be the next man to be axed by President Jacob Zuma. On Thursday in Parliament, Ramaphosa – responding to a jibe from Economic Freedom Fighter MP Floyd Shivambu – said he could not do anything to stop Zuma from removing him. Earlier in the week, eNCA has carried an “exclusive” story quoting a confidant as saying Ramaphosa is about to get the chop. This opens the door to Ramaphosa playing a similar role to that played by Jacob Zuma when he was axed by President Thabo Mbeki. The Cape Messenger editor believes that this could help to seal Ramaphosa’s presidential victory in the ruling party.
History does not repeat itself, some say. But sometimes there appear to be some extraordinary similarities. If President Jacob Zuma fires Cyril Ramaphosa, he could be doing him a huge political favour. It would be much the same as the favour that Mbeki did for Zuma when he fired him 12 years ago as deputy president of the country.
Mbeki fired Zuma in 2005 amidst a storm over his alleged involvement in dodgy aspects of the arms deal. He was replaced by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – remember her? – and Zuma went on to spend 24/7 working the ANC organisation as he remained deputy president of the ruling party. Zuma snatched victory from defeat, being elected ANC president in 2007. Interestingly, it was speculated at the time that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was in line to replace her ex-husband as deputy president.
So who knows, kicking out Ramaphosa might be just what the doctor ordered? It could give him the sympathy vote, to sweep him into the presidency against President Zuma’s choice, Dlamini Zuma. If anyone wonders just how she will behave as president of the ANC (and ultimately as the country’s president), one just has to consider the company she is keeping. The disgraced Carl Niehaus was at her side at a Limpopo ANC rally last weekend, as was the notorious Bathabile Dlamini, the leader of the ANC Women’s League – and the politician who almost killed off the national social grant system.
But back to Ramaphosa. eNCA reported that trade unionist James Motlatsi – a confidant of Ramaphosa – says Zuma intends using an intelligence report to justify the deputy president’s removal. Motlatsi says he had reliably learnt that Ramaphosa’s days in national political office are numbered. Apparently, President Zuma claims Ramaphosa “is a spy of Western capitalists”.
It is not known when the intelligence report will be made public.
Zuma is a past master at using intelligence reports to vilify his political enemies. He used an intelligence report claiming that Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were plotting against South Africa with Western powers. So another intelligence report would be more of the same.
Motlatsi, who worked with Ramaphosa when they both led the National Union of Mineworkers, said the president should bear it in mind that he must be seen to be fighting corruption in government. He was quoted by eNCA as saying: “People must know he is fighting corruption, not just talking about fighting corruption.” It would win him lots of public favour. That was the advice that Motlatsi was offering.
According to EWN, EyeWitnessNews, Ramaphosa hinted on Monday night that Zuma was about to reshuffle his cabinet. Zuma fired Blade Nzimande, the leader of the SA Communist Party, from his cabinet where he had been Higher Education Minister. He told a gala dinner that “these ministers lose their jobs now and again … you know.”
Meanwhile ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe – a former national chairman of the SACP – said it was a pity that Nzimande had been removed. “He has done well,” he said.
While Nzimande has not yet responded in public to his axing, the SA Communist Party said the move was factional and placed the tripartite alliance on “the brink of disintegration”. Nzimande had been outspoken about state capture by the Zuptas. He also warned people to watch out, to ensure that the Public Investment Corporation’s funds – which include the state pension fund – should not be misused.
Answering Floyd Shivambu during parliamentary question time on Thursday afternoon, Ramaphosa said: “If the decision is to remove me, I will accept that as a decision that would have been taken by the president, and I will continue serving the people of South Africa in one shape or another. That’s all I can say on the matter.”
One can read a lot into that. If he were fired as the nation’s deputy president, Ramaphosa would likely continue in his role as ANC deputy president – a position he owes to the ANC membership not Zuma. He would remain a candidate for the ANC presidency in December. If he fails to win that position, Ramaphosa may then opt to lead an opposition movement – but he would then lose his seat in parliament.
If Ramaphosa is indeed, fired, it could breathe new life into his campaign to be elected ANC president in December. Ramaphosa’s subsequent election as ANC president would be the ultimate irony.