Cyril, the new broom

In December 2007, in the week following the ANC’s Polokwane elective conference, I sat with a friend and business chamber colleague, who occupied a senior position in the Dullah Omar Region of the ANC.

The atmosphere in his office was gloomy, as we contemplated the signficance of Jacob Zuma’s triumph, in the wake of a veritable tsunami of divisive politicking in the lead-up to the conference.

“What now?” I asked.

“Norman, you must remember that while Zuma got 60% of the vote in the second round, Thabo Mbeki got the remaining 40%, which means that there are still a great many people in the ANC who do not support Zuma,” he said. “They may not be in a majority, but they will continue to work behind the scenes for the good of the country.

“We must just batten down the hatches and ride out the storm for the next 10 years. There will be life after Zuma,” he concluded.

Not quite 10 years down the track, my friend’s wisdom is borne out by what is happening in the ANC right now.

The announcement over the weekend that the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had secured a second preservation order to secure the Estina dairy farm in the Free State came as a surprise to many.

This comes hot on the heels of an earlier preservation order against assets worth R1.6 billion belonging to consulting firm McKinsey and the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital.

How on earth is it possible that these orders are so suddenly sought and obtained by an NPA that has – under the “leadership” of Shaun “The Sheep” Abrahams – consistently dragged its heels, obfuscated, and generally avoided pursuing an investigation into state capture, despite overwhelming evidence that there is much to investigate?

The other welcome but unexpected new development on Friday, was the announcement of a completely new board for Eskom, and the ejection of compromised executives Mathsela Koko and Anoj Singh.

Ostensibly an announcement by the Presidency, it was really an announcement by new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, following a meeting between Mr Ramaphosa, President Zuma, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

And let’s not forget the sudden termination by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula of suspended crime intelligence head, Richard Mdluli, who has sat at home for the last seven years, earning around R8 million in salary.

Why are these things suddenly happening, when the entire state apparatus has literally dragged its feet over these, and other critical issues, for years?

Despite suggestions to the contrary, the NEC is nowhere near as divided as many commentators suggest.

Those who might have supported Mr Zuma in the past, now realise that their futures are dependent on the new ANC president, who will, inevitably, become president of the country, possibly sooner rather than later.

Mr Zuma’s support wanes as Mr Ramaphosa’s support waxes, and in the process, Mr Zuma’s power wanes as Mr Ramaphosa’s power waxes.

The AFU preservation orders have been sought and served, not because of a sudden rush of conscience or self-preservation, but probably because there is now an enabling environment, engendered by Mr Ramaphosa’s considered moves to wrest executive control from Mr Zuma, leaving him a titular figurehead – in effect – a lame-duck president.

Mr Abrahams’ silence as these events unfold speaks volumes about who is now running the show, and it sure as hell ain’t Mr Zuma. The Buffalo is in the ascendancy.

It is easy to suggest that the ANC is rotten to the core after what has transpired over the last few years, but as my wise friend said in December 2007, there is a core of good women and men true in the ANC who have bided their time and prepared for the moment when they can do what they know must be done. And that time is now.

Once Mr Ramaphosa is back from Davos, we’re likely to see even greater momentum. There are only two ways in which this can play out.

Mr Zuma accepts that he has lost all power, and continues to take orders from Luthuli House, and by extension, Mr Ramaphosa, as he is currently doing.

In return, he will be allowed to serve out the remainder of his term, and retire with all the benefits of his position. Whether he will avoid prosecution remains to be seen, but I doubt it.

If he puts a foot wrong, Mr Ramaphosa will not hesitate to remove him from office. With an election looming, there is far too much at stake for the ANC to allow Mr Zuma to continue with his wrecking-ball leadership.

With a cabinet reshuffle on the horizon, which will be dictated by Mr Ramphosa, the self-interested rats will continue to desert the fast-sinking Zuma ship.

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