Cyril’s first 100 days

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photograph:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

Sunday saw the 100 day anniversary of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension to the seat of power at the Union Buildings.

Much has been written in the lead-up to and now beyond this date, and the assessments range from euphoric approbation to cynical opprobrium. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the truth of the matter.

That Mr Ramaphosa’s hand has been constrained by the deals that he inevitably had to cut to defeat the Dlamini Zuma juggernaut at Nasrec in December, is a matter of public record. Nonetheless, he has achieved a remarkable amount during his first 100 days.

Quite naturally, the opposition’s response is cautiously guarded optimism liberally sprinkled with caveats, but that is the nature of being in opposition.

Mr Ramaphosa’s single greatest achievement has been the injection of confidence in our societal discourse. In the lead-up to the December conference, a continuation of the preceding nine years of disastrous stewardship of our nation was a bleak probability.

When the final vote was announced and Mr Ramaphosa’s slim victory confirmed, if one could have measured and compared the confidence level in the national psyche, the immediate jump across that split second when the plenary hall at Nasrec erupted into pandemonium, would have been huge. And thus was born the phenomenon of Ramaphoria.

As Mr Ramaphosa rolled up his technocratic sleeves and went to work, his every move was watched, interrogated, interpreted, criticised, praised, misunderstood.

With the able assistance of his state owned enterprise (SOE) fixer, Pravin Gordhan, he set about the monumental task of trying to rescue the businesses he knows must play a key role in job creation and economic recovery. In short order, SOE boards were reconfigured, and Mr Gordhan empowered to drag the likes of Eskom, SAA, Denel, Prasa and Transnet back into line and hopefully, to fiscal health.

As much as his cabinet changes were criticised, he did achieve a remarkable amount. Gone are the likes of Des van Rooyen, Mosebenizi Zwane, Faith Muthambe, David Mahlobo, Fikile Mabalula, Nkosinathi Nhleko, Lynne Brown and Bongani Bongo, all of whom were ardent Zuma praise singers and many of whom have been implicated in state capture.

He brought back some of the most capable people in the ANC, all of whom had been axed by Mr Zuma: Pravin Gordhan, Nhlanhla Nene, Derek Hanekom and Blade Nzimande.

Cleverly, he consulted with the alliance partners before announcing his cabinet. Unlike Mr Zuma, he understands that he needs the support of Cosatu – hollowed out as it is – and the SACP at the ballot box next year, if the ANC is to retain power in the National Assembly and in the provinces where it currently has a comfortable majority.

But his hand is constrained, and the recent events in the North West show just how fine is the line which he treads. That Supra Mahumapelo managed to hang on as premier for so long as he did, seems incongruous. It’s not. Mr Ramphosa had to negotiate a compromise whereby Mr Mahumapelo took “early retirement” but stayed on as chairperson of the ANC provincial executive committee. The ace up his sleeve, is the foreknowledge that where there is smoke, there is, in all likelihood, fire. All he needs do is allow the law to take its course.

The Hawks, quiescent until Mr Ramaphosa took office and started his housecleaning project, has been kick-started into frantic investigative action.

There is a probe into the alleged gift by Mr Mahumapelo of a herd of cattle worth R1.5 million to Mr Zuma, through the province’s agriculture department.

In similar vein, the investigation into the Estina dairy farm project will now include ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and former agriculture MEC, Mosebenzi Zwane. These two investigations are the veritable tip of the iceberg.

But perhaps the most significant progress Mr Ramaphosa has made, is in the land reform space. If rumour is to be believed, the adoption of the expropriation without compensation (EWC) resolution was a late-night compromise to prevent the defeated Dlamini Zuma faction from overturning the Nasrec conference, including the vote which put Mr Ramaphosa in power, by approaching the courts.

Two factors support that proposition. Mr Ramaphosa is a capitalist, his previous progressive stance while general secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers notwithstanding.

The inclusion in the EWC resolution that it must not impact food security, that it must not destabilise financial markets, and that a substantive consultative process must run its course to determine how it will happen.

Ever since, any ANC commentary on EWC has always been underpinned by these caveats.

The rowdy militancy of the recent EWC conference at UNISA notwithstanding, the outcome of the ANC’s two EWC colloquiums are quite clear: it is not necessary to amend clause 25 of the constitution to implement EWC.

All that is needed is an expropriation bill to find its way through Parliament after the constitutional review committee has formulated its recommendations to the legislature.

That some land will be expropriated without compensation is inevitable, but that will be arrived at after due process, in terms of clause 25.

The notion that the dispossessed want the rural land back to farm it, is not supported by the evidence: the overwhelming majority of land claim recipients thus far have opted for cash. That the majority of our citizens – 60% – live by choice in urban areas, will also inform the process of identifying land for expropriation. Wingfield Aerodrome near Century City is just one such land parcel that comes to mind, which would afford land to the land hungry that is close to their places of work.