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Jacob Zuma was jailed.
The insurrection that was meant to demonstrate the former president’s appeal to the masses lasted barely a week.
Two subsequent populist mobilisations via social media fizzled out before they even started.
The verdict of the media and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s is that the “good” ANC has won.
The baddies gambled and lost, which means that the reformists’ hand has been immeasurably strengthened. Yet, it doesn’t seem like that. With his victory, there were great expectations Ramaphosa would stamp his authority by announcing a new Cabinet that would break from the past.
Instead, the reshuffle was nothing more than rearranging in his fist the same grubby, dog-eared face cards. No impressive discards.
No crisp new pack.
That makes for an unimpressive performance by the “victor”. Then there are the government’s post-unrest actions. At the time, Ramaphosa said the ANC had evidence identifying a dozen party members who were the chief instigators.
As yet, none has been arrested. The Zuma family’s role in fomenting violence is recorded in their social media feeds. None has been arrested.
The pervading air of presidential passivity is understandable. The insurrection showed, again, how precarious Ramaphosa believes his position within the party is. Hence his reluctance to carry out desperately needed changes.
Most disturbingly, this perpetual pandering to the party means we have a government that lacks the confidence to deploy the forces of law and order.
What is the point of Ramaphosa’s “long game” when it means we have a president who is willing to let the country burn rather than risk alienating a criminal faction? But it’s on the issue of cadre deployment that the weakness of Ramaphosa’s position is most evident.
At the Zondo commission, Ramaphosa was at his most impassioned when he came to the defence of cadre deployment.
This was quite different from the tenor, just months earlier, of Ramaphosa’s weekly letter to the nation.
The public service, wrote Ramaphosa in March, did not belong to any party. “Nor should it be the domain of any particular interest group.”
The present public service had “serious challenges with regards to skills, competence and professionalism”.
This had resulted in “nepotism, political interference in the work of departments, a lack of accountability, mismanagement and corruption”.
To change this, the public service would be “depoliticised and government departments insulated from politics”. It would be professionalised. Applicants would sit an entrance exam and those short-listed would face “integrity tests”.
Cadre deployment and a professional public service are mutually exclusive. Ramaphosa knows this. He was, after all, the chair of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee for more than seven of the nine Zuma years.
It is ultimately Ramaphosa who is responsible for every cretinous cadre deployed.
Ramaphosa’s column was in all likelihood genuine. He knew these reforms would very quickly end state capture.
But that’s intolerable to many in the ANC, not only the Zuma faction. The incarceration of Zuma and his top lieutenants is similarly intolerable to many rank-and-file ANC members.
The insurrection was a warning shot across Ramaphosa’s bows and he seems inclined to accept the message.