Good English while Rome burns is the Ramaphosa legacy we will remember
Roles of state president and deputy are only reserved for people with a thick skin and courage – not afraid to take tough, sometimes unpopular decisions.
This handout picture taken by RIA Novosti on 17 June 2023 shows South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa arriving at Pulkovo airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to attend the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. Picture: Grigory SYSOYEV / RIA NOVOSTI / AFP
An overworked President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had to deal with 14 challenges none of his predecessors had to face.
A paranoid Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who has spent sleepless nights pondering over his comrades in the ANC, seeking to oust him.
If these are South Africa’s supposed most senior leaders expected to take the country out of the quagmire of continued load shedding, a stagnant economy, rampant crime, economic sabotage of the country’s infrastructure, corruption and porous borders, then heaven help us.
In any country in the world, the job of a president and that of the deputy is not a walk in the park, but a role only reserved for people with a thick skin and courage – not afraid to take tough, sometimes unpopular decisions, to the detriment of their political careers.
If former president Thabo Mbeki displayed unprecedented courage by firing his corrupt deputy, Jacob Zuma – to later face a recall from public office by the ANC – what challenges could Ramaphosa be talking about?
Good English, nice sounding words while Rome burns is the Ramaphosa legacy we will remember – a man much concerned about averting political fallout within his party should he dare take on the untouchables, who have contributed to bringing this country to its knees.
“No president has gone through or faced the challenges I faced,” Ramaphosa said after the recent ANC national executive committee meeting.
The 14 challenges Ramaphosa referred to ranged from state capture to hallowed state-owned enterprises and state organs; the Covid pandemic and the July 2021 unrest. If these were not supposed to be challenges any president should be grappling with, what should his role be?
Ramaphosa should be learning from the saying: “If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Meanwhile, Mashatile has, over the past two weeks, treated us to some public circus. Without any earth-shattering track record while serving as Gauteng MEC, premier and deputy minister, Mashatile landed the country’s second-most senior political position of becoming South Africa’s deputy president on 6 March.
Four months later, Mashatile exclusively opened up to City Press about daggers being drawn to push him out of office by next month – not naming those mooting the plan. This, as news surfaced of his continued friendship with controversial businessman Edwin Sodi – linked to state capture. Allegations were that Mashatile made use of Sodi’s palatial mansion in Clifton once a month.
His response that he has for years been friends with Sodi, but has not seen him since ascending to the country’s number two position, has not been convincing.
In another major backtracking from his original claims made during the City Press interview, he has now been telling the Sowetan that the socalled plot to oust him no longer existed. Can we really believe him?
Mixed messages within two weeks on such a serious matter do not bode well for the credibility of any politician with ambitions of rising to take over the position of president of the country. If this is not a paranoia, Mashatile should tell us why we should take him seriously.
Given the plummeting public standing of the ANC, due to being led by leaders lacking credibility, it is time for the party to make it clear that being deputy president is not an automatic stepladder to succeeding the president.
South Africa has a long list of women and men with potential to lead this country towards a prosperous future – not the current crop. It is that kind of leadership that South Africa so much needs.