With the 2024 elections around the corner, ANC members are not the only ones worried about the long-term impact of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Dollargate scandal.
Many South Africans, especially the business community, are wondering what the criminal charges laid by former spy boss Arthur Fraiser could mean for the country.
Will he be forced to step down as per the ANC resolution on leaders with pending criminal cases? With the ANC already facing what some have described as a “leadership crisis”, the governing party would struggle to find someone to step in Ramaphosa’s shoes because his deputy, David Mabuza, is certainly not what many would consider the best option at the moment.
Most of the Cabinet members don’t inspire much confidence either and the few who have some potential would probably be considered too young, or inexperienced or female to take on the commander in chief’s responsibilities.
Meanwhile, other ANC factions are looking to capitalise on Ramaphosa’s troubles with hopes to unseat him come the December national elective conference.
However, they also need to do some self-introspection and ask themselves if the horses they’re backing are really presidential material.
It’s all good and well to win an ANC conference but could either of those candidates win the 2024 general elections?
But perhaps that’s the question that Ramaphosa’s supporters should also start asking themselves because his credibility has been severely dented by how he handled the Phala Phala farm robbery.
After years of portraying an image of a trustworthy and caring leader who does not compromise on his values, now many are left wondering if it was all an act to fool voters. While he has publicly come out to defend how he earned the millions of U.S. dollars that Fraser says were stolen, one can’t help but wonder why he hid the robbery.
As the head of state, South Africans are told even when Ramaphosa is not feeling well because he lost his right to privacy the day he assumed his presidential duties.
The nation has come to expect that he would tell them if something as big as a major security breach affected him, whether it be at his private or official residence.
It therefore makes no sense that he would go before the national assembly and talk about the destruction caused by the high crime rate in the country but never mention that he has also been a victim of the scourge. His safety is a matter of national importance and interest, hence the hefty bill taxpayers have to foot for his security. This begs the question as to what other devastating secrets the president is hiding from his citizens. Will his smallanyana skeletons one day haunt this country like his predecessor’s?
Another part of this, which leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, is how Ramaphosa could have had millions of rands stashed in his house while the employees of the organisation that he leads, the ANC, faced financial difficulties. Surely a caring leader, who obviously has very deep pockets, could have donated a lump sum or signed an IOU invoice with the national executive committee so that the party could pay its employees who were struggling to make ends meet because they had not been receiving regular salaries because of the ANC’s cash flow constraints.
If Ramaphosa really is the best that the ANC has to offer to South Africans, then the party could find itself sitting on the opposition benches of the national assembly come 2024.
The party has already lost a lot of support in provinces like KZN, which led to its dismal performance at the November 2021 municipal polls so the opposition will not have a lot of ground to cover in the future elections.
Ramaphosa’s troubles present an opportunity for opposition parties to consolidate their power so that they can offer a formidable alternative to the electorate.
At the moment they don’t pose much threat to the ANC because they are pulling from different angles and dividing the vote, but they could make a significant impact if they worked together. A coalition, in any sphere of government, is never ideal but at the moment none of the opposition parties can take on the ANC on their own and win.
Once upon a time former president Jacob Zuma was blamed for costing the ANC support in urban areas but Ramaphosa could go down in history as the one who handed the keys to the presidential office to the opposition.
If the governing party doesn’t see the president’s Dollargate scandal as an opportunity to address its leadership deficiencies it could soon pay the price for ignoring the warning bells.
• Nokuthula Ntuli is the deputy editor of The Witness.