We Must Free Ourselves as Hostages of ANC Politics

“What governs men is the fear of the truth” at least so says the Swedish philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel.

I have thought about this quote a lot lately as I read one analyst after the next desperately trying to rationalize a defense of President Cyril Ramaphosa in the wake of the report by the Section 89 independent panel’s finding that the President has a serious case to answer for.

These rationalisations have two elements in common. Firstly, in defending Ramaphosa they sacrifice the purpose and intention of the Section 89 process by prioritizing technical legal arguments.  Secondly, they are born of a deep-seated fear for who may replace President Ramaphosa in the event of his departure. Unpacking these elements demonstrates how we cannot live in fear of the truth if we are going to fix South Africa.

Let’s start with the legal argument in defense of President Ramaphosa.

The purpose of the Section 89 panel is to come to an independent conclusion as to whether a parliamentary investigation into President Ramaphosa should be triggered. It comes to this conclusion on the basis of the question of whether a prima facie case of serious contraventions of law, the Constitution or acts of misconduct exists.

The panel’s recommendations trigger an investigation into impeachment but they are not themselves an outcome. Those who wish to challenge the report are challenging the initiation of a parliamentary process – an inherently irrational act for anyone professing to be innocent of wrongdoing and accountable to our democratic processes.

Challenging the report on technical grounds will also not change any of the facts about this matter that should remain of concern to South Africans about their President. There is no legal explanation for that amount of undeclared foreign currency and the version of the President about the sale of Buffalo lacks credibility when the animals were never collected. The handling of the theft was dealt with as an in-house matter within the Presidential Protection Unit and it seems like this was designed to conceal knowledge about the theft (and knowledge of the cash) from becoming known. Objectively there is a case to be answered by the President and no amount of legal wrangling changes this conclusion.

If you need further substantiation this view, look no further than the telling actions of the President who, in reaction to the panel report, prepared a resignation speech. Ramaphosa’s continued tenure as President of South Africa is not out of his conviction of his innocence, it was because of those around him, who presumably benefit so profoundly from his weak leadership, convinced him to stay.

I move now to address the second characteristic of these rationalizations – the fear of who may replace President Ramaphosa. This fear is predicated on the notion that life is somehow better under his leadership and that we should fear any other alternative.

The thinking that Ramaphosa is a reformer is heavily discredited 4 years after his election to office. There has been no meaningful reform, our economic policy is somehow even more unclear and Jacob Zuma’s cabinet remains in place. There is not one single indicator of any relevance that is moving in the right direction under Ramaphosa’s leadership. There is no evidence to suggest that South Africa would be any better or worse under the leadership of anyone else in the ANC.

In Ramaphosa’s handling of the report we witness how he is no different to his predecessor or those who wish to succeed him. The President did not address the nation (and still hasn’t), preferring to exercise his right to not incriminate himself rather than provide leadership and clarity to an uncertain nation. Rather, Ramaphosa preferred to meet with his colleagues in the NEC and, presumably, give them the clarity that the country still has not received and, eventually, his spokesperson informed South Africans that the report will be taken on review – not that its substantive concerns are false.

The notion that this is the kind leadership worth protecting is as offensive as the notion that we should be protecting leadership at all.

That principally we should protect a ‘lesser-evil’ in leadership should also not be entertained. The most important tenet of the rule of law, something the lack of which is profoundly impacting every South African, is the notion that every person must be treated equally before the law. A President cannot be given a free pass because our society is sufficiently afflicted with Stockholm syndrome for our ANC captors that we rationalise his wrongdoing because we fear greater degrees of wrongdoing.

Perhaps to prove my point by way of a question; Would any of those rallying to President Ramaphosa’s defense right now have done so for Jacob Zuma in the latter years if his presidency? Of course not. They do so in defense of President Ramaphosa because they are afraid of what may follow and ignore the consequences of a President operating with immunity.

The fact that the ANC makes South Africans choose between lesser and greater degrees of criminality in the leaders they put forward does not mean that we, as a country, should tolerate wrongdoing. South Africans must maintain the highest expectations of ethical leadership from those entrusted with power and any deviation from this standard must be condemned, not rationalized.

Let our condemnation begin with instructions being issued by the ANC NEC issuing a directive to ANC MPs to vote against the panel’s report next week in the National Assembly. This is a party instruction to elected representatives to defend the President, not from a finding or sanction, but from a process to make these determinations. I suppose the irony will be lost on most ANC MPs that it was their irrational shielding of Jacob Zuma over the Nkandla saga that produced the Constitutional Court judgement that established the impeachment process against which they now seek to shield Cyril Ramaphosa.

South Africans must come to learnt that our redemption lies outside of the ANC and not within it. We can no longer be hostages of the ANC forced to conceive of life in terms of ANC leaders, conferences, investigations and succession. The truth is that South Africa and the ANC cannot co-exist in mutual prosperity. For one to prosper the other must die and we cannot allow South Africa to die. I do not fear life beyond President Ramaphosa, I welcome it because it will be a victory for the South African people of yet another ANC leader that has failed us.

This is why South Africans need to come together in record numbers in the 2024 national and provincial elections and relegate the ANC to the opposition benches without regard for whomever may be leading it. We need the 24 million eligible voters who did not vote in 2021 (twice the numbers of those who did vote and four times the number who voted for the ANC) to come and remove the ANC from office.

It is also why ActionSA, alongside other like-minded political parties, must come together and inspire South Africans to see the future without the tainted lenses of green, black and gold.