JZ and CR: 9 + 5 wasted years = the mess we’re in


JZ and CR: 9 + 5 wasted years = the mess we’re in

Cyril Ramaphosa's self-pitying bleat that no president before him has faced such challenges ignores the fact that no president since Nelson Mandela enjoyed such overwhelming public support and goodwill as he did in 2018. It is purely his own doing that history will remember him as the biggest disappointment since 1994, writes MAX DU PREEZ


If you're explaining, you're losing

— Ronald Reagan

Ramaphosa's lament last Sunday coincided with a dramatic demonstration of one of his greatest failures: to properly address intelligence and national security.

The first of 21 trucks burnt on national roads. Ramaphosa himself described it as economic sabotage.

Could it be a coincidence that it happened exactly, down to the day and the hour, two years after the wild anarchy and looting from July 9 to 18, 2021? Those events were a blow to the economy for which only a single thief has been prosecuted.

Just a few days before Ramaphosa's victim statement, his government declared that the construction mafia has cost the economy up to R80bn. In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC's response, through public works  MEC Sipho Nkosi, was that he wants to negotiate with this mafia.

When Ramaphosa became president in February 2018, state capture, Zuma-style, was crude and visible, with shady characters like the Gupta brothers dominating the front pages.

This form of state capture has been replaced by the flourishing of criminal syndicates such as the coal mafia, the transport mafia, the taxi mafia and the construction mafia, costing the economy hundreds of billions. Tenderpreneurship, meanwhile, rages on unabated and the divide between party and state is as blurred as ever.

Thanks to investigative journalists, South Africans now know that Ramaphosa's ANC is no less rotten and corrupt than Zuma's ANC — and is perhaps even more so.

The recent revelations about Deputy President Paul Mashatile's extravagant lifestyle and suspicious transactions with wealthy criminals and family members are just one proof of that.

Ramaphosa's handling of the theft of large bundles of dollars from his  Phala Phala farm has raised questions about whether he is above corruption.

His refusal to be transparent about it and the numerous holes in the version he presents have not helped. Even the sweetheart report of the acting public protector suggests she doesn't truly believe Ramaphosa.

Since 2018, Ramaphosa has squandered every opportunity to cleanse and reform the sectors of state security and crime intelligence.

Instead, he has given top positions to Zuma agents from those sectors who have been harshly judged by the Zondo Commission, such as former state security minister David Mahlobo and the head of his department, Arthur Fraser.

Fact: South Africans are less safe under Ramaphosa than under Jacob Zuma, and the police are more inept and corrupt. It's not just the appalling crime rate that indicates this.

Just this week, it was revealed that civil claims against the police increased by 302% to R67.7bn in the last financial year compared with the previous year. 

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said in its 2023/24 report that it cannot handle its increasing workload. On February 14, Ipid was investigating 14,063 cases, of which 77% were old and 3,212 had been filed since April 2022.

This is the very Ipid that must investigate the brutal assault on motorists by Mashatile's bodyguards.


Here is the astounding reality: all seven police commissioners between the resignation of George Fivaz in 2000 and the appointment of Fannie Masemola last year have been removed from their positions due to corruption or misconduct. They include the minister of police, Bheki Cele.

Fact: very little has been done since February 2018 to curb the serious decay of local authorities, and today there are more dysfunctional municipalities than during the Zuma era.

Fact: The dramatic collapse of commuter train transport, which has forced millions of South Africans to use more expensive and dangerous taxis, occurred during Ramaphosa's term. The same is true for the decline in rail freight and ports. The responsible minister, Fikile Mbalula, is a faithful Ramaphosa disciple.

The only state-owned enterprise that Ramaphosa has really fixed is the national revenue service.

Two senior business leaders, Neal Froneman of Sibanye and Jannie Durand of Remgro, announced this week that the business sector is going to build a modern forensic laboratory to assist law enforcement. Significant funds and a lot of energy will be spent to improve the capacity of law enforcement, and Business Against Crime will now focus on disrupting organised crime.

The business sector is increasingly doing what the state should be doing, just as the middle class has to take more and more responsibility for its own security, health and energy.

Fact: It was Ramaphosa who tore up the initial condemnation by the department of international relations of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year and led the blatant sucking up to Vladimir Putin.

It was he who refused to provide answers about the Russian cargo ship Lady R and, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, oversaw the South African Navy conducting joint exercises with Russia and China on the first anniversary of the invasion.

This failed position of supposed “non-alignment" has seriously undermined South Africa's “soft power" in the West and could further harm the economy, especially if South Africa loses its US African Growth and Opportunity Act benefits.

And so I can go on.

“I could not escape the conclusion that in running the country, he was more of a genial country-club manager than a decisive leader," writes André de Ruyter about Ramaphosa in his recent book. “You can play darts, I can play golf, someone else can play tennis — and as long as everyone is happy and wearing the same green, black, and yellow T-shirt, the president is happy."

From a crafty, semi-literate Zulu chieftain to a jovial club manager in a suit is not much progress.

The emperor is naked and his feet are made of clay.

History will judge him harshly, especially because he had so much potential and gave so much hope to so many South Africans.

♦ VWB ♦

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