Oscar van Heerden | Only a pyrrhic victory for Ramaphosa at ANC policy conference

Oscar van Heerden | Only a pyrrhic victory for Ramaphosa at ANC policy conference
Oscar van Heerden | Only a pyrrhic victory for Ramaphosa at ANC policy conference

Africa-Press – South-Africa. While ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa may have claimed victory at the party’s recent policy conference, Oscar van Heerden writes it was a pyrrhic victory because of the dark cloud of the Phala Phala farm matter.

This past weekend we observed yet another showdown between the growing number of factions in the ANC.

The Young Turks from KwaZulu-Natal wanted to show ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa who’s boss and insisted on scrapping the “step-aside rule”. They came to the conference in alliance with splinter groups from other provinces to upset the apple cart. They came to embarrass Ramaphosa by showing him up, and wanting to insist the national executive committee under his leadership has not delivered on the resolutions of the 54th ANC elective conference.

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In fact, they were so bold that they attempted to argue that the mandate of the conference be changed to that of a National General Council, and not a mere policy conference. The reason for this failed attempt was because such a conference would have decision-making powers, and the suspension of the secretary-general Ace Magashule, as well as the step-aside of numerous other cadres would be overturned. They dismally failed in this attempt.

Yet again, the chairperson of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, took charge and executed his role with precision and pose. When the RET forces attempted to sing the popular song asking, “What did Zuma do wrong?”, in an attempt to silence the president just before he took the podium to open the conference, it was the chairperson that silenced them instead.

Reaffirmed resolutions

After failing to change the conference’s mandate, they turned their attention to the various commissions to see whether they could influence the conference’s resolutions. This too, largely failed since most of the 54th conference resolutions were simply reaffirmed and as to the land matter, the ANC did not muster the necessary support in Parliament to pass the amendment to the Constitution. And as such, they cannot place this in front of the president’s door.

As for their insistence that all policies of the ANC must be pro-poor and geared towards improving the ordinary lives of the people of South Africa, important as this is, it rings hollow coming from these forces since they had their chance when their revered leader, Jacob Zuma was at the helm.

Instead, Zuma succumbed to his corrupt urges and together with his cronies, Magashule, Supra Mahumapelo, Nomvula Mokonyane, Zandile Gumede and so many others, they succumbed to the lure of money. The simple fact is the Gupta brothers understood ANC leaders can be bought. And boy, how successful they were. But I digress.

Reserve Bank nationalisation

The nationalisation of the Reserve Bank also received some attention, and delegates wanted to know what the hold-up was all about. Many people have been asking me what this resolution is all about. Let me attempt to explain.

It is essential to make a clear distinction between, ownership of the bank and the mandate of the bank. These are interconnected but different.

At the moment, the bank is wholly owned by private stakeholders, and the mandate, which is what the real debate is about is primarily inflation targeting. The mandate also talks to the independence of the bank. In other words, the mandate can be a dual mandate which speaks to how the bank chooses to implement its mandate.

The objectives of government must be upheld, but the operations of how to implement such objectives must be left up to the bank, hence its independence. Now, its important to state that just because the bank is owned by the taxpayer, meaning government becomes the largest stakeholder in terms of ownership, does not in any way mean that it cannot be independent still. In fact, this is the case in most democracies including the United States.

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Secondly, the RET forces are arguing that the mandate shift to a pro-poor and pro-worker mandate, and in fact, if you ask me, it kind of makes sense given our unemployment numbers and the poverty levels we face as a society.

Inflation targeting cannot be the end-all and be-all of the bank’s mandate. This, no doubt is important, but the bank can do so much more to alleviate the plight of the poorest of the poor in our country. It not just about the infamous market and its concomitant forces such as rating agencies etc. This debate is, of course, ongoing and important.

In short, an all round victory for Ramaphosa. However, I choose to call it a pyrrhic victory because of the dark cloud of the Phala Phala farm matter. Nasty business all round if you ask me, and I’m not sure how Ramaphosa is going to dig himself out of this self-inflicted hole.

I understand investigations are ongoing and that for all intents and purposes this matter is “sub judice”, and hence anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, but you would also agree with me, Mr President, that if you are innocent in these matters, then there’s nothing to fear.

Perception is everything

I am the first to acknowledge that opposition parties clamouring for you to “take the nation into confidence” have their respective malicious intentions for such calls, but I am here to tell you that your silence does not help your cause either. I need not be the one to tell you that in politics, perception is everything.

Whether the glove fitted the hand of OJ Simpson or not, people still to this day argue that he did it. Let this dark cloud disappear, Mr President, and resume your unassailable path towards the elective conference in December. Failure to do this will impede this trajectory, I’m certain. And if you think it will naturally go away with time, it won’t. For the simple reason that it is a massive equaliser in the arsenal of the RET forces. You are just like them, they now say, and as such, the same rules of step aside must also apply to you.

Sit with your team and your lawyers and make this go away. Take Mzansi into your confidence, and tell us where you did wrong and where you did not.

Thus far, you have told us that, yes, there was a break-in at your farm and, yes, an undisclosed of forex was taken. This was proceeds of the sale of game. You reported the matter to your head of security who are members of the SAPS, and left it there.

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Now, as for the rest of the activities that ensued post the reporting of the matter, this must be investigated by the relevant authorities. We get that but, how much money was it exactly, why did you not declare it immediately after the transaction, how much of the stolen money was recovered and what happened to the assailants? Also, did you make a call to the Namibian president and request his help in this matter? After all it was your money, and you wanted it back.

These are some of the issues you need to clarify to the public ASAP.

As a lay person, if some men come into my house and steal my money, I will pursue them with the explicit aim to retrieve my money. If I catch them, I’m sure to beat the hell out of them before handing them over to the police, or if I choose not to involve the cops and I want to avoid the palaver of it all, I can choose to do so. Surely this is my right, whether to open a case or not?

Many might disagree with my approach and, sure as hell, many will disagree with the approach you took at the time, but you must confront this cloud regardless.

You know, Mr President, there is an old Chinese saying, as soon as there is more than one person that knows, it is no longer a secret and in this case sir, there are just too many people involved in the Phala Phala case.

Author Josephine Tey, when writing about the exploits of Richard III and whether his crimes were true or not, aptly named her novel, The Daughter of Time. Why might you ask? Well, the truth will come forth over time, regardless of lies and deceptions. Truth is the daughter of time, Mr President, and you are fast running out of it.

– Dr Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Fort Hare.

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