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Ramaphosa can win over his country. What about his own party?

There is no guarantee the president will serve a second term.

President Cyril Ramaphosa disrupted his election campaign schedule earlier this month to rush to Alexandra township when he learned that residents there were burning tires and barricading roads to protest squalid living conditions. He told them they’d been heard.

“Your message has gone through the whole country, that you are sick and tired of poor service delivery,” he thundered to thousands of cheering supporters in a speech mostly in the Sesotho language. “You as people of Alexandra want people who will serve you better.” He blamed most of the problems on the opposition Democratic Alliance, which has run Johannesburg, including Alexandra, since 2016.

That Ramaphosa could generate so much enthusiasm even though his African National Congress has governed South Africa for 25 years shows how he’s restoring faith among voters deterred by predecessor Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred, nine-year rule. Opinion polls indicate many of the party’s traditional supporters who boycotted a 2016 municipal vote have returned. The ANC is expected to easily maintain its monopoly on power in the May 8 national elections, albeit with a slightly reduced majority.

His own approval rating is 60%, while his two main rivals, Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the centre-right DA, and Julius Malema, who heads the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, polled 42% and 38% respectively, a survey commissioned by the South African Institute of Race Relations shows. And 55% of 3 431 adults canvassed late last year by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development expressed trust in the presidency under Ramaphosa, 66, compared with 26% under Zuma.

“When Cyril Ramaphosa was here, it’s when I realized that something is about to change,” said Tshepo Dichaba, 19, who runs a barber shop from a curbside shack in Alexandra. “It’s easy to believe him, unlike Zuma. If he told me he was going to build houses, my first thought would be yes, he will.”

Despite his popularity among the electorate, Ramaphosa’s hold on the ANC remains tenuous. The party remains deeply divided following a bruising leadership battle in December 2017, when he took over the helm of the party from Zuma. Several Zuma allies who’ve been implicated in graft inquiries continue to occupy top posts and could try to topple Ramaphosa in an internal vote in 2022.

“The danger is not the outcome of the forthcoming elections,” said Sethulego Matebesi, a political analyst at the University of the Free State, who rates Ramaphosa as the best leader the country’s had since Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999. “The danger for South Africa is what is going to happen in the next elective conference of the ANC. There is a absolutely no guarantee that Cyril Ramaphosa will come back after five years for a second term.”

And investors remain skeptical that Ramaphosa can push through such promises as to revive the flagging economy and rein in runaway government debt. Business confidence is at a two-year low, the nation’s final investment-grade rating is hanging by a thread and the rand has dropped almost 20% against the dollar since he took office, battered by power blackouts and lacklustre growth.

Read: Load shedding: Outlook not good

Ramaphosa’s broad-based appeal, on display on scores of campaign stops across the country, is underpinned by his experience in the uppermost echelons of politics, business—and labor unions.

He founded the National Union of Mineworkers and led the nation’s biggest-ever mining strike in the 1980s, then became the ANC’s secretary-general, helped negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid and headed a panel that drafted South Africa’s first democratic constitution.

Read: Ramaphosa’s not-so-secret weapon: Cosatu

After losing out to Thabo Mbeki in the contest to succeed Mandela as president, he spent 14 years in business. He amassed a multi-million dollar fortune by securing the McDonald’s franchise in South Africa, and also founded an investment company that accumulated stakes in platinum mines operated by Lonmin, and a coal-mining venture with Glencore. Among his hobbies: He owns a buffalo and antelope ranch and breeds long-horned Ugandan Ankole cattle.

Ramaphosa showed his dexterity when he addressed about 250 mainly white farmers and businessmen on a wine farm on the outskirts of Stellenbosch near Cape Town. He assured them that people who’d looted state funds would be jailed and the ANC’s plans to change the constitution to make it easier to seize land without compensation will be sensibly implemented.

“I believe that Ramaphosa is the one who can save South Africa,’’ said Beyers Truter, 64, a wiry, bearded wine farmer who attended the gathering. “He is a son of the soil, understands farming and understands what has to be done to correct the course the country is on.”

White South Africans, who account for about 8% of the nation’s 57.7 million people, have mostly tended to back the DA.

Since assuming the presidency in February last year, Ramaphosa has fired a number of Zuma’s most inept ministers, replaced the boards and executives of mismanaged state companies and secured pledges of billions of dollars in new investment. But he’s struggled to reignite economic growth and reduce a 27% joblessness rate. Bloomberg’s Misery Index, which sums inflation and unemployment outlooks for 62 nations nations, shows South Africa has the third-most miserable economy, after Venezuela and Argentina.

Read: The world’s most miserable economy has seven-figure inflation

Paramedic Godfrey Mosoaka, 35, is among former ANC supporters who hasn’t bought into Ramaphosa’s promise of a “new dawn.” He was among a 400-strong crowd on a dirt field in Caleb Motshabi, a sprawling settlement of tiny metal shacks and cinder-block homes on the outskirts of the central city of Bloemfontein, to hear Ramaphosa’s pitch on April 7.

“There are no services, they are not doing anything for us,” Mosoaka said, pointing to a track alongside his house that had been in reduced to a muddy swamp by heavy rains. “They are taking care of themselves. Twenty-five years is more than enough.” He plans to boycott the vote.

Thomas Lidebawe, 64, a retired plumber in the crowd, said he was convinced the president can put the country back on course if given more time.

“Ramaphosa is better than Zuma,” he said. “With Zuma, there was just corruption. That time was problematic. Now things are better.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

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There can be no such thing as an ethical leader of a populist party. It is like appointing the Arch Bishop as president of the local branch of the mafia. A person with sound moral values will not rise in the hierarchy of a socialist party. Such a moral and ethical person won’t be able to implement the immoral and unethical strategies that are required of his position.

The fact that the political party with strong moral values and ethical leadership does not get the support of more than 2% of the voters, while the morally corrupt party receives 60% of the votes, illustrates the rotten moral fibre of the average voter.

“When government uses its legal monopoly on coercion to confiscate one person’s property and give it to another, it is engaging in what would normally be called theft. Calling this immoral act “democracy,” “majority rule” or “progressive taxation” does not make it moral. Under democracy, rulers confiscate the income of productive members of society and redistribute it to various supporters in order to keep themselves in power.

In order to finance a campaign, a politician must promise to steal (i.e., tax) money from those who earned it and give it to others who have no legal or moral right to it. There are (very) few exceptions, but politicians must also make promises that they know they can never keep (i.e., lie). This is why so few moral people are elected to political office. The most successful politicians are those who are the least hindered by strong moral principles. They have the least qualms about confiscating other peoples’ property in order to maintain their own power, perks, and income.” August von Hayek.

@Sensei, thanks for your thought provoking comments that hit the nail on the head.

Even the USA uses the tax system, i.e. progressive taxation where the middle class pays more than poorer citizens. The difference is that for example if you listen to the Bloomberg interview with the mayor of Miami County, he can tell you exactly how much he needs to maintain and expand their sanitation system. He will get the job done.

In South Africa sewerage is running into the water supply system at Vaal dam and the ANC is busy with a commission of inquiry for the last 5 years.

Mr SENSIE

You were the benefactor of of English looting all across the world. Now you are crying foul and morality because you are going to a victim. As they say what goes around comes around.

Where have we ever heard of an animal call a moral politician? Come on guys lets not fool our self. The guys are professionals in the art of corning.

The Queen’s soldiers burnt my family’s farm to the ground, killed the livestock and sent the women and children to concentration camps where most died of starvation and disease. So, how exactly did I benefit from Brittish rule?

The difference between people from my demographic dispensation and yours is that we don’t blame the Brittish for our current socio-economic realities. We take responsibility for our situation. We build our own future. We embrace the Brittish and respect and honour their history.

You represent the alternative demographic dispensation that plays the blame game. After 25 years of democracy, they still blame the colonialists, racism, Somalis, Zimbabweans or Jews. They refuse to accept any responsibility. Even the looting of their own people by VBS bank is the Reserve Bank’s “attack on black excellence”. Capitalism awards everyone equal opportunity to add value to whatever he has between his ears. Sadly for some people, it implies zero value.

The backstabbing and skulduggery is intensifying within the ANC in the run-up to the elections with many knowing that they will be the target in a trimming session that has to take place to reign in the unsustainable cost to run the ANC government (patronage system).

The mafia never like it when their flow of ill-gotten gains dry up. This is why it is so difficult to stop corruption after it has been deep set by populist ANC policies and actions.

Exactly what we are faced with. The patrons are hooking their wagon to the CR train, as soon as they win the election they will ditch him because they don’t want to go to jail.

This is why they are so desperate to get comrade Julius back into the fold. Since comrade Jacob left he is very quiet about corruption.

ANC is better off trying to form alliances with the DA, at least these have a better chance of working for the taxpayers.

Ramaphosa. On one hand he and his tiny crew believe they have made it and they will be making it. In this hand his other unrealistic fans believe he should unleash his and their power on the ANC members. Unrealistic because the party is in power not it’s leader. Recalling a leader does not affect its position and power in parliament. On the other hand it’s the ANC which is a very powerful organisation, patiently giving you what you want and what you want to believe until the election results are revealed.

We should be planning a future without the current ANC poster-boy.

“The danger is not the outcome of the forthcoming elections … The danger for South Africa is what is going to happen in the next elective conference of the ANC. There is a absolutely no guarantee that Cyril Ramaphosa will come back after five years for a second term.”

Actually there is guarantee that JZ783’s former deputy, CR2017, will be elected president after May 8. If the duplicitous David Mabuza could get himself elected NumberTwo through disingenuous flip-flopping, there is no reason to think he will not repeat the performance to grab the top spot. SA does NOT elect the president, that is done by Parliament, effectively the ruling party, though EFF, whose leader was victimised out of the ANC by Ramaphosa, may support Mabuza. (How the new ANC breakaways will vote is anyone’s guess)

A more likely scenario, given that the ANC is yet to have a national president serve two full terms, is that Cyril will be “recalled”.

While Cyril definitely is an improvement in grace and suavity, his party remains captured by SACP, unions, nationalists, careerists and simple crooks. It’s ability to fix the economy is constrained by its beliefs in dirigism. central planning and hostility to business and job-creation. That is, even without corruption and placing loyalty above competence.

All of which makes it a puzzle why otherwise sensible people are punting to “Tata ma chANCe” with a #BlankChequeForTheANC”, deluding themselves that they can “vote for Cyril”.

The ANC’s national executive makes policy and decides what the president may or may not do.The NEC is made up of thieves, fraudsters and/or liars. If , like in the USA, I could vote for a person, and not a party, I would be voting for CR. However, I will probably not vote or vote for Cope. I have always liked Terror Lekota and his views.

After listening to Minister of Police Bkweki Cwele on Cape Talk 567 Radio just now I am convinced that we are in a failed state, likely to descend into utter chaos if the ANC and EFF are forced into a coalition after the election.

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