Cyril Ramaphosa is a smart man, a gifted businessman whose talent has enabled him to amass billions. His judicious legal acumen has gifted South Africa a world class constitution.

Some even credit him for superior emotional intelligence. They claim he had the wits to manage internal ANC wrangling that denied him the highest office. He was ‘chosen’ by Nelson Mandela to succeed him, they say.

With a mere R1 billion, he outfoxed grass-roots popular support and outmanoeuvred the ANC and the country’s legal impediments to finance his CR-17 campaign. In a sophisticated operation he anticipated every step of his ascendency. He even sealed embarrassing documents. Numerous court victories serve as gorgeous testimonials.  

I respect those who can reconcile the idiotic blunders of our president with the dexterity of his rise to power, I can’t. The contrast reminds me of an expression I heard in Rockville, Soweto.  “Die ou is a moego met n’ klever se gesig.”

I bet millions of poor South Africans share a wish with Ramaphosa. Those who go to bed hungry each day, including unpaid ANC staffers, like him wish a speedy end to 2021 and a its quick removal from memory. It was a bad year.

He leaped into 2021 with devasting hard lockdowns, followed by hilarious mask wearing demonstrations and a missing iPad – the entertainment of his ‘fellow South Africans’ TV show.  

Then came the lies.  

For no reason at all, he lied to a nation in distress and suffering from deep-rooted corruption in government as told in the ‘Zondo Horror Show.’ You can imagine how people without power or services, left to starve due to large scale job loses felt when lied to by a man of a ‘new dawn.’

With a brave face, he told Zondo that he committed no wickedness; he heard and saw no evil as the deputy president of the nine wasted years. There are several witnesses though who told the Zondo commission that the boss was nothing but a deceiver and a perjurer.

Reeling straight form this gaff, amidst the July riots, unprovoked once again, the president lied.  He told the nation about non-existent “ethnic mobilisation” against him. He did not stop there, he invented an ‘insurgency’ and even reshuffled cabinet to boot!

As the ANC suffered its worst election showing since coming to power during the 2021 municipal elections, at the critical time when South Africa needed leadership, with an inflated sense of self-worth, he walked away from responsibility. “If we have to be an opposition, we will be an opposition. We won’t enter into coalitions at all costs,” he told some supporters in Soweto. Stuff the coalition talks – “We are not on our knees,’’ he said.

This was a defining moment. A historic occasion to seize strategic initiative! He simply had to be a statesman, but failed spectacularly. He couldn’t rise above or beyond the constraints of narrow party politics in order to guide a divided nation towards statehood. Despite warnings from Thabo Mbeki that “the ANC is too big to fail”, he twiddled his fingers as miniscule opposition parties garnered plug to prepare for an end of ANC governance in 2024 with a multi-party agreement.

It is all thanks to him, that opposition parties are sharpening their knives to cut off the ANC hold on governing in 2024. The people might see the opposition’s point of view.

This short-sighted narcissistic thinking was repeated in the calamitous Section 25 constitutional amendment vote for expropriation of land without compensation. The landless people, the majority black and poor, were sacrificed at the alter insensitive politicking. I don’t know if President Ramaphosa knows, but this is stuff of legends. It is these types of events that characterises an epoch in history. With nothing to show for his presidency, this was a probably his last chance to record his name in history. Maybe he has, with idiocy.

Whatever your views are about FW de Klerk, he will always be credited for ending apartheid. Similarly, generations of landless black South Africans, will always remember that it was under Ramaphosa that an opportunity of the amendment to Section 25 on land reform went begging.

With so much squandered opportunities and unnecessary blunders, can those close to the president whisper to his ear that the COVID-19 pandemic is the new normal. It will be with us for a while and perhaps, like most crisis, it is an opportunity to break new ground.

South Africa is experiencing a number of new challenges imposed this pandemic. Some are brought about by the unintended consequence of the impact of lock-downs others are the existing rot that has just gone worse. Paramount, is the economic impact on the poor. It is worse in a society like ours where the poor constitute more than 90% of the population.

We are already experiencing the rise in crime and this may be followed by disregard of regulations or even widespread social disobedience. Education is highly impacted by challenges of access to resources for things like online learning. This may bring about a new set of social ills such as dangerous vices and risky behaviour by young people and children. Teenage pregnancies and rampant drug abuse are already with us.

The other challenges are as a result of stifled economic activity that would create economic hardship or even deepen economic recession. Others may include social unrest as the so-called Zuma protests have shown. Next it would be food prices that may rise and in the worst cases, we may even experience food shortages resulting in the targeting of foreign nationals perceived as threat to economic survival. In such cases, crime levels will rise due to economic hardships.

Someone please tell the president that perhaps it is time that the democratic government trusted all its citizens as partners in dealing with the pandemic. It not only the pharmaceuticals or health professionals that can make a difference. It is all of us. It is the municipalities that he walked away from that might yield great benefits by working with the communities to establish strong social partnerships for economic resuscitation or stimulation, heightened security and confidence in justice and the judiciary.  

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