The relationship between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, has broken down irretrievably. In veiled but somewhat direct attack on his boss at any given platform including the National Assembly, Ramaphosa has of late put the failures and challenges of South Africa firmly at Zuma’s doorstep. Presidents choose their deputies on the basis of their absolute loyalty to them whereupon they protect and defend them however intransigent they may be. The same is no longer the case between Zuma and his deputy. Ramaphosa’s latest behaviour and conduct could be politically viewed as gross misconduct and insubordination deserving of instant removal from office. The reason Ramaphosa is still at his desk is because it would be politically suicidal for Zuma primarily because, it would have a devastating impact on the chances of his former wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma whom he supports, to win the African National Congress (ANC) presidential position at the 54th ANC national conference this weekend. It is not far-fetched to conclude that Ramaphosa may have been looking for his dismissal to prop up his campaign for the ANC presidency. Zuma has so far and to his credit, been smart not to be tempted to take a suicidal political decision. But this is just for now given the boiling political mercury both in the ANC particularly and the society in general.
Ramaphosa’s dismissal at this stage would arguably give him massive sympathy votes as did Zuma himself in 2007. At the time, Zuma had been fired by Thabo Mbeki in 2005 as the Deputy President in government. Zuma would subsequently beat Mbeki at the Polokwane conference whereupon the latter was recalled. It would therefore be history repeating itself if Zuma were to dismiss Ramaphosa at this stage. Over and above the political ramifications of firing Ramaphosa, there is the economics side to it. Given the recent downgrading of the South African economy by rating agencies after the firing of the former Finance Ministers Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordan respectively, Zuma is fearful of a similar or even the worst backlash. As of now, South Africa is still not yet out of the woods, economics speaking that is. Dr Azar Jammine, one of the respected economists in South Africa, says that ‘if Ramaphosa is elected to power at the ANC conference in December, the prospect of an economic turnaround becomes more possible’. This statement was made against Ramaphosa’s view that proper implementation of his policies stands to lift economic growth to 3% next year and to 5% by 2023, with the creation of one million jobs over the next five years. Food for thought I will suggest!
Ramaphosa is, on one hand, leading a faction in the ANC that is fighting in the main, corruption, a tag that has characterised Zuma’s presidency since he became president in 2009. On the other, Zuma is leading the other that is content with maintaining the status quo. Dlamini-Zuma, some analysts fear and perhaps justifiably so, is the rightful person to maintain the status quo should she be elected ANC president hence Zuma’s support for her. Zuma is a politically and personally wounded individual who is emerging from a week where he lost three consecutive and damaging litigations at the High Court. The first case dealt with the court declaring that his appointment of the current Director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was invalid and unlawful; the second dealt with his attempt to set aside the binding and remedial action of the immediate past Public Protector and lastly whether he was competent to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the State of Capture Report given that he is personally implicated therein which renders him profoundly conflicted. Personally damaging to Zuma is the fact that he has to foot the legal bill of two cases from his own pocket. In the circumstances, Ramaphosa is in more ways than one the best beneficiary of these court cases especially where the court has directed that he appoints the next Director of the NPA in the next thirty days. As a result of these court cases and assuming Zuma fails to successfully challenge them, he prematurely becomes a lame duck President.
So if Ramaphosa wins the ANC presidency over the weekend, he may after all be the one firing Zuma from his position as the President of South Africa. This is premised on the precedence set in the Mbeki’s recall after he lost to Zuma as alluded to above. Similarly and if Ramaphosa loses to Dlamini-Zuma, he will be as good as gone because Zuma will remain the head of government still vested with constitutional power and authority to fire Ramaphosa. The gloves are simply and truly off! Once the results of the contest between Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma at the ANC conference become clear, the reasons alluded to above for Zuma to keep Ramaphosa fall away. Whether the markets react negatively to his dismissal become inconsequential because Zuma’s own political survival takes precedence over anything else. In any event, this has been his modus operandi. When all is said and done, Zuma could be described as a hunter looking for a perfect spot to strike the last and fatal shot. Ramaphosa could still be the same hunter. Judge for Yourself!