Johannesburg: South Africa’s ruling-party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, said that while Jacob Zuma’s government must obey the decisions of the African National Congress, he doesn’t want to “humiliate” the president and divide the nation.
Ramaphosa, speaking in a television interview broadcast Sunday by Johannesburg-based eNCA, said the ANC has to be careful about deciding on Zuma’s future as the nation’s leader before he is due to step down in 2019 when general elections are scheduled, calling it a “very delicate matter.”
“We need to deal with this matter with the level of maturity it requires, with the proper decorum, and I will say we should never do it in a way that is going to humiliate President Zuma,” he said. “We should never do it in a manner that is also going to divide the nation.”
Ramaphosa, 65, said his discussions with Zuma since taking over the leadership of the ANC have gone “very, very smoothly.” A commission of inquiry into allegations that Zuma oversaw “state capture” by allowing members of the Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments and the award of government contracts must go ahead without delay and its terms of reference should ensure it focuses on recent events, he said.
He asserted that the ANC wields ultimate power over the government and its members.
“Everyone has to be receptive to the decisions of the ANC because that is the political centre,” Ramaphosa said in the interview. “You have got to accept the decisions and you also have to accept the direction that you are given by the ANC.”
Ramaphosa’s interview was broadcast a day after his first major policy speech since winning the presidency of South Africa’s dominant party at a conference last month. In the address, he vowed to fight graft, revive a struggling economy and restore investor confidence that has been eroded under Zuma’s scandal-ridden administration.
“The country is yearning to put behind all these horrible things that have to do with corruption, state capture behind us,” Ramaphosa said. “The sooner these are all done the better because we want to move on, we want to move on to a better life.”
Ramaphosa, the nation’s current deputy president and one of the richest black South Africans, is a former labour-union activist, businessman and was the ANC’s lead negotiator in talks to end apartheid in the 1990s.
The ruling party must “begin the process of moving away from the bad practices and bad culture that has crept into the ANC,” Ramaphosa said. “Things such as corruption is a big thing in the ANC. It’s no longer a perception; it’s an issue that needs to be addressed head on.”
Under Zuma’s rule, the ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral performance in municipal elections in August 2016 when it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital.
“We want to renew our vows with our people, we want to reconnect with our people, we want to get our people excited again,” Ramaphosa said. “Many of our people are saying the ANC is back. They are rekindling their love, their affection with the ANC. We are nowhere near where we should be.”