SO JACOB Zuma gets a second term as party leader and, probably, as state president. And I am a few thousand rand out of pocket for rashly assuming, and betting earlier this year, that the African National Congress (ANC) had more sense. To be fair to Zuma, he has looked like a different person at this conference, commanding where once you would have expected him to ramble and giggle, and strong where you once would have expected him to be evasive.
But one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one conference doesn’t make a leader. Human nature would tell us that, at Zuma’s age, people don’t change and that after the conference we can expect more drift and confusion. His personal problems have not gone away and the problems confronting the economy he runs get more difficult and complex by the day.
The bright news is that he now has, in Cyril Ramaphosa, a man of proven principle and action as his deputy. I suppose it means Ramaphosa will become deputy president of SA as well. He will have no choice, really, because he will know he cannot survive the stark conflicts between holding high political office and running a large company in the private sector. He knows how to make things happen, even if you are not prepared to let the R18m bull bid go, and he will provide Zuma with the sort of credibility cover only the likes of Trevor Manuel still have to offer.
I guess we will have to sit back and see how things develop. I was amused to read that Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel had said something positive about the National Development Plan (NDP) that Manuel and Ramaphosa nursed into life over two years. I can only assume he felt that with Manuel out of the way (or in the process of leaving), the NDP might in time be bent to look a lot more like the New Growth Path, but I suspect Ramaphosa is going to be both a champion and a guardian of the NDP.
I am among a privileged few to have heard and felt the wrath of Ramaphosa when he is truly angry. Some of you may remember me, as editor of the Financial Mail, endorsing Bantu Holomisa in the 1999 election, not long after Ramaphosa became a director of the Financial Mail’s publishing company. I can report that it wasn’t pleasant taking those calls from him.
Of course, as much as Ramaphosa can save Zuma, so can Zuma defile Ramaphosa if he is unable to wean himself off what appears to be a staple diet of financial dependency on friends of one kind or another, or business "associates" who see in the president an easy mark. Ramaphosa is putting a very carefully nurtured reputation on the line. Let’s hope he still has it in 2019.
IT WOULD be wrong, though, much as one welcomes Ramaphosa’s arrival in his new position, not to acknowledge the wonderful lesson in personal and political integrity delivered to the ANC by Kgalema Motlanthe. By deciding to contest only the presidency, he would have known he was fighting a lost cause and he may well now be relieved of his position as deputy president of the country. I hope the ANC leadership is not so stupid. The thuggery of Thabo Mbeki’s removal can surely not be repeated. Motlanthe gave the party the most precious gift he could yesterday — he gave it his political life and asked for nothing in return.
AS ALWAYS, Business Day slims down for the holidays for about a month. Thank you so much for joining us every day. We never take anything for granted. The past few weeks have been very difficult at BDFM, the company that publishes Business Day and the Financial Mail. We have had to make steep cost cuts and have said farewell to more than 30 colleagues. But I believe we are fitter now than at any time since 2007. Next year promises a host of changes and innovations in the company, all of which is designed to make your relationship with our brands more intimate and more satisfying. As a reader, I mean, obviously. Please have the best and safest holidays ever and thank you, again, for your support.