The momentum towards a ‘New South Africa’ was characterised by some developments central of which were the mini revolution in the racist Nationalist Party that saw F. W. de Klerk ascending to power. Suddenly Nelson Mandela was released from prison alongside other political prisoners.
The African National Congress (ANC) was caught on the back foot and had to organise things mid-stream, so as to hit the ground running and the hitherto liberation movement managed to harness the different liberation support formations consisting of labour, progressive churches, youth and women organisations. The ANC had been banned and could only operate outside South Africa.
To this effect churches were expressive against apartheid and boasted dynamic leaders such as Bishop Manas Buthelezi, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Reverend Frank Chikane, Reverend Allan Boesak and, that undying religious spirit of the South African white church, Beyers Naude.
The leadership of labour in turn produced dynamic leadership the likes of Howard Gabriel and others. And this broad liberation support platform produced and nurtured young professionals the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa into the ranks of the leadership of South African’s labour and slowly into the arena of South Africa’s national politics.
Mandela was released from prison alongside other political prisoners, the likes of Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki. Political exiles returned to South Africa in tandem with the new political environment. The stage was thus set for South Africans to enter constitutional negotiations. Ramaphosa led the ANC delegation to the negotiations that culminated into national elections which the ANC won to form South Africa’s first post Apartheid democratically elected government with Mandela as president. This vindicated Brenda Fassie’s famous song, ‘My Black President’.
Mandela surprised the world on more than one occasion during the constitutional dispensation. First, he cultivated the political spirit that would account for F.W. de Klerk to take precedence over Cyril Ramaphosa as second Vice President in the transitional government.
Secondly, when it was time to compose South Africa’s civil service, two persons were identified for the presidency. Frank Chikane was selected for the office of the President and Jakes Gerwel for the office of the Vice President. Mandela took Gerwel for his office and Chikane, who was believed to be the more capable of the two, went to the office of Vice President Thabo Mbeki.
As soon as he became President, Mandela set the stage for succession and debate ensued in the broad South African society on who would succeed Mandela. This was a sensitive matter since those whose cards were stacked in favour of Ramaphosa had not relented and hoped that an environment would still obtain for him to emerge in the not so distant future.
While on a European visit, Mandela was asked by a reporter whom he thought would succeed him and he left the impression that Thabo Mbeki would be the person. Upon return he was confronted and implicitly charged with unilateral decisions on succession.
True to his magnanimity, Mandela apologised for the error of judgment and this debate was put to bed. But the statement was made and it was too ghastly for the African National Congress to contemplate alternative thinking against the public position pronounced by Mandela. So, Mbeki became the next president of South Africa.
As the world turned, Mbeki fell out of favour with large sectors of the ANC. He was deposed and Jacob Zuma was elected president of the African National Congress. Now the ANC is faced with a situation demanding President Zuma’s removal. By many accounts Zuma is embattled and the ANC knows that. Zuma cannot with ease manage the business of state, and opposition parties in parliament are bent on making the Zuma regime inoperative.
The business community in South Africa and globally, seem to have accepted the new developments in the leadership of the ANC and approve of the Ramaphosa leadership, as can be viewed against the backdrop of the fact that no sooner was Ramaphosa elected president of the ANC, the South African Rand jumped in strength in juxtaposition to the United States Dollar.
But the ANC is contending with a crisis at home as their house is still on fire. The party has since the elective congress been hard at work to sort the politics of succession while South African society at large has waited with bated breath. For all indications are that, should Zuma stay on as President of South Africa, the country will remain ungovernable because the opposition is resolute. Should the ANC unceremoniously remove Zuma from office, chances are there could be tremors in the ANC, more so given the fact that the lead contender to the Presidency for ANC, Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma, lost with a narrow margin to Cyril Ramaphosa.
Since the new South Africa, the ANC had two break-away formations and judging from remarks made by some high profile political players believed to be close to Jacob Zuma, the prospect for yet a break away formation from the ruling party looms high.
‘As we speak’, the ANC has formally requested Zuma to resign within 48 hours or face being recalled by the party. This comes after protracted consultations within the ANC; and between ANC leadership and Zuma.
Meanwhile opposition parties in South Africa’s parliament are up in arms. They are resolute that the Zuma regime has been nothing but an embarrassment for South Africa, demand his departure and want parliament to be dissolved immediately, in favour of fresh national elections.
The nation and the world have waited patiently for the leadership of the ANC to guide the nation out of this political uncertainty that has contained the potential to plunge South Africa into an unprecedented constitutional conundrum.
The arrival of Ramaphosa as president of the ANC is believed to be good for the South African economy and good for business. Ramaphosa is regarded as an astute businessman of repute and expected to be a friend of big business and global investment. Economists and financial experts expect Ramaphosa to understand the wisdom of economic mobility through capital investment.
They expect him to understand mining, tourism and agriculture better than the incumbent. But Ramaphosa and his ANC have a hurdle to jump and this hurdle seemed to become higher by the day, until the ANC leadership decided to force Zuma out of office. And judging from the circumspection on the part of the ANC, seemingly the stakes have remained high and only time will tell what course events will take now and the extent to which ANC will emerge magnanimous.