Editorial: Cyril: A blow to SA

Cyril Ramaphosa’s move into the business sector is a serious blow to South Africa. His absence from the post-election Cabinet was regrettable and the failure to draft him on the occasion of the recent re-shuffle was equally lamentable.

The ANC’s explanation for his move—- that it is part of a brilliant strategy to broaden the struggle against the legacy of apartheid—- smacks of the disingenuous.
The fact that he accepted an appointment as deputy to the chairman of New Africa Investments Ltd (Nail), Dr Nthato Motlana, suggests Mr Ramaphosa was acting on impulse, rather that some deeply laid plan.

With all due respect to the doctor—- whose success in carving out a considerable personal fortune in the face of racial discrimination is to be applauded—- Mr Ramaphosa’s stature is not that of the deputy chairman of anything. A more likely explanation is that, abandoning a marooned (if not sinking) ship of political fortune, he stepped onto the first landfall which became available.

No doubt Mr Ramaphosa will make a contribution to black business empowerment, but it is debatable whether that is quite the noble cause that it is held out to be. Too often “black empowerment” is nothing more than a cry by an already existing elite for further enrichment which is of little benefit to the masses in whose name it is invoked.

Dr Motlana’s own views on the subject are worth recalling. “Don’t talk to me about black economic empowerment because I don’t come from that bloody genre,” he told London’s Financial Times a couple of years ago. “I come from a time when [black enrichment] was impossible and I did it. That’s where I come from, not from some bloody political patronage !”

There is, however, some comfort to be found in Mr Ramaphosa’s departure from the political arena. If he succeeds in his first business venture, by taking over Johnnic, he (or at least the black consortium he is busy putting together) will take control of the Sunday Times, the Financial Mail, Business Day and a valuable stake in M-Net. In conjunction with The Sowetan, which Nail already owns, it represents a significant slice of the South African media.

It is an irony worth noting that the man who many believe has driven Mr Ramaphosa into the political wilderness, Thabo Mbeki, has something of a pre-

occupation about white media control. It now appears that his wish for redress is about to be realised. It will however, we suspect, be a section of the media which will remain outside his control. But he will perhaps console himself with the thought that where power is concerned, diversification is only to be welcomed.

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