Cheap politicking over Ramaphosa’s emails

ANC heavyweight Ramaphosa came in for a battering from the ANC Youth League and its expelled leader Julius Malema's "economic freedom fighters" on Wednesday.

The league called for his arrest after it was revealed – during the course of the Farlam commission into the Marikana killings – that Ramaphosa had sent emails to Lonmin management and government ministers asking for action against striking miners. It also used the opportunity to reiterate its calls for nationalisation of the mines.

But analysts say this is unsurprising given Ramaphosa's role in having Malema expelled from the ANC earlier this year.

Ramaphosa chaired the national disciplinary committee that expelled Malema and former league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu at the beginning of the year.

He is also rumoured to be a candidate for the number two spot on the Jacob Zuma faction's slate at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung come December, while the youth league and Malema's allies have thrown their weight behind the opposing camp in favour of Kgalema Motlanthe.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, who represents some of the miners injured and arrested during the events at Marikana, revealed the contents of the emails during his opening statements at the commission on Wednesday, saying they showed "toxic collusion" between business interests and the state.

But Eusebius McKaiser, an associate at the Wits Centre for Ethics, said Mpofu's remarks "can't be taken as purely legalistic just because he's a lawyer".

"Sometimes even opening statements in the inquiry can be politically loaded and can take on undertones of politicking," he said.

Political opponent
Mpofu was the lawyer who represented Malema during the disciplinary hearing.

McKaiser characterised the statements put out by the youth league and the "economic freedom fighters" as "simple politicking".

"It is politically useful for those who regard him as their political opponent to characterise him as they have, with blood on his hands," he said.

"It's not just Mangaung but also attempts to take out those people perceived to be obstacles to potentially having Julius Malema's membership reinstated, and having the ANC change their mind on nationalisation [to be] more in line with the youth league," he said.

Malema has exhausted all avenues for a return to the ANC, barring one – having the ANC decide on the matter at Mangaung. If that doesn't work, he will have to go to court to argue why he should be allowed back into the party.

McKaiser also said he did not believe the furore would have much impact on Ramaphosa politically.

"The way we're dramatising the reaction to the email saga and talking ad nauseum about the language he used and how it characterised what he said conveys the false impression that there will be incredible ramifications for [Ramaphosa] inside the ANC," he said.

Without further evidence, Ramaphosa's use of the hazy term "concomitant action" does not justify a rap over the knuckles from the ANC or an investigation by the Hawks, McKaiser added.

Politics of the slate
Political analyst Prince Mashele agreed that the email saga would have little impact on Ramaphosa's chances for a key position within the party come the ANC's elective conference.

"The politics of the ANC today is the politics of the slate. If Cyril Ramaphosa is number two [on the slate], regardless of the public furore over Marikana, he is going to get a spot," he said.

Those suggesting Ramaphosa has blood on his hands are trying to "get political mileage" out of the incident, he said.

At the same time, he said, Ramaphosa's image has changed – instead of representing the black poor and the historically oppressed, he is now being seen as an instrument of business, particularly white and foreign business.

"It's the true betrayal of the oppressed by Cyril Ramaphosa. We should not therefore be surprised that that has generated anger," he said.

The killings at Marikana have highlighted the relationships between business and politics and Ramaphosa's role has widely been seen as symbolic of a broader change among former civil activists, who have embraced the pursuit of wealth over the pursuit of change.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday