False dawn gives Ace all the cards


It’s still about an hour till sunrise, about two since the laptop was switched on. Next week is a day short, courtesy of the Women’s Day public holiday on Monday. Some of the work has to happen now, to avoid pulling a straight 60-hour, no sleep for a two-and-a-half days shift next week.

There’s also the rest of this week’s contribution to the paper — a 600-word piece on corporate malfeasance during the Covid-19 lockdown and a column — to file before midday, so, right now, bed is not the place to be.

There’s greater motivation for an early start than sheer survival.

A second Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme payment from the good people at the department of labour, along with the lifting of the ban on intraprovincial travel and some of the restrictions on the hospitality industry, means an escape from the city over the long weekend may just happen. If the money doesn’t go the way of the May payment, snatched from my account by lurking debit orders. It’s the sixth of the month, so hopefully it should survive until the weekend, so at least one night away with the family could be a reality.

It’s needed. 


It’s been 133 days since the lockdown started — even longer since my last swim in the ocean — so somewhere on the coast with a secluded beach where I can get my body wet would hit the spot. The cops are still chasing would-be swimmers on the Durban beaches, when they’re not robbing the cigarette dealers, so it’s been the promenade and the sand since we moved out of level 5 all those months ago. It should be safer to hit the water further from the city. 


Perhaps the head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, is also up and moving, taking in the false dawn, girding his loins ahead of another day of trying to convince himself — and the rest of us — that he is in control of the country and the governing party. 

It’s pretty likely.

Things have unravelled, just a little, since the heady days of the New Dawn, when Ramaphosa took office on the back of a less than convincing win at the ANC elective conference at Nasrec, Soweto,  in December 2017, promising a clean-up in the party, and state action against corruption — governance rather than looting..

It’s not only public frustration over the baffling decisions of the National Coronavirus Command Council, the loss of jobs and livelihoods and the apparent inability of ANC deployees in government to refrain from stealing that has stripped away the goodwill Ramaphosa commanded at the beginning of the lockdown.

Any moral high ground, any political muscle, Ramaphosa held over his opponents in the party regarding corruption was lost when the scandal about the Gauteng personal protective equipment broke. 

The inability to push through a decision halting family members from doing business with the government at the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting is pretty unsurprising, given the damage done to Ramaphosa’s backers in the ANC by the revelations over the Covid-19 procurement carnage.

The president can talk about hyenas in the party feeding off the public purse till he’s blue in the face. There’s little he can do, given the state of his own camp.

It’s hard to imagine Ramaphosa having a lie-in, all duvet and onesie with the presidential crest on it, hitting the snooze button and burrowing into the pillows in search of another five minutes under those toasty covers, at this point in his term as president of the party and the republic. 

Things are bad and won’t get better any time soon. 

I wonder if Ramaphosa watched the interview with ANC secretary general Ace Magashule about the weekend NEC meeting on TV on Wednesday? 

The former Free State premier was pretty brutal in his delivery, making it clear that his sons, Tshepiso and Thato, and the children of any ANC luminary for that matter, were free to do business with the state, in the provision of personal protective equipment, or in any other way, New Dawn or no New Dawn. 

Magashule also made it clear that it is he, and not Ramaphosa, who is calling the shots in the governing party, that the ascendancy Ramaphosa held after Nasrec is gone.

Ramaphosa must have shuddered hearing Magashule’s defiant challenge that the organs of state security should feel free to do whatever they feel they should do about the contracts.

Magashule wasn’t simply throwing down the gauntlet to the police, the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority: he was reminding them, and Ramaphosa, of the vulnerability of those allied to the head of state. 

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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