/ 2 December 2022

When it comes to irony, our cup runneth over

Zuma Ramaphosa 0839
Common ground: Jacob Zuma (left) resigned after a failed impeachment bid. Will Cyril Ramaphosa (right) survive? (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)


It’s been a bit of a rough night for everybody involved in the political side of storytelling.

The president getting red-carded by parliament’s Section 89 impeachment panel late on Wednesday evening over cash concealed in his couch will do that.

Plenty of midnight hustling, acid reflux and frenzied deadlines; carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety nightmares and strained eyes for years.

Argentina versus Poland, sleep and breakfast, dololo.

Rough yes, but nowhere near as rough as things are for President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose kevlar appears to have finally cracked — torn actually — after six months of sniping from former State Security Agency head Arthur Fraser.

The panel was having none of Ramaphosa’s story that the money had been payment from a Sudanese billionaire who had dropped off $580 000 two and a bit years ago for a couple of buffaloes, which he still hasn’t bothered to collect.

Ramaphosa must have slept with one eye open on Wednesday night — something he should have been doing since he took up the job four years ago, along with cleaning out his cabinet for comrades more loyal to his predecessor than to himself.

A week ago, the Buffalo appeared bulletproof, a shoo-in for a second term in December, well ahead of Zweli Mkhize in the nominations and set to receive a clean bill of health from the panel headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo.

This morning, four adverse findings from the Ngcobo panel and eleventy-seven calls — internal and external — for him to stand down later, not so much.

An orange onesie and a spell in the presidential suite at the Estcourt prison appears to be a real possibility — if former president Jacob Zuma isn’t using it, of course.

Perhaps a spell as cellmates at Estcourt might help heal the wounds between the two — unity in adversity and all that — and put an end to the factionalism in the governing party, if it’s still governing at that point in our history.


The early morning cabinet meeting that followed the release of the panel’s findings can’t have been a lot of fun for Cyril. Half of its members went straight to page 86 and were calling for him to stand down before the rest of us had finished reading it.

It’s nice to know, though, that the cash was couched and not mattressed, as claimed by Fraser in his affidavits to the South African Police Service in June.

There’s a bit more dignity attached to stashing the cash in the sofa than keeping millions under the mattress — and less damage to the presidential posture when he sleeps over at Phala Phala for the festive.

Ramaphosa must be regretting not taking a page out of Zuma’s playbook and building himself a bunker at Phala Phala — or at least a walk-in safe large enough to conceal a good few million.

Perhaps he did — the strongroom part at least — and there was so much money in there already that he had no choice but to lodge the loot in the lounge.


The Ramaphosa camp in the ANC, like Cyril, is in chaos.

Overnight, the “renewables” in the ANC have become Wenzenists, whingeing about which clients panel members represented in court in the past and trying to pick holes in the overall findings and slagging off its findings as recommendations, which bind neither parliament nor Cyril.

The thought of the ANC special national executive committee (NEC) meeting called for Friday morning must have added to Ramaphosa’s anxiety — and insomnia — knowing that the call for him to stand down, which was defeated at the last NEC, is back but with legs this time.

A rough night indeed.

I don’t blame the president for bailing on the question session in the National Council of Provinces, which had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon. I would have done the same, if I were in Cyril’s position.

Ramaphosa’s supporters in the ANC in parliament are no match for the pitbulls waiting on the floor to deal with him. They can smell blood and are ready to tear Ramaphosa apart, limb from limb, but will have to wait for 6 December to do so.

South Africa may be short on ethical leaders — in addition to electricity, running water and trains — but when it comes to irony, our fine republic’s cup floweth over.

How else does one understand Ramaphosa, who came to power on a clean governance ticket, falling foul of the same impeachment rules introduced by parliament to get rid of Zuma, in 2017?

Granted, Ramaphosa, like Nxamalala, is likely to survive the debate and vote on 6 December — if he doesn’t do the right thing and fire himself by the time you read this, saving us all some embarrassment — but it’s still quite a thing that the weapon forged to deal with Zuma has pretty much dealt with Cyril.