/ 13 January 2023

Ramaphosa stalls post-conference festive gifts

Teed off: Cyril Ramaphosa gave Judas Mathabatha the cold shoulder at the Presidential Golf Day. Photo: Mlungis Louw/Gallo Images


It’s been something of a staccato return to the grind after the year-end break.

Work was meant to start last week but my body appears to be ageing faster than Eskom’s geriatric fleet and, like Hendrina, Komati and Grootvlei power stations, lost the ability to generate power.

The arthritis De Ruytered me properly — stage six out of nowhere, laying me flat, like a smallanyana dose of arsenic in my morning coffee, but different.


As a result, the last day of the ANC’s reconvened national conference, as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s closing address and the annual 8 January statement that the head of state delivered in Mangaung on Sunday, had to go by without me.

I’m a little bit sad.

It would have been cool, in a self-flagellating sort of way, to have seen the conference to its conclusion — stupid but satisfying — and to have joined the comrades in Mangaung.

The holders of public office aren’t the only ones addicted to the political three-ring circus and the drama that comes with it.

The sight of the comrades descending on a town their comrades have looted and destroyed for a three-day party — all feigned concern, two-hour speeches and promises to fix the potholes — before sashaying back to the big city with flushing toilets and (generally) running water for another year of troughing is also a thing to behold.

There was also the unfinished business of tallying how many of the outside delegates from the Sasol garage at Nasrec — and their comrades who lost the battle inside the conference hall — had made it to the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium to hear Ramaphosa deliver the speech they said Zweli Mkhize would be making.

I didn’t see Carl Niehaus picketing outside the stadium on the television feed but perhaps the camera and I both missed him — or former secretary general Ace Magashule and Mkhize, for that matter.

Mkhize’s supporters in Ramaphosa’s cabinet — and the former members of the national executive committee (NEC) who didn’t make it back at Nasrec — must be relieved that Ramaphosa is Johnny Process and isn’t likely to wield the axe before they get their January salary.

Likewise former North West ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, who was among those making nice with Ramaphosa for the cameras in Mangaung, not all that long after voting in parliament for the president to face an impeachment hearing.

The president looked far happier to see the Black Jesus of North West than he was to run into Judas Mathabathaa — the Limpopo premier, for now at least — at the pre-rally golf day.

Ramaphosa had blanked Mathabatha when he tried to congratulate him on winning the presidency at Nasrec, making his feelings about the premier’s about-turn on supporting him for a second term crystal clear.

Ramaphosa ignored him again at the tee-off at the Bloemfontein Golf Course — cold as ice — another reminder that Mathabatha took the wrong turn when he tried to drag Limpopo delegates with him along the N3 in support of Mkhize.

Ramaphosa’s allies — and the rest of the country — are crying for an immediate reshuffle but it is more likely to happen shortly before the State of the Nation address on 9 February, once “process” is exhausted. Again.

The top seven elected at the conference still have to meet. After that, there’s a NEC meeting, along with the selection of the national working committee to be dealt with.

There’s also a NEC lekgotla to look at the cabinet’s future configuration, and a government one — along with a trip to Davos next week for the World Economic Forum — to get through before there’s any chance of Cyril dropping the hammer on Nathi Mthethwa and the rest of the baggage he — and we — have been carrying since 2018.

If ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula and the rest of the nation are gagging for a cabinet reshuffle, how must Paul Mashatile be feeling?

Mashatile got the ANC deputy presidency as a Christmas present but he still hasn’t been able to unwrap it — metaphorically speaking — and move into the office in the west wing of the Union Buildings that’s had his name on it since 20 December.

Mashatile has found himself in a bit of a procedural cul-de-sac.Parliament’s lists are closed until March and the two cabinet slots Ramaphosa can fill with non-MPs are filled by Mondli Gungubele and Enoch Godongwana — key allies of the president — so Mashatile may have to wait even longer than February to take up his job as deputy president of the country.