/ 27 April 2023

About-turn the Ramaphosa way

Ramaphosa 7 Del Anc Elective Conference
President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have forgotten the ANC’s decision on the ICC taken at Nasrec.(Photo Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)


It’s Freedom Day.

Our former liberators have, thankfully, done an about-turn on their decision to hand the KwaZulu-Natal education department’s contract to provide groceries to feed two million pupils to a single entity with no capacity to actually do so.

As of yesterday, the R2.1 billion contract awarded to Pacina Retail (Pty) Ltd, owned by self-proclaimed philanthropist and AmaZulu FC director Manzini Zungu, has been overturned.

The province is reverting to the system it was using until the Pacina deal was done in December — on the basis of a single pilot project in which Spar provided the food and logistics — and will use local level service providers, as it had done all along.

Education MEC Mbali Fraser has left it up to ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo to try to explain the about-turn — and why the department abandoned a functioning system for what appears to be an exercise in rent-seeking.

Like Fraser, our beloved head of state and national forex trader, Cyril Ramaphosa, appears to have swapped the Dick Wittingtons he so proudly displayed waaaay back in 2018 for a pair of flip-flops.

How else does one explain his uncanny ability to about-turn — or should that be to turn about — on his presidential decisions (and those of his party and cabinet) with what is now alarming regularity.

From the free unlimited electricity and water he decided to give his cabinet colleagues last year ahead of the ANC conference to the somewhat short-lived state of national disaster over the electricity crisis a few months ago, our man has overturned more of his own decisions than Johannesburg has had mayors.

The Molo Molo contingent from last December’s conference are still cooing about a listening president, but it appears to me that if our president was actually listening — and paying attention to his day job — he wouldn’t have to undo the decisions he takes seemingly forever to make.

The ink was hardly dry on the retraction of the national Orders for Duma Ndlovu, Mike Horn and Freek Robinson by Ramaphosa’s office over their dodgy form last weekend before our man was heading into his next U-turn, this time on foreign policy.

Ramaphosa told the media — in the presence of the visiting Finnish president, Sauli Väinämö Niinistö, — that we had pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), when we had actually done the opposite.

While our president was tittering over a flag falling over during the event, his office had started another damage control operation over his less-than-factual statement — another mad race to explain the unexplainable and defend the indefensible.

One wonders where Ramaphosa — and ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula — were during December, when the party’s position on the ICC was hammered out at its conference at Nasrec.

The conference decided that the ANC and the South African government must rescind the withdrawal from the ICC and intensify its lobby for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol, which extends the powers of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to try crimes that include genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when it is established.

Not much doing in the way of pulling out there.

A rescission, yes, but of the earlier decision by the ANC to quit the ICC, rather than South Africa’s membership of it.

Perhaps the ANC president and its secretary general were busy with more important things — getting elected comes to mind — while the comrade delegates were busy with the nitty-gritties of policy in general and whether to pull out of the multilateral forum in particular.

Perhaps they were taking a nap.

What if Ramaphosa did actually know that we weren’t pulling out of the ICC, but was just blagging — trying his luck — as a means of heading off difficult questions from Niinistö as to whether our government was going to arrest Russia’s President Vladimir Putin when he comes for the Brics summit in August?

Warrant, what warrant?

Perhaps it was deliberate. Ramphosa isn’t going to the G7 after all, so there’s not much chance of Niinistö calling him out at the Hiroshima meeting for conning him during the state visit.

Putin’s visit isn’t exactly going to trigger a wave of diplomatic invites and trade visits to Europe over the next couple of years — as the citrus industry is already finding out — so there’s really little chance of Niinistö ever getting a chance to ask Ramaphosa to explain himself.

Perhaps this is unkind, and Ramaphosa was simply confused — it’s happened before — and thought they were talking about the International Cricket Council.

Finland is, after all, a major cricketing nation.