Jury out on whether "Messiah" can actually cleanse the ANC

Cyril Ramaphosa, if elected ANC president, will have his work cut out cleaning up the party that's buckling under the crooks in it, says the writer. / Moeletsi Mabe
Cyril Ramaphosa, if elected ANC president, will have his work cut out cleaning up the party that's buckling under the crooks in it, says the writer. / Moeletsi Mabe

It is now only four days before the ANC's much-awaited national conference. Both domestic and international observers are holding their breath, wondering: who will be elected president?

The focus is not on policies; it is on the personality at the top. This is so because there is widespread anxiety to end the destructive reign of Jacob Zuma. People can't wait to see his back.

We must not hasten to blame people who are obsessed with the man or woman at the top. To history, a political party is a vehicle; the leader is the driver. Such has been the story of modern political man.

The problem arises when historians cause a party to disappear in the shadow of a leader. All the great personages of history are idolised as if they were loners operating outside the strictures of institutions.

What is often forgotten is that the image of a leader is sometimes a deliberate product of a party or faction that seeks to project a particular character. Armies trumpet the bravery of their generalissimo, even as we all know that wars are fought out there on the battlefield by the rank and file.

No war was ever fought in the staid office of a clever general with animated drawings of mountains and rivers on a map laid out on a glittering mahogany table. It is as important to penetrate the character of the army as it is wise to study the personality of the general.

Unless the Guptas partner with cigarette smugglers to saturate the pockets of hungry ANC conference delegates with money, it is now clear, at least to this columnist, that Cyril Ramaphosa will be the next president of the ANC.

There will obviously be jubilation in some quarters on December 20 when Ramaphosa is declared the winner. But it would be in the interests of those who have thrown their eggs in Ramaphosa's basket not only to grasp his personality, but also to know the character of the ANC.

A brave and clever general with a trembling and hopeless army can never win a war. The frailties of an army do overwhelm and blunt the ingenuity of a visionary general.

What, then, must we expect of the complex nexus between Cyril Ramaphosa's personality and the character of the ANC?

Generally, Ramaphosa's public image is that of a spineless man who cannot raise a finger to tell Jacob Zuma to stop his madness.

Other than the allegation that he played some important role in drafting our country's constitution, Ramaphosa has not succeeded in marketing himself as an original thinker. In fact, that he can think remains an allegation.

The billions of rands Ramaphosa has hoarded cannot be used as an example of a clever man. From early in 1994, Ramaphosa was identified by the rich white human-capturers who designed BEE as a political insurance for old white wealth. Every BEE deal went to Ramaphosa or other captured comrades.

We all know that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma represents all manner of looters, but we must be careful not to over-celebrate Ramaphosa as if, suddenly, he will be the original thinker and brave man to rescue us out of our current morass. Also, keep in mind that he is a tired old man.

The biggest problems, though, will not come from Ramaphosa himself; they will come from his party. The ANC is so rotten that anyone who will attempt to cleanse it will be flushed out of the party by the criminals who have seized complete hold of the soul of the party.

To restore the ANC to its former glory, Ramaphosa would have to kill the party first, so that it could reincarnate with the purified soul of OR Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

The problem is that, to cleanse the ANC, Ramaphosa would need to use state institutions. To counter him, the criminals will use the party, like they did to Thabo Mbeki. In the end, those who are able to bribe ordinary and poor members of the ANC win the day. That is how Zuma maintained his hold on the ANC, even as he was ravaging South Africa.

When a woman is pregnant, no one wants to hear a doctor say, "Please prepare for a deformed baby."

A few days before the ANC conference, no one wants to hear warnings about Ramaphosa, the supposed Messiah.