Cyril takes humility too far this time

Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: MASI LOSI

President Cyril Ramaphosa's success as a politician can partly be attributed to his ability to charm even his political foes.

In the run-up to the ANC's December national conference emotions were so high that some party leaders were said to be no longer on speaking terms with each other.

There were fears in some quarters that these tensions would escalate to the Union Buildings as Ramaphosa had decided to run for the ANC presidency even though the then incumbent, Jacob Zuma, had publicly stated that he wanted Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his successor.

Those fears were not unfounded.

Five years earlier, as the ANC prepared for its 2012 Mangaung conference, Zuma had a tense relationship with his then deputy - Kgalema Motlanthe - after the latter had availed himself for nomination against Zuma as president.

But somehow, as last year's conference neared, Ramaphosa managed to maintain cordial relations with Zuma and this, insiders say, went a long way in guaranteeing that the elective conference did take place.

By keeping the lines of communication open with Zuma, they say, Ramaphosa could ensure that both sides played the game according to the rules and that the vote would take place. The strategy paid off, leading to his election as party leader and, later, head of state.

It is the same charm offensive approach Ramaphosa seems to be choosing with regard to Zulu monarch, King Zwelithini.

The president's visit to the king, where he assured him that government has no plans to scrap the contentious Ingonyama Trust legislation, seemed targeted at pacifying the monarch and his supporters.

By doing so, the president hoped to steer the public debate back to the main issue - the expropriation of land from the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid and its distribution among the historically oppressed.

But however noble the president's intentions may have been, we believe it was ill-advised of him as the head of state - a symbol of our republic's sovereignty - to kneel and bow before king Zwelithini as if he was a subject and not the country's number one citizen.

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