First, craft an urgent exit plan for President Jacob Zuma as the starting point to restore public confidence and trust in the ANC and government.
Zuma should be given a short period – two weeks at most – to pack and go. Ramaphosa’s rise to power was in part propelled by the promise that trust in government can be restored and that all the ills Zuma represents could be eradicated.
ANC members and the public are looking forward to this. Anything less would mean Ramaphosa’s victory was nothing but a political prank. Allowing Zuma to remain at the helm of government will make it difficult for Ramaphosa to convince voters that under him the ANC and government will be different. His first few, tone-setting weeks as president of the ANC will be crucial.
Second, ensure Zuma is replaced by a care-taker president who will truly uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic. Alternatively, Ramaphosa himself should take over and restructure government. The first priority in the restructuring plan is a Cabinet reshuffle that will see all Gupta-linked ministers and deputy ministers immediately fired.
Third, he should find a meaningful role for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Cabinet or anywhere else, but isolate the crooks who backed her presidential campaign. The position should be substantive and not for window-dressing purposes. This would prove that Ramaphosa is not a divisive and vindictive character. But her new position must be such that she wouldn’t be able to use it to reciprocate for the support she received from her dodgy her campaigners.
Freed from the clutches of Gupta-linked individuals and other dodgy characters, Dlamini-Zuma could still have something to offer. Such a move would be key to pacify KwaZulu-Natal, a province that had gotten used to winning after they got their way in two successive conferences, in 2007 and 2012, but whose disputed leadership emerged with a bloodied nose at the 54th conference. An offer from Ramaphosa to work with Dlamini-Zuma could present a challenge to her too: will she accept or sulk? She would have to show character.
Fourth, once the restructured Cabinet is in place, move quickly to restore confidence in independent state institutions. The first step is to announce new measures to professionalise the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and restore the integrity of the South African Revenue Services, among others. The High Court in Pretoria has already given Ramaphosa, in his capacity as deputy president of the country, the power to appoint the head of the NPA because Zuma is conflicted.
Fifth, provide a quick assurance that government resources will be utilised efficiently and that the Auditor General will be given remedial powers equivalent to those of the Public Protector to stop the leakage of public resources. Given the discrepancy between budget allocations and service delivery, the urgency of this project cannot over-emphasised. It might take time to fix, but Ramaphosa must at least set the tone.
Sixth, establish a multi-disciplinary team consisting of prosecutors, experts in finance, tax and international law to investigate and return tax money that left the country illegally through state capture. Those involved must be prosecuted.
Those whose involvement in state capture is not entirely clear should be investigated by the judicial commission of inquiry established in the manner prescribed by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Ramaphosa and the new leadership must tell Zuma not to appeal any further.
Seventh, deliver a statesman-like speech that seeks to unite the country and lift the national mood. South Africans have increasingly become despondent about their country. They need hope. This should not be about winning votes for the ANC. The party will more likely still struggle to convince voters in 2019, but for now the nation’s mood needs uplifting.
Eighth, restore the credibility of the National Treasury and remove all suspicions of nuclear deals and other vanity projects that were being planned by Zuma and his friends.
Ninth, announce the radical implementation of meritocracy across the board. Many skilled people have been pushed out of state institutions by incompetent and corrupt ones who bend the rules for selfish interests. Restore the principle of Batho Pele and kick out the policy of “Politicians First” that had taken root under Zuma.
Tenth, focus more on building South Africa than only on ANC politics. The narrow focus on the ANC as if it lives in isolation has elevated its internal politics above the people. This has led to the drastic decline in trust in our politics, politicians and the ANC. There’s an urgent need to move beyond this regressive politics in the interest of stability.
Ramaphosa would also do well to be realistic and accept that the ANC doesn’t have all the solutions to the country’s problems. We are not a multiparty constitutional democracy for nothing. It is a recognition that we are not monolithic. The politics of the ANC – rotten as they are in many respects – still show that many voices need to be acknowledged.
– Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.