March 20, 2019

Bright and early, and Cyril ready to go

Not one journalist left the breakfast with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa held in Parliament last week with a long face or a complaint, which is unusual for the press.

The two hours he set aside to engage informally with the Parliament's Press Gallery Association stretched over the allotted time and two and a half hours later he was still patiently answering questions and enjoying a hearty meal, without a glance at his wristwatch.

That makes journalists happy, because they usually find the rich and powerful don’t have much time for them, and really don’t like them at all. If that was what Cyril was thinking, he didn’t show it.

And the PGA members enjoyed their own breakfasts, snug in the knowledge that if it comes to one day dealing with President Ramaphosa, he will continue with assurances that he has faith, respect and other nice things to say about the Fourth Estate.

Which could means lots more good breakfasts, or at least an easier life for those in the PGA.

Ramaphosa was calm, confident and at pains to say that Zuma’s recent “last supper” to which he invited all seven presidential candidates was a lovely gathering, with hugs all round. Ramaphosa assured us all, even those who looked obviously sceptical, that whatever the outcome of the December poll, all presidential hopefuls will accept the result.

Current state capture needs to be probed to "bring us back from the precipice".

In fact, not only will the ANC leadership accept the election result, whichever way it goes, but so will the ANC rank and file, he said, unphased by a few more raised eyebrows and doubting expressions.

But he pushed on, saying all the right things, and the fact that it he who asked PGA to organise this gathering made a welcome and much appreciated break for all those in attendance who spend much time trying to get the Cyril Ramaphosa’s of Parliament to talk to them.

After a brief speech in which he said nothing unexpected or newsworthy it was the turn of the journalists and every question received his attention, an equal amount of time and a considered response.

A lot of time was spent on assuring the PGA that the state capture probe into Eskom currently underway was sure to restore justice. He condemned threats against members of parliament engaged in the inquiry. "We will not accept that people should be threatened and abused simply because they are doing their job, a job they were elected for."

City Press asked why Parliament didn’t get started on a probe into state plunder dating back to 1652. Ramaphosa’s answer was swift: “One wrong thing that has happened cannot be wiped out by citing something that happened in 1652. We need to deal with what is happening now.”

He agreed that there was massive corruption and looting in the past, possibly on a similar scale to current state capture” and he didn’t throw out the day of a full-scale investigation into South Africa’s past – but all in good time. State capture, he says, tops the list.

"All these things that have plundered the resources of our people must be looked at. But we cannot say we will not look at this current one because there was another one in 1994 that was not looked at.

"In my view, we should set up a separate process. Let's deal with the current one, where the information is still fresh, the perpetrators are still around and known, and set up another protest to deal with what happened [before]."

Current state capture needs to be probed to "bring us back from the precipice," he said.

"Right now, we are facing this one, where one family has been able to capture various state institutions in an almost organised way, where there has been method, there has been system, there has been mechanics. If we don't look at it, we will be failing the people of South Africa."

He went as far as say that there was nothing stopping the National Prosecuting Authority from starting state capture prosecutions immediately, although of course we all know that there indeed is. Without referring to any obstacles in the way, he pushed on.

"One expects and hopes that that process is under way. I frankly do not believe that you could have had wrongdoing on such a grand scale and never have any form of accountability. Many people are coming forward with evidence and fingering people," he said.

"If it doesn't happen, what is the purpose of the rule of law? The values enshrined in the Constitution dictate that there must be accountability."

It was all very upbeat and cheering. “Let’s not look at it from the dark side. Let’s look at it from the bright side,” said he, who right now is leading in the polls from where he probably has a good view of the bright side.

From where he was standing he wasn’t seeing a party experiencing probably one of the worst challenges it has faced since its banning. All was good. The ANC would be “boring” without differences he said, but factionalism was not about to destroy its glorious legacy. The party constitution was its “shock absorbers”, according to Ramaphosa.

Most of what he said was all about the bright side. We have a parliamentary inquiry, so that we can sit back and enjoy our breakfasts while it takes care of “uncovering a network of patronage and graft deeply embedded” in Eskom. Like the parliamentary SABC inquiry it’s going to “stop the rot”.

Parliament is “increasingly what the ANC wants it to be… an activist Parliament,” he assured the PGA, and it will hold the executive to account. “Some people may have this discomfort… A measure of discomfort should never mean dysfunction. It means our institutions are working.

“Such inquiries may make some people uncomfortable. They also portray sections of government in a poor light but they are vital in restoring the confidence of the people in the state as a whole," he said.

Well restoring citizens’ confidence in the state may not prove to be so easy, but if anyone knows and understands that it’s Ramaphosa, and he conducted himself the right man for the job of repairing past damage – all the way back to 1652 if that’s what it takes.

What is going to happen after the conference, came a question from the floor? Well, Cyril is going to take a much-needed break, and after that it’s back to work, in whatever post his party votes him into.

Moira Levy

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 17:56

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Notes from the House is an independent weekly email newsletter that tracks and monitors Parliament in its role of holding government to account and passing legislation to improve people’s lives. It aims to bring you the news from Parliament that you don’t get elsewhere. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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