Ramaphosa serves Happy Meals while McDonalds burns

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – OCTOBER 25: President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa share a moment during Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s his Medium-term budget speech in Parliament on October 25, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. During his speech, Gigaba did not underplay the crisis in the country when he portrayed a bleak picture to the nation, reflecting the poor economic performance and rising debt. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais)

Cyril Ramaphosa doesn’t call a spade a spade.

He’ll rather use that rhetorical spade to shovel some more bureaucratic gibberish on the massive pile of bullshit already stinking up our Parliament.

This was the case when Ramaphosa was in the National Assembly to answer questions. And I use answer very loosely here. This is not unusual. Apart from that time last year when he whipped out flavoured, lubricated condoms, a Ramaphosa question session is a rather dry snooze fest.

But we’ve long reached a point in our politics where plodding along as usual just doesn’t cut it anymore. Somebody needs to grow a spine and show some leadership.

Despite the fact that it would also be in the interests of his presidential ambitions, Ramaphosa failed, if he even attempted, to show leadership on Wednesday.

The governing ANC, of which Ramaphosa is the deputy president, is in turmoil. During women’s month a deputy minister and the wife of a neighbouring country assaulted young South African women, and of course, the country is still reeking of the Gupta-stench.

These were the issues Ramaphosa was questioned on, but he chose to serve Happy Meals and waffles while the McDonalds burns.

What really grated me was his answer to the feisty IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe’s question on women abuse relating to Grace Mugabe’s great escape courtesy of “diplomatic immunity” granted by the minister of international relations and cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. (Her department seems to function as some sort of travel agency for the continent’s dictators. Remember Omar al-Bashir?)

“What type of government will stand by an alleged abuser?” Van der Merwe asked.

Well, as it turns out, the type of government whose leader of government business will drone on about diplomatic norms – basically using a lot of words to say “everybody is doing it, so why can’t we” – without offering one, not one, word of sympathy to the 20 year old South African woman on the wrong end of Grace Mugabe’s alleged furious electric cord wielding.

While Ramaphosa droned on about “dialogues”, the EFF’s Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi interjected, “Ask him about Mdu!”

But the name of the former deputy minister of higher education and training, and current ANC MP, Mduduzi Manana, who admitted to beating a woman, wasn’t mentioned.

Another name that didn’t role off Ramaphosa’s tongue was Gupta. This despite a string of questions asked about the controversial family believed to be pulling the strings in a massive puppet show production called State Capture.

Ramaphosa would also have us believe that the only thing he knows about the Guptas’ claws into Eskom is what he read in former public protector Adv Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report and the string of investigative journalism pieces following the #GuptaLeaks, or as he called it, “these e-mails we’ve all been reading”.

Note how he avoided using the name Gupta.

He did nothing to dispel the charge levelled at him by Agang MP Andries Tlouamma that he suffers from “Guptaphobia”. He kept banging on about the judicial commission into state capture President Jacob Zuma will have to appoint, without giving any clarity on when this will happen.

Zuma, or as the EFF has taken to calling him, “Duduzane’s father”, is of course the main character in the Guptas’ puppet show.

When Cope MP Deidre Carter asked Ramaphosa directly when this commission will be appointed, he came up with this pearl of wisdom:

“The commission will be set up when the president sets up the commission.”

Thanks, Cyril. That clears it up. We can all sleep easy now.

He made it clear he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty to clean up the mess the Guptas and their aiders and abetters made.

“I have no authority, no ability to investigate,” Ramaphosa said. “So please don’t give me a task I don’t have.”

And this was after Tlouamma called him a “modern day King Pilate”.

Ramaphosa would also have us believe that there isn’t a witchhunt in the ANC after some dissenting MP’s voted in support of the motion of no confidence against Duduzane’s father, all evidence to the contrary.

Most chilling was his reaction to a “top secret” document DA MP Alf Lees produced. The document sets out a plan to “dispose of its 39.75% shareholding in Telkom, which is currently valued at approximately R14.4bn” to allow for a R10b bailout for SAA.

Instead of addressing the veracity of the document, Ramaphosa, grinning broadly and seemingly unaware or unconcerned with parliamentary privilege, warned Lees he could be jailed for being in possession of a top secret document.

I won’t be surprised if an e-mail or two containing the phrase “concomitant action” flies around to ascertain who leaked the document.

And so what was an opportunity to show the country that he is presidential material went up in a haze of vapidity.

Ramaphosa has spoken out on some of the ANC’s ailments outside of Parliament. Why doesn’t he tackle the buffalo by the horns inside Parliament? Could it be that he is too scared to rock the boat he wants to skipper come December? Does he not care?

Whatever the reasons, a leader beholden to political expediency rather than doing what is right, even just saying what is right, is not what this country needs.

– Jan Gerber is a reporter at News24. He covers Parliament and politics.

(Photo credit: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais)