President Ramaphosa at the State Capture Inquiry: It’s going to be lit. Or will it?

So, after much gnashing of teeth and harrumphing, President Cyril Ramaphosa will appear before the Zondo Commission in April. His detractors, and they are legion, must be wetting themselves at the prospect. Afriforum wants him to speak about cadre deployment, the EFF and the RET brigade want to speak about anything that might trip him up. As the millennials say it’s going to be lit.

Or will it? For a start, Ramaphosa is actually going to pitch. He’s going to speak about the ANC for the first two days – as its head. Then he’s going to speak about the country – as its head.

His foes want to shift the narrative from Jacob Zuma as the architect of state capture – and chief beneficiary – to give Ramaphosa some of the credit too, after all Msholozi put him in charge of setting Eskom aright all those years ago and look, we’re still loadshedding.

Yes, we are indeed. They also desperately want to get his campaign contributions unsealed, so that they can prove their point that he is funded by White Monopoly Capital (WMC) and in their thrall, rather than creating a better life for all, or at the very least a better life for the politically connected with no threat of comeuppance for their tenderpreneurism. Surprisingly, no one has yet started clamouring to find out who funded NDZ.

Perhaps they should. As Bathabile Dlamini once memorably told the rest of us: “everyone in the NEC has our smallanyana skeletons,”, warning if people were allowed to wage their factional battles in public, “all hell will break loose”.

It was remarkably prescient – and candid, from someone not renowned for either.

The Zondo Commission, which Baba ka Duduzane has now found so intolerable that he’s almost precipitated a constitutional crisis to avoid appearing before it again, is not for the faint-hearted. Many sharp-witted advocates are making their careers on TV right there, putting a stake through the heart of the previously politically untouchable.

But not all of them.

Ramaphosa has increasingly come under fire for his family meetings; folksy but in truth take-it-or-leave it edicts about cropped tops, open sandals and boozing hours. The Zondo Commission will be a beast of a different nature altogether. He’ll be under the cosh, but it won’t be personal like his appearance before the Farlam Commission, where he was effectively accused of personally precipitating the Marikana Massacre. Even then, with the stakes as high as they were, he still managed to precipitate a petulant strop, caught on camera, from his would-be nemesis Advocate Dali Mpofu (still to become SC). 

Mpofu will fancy his chances this time around. He’s been in fine fettle at the Zondo Commission; extra-legal theatrics, telling other layers to shut up and badgering high profile witnesses as he dives down rabbit holes of pique. But maybe this time, he should take two Panados and lie down rather till the feeling passes. 

If he doesn’t, the clever money will be on Ramaphosa making it 2-0. Lest he (and all the others) forget, McBuffalo didn’t get this far by being a cupcake. 

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 27 March 2021.