The recent election of President Cyril Ramaphosa as the African National Congress leader brought an excitement for South Africa in the SADC region and through-out the world.
Ramaphosa is a well known shrewd businessman who amassed billions of Rands in his business dealings over many years since the inception of democracy in 1994. He was touted as President Nelson Mandela heir to the throne but it never happened as he ventured into business.
Ramaphosa was instrumental in the drafting of the 1996 constitution as he was part of the negotiating team for the new constitution to be the guiding light and negotiated settlement, thereafter. He acquired his negotiation skills as a young lawyer, who had fine tuned his oratory skills during the formation of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
However, his reputation took a knock-on-effect when emails appeared during the Marikana Commission of inquiry that he had apparently called for ‘Concomitant action’ against the miners who were on strike demanding a salary increase of R12k.
Despite all the mixed bag of traits emanating from him, Ramaphosa is a well rounded human being who has achieved a lot in his life and has helped a lot of people, through his company Shanduka group of companies which now gives bursaries to deserving students to study at institutions of higher learning. He came back from political wilderness in 2012 after beating former ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe in a heavily contested duel in Mangaung and his political star shone more bright as he became the deputy president of the country.
Many had thought that he had committed a political suicide by associating himself with the scandal prone Jacob Zuma, who is well known for his well recorded political faux pas, that seem not to end at any time soon. Political analysts and commentators had said that Ramaphosa should distinguish himself from Zuma if he wanted to be the president of South Africa in 2019.
Ramaphosa had been given a lot of tasks to complete as the deputy President of the country and he even went to Sudan taking over the political negotiator of that time, Thabo Mbeki. He also tried in vain to mediate the Lesotho political crisis that has bedeviled the small landlocked mountainous country for many years. The Lesotho political problem has always been differences of personalities of the political principals as many of them have similar political ideologies. Yet the fights are not stopping. Many elections which had been declared free and fair had been held.
This is the Lesotho that gained its independence in 1966 from the British Protectorate which had done nothing to improve the lives of Basotho but to leave it more impoverished. Geographically Lesotho is actually inside another country. South Africa is a richer neighbour whose neighbour is desperately underdeveloped yet it supplies its neighbour with much needed water to keep the economy of South Africa going.
Economically Lesotho would never compete with the economy of its much developed neighbour which attracts a lot of foreign investors who are spoiled for choice, to invest in the inland or the coastal land of the country.
Patriots are hopeful that Ramaphosa is bringing much needed change in the country after the many years of Zuma mismanagement and rampant corruption which played itself out under his leadership,( e.g. Guptas and 783 corruption and fraud cases against Zuma). The ANC leader comes across as someone who is going to fix South Africa and make it the darling of the world once again as it was under the first two democratic presidents before Zuma administration.
As the leader of the most developed country much would be expected from him as he was already doing in Lesotho trying to bring warring opposition leaders to the table to make peace. Obviously unstable Lesotho spells bad news for South Africa eventhough it is that small and its population of 1.9 million is so miniscule compared to more than 54 million South Africans.
The economy of Lesotho is even smaller than that of Mangaung Municipality, so it is not surprising that many Basotho would often seen flocking into the borders of its neighbour for many things that are not available. Almost more than 90% of products and goods used in Lesotho have been imported from South Africa.
Back in the day in the apartheid era, many young Basotho men were lured to work in the diamond and Gold mines of South Africa in Kimberley, Welkom, Jaggersfontein, Johannesburg and Rustenburg amongst others. Even some were employed in the mines but things took a turn from the inception of democracy when new ANC government sought to protect jobs for its citizens applying stringent conditions and hard rules, regulations and laws to give priority to the citizens.
The resultant scenario brought a lot of maladies in the small neighbouring country of Lesotho where most families depended more on the remittances brought home by the mineworkers and farmworkers were abruptly curtailed as new policies took effect. Migrant labour has broken families over many years as husbands sought comfort with their concubines wherever they earned a living in the mines and farms. When they returned home suffering from Tuberculosis related illnesses the wives left men to pursue the much elusive Gold in Gauteng province and other provinces as domestic workers ‘Bo-Ausi’.
The vicious cycle is still continuing to date as many women and young unmarried women leave their country for South Africa to seek employment as Domestic workers. Many accusations have also been leveled against Basotho women for snatching the husbands and boyfriends of South African women.
I have heard through various radio programmes on different radio stations and the grapevine that Basotho women working as Domestic Workers are hardworking, respectful and very flirtatious to these poor, ‘gullible’ men. What is amazing is that unemployment in South Africa has hovered over 23%, why can’t South African women take these menial domestic duties to assist their country men and women to manage the family affairs to avoid these so called ‘men snatching by Basotho women.’
Yes, Ramaphosa is faced with a mammoth task of pleasing everyone by bringing much needed ‘manna’ from heaven. The truth of the matter is that he cannot do it alone but he needs men and women of courage who would pull in the same direction.
But if the utterances of the new ANC Secretary General, Ace Magashule are anything to go by, Ramaphosa would have to crack the whip and show everyone who the boss is. If he lets Magashule to continue undermining him, he will be in trouble and his crusade to fight corruption would be defeated as the rot thrives.
As we have seen that a South African president holds so much power and influence in the African family of countries, Ramaphosa must resolve the border issues between his country and Lesotho. There used to be a six month visa dispensation but it was phased out by the ANC government creating many problems for Basotho who came to look for opportunities in South Africa as they used to do so during the Apartheid government.
But I’m a bit skeptical that Ramaphosa presidency would bring much needed change in administration and governance as well as international relations are concerned because many African leaders are known to have great ideas but fail to implement.
More than 50 years ago Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and other leaders in Africa had called for a united Africa and free movement in the borders of the continent but that had just been rhetorical talk which no leader wants to implement. Other than that, leaders come up with so many excuses not to do the right thing by allowing free movement between countries.
There was much exuberance when former United States of America President, Barrack Obama took office in the white house but people realized that it was more of the same. Obama did not achieve a lot in making the lives of African-Americans better let alone his foreign policy to his ancestral Africa. Yes, he was a great speaker and was very inspiring when he delivered his speeches. Ramaphosa should try to be different in that he can make live better for ordinary people instead of white business as the black flocks are saying that he is much closer to ‘white monopoly capital.’
Ramaphosa is at a strategic place and he could do more for the continent if he is willing to do so. Perhaps he could look at what East Africa is doing because good things are happening in the Ecowas. After all Lesotho is not a threat to South Africa and it could be an important partner as it has been proven via the Lesotho Highlands project and the Drakensberg-Maluti mountain agreements.
I, therefore implore Ramaphosa to show that he is really ‘cut above the rest’ by showing courageous leadership instead of rhetoric.
Sello E Morake is a freelance Journalist, based in Diepkloof in Soweto, Johannesburg. He has been a Journalist for more than 10 years writing for Newspapers such as the now defunct Free State Times, Daily Sun and Dumelang News in various capacities as a Senior reporter and Sub – editor