Cyril Ramaphosa; Leading Like Mandela, By Issa Aremu

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“I’m confident that all his strengths will continue to grow from his immense leadership qualities

– Nelson Mandela


Always thinking out of the box, revolutionary Nelson Mandela had actually preferred younger and vibrant Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him in 1998. That was after his modest but remarkable revolutionary, historic and unprecedented one term office in a continent of sit-tightism by all Africa’s “big men” (and their more than one wives!). However, Madiba lost out to the ANC bureaucracy which anointed Thambo Mbeki, who in fairness as the Deputy President and leader of ANC was the natural constitutional successor to the old man.  In a keenly contested election, Cyril had lost to Thambo for ANC presidency in 1996. After, he modestly resigned his bagful of political positions, including parliamentary seat into private sector. Mandela “lost” the struggle to put his preferred successor Cyril. By the way unlike  Rochas Okorocha, my brother  governor of Imo state, Mandela was inspired by the tested principles of Cyril not crass brazen nepotism. Cyril certainly is not Mandela’s in law! The lesson here again for Nigeria is that the iconic Mandela never won all battles. He lost some important battles even with  his comrades talk less of his enemies. A South African received wisdom has it that time is longer than rope. Proverbial turbulent waters had since passed through the South African political bridges solidly built on the most democratic constitution in the world (paradoxically with inspiration and words from Nigeria’s 1979 constitution, criminally tramped underfoot by our accursed military dictators in 1983!). In September 2008 Mbeki was dramatically swept out of office in what has been termed a  “political Zunami” by no other than the master political dealer; Jacob Zuma.  Zuma lasted for some 10 years as the President of the Republic until this yea. Under   intense global pressures he belatedly resigned in February on account of serial corruption allegations.  Twenty years after, Mandela’s rejected “corner stone”  Cyril has therefore reemerged as the new champion of South African democratic renewal vindicating once again (albeit posthumously!) Madiba as a Nation-Builder through great visioning. There is truly an enduring long walk to freedom! Given this robust background of steadfastness, endorsement and faith, nobody after Mandela is better positioned to truly lead like the old man, than Cyril Ramaphosa! So far, so good. But it must just get better for a better South Africa and indeed a renewed developmentalist Africa. First, it is commendable that Cyril Ramaphosa has stepped out as a political unifier in an hitherto polarized Republic, no thanks to Zuma’s legacy of cronyism and corrupt exclusive governance.   Ramaphosa’s celebrated State of the Union Address (SONA)  is a manual for political inclusion and unity in the tradition of Nelson Mandela and just as Madiba did when out of prison in 1990. Contrary to the expectations of partisans who preferred continuation of class and race war, Mandela dared to call for calm and reconciliation! By the way,  Ramaphosa was the Chairman of Reception of all political prisoners in 1990! Ramaphosa  declared 2018 the Year of Mandela to mark 100 years of his birth. He  urged South Africans to “.. honour Madiba by putting behind us the era of discord, disunity and disillusionment”. He went further on memory lane to remind all of early South Africa’s unifiers “.. our forebearers – people like Pixley ka Seme, Charlotte Maxeke and Chief Albert Luthuli – who understood the necessity of the unity and harmony of all the people of this great land. We are a nation at one. We are one people, committed to work together to find jobs for our youth; to build factories and roads, houses and clinics; to prepare our children for a world of change and progress; to build cities and towns where families may be safe, productive and content. We are determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people.”


Ramaphosa had since worked the talk, engaging both business and Labour (he was the pioneer Secretary General of South Africa National Union of Mine Workers, NUM and Secretary General of South Africa’s leading Labour Centre COSATU). He pledged decent work and announced the first minimum wage in South Africa.  He is engaging the politicians of the progressive left with an olive branch political to EFP of Malema. Winnie Mandela was part of the voters registration road show led by Ramaphosa himself last week. It is also significant that like Nelson Mandela, President Ramaphosa shared the credit of leadership of the nation building with others including his embattled predecessor, Jabo Zuma. Witness him;   “I also wish to extend a word of gratitude to former President Jacob Zuma for the manner in which he approached this difficult and sensitive process. I wish to thank him for his service to the nation during his two terms as President of the Republic, during which the country made significant progress in several areas of development”. Mandela once observed that “ ..the reality of our struggle is that no individual among us can claim to have played a great role from the rest”.  There are also practical win-win proposal on the vexed land question; Land appropriation without land grabbing and threat to food security in a Republic that currently exports food in abundance. The impact assessment of Ramaphosa’s leadership has been positive; Rand has appreciated and there is the renewed confidence of the people and investors in the Rainbow Nation.

Issa Aremu mni


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