YONELA DIKO: Ramaphosa's ANC: Are the good guys finally in charge?

It is almost certain that Cyril Ramaphosa is going to be the elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) for the second term at the party's national elective conference in December. The ANC in Limpopo has already pronounced on Ramaphosa as their preferred candidate for president. Northern Cape and Mpumalanga have also unequivocally endorsed Ramaphosa as ANC president for a second term. Whichever faction wins the Eastern Cape conference, Ramaphosa is certain of their support. The region of the current contender for premiership candidate, Babalo Madikizela, pronounced in a statement a while back their support for Ramaphosa for a second term and for Babalo as premier.

The Free State has been very clear in its desire for a rebirth of the organisation away from its past stronghold of its former chairman and now secretary-general Ace Magashule. North West and Western Cape have not been pronounced yet but all signs point to a triumph of the president's renewal project. KwaZulu-Natal is the one to watch as it wrestles with the past that refuses to let go and the future that is struggling to be born.

While the ANC constitution places 90% of the voting delegates on its branches, with the rest of the votes given to the entire national executive committee (NEC), some to limited provincial executive committee members and finally to the leagues, endorsement from provincial leadership does not guarantee a win, so the contest cannot be taken for granted. However as provincial delegates pronounce their preferred candidates at their provincial conferences, with the same delegates likely to be the same ones at a national conference, the picture is getting clearer.

Such consolidation of support by Ramaphosa and his camp is outstanding given the nail-biting margin with which he won the last conference and the divided team he was elected with as well as inheriting a much divided ANC. In a space of five years, the NEC, legislature caucuses, provinces and regions have been transformed into believers of the Ramaphosa leadership as both the leader ANC needs and the leader of our country's aspirations.

How did Ramaphosa convert such a polarised organisation emerging out of a highly contested conference in 2017 into one in which he has loomed large over as an almost uncontested and confidently chosen leader for such a huge organisation that does not lack leaders with ambition?

Ramaphosa has stamped his mark on the organisation

The work that the president has been doing since his election as ANC president in 2017 and as country president the following year - at once championing the unity of the organisation as critical for the advancement of any transformative programmes and on the other hand strengthening the institutions of both ANC and government so that they can uphold the integrity and credibility of ANC and government and eliminate the negative elements that have entrenched and embedded themselves inside these institutions - means there is no other time that the ANC has been so well-placed to take decisive actions towards advancing the aims of this society so envisioned, united in patriotism, nonracial and nonsexist in character and prosperous for all to enjoy the advances of democracy.

In a period of merely five years, the president assembled an imperfect but capable Cabinet. He put a stop to Cabinet-led corruption that saw ministers being the enablers and enforcers of nefarious and corrupt business practices through friends and proxies.

President Ramaphosa has put in motion a removal and replacement of heads of law enforcement institutions who had been used as protectors and defenders of the corrupt. He has restored the constitutional integrity of institutions such as NPA, the Hawks and the police.

Within the ANC, the NEC has been given a majority through unity of those who care about the aims and objectives of the party and isolation of those who don't. The integrity commission has been strengthened and those who would want to continue to use the ANC as a vehicle for self-enrichment have been forced to step aside and face the might of renewed state institutions.

While the economy has been the most battered in the past decade, with private investors losing confidence in our country and the integrity of its institutions, things have turned around in the past five years, with investors coming back to the South African market, the strength of our trade currency restored and political leadership that can be trusted to steer the ship forward. Our economy now is poised to make the economic advances that were delayed by the institutional decay of the past ten years.

While many people may still doubt the ANC's ability to shed off its weaknesses and negative tendency and turn itself around, the evidence of the work the current president has been doing is there for all to see and has restored some hope in many South Africans.

The economy must grow, it must transform and the president is well-placed to make significant advances to lift our people out of grinding poverty.

The biggest challenge is that a consistent call for common patriotism and unity that is not accompanied by elimination of poverty - black poverty - opens up room for populists who call for a black agenda and accused the government of favouring whites, who remain well off in n tough economy.

Ramaphosa has understood that the root of all antagonism, racial or otherwise is an economy that is not achieving the high and sustained rates of growth that would absorb everyone and give us all a democratic dividend.

A scandal-free president had all the confidence of a nation as he wrestled with one of the biggest challenges of this side of the century, a COVID-19 pandemic. He was outstanding. However, the economy is even more battered and some may use this against him. After R1.2-trillion in investment over the past four years, blaming Ramaphosa has its limits and he is unlikely to be bothered by such criticism.

Fruits of Ramaphosa's labour

Ramaphosa's work of strengthening the institutions of both the ANC and government has robbed all those whose nefarious actions were legitimised by the party's constitutional structures and the state institutions. These leaders today are feeling exposed and vulnerable and are claiming to be targeted by the incumbent through state and ANC institutions.

The deliberate destruction of ANC and state institutions, which began in 2007, to protect those in power from being answerable to the ANC and the people finally came to the end with the election of Ramaphosa at the Nasrec conference in 2017. The man who led the destruction of the ANC and government, Jacob Zuma, has been the first to taste the sting of the independence of institutions that he worked so hard to bring under his presidential influence.

The man who thought he would be the continuation of the destruction of the state, Magashule, as he had done in his province, faced the might of a transformed and strengthened ANC and had to step aside. Today he claims, like others, that he is targeted and chased by state institutions at the behest of others, not because of his own sins.

The push for a step-aside resolution was not from the other side and through this ANC resolution, the party has attempted to clean itself up and protect the integrity of its government. Step aside, however, does require one more step to be complete, the suspension of membership. Without suspension of membership, a step-aside leader can return because the constitution gives a right to any member to contest any position in the ANC.

The battle between good and evil in the ANC

The constitution of the ANC - under duties of members, the resolutions of the ANC under organisational renewal and the ANC manifesto - demands integrity and exemplary leadership of its members and an unwavering commitment to the concerns of the people where we live.

However, as the ANC national general council 2015 and the national policy conference through the secretary-general's diagnostic report showed, the party has been plagued by leaders of questionable integrity, without the prerequisite capacity and moral clarity required to fulfill the aspirations of the organisation and the people.

How did the ANC, which had for more than 100 years been the beacon of moral clarity, leadership integrity and true representatives of people's hopes lose its moral campus and in a few years be synonymous with corruption, arrogance and incompetence?

The truth is that as ANC grew its membership and support to become the de facto leader of the people and the future government of the country, the reasons to join the party became diverse.

According to ANC veteran Vusi Mavimbela: "Some people joined the struggle out of conviction or because they were swept along by the tide of popular uprisings. Others joined because of friends, infatuation, lovers or peer pressure. But there were those who joined for personal benefit, including the fact that the ANC provided a congregation within which they could hide their individual infirmities. That category included hardened criminals and jailbirds, and fraudsters, drug peddlers and rapists who were fugitives from justice."

Thanks to the strong and above-reproach leadership of the ANC presidents over the years and the strong culture of discipline and purpose, the corrupt side of the organisation could never get close to the leadership and levers of power.

Then 2007 came and evil took over the organisation and the republic.

What is the future of the ANC?

Given that people have joined the ANC for different reasons, some not so noble, there is a possibility that the work that Ramaphosa has done to strengthen the institutions of the party and government will be reversed in future again to insulate another corrupt leader from accountability.

How does the ANC ensure that this never happen?

In the 1960s, the ANC handpicked 16 comrades - who included a young Thabo Mbeki - to go train and study abroad to prepare for government once the strggule was over. Nelson Mandela, who was on the run at the time, took the risk to reappear in order to have a final word with these comrades before they left. Madiba wanted to emphasise the importance of the mandate these young comrades were given. 'We are not going to struggle forever,' Madiba had told them, and some of us needed to prepare for the aftemath, this huge responsibility for governing.

Today, the ANC has no idea where its leaders come from and how they end up leading in various structures.

ANC needs to prepare for leadership. Its leaders can't just be organic from any popular grouping. There must be a selection of a pool of promising leaders who must then be subjected to intense training and study, and from that pool must emerge leaders of our people.

We cannot leave leadership of ANC and country to chance.

Yonela Diko is the former spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. You can follow him on Twitter: @yonela_diko