So what — when all is said and done — is the point politically of successfully seeing the upholding of the constitutional order and former president Jacob Zuma jailed?
Are there not nettles to be grasped and sides to be chosen (and by implication people to be upset) to now advance the country? Isn’t a less risk-averse view needed of the shadows under the bed?
The problem of course has been that Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency, until the reform dial started to quiver recently, has been defined by what he is not — not Zuma, not Ace Magashule, not anarchy, not state capture — more than for what it is. The convenient misnomer that somehow the dark forces of state capture have been blocking reform has therefore festered.
Yet Ramaphosa gained a supermajority in the NEC on the step-aside rule two months ago and has now navigated a serious potential cliff-related incident this past week. Arm-twisting (or dislocation) on the issue of energy sector liberalisation was already achieved before this moment.
The truth was that Zuma was not there secretly scheming in Nkandla’s fire pool to block energy reform or spectrum auctions or a more modern and appropriate visa system, just as Magashule wasn’t either from the SG’s office.
The convenient excuses fall away now and the fruits of three years of “germination” must be seen. There is nothing left to be the anthesis of and only something to be for — an agenda, a vision of change.
Your political capital is not really higher, yet you have a renewed sense of goodwill at your back. While sentiment may not move somewhere more positive on Zuma in orange overalls, the removal of a yawning set of downside risks is not for naught.
Maybe it’s a time for grown-up conversations about hard truths.
That performative land reform through unnecessary Section 25 amendments can be allowed to die now that the EFF and ANC have reached an impasse in parliament. The death of the process — a two-thirds majority to amend it is beyond reach —is not a negative but a positive that reinforces property rights and investor sentiment and removes distraction from all the hard but obvious things the presidential advisory panel on land reform recommended.
Difficult conversations still need to be had on national health insurance (NHI). Everyone wants to see quality universal coverage, but what is currently proposed is not only wrong in that it won’t achieve its aims, it is also mad. Mad in the fallout risk it will create for private sector savings and quality and an open door to the kinds of corruption that found their way so easily into the head of the department of health during the Covid-19 crisis.
The most difficult conversation Ramaphosa needs to have with his cabinet colleagues is on fiscal policy.