‘Relax. There’s no issue’: Ramaphosa on Phala Phala

President Cyril Ramaphosa

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa seemed unfazed by the Phala Phala controversy as he travelled around Khayelitsha, Philippi and Hanover Park for the ANC’s “Letsema” renewal campaign.
  • He was treated like a celebrity, and seemed to be among friends, even though pressure has been mounting over his leadership and the Phala Phala controversy. 
  • Ramaphosa said the Phala Phala report would be dealt with at the ANC’s elective conference next week, and people should just wait for that.

President Cyril Ramaphosa seemed unfazed by the Phala Phala controversy as he visited Philippi, Khayelitsha and Hanover Park on Saturday. Ramaphosa appeared in his capacity as ANC president just a week before the majority party’s crucial elective conference. 

He was treated like a celebrity at every arrival and departure, and the addition of Police Minister Bheki Cele, after he had attended the funeral of murdered policeman Ashwin Pedro, had even more people rushing the stage to shake hands with the duo.

The acoustics of the OR Tambo Community Sports hall in Khayelitsha amplified the struggle and praise songs in the packed auditorium. Ramaphosa seemed to be among friends, for the day at least. 

Earlier, the SABC managed to ask him questions about the Phala Phala controversy. As a bodyguard tried to hustle him along, Ramaphosa stopped the bodyguard and replied.  

He reiterated that the ANC would deal will the controversy when it meets en-masse next week to vote for its new office bearers, with Ramaphosa hoping for a second term at the helm. 

“So you guys are really getting excited over this one issue,” he said on the sidelines of his visit in Philippi. 

In his reassuring voice, he said:

Please relax. Really, relax; there’s no issue, there’s no crisis. Just relax and do come and listen to the political report. I invite you to do that.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly will meet at the Cape Town City Hall to consider and decide whether it will adopt the Section 89 panel report into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala dealings.

The City Hall was chosen after the National Assembly building burnt down in January. 

The ANC in the Western Cape has been limping along for years, trying to rebuild itself after the crushing blow of being ousted by the DA as the majority in the provincial government and the coveted City of Cape Town council. 

The party’s provincial executive committee was disbanded in 2019 after a messy period, and an interim committee headed by Lerumo Kalaka has been trying to stabilise the party there and fix the branches.

With 267 branches, it is still 17 branches short of the 70% threshold required to hold a provincial conference, so it will try to hold its conference next year instead.

Nevertheless, Ramaphosa was told on Saturday that he had the support of the ANC in the Western Cape, and he, in turn, told his audiences that the party’s branches are looking much better because of the ANC’s renewal campaign. 

T-shirts were not handed out as usual, but old ones were dusted off, and beaded finery in ANC colours was seen.  

Ramaphosa’s bodyguards formed a human chain as he moved towards his car with children enthralled by the activity in the litter-strewn and damaged roads. Port-a-loos leaned precariously close to the roads as the presidential convoy sped past the shacks spilling onto pavements.

The immense traffic jams brought on by load shedding and robot batteries that do not have time to recharge between bouts of power cuts made the suburbs he travelled through even more congested.

As the loadshedding trailed him everywhere, he reflected on how it had become so bad. 

“You can’t even see the food you are going to be served,” he told the lunch gathering in the darkened hall of Voorspoed Primary School in Athlone on one of his stops.

“Eskom has been subjected to a number of challenges over a number of years. One of those is that Eskom was denied the…. well, let me put it this way…was told not to build power stations,” he told guests.

“…It was later realised that actually, we need power stations, and we woke up much too late and started building mega-power stations like Medupi and Kusile.”

He said Eskom relied largely on original equipment manufacturers who were not being properly managed, evaluated and supervised, and design flaws and going over budget started seeping in. 

“And we now have paid double, more than double the money we should have paid for our new power stations, and the old ones have been ageing more rapidly, and maintenance programmes were stopped.”

He said that with the new board, Eskom will be restructured to better deal with its debt, and management is being directly monitored. 

“Things are moving. People never used to get arrested, even at the Eskom level, when they had done wrong things. Now, people are getting arrested.

“We’ve drawn a line to say no,” said the president. 

–City Press

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