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Cool heads for the transition period

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Ramaphosa will face the huge task of leading the rebuilding of the economy and uniting citizens - long-term projects that require the support of everyone

File picture: Nic Bothma/AP

NOT LONG ago, with regard to the changing of the guard in Zimbabwe, we warned of the transitional dangers Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci elucidated in his Prison Notebooks essay in the 1930s. Sadly, we must now repeat the warning in relation to recent developments in South Africa.

The “old is dying” as President Jacob Zuma prepares to wrap up and exit Mahlamba Ndlopfu. The “new cannot be born” as swiftly as many might want as complex matters need to be resolved.

As Gramsci warned, “in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

These pose great dangers at a critical interval when a leader or regime steps down and the new one prepares to take over.

Among the morbid symptoms that became manifest this week were statements by the SACP alleging “tribalism and ethnic mobilisation” on the part of Zuma, and posts on social media allegedly by one of Zuma’s wives threatening that things were about to get tough or ugly.

Political parties and individuals planning any form of protest action from tomorrow, however justified they may be, need to guard against endangering this precarious transition period.

Making matters uglier than they are will not take South Africa forward.

A time like this calls for cool heads and careful deliberations. IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has said there is no substance to the SACP’s “reckless” statement. He rightly points out Zuma and King Goodwill Zwelithini are friends, dismissing sinister presumptions over their recent private meeting.

Fortunately, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is known to have a cool head and should understand the hazards of such an interregnum, having played a significant role in the transition from apartheid to democracy. He is also an experienced negotiator.

In December, ANC delegates mandated Ramaphosa to lead the governing party, renew it and ensure a smooth transition in government. While some believe he’s taking too long and others accuse him of taking “orders” from foreign quarters, the truth is South Africa has little choice but to trust him and support him to continue with the difficult task that has begun well.

Even after the transition, Ramaphosa will face the huge task of leading the rebuilding of the economy and uniting citizens – long-term projects that require the support of everyone.