Cyril and the Stockholm Syndrome – Opinion piece from TAU SA


Stockholm Syndrome: Coined around forty years ago after a Stockholm bank siege where captives in a hostage situation developed an irrational adjustment to their situation where the captor was no longer the enemy. A “what else can we do” attitude to a situation where there seems no way out, when values and mores are changed to adapt to a state of distress. It is typically applied to explain the ambivalent feelings of the captives to their captors, looking for normality within the framework of a nefarious predicament. A survival strategy.

South Africans may not acknowledge it, but many could be classified as victims of the Stockholm Syndrome in their feelings of helplessness after nearly quarter of a century under ANC rule.  They have “adapted”.  They have caved in to accepting the assaults on their heritage, the destruction of the hard work of their forefathers, the slumming of their cities, the trashing of their universities, libraries, state buildings, trains, buses and even department stores.  They mutter to their friends about the crime and the savagery concomitant with that crime, about the profligacy of the government elite, the corruption, the inefficiency, the nepotism, arrogance and narcissism, and the collapse of basic services.  They declare they don’t read the newspapers or look at television because it is too uncomfortable, too frightening, and they worry about their future.  They complain bitterly about president Jacob Zuma who has “ruined the country”, yet they must carry on because, well, ”what else can we do?”

Thus the cautious optimism and in some cases delight at the possibility of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa becoming the next president of South Africa reflects just how far we have descended into the acceptance-of-our-situation pit when we look to him to “save” the country.  In truth, he is cut from the same political cloth as Jacob Zuma!  Mr Ramaphosa will be different, they say.  He speaks well and is measured.  (No wonder the ANC selected him as chief ANC negotiator at the eighties Codesa multi-party negotiations between the ANC and the previous SA administration:  he completely outwitted the weak and inarticulate government representative!).  “Ramaphosa is a wealthy businessman so therefore he won’t steal”, declared one ANC bigwig.  That says it all!

Some commentators have made a connection between “successful businessman” and an effective president.  It is a tenuous leap of faith.  Let us look at how Mr Ramaphosa became a “successful businessman”.  In 2001 he started the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) group Shanduka and thanks to a series of transactions he built this up to such a large group that in 2014, it was worth more than R8 billion.  Until 2012 when he became vice president of the ANC, the American business publication Forbes declared his personal wealth at R5,67 billion.

In 2011 through Shanduka he obtained a twenty-year business licence for the fast food group McDonalds for South Africa.  He is keen on wild life and agriculture – he owns 100 Ankola cattle, originally from Uganda which graze on his farm in Mpumalanga.  In 2012 he bid the sum of R20 million for a buffalo at auction.  There was such an outcry that he withdrew the offer but at the same auction he nevertheless spent R15 on other wildlife.

When he became SA vice president he resigned as director of most of his companies.  At that time his personal interest in Shanduka was R2,6 billion.  He and his family have held on to his property investments.  According to the 2016 register of members of Parliament’s possessions and interests, he still has R3,5 million shares in a British investment company called Connaught PLC, R2,1 million shares in the paper group Mondi, and he is the owner of the Ntaba Nyoni estate.  His properties include two flats in Cape Town, seven retirement homes and 23 townhouses in Johannesburg. (Beeld  20.12.17).  With a BEE leg-up to the likes of a Shanduka deal, one would have to be fairly thick not to become a “successful businessman”!


During the ANC’s December 2017 54th national conference and subsequent speeches, Ramaphosa walked a very wobbly tightrope between shoring up confidence within SA and abroad while proffering the usual suspects for the masses –  land for the people, expropriation of someone’s else’s property without compensation, the “radical transformation” of the economy, and an obligatory clean up/rooting out of corruption.  It is indicative that he continually emphasised unity within the ANC:  unity meaning the retention of power, to be maintained at all costs.

His statement during a wreath-laying ceremony in KwaZulu/Natal that land will be expropriated and given to black people “whether the owners like it or not” was not a measured and affable Ramaphosa – “take it or leave it” he declared unequivocally to property owners.  But like so many politicians, he relented afterwards: redistribution of land to the masses cannot be achieved without taking into account food security, a stable economy and continued agricultural production.  But you cannot have both, and food security is much more crucial to South Africa’s survival than squatter camps or weekend getaways for the ruling elite on formerly productive farmland.

It cannot have escaped Mr Ramaphosa’s notice that the copious amount of food consumed at the ANC’s East London December “gala dinner” was made possible by the productive skills of 35 000 SA commercial farmers.  Clearly the power focus belongs to those who produced that food, not to those who made the vacuous speeches and who pontificated about policies that made no sense or had any real chance of being implemented.

So what to make of Ramaphosa’s declarations?  Each part of his statement cancels out the other.  He declared that the land transfers will be transacted “to promote the interests of South Africans and to develop the economy”.  This ludicrous pronouncement hardly warrants the euphoria that swept the land – albeit temporarily – and the rating agencies were not impressed.  They clearly will wait and see whether the December conference’s decision to amend Section 25 of the Constitution will ever come to pass.  The IMF has cut South Africa’s growth rate for the next two years to below 1%.  Business Day (23.1.17) says the forecast is unlikely to reflect SA’s new political developments.


One would like to give Mr Ramaphosa a chance, give him the benefit of the doubt.   As a new broom, he really has to sweep South Africa’s Augean stables clean.  It should be borne in mind though that Mr Ramaphosa was part and parcel of the destructive force that has been the ANC for the last 23 years.  He sat mum during the numerous motions of no confidence in president Jacob Zuma when others bravely nailed their colours to the mast and defied the ANC’s top structure’s thinly-veiled pressures to support the president.  He watched as our country’s structures disintegrated, as millions were siphoned off from virtually every endeavour in which the ANC was involved, from the catastrophic Eskom, to the billions of rands paid for the Prasa locomotives that didn’t fit, to the escalation of farm murders and of course the Gupta debacle which the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority puts at more than R100 billion and where the Free State provincial government paid R30 million for a Gupta wedding with money meant for a community farming project.

We didn’t hear any public castigation from the nascent ANC president against these sustained criminal activities within the ANC.  It was only when he smelt blood in the water that he started talking about corruption, as if it were something that had occurred while he wasn’t looking!  He is promising to drain the swamp, the very quagmire his party created.

Can he really change the things that matter?  Will he instruct the crippled municipalities to hire on merit rather than on race?  As at January 24, job advertisements were still being placed to exclude whites.  Can he assist in recouping the R5.5 billion owed to member of the Master Builders Association for work done by its members for municipalities, provincial and government departments?

Will he be able to contain the disruptive protest marches which usually end up in violence, destruction and looting?  Can he change this mode of demand to meetings around a table?  Can he do anything about the drug cancer infecting our country’s schools and towns?  In the once-peaceful town of Krugersdorp, it was left to residents to “clean up” the town by putting the houses of foreign drug dealers to the torch.  And talking of foreigners, will Mr Ramaphosa make an effort to control our borders to effectively cut off the stream of aliens who have found South Africa to be a soft touch?

He has appointed a new board for Eskom and this has been lauded as something wonderful.  But Eskom disintegrated during the ANC’s watch.  The least Mr Ramaphosa could do is appoint a new board!  Eskom now needs R12 billion in the immediate term to recapitalise, and the Treasury won’t be paying this bill.  So where will the new board find the money?

Will the new ANC president be able to stop the criminals vandalizing and sabotaging South Africa, stealing cables and railway lines, and illegally tapping into electricity lines?  The City of Tshwane recently condemned the torching of its waste management depot where waste bins, an office and a kitchen were burnt to the ground.  Municipal workers recently discovered the deliberate blocking of sewer lines so as to disrupt service delivery.  Repair technicians were held up and molested while trying to repair the damage.  This is anarchy Mr Ramaphosa and must be nipped in the bud!

And the police?  Parliament’s portfolio committee has demanded the removal of more than 1 448 police officers with criminal records, including attempted murder.  This was discovered in 2013, and nothing was done.  Since then 226 have retired on pension!

What about the fraudulent drivers’ licences issued by corrupt officials, and the passport and identity documents that can be bought on the streets?  And the wild life poaching that exploded under the ANC’s watch?

Will the new president rein in the EFF and other sundry rabble-rousers who ignore court orders and intimidate school children and taunt their parents with racist insults until the school is closed down?  Will he give attention to township schools that have been so neglected that one was reported to be ”infested with snakes, including a python?”  Criminals regularly vandalise school property by stealing the fencing, allowing drugs salesmen to enter e school yards.  Two school governing body members and a community policing forum member are facing charges of stealing food and stationery from a township school.  Will the new brooms be able to change this mindset?  What about the dollied up matric results, massaged this way and that to camouflage the real sorry picture?

Mr Ramaphosa’s big mistake was his definitive statement on 8 January that “we will take the land”- nothing ambiguous about that, notwithstanding the back-pedalling afterwards.  TAU SA’s president Louis Meintjes says expropriation without compensation is theft.  Overseas investors surely see this in the same light.  This was the Zimbabwean clarion cry and its path to destruction was there for all to see.  His call that president Jacob Zuma “should not be humiliated” is an insult to all honest South Africans.  Mr Zuma has until January 31 of this year to make representations to the National Prosecuting Authority as to why he should not be charged for fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering after the initial 18 charges against him were dropped in 2009 by former acting prosecuting director Mokotedi Mpshe.  A full bench of the High Court found in December 2017 that it was irrational to have dropped the charges against Zuma and the matter is on the legal tennis court of judgment and appeal and back again to judgment, so beloved of certain ANC officials.  The fact that this case has been on the legal tennis court since 2009 is clearly due to the president’s access to unlimited taxpayer funds used to stall legal finality.  Most South Africans do not possess the luxury of this bottomless financial pit to fund their legal cases.  Why should Mr Zuma not be humiliated after what he has done to South Africa, let alone taking the consequences of his alleged shenanigans?

Mr Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him.  But his chances of success are not good.  Mindsets have to change but he is dealing with an entrenched DNA of corruption, unaccountability, entitlement and a corrosive need to stay in power.  He says government must account to the ANC!  No, Mr Ramaphosa, government must account to the people of South Africa.  It is clear that this mindset must also change.

Published as received. It is an independent opinion piece and does not in any way reflect the values or opinion of the newspaper.