South African politics have come to resemble trending television series as it always contains elements of drama, intrigue, betrayal, and nail-biting plot twists. Just when observers assume they understand the storyline and actors, new information is revealed. This draws the observers in, keeping them glued to their televisions, laptops, newspapers, and handheld devices.

In the most recent episode of what could be an award-winning show, the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was charged with money laundering, kidnapping, and corruption over an alleged R60-million theft at his farmhouse in 2020. This case was opened by the former National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser on 1 June 2022. Details of the charges and supporting evidence were ostensibly provided to the police. The supporting evidence contained photos, bank account details, video footage and names. Fraser stated that “The president concealed the crime from the SAPS and the South African Revenue Services and therefore paid the culprits for their silence.” He further stated the President breached the country’s anti-corruption laws.

The Presidency confirmed that proceeds from the sale of game were stolen from the President’s home and that the President is ready to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation into the theft. Ramaphosa stated that was no basis of “claims of criminal conduct”. While the trade of game in cash may raise red flags regarding undeclared revenues and profits, can we take a moment to appreciate the political manoeuvres pulled?

While the actual case is intriguing, its timing is simply impeccable, particularly for the President’s adversaries. It allows them to establish a step-aside narrative in the run up to the release of the final volume of the State Capture report and the December 2022 Elective Conference. If investigated, Ramaphosa would not be able to run for President thus resulting in David Mabuza completing his term. If not, the news surrounding the case may embarrass the President enough to cause alienation or destabilisation during his term in office. However strategic this move may or may not be, it is worth noting that the ANC’s step-aside rule only takes effect once charges are investigated and a formal charge sheet is completed by the National Prosecuting Authority.

In the interim, former President Jacob Zuma’s solidarity prayer was turned into a faction platform. During the event derogatory references were made about Ramaphosa’s appearance along with chants indicating that he would not be returning. More importantly, the Economic Freedom Fighters have been rallying with families and survivors from the Marikana massacre in a lawsuit filed against the President in 2015. Some may argue that all the stops are being pulled out to keep Ramaphosa busy and away from campaigning activities.

While this political battle continues, many South Africans remain concerned about the state of the country. South Africa is haemorrhaging professionals to other countries. It is estimated that 23000 people leave the country annually. Data reveals that 4500 individuals with a net worth over R16-million have left the country in the past decade. Only 5 of the 15 South African born billionaires reside in the country. Crime is at an all-time high as 6083 people were killed and 13 000 sexual offences and 5717 attempted murders reported in the first three months of the year. The annual inflation rate reached 5.9% in April 2022. Food and non-alcoholic beverages increase by 6.0%, housing and utilities by 4.8%, and transport by 14.7% over the past year.

While ordinary citizens observe the spectacle that is politics, can good governance and service delivery continue? Can there still be a focus on economic development, poverty reduction, and job creation? Can there be some good news as we observe this South African show?

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Sanet Solomon is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa. She is finalizing her PhD in the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the University of the Free...

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