It’s official: it started with a pain in the neck at the National Executive Committee meeting of the African National Congress. That is Jacob Zuma’s neck and the pain was severe enough for his fellow NEC members to send him to hospital. ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe insists that President Zuma was merely tired and will deliver the state of the nation address on 17 June. By then, Cyril Ramaphosa will have chalked up some appearances on Zuma’s behalf. This week he chaired the cabinet lekgotla (big meeting) which is meant to map out the government’s plans.
Ramaphosa will also be leader of government business in Parliament and we hear he will chair the National Planning Commission after the departure of Trevor Manuel. With Zuma resting up before he faces renewed questioning over state spending on his Nkandla homestead and the latest probe into the US$6 billion arms deal, this looks strikingly like power seeping across to Deputy Ramaphosa. If so, it will be a tough initiation, even for this veteran union leader. Although there was meant to be consensus about the pro-market policies in the National Development Plan, companies were puzzled to hear the ANC announce last week that its election victory was a mandate for radical economic transformation. That sounds scary to business, especially when growth is slowing and the platinum mine workers are still striking. Comrade Cyril can expect more calls from his old friends in the corporate world.