New South African president Cyril Ramaphosa today (Friday) carries out the first of his presidential duties when he delivers the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and his next expected official duty comes next Wednesday when he attends Armed Forces Day in Kimberley as Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
While the official diary on the Presidency website today was still indicating Jacob Zuma as president and giving the SONA date as last Thursday (February 8), sources in the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) indicated the “speed of recent political events” probably had everything to do with official diary and engagement postings not being updated.
There is no specific mention of military service on Ramaphosa’s CV with local military/politico watchers pointing out the same was true of previous presidents in the democratic era with the possible exception of Zuma, an MK intelligence operative .
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one told defenceWeb Ramaphosa is “an extremely intelligent and astute man”. Another said the new president’s “good and solid” understanding of the business and trade union world would also stand him in good stead as South Africa’s first citizen.
A retired senior SA Air Force (SAAF) officer was of the opinion Ramaphosa’s experience with trade unions could be put to good use taking into account the almost ongoing skirmishing between SANDF Legal Services and the SA National Defence Union (Sandu).
Those defenceWeb spoke to were all in agreement it will be important for Ramaphosa to pick the right people to advise him and even serve in a revamped Cabinet.
“If he takes Lindiwe Sisulu as deputy president or, as a leaked list would have it, his foreign affairs minister, Ramaphosa would have a person who does grasp and understand strategic issues.”
All spoken to note the problem for an ANC seeking to up its performance at the polls was that “defence is not a vote catcher”.
“Money will go to social programmes, most of which will impact negatively on the economy and the poor, but sound and look good to voters.”
This is borne out by a posted list of achievements and milestones attributed to Zuma on the official Presidency website.
There are 11 areas named. They range from education and health through to fighting crime and corruption and infrastructure but no word on defence. Neither border protection, undertaken by the SANDF in terms of its Operation Corona tasking, nor protection of maritime assets, a module within Operation Phakisa’s blue economy expansion plan, are not mentioned in addition to other SANDF deployments and operations.