When President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberates on who to appoint – or not appoint – to his post-election Cabinet, he will require the wisdom of Solomon. But perhaps it is to another character of legend that he should turn, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table were the mythological defenders of the realm of Camelot. In this legend, the Knights are an order tasked with ensuring the peace of their kingdom. The round table at which they met was created to have no head or foot, representing the equality of all members.
President Ramaphosa requires such a fellowship when compiling his cabinet immediately after the elections on Wednesday this week.
The moment the president announces his preferred cabinet, the coalition of the wounded (those that won’t make it into the cabinet), will kick into action with a fight-back campaign. It is a common cause that the preferred battleground for such a fightback will be the NEC of the ANC.
As in the case of the Knights of the Round Table, President Ramaphosa would want to ensure that all his chosen knights are men and women of honour and integrity, those fellows that can indeed be treated as equal at the table. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that such fellows cannot be those that have been implicated in State Capture shenanigans, responsible for corruption allegations flowing from the Zondo commission or those who have embarrassed themselves on social media. They and no one else have disqualified themselves from a seat at the Round Table.
Now, because of institutional memory, the president will have to include some of the current crop of cabinet members, it is the responsible thing to do. So we will see some returning to the executive branch of government. Those of you worried about the gerontocracy will have to accept that some old folks will also be retained lest we say goodbye to Naledi Pandor, Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom among others, and I think you will agree with me that these are some of the good former ministers. They are people we need at the table if the president is to continue with not only the clean-up operation, but also the fixing of our institutions.
The converse of this coin is that we will have to contend with some young fellows remaining and some coming in from the cold – Fikile Mbalula, Andries Nel and Lindiwe Zulu, among others.
Whatever the president decides, he needs to know that this cabinet, this fellowship, must become his armour against any and all attacks.
Camelot needs defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and the fellows you pick must have the political will and the stamina for this fight. Because Camelot represents us all. As Steve Bike once said, “We have set out on a quest for true humanity and somewhere in the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood. In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face”.
This is our Camelot, good Sir Cyril. Biko concludes that what we want is for there to just be people, free, fulfilled and at peace.
We the citizens hope that you and the Knights of the Round Table will deliver us from State Capture, corruption and narrow self-interest.
We are not interested in a battle between the coalition of the wounded and your knights, what we want you to concentrate on are the pertinent issues that afflict us as South Africans. These are matters of how you are going to attack unemployment, inequality and poverty? How are we going to play our part in the protection of our environment and attack those who deny climate change? How are we going to protect our women and children from their abusers? There are many other pertinent issues that require the attention of the Round Table and to do these tasks with honour and with diligence, you cannot afford to choose the wrong persons to constitute your all-important cabinet.
There’s an old saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”.
We will walk this path to recovery with you, Cyril Ramaphosa, choose the right people and provide the requisite leadership as King Arthur did, and we will together grow South Africa. To the new cabinet members, I say, with great power, comes great responsibility and as such the weight of the entire Mzansi is weighing on all of you.
Discharge your knightly duties knowing that we are all supporting your quest.
And remember, your responsibility is to protect the realm from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
- Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular.
OPINION: Oscar van Heerden