President Cyril Ramaphosa came to the helm of South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC) in 2017 on an anti-corruption, or anti-state capture, platform. The ANC’s 54th elective conference gave him a mandate of renewing the party, and simultaneously reversing the state capture phenomenon that had characterised much of the country 10 years under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

But, now, he himself has been caught up in controversy over the theft of thousands of American dollars allegedly kept in contravention of foreign exchange rules at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo in 2020. He also allegedly failed to properly report the theft to the police.

This sparked an attempt to have him impeached for allegedly violating the country’s constitution. But, the ANC’s overwhelming majority in parliament saw the impeachment motion being defeated.

This has led to many to ask whether the country would be better off with or without Ramaphosa.

This is not an easy question. But it is one that has been on the minds of many in the country since the eruption in June of the Phala Phala scandal.

Given that South Africa runs a party political system at a national level, Ramaphosa emerges through the organisational culture of the governing ANC. The party, specifically its successive leadership after the 2007 Polokwane conference, has presided over the weakening of state institutions and a general collapse of state capacity.

These have had eroded social cohesion in South African society as seen by accelerated levels of inequality, xenophobia and ethnic chauvinism. To ask, therefore, whether South Africa would better off with or without Ramaphosa is to also ask whether the country would be better off without the ANC.

For a period the ANC represented the aspirations of many black people in reversing the political and economic design of colonialism and apartheid. To this extent, it can be said to have encompassed the South African nation. But it has become too inward-looking, at the expense of the development aspirations of the nation it claims to lead.