Friday, February 8, 2008


Saying no to Mr. Ramaphosa has proved tricky for PANU.

While the PANU government thought it had won by refusing the skilled South African mediator, they found themselves losing.
They did not realise that Kenya needed Mr Ramaphosa more than he needed Kenya. Actually, Mr Ramaphosa did not need Kenya at all. At 55 years, he is a self-actualised, extremely wealthy politician- turned-businessman and a potential presidential candidate. He is also one of the most influential South Africans to date.
As chairman of the Shanduka Group, whose shares are valued at $66.87 million (about Sh45 billion), he has everything. He controls access to the banks and insurance companies and his political friends and media links are legion. He has interests in three of South Africa’s most influential newspapers —Sunday Times, Business Day and The Sowetan. Apart from trying to help Kenya out of its political crisis he spends his spare time with his doctor wife Tshepo in the fight against HIV and Aids. I believe he was genuine, and I find it difficult to believe that he would compromise his reputation for the sake of an individual politician in Kenya.

A former trade union leader and apartheid-era politician-cum-negotiator, Mr Ramaphosa had something to offer to Kenya. He is a specialist mediator in the field of political disputes and an expert dispute resolver. He is not new to gamesmanship and high-risk politics. Mr Ramaphosa practised, and understands, the politics of brinkmanship, which seems to characterize the Kenyan crisis. He also has a reputation for pushing to achieve the most advantageous outcome and bringing a sense of appreciation of the big picture, which is probably what Kenya needs right now.

BY SAYING NO TO HIM, PANU Government looked mean-minded. It even provoked bad blood with South Africa. Shortly after he returned home, Mr Ramaphosa’s government unleashed a scalding attack on Kenya. In fact, what the PANU government thought it had gained, it lost on the diplomatic front. South Africa has now become the first government in Africa to say publicly that it does not recognise President Kibaki.

Deputy Foreign minister Aziz Pahad said his government “rejected with the contempt it deserves” the claims by PNU that Ramaphosa could not be an honest broker. These sentiments were shared elsewhere. As US ambassador Michael Ranneberger said, it is unfortunate that Mr Ramaphosa was ejected from the talks, as “he is a good and effective negotiator”. However, the envoy observed correctly that “it is important that any mediator is acceptable to both parties for talks to succeed”.

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