Melanie Verwoerd was the featured speaker at a business breakfast last week at Kingswood College’s Wyvern Club, hosted jointly by the Rhodes Business School and Makana Brick. Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and SA Ambassador to Ireland.
Verwoerd, who lives in Cape Town and works as a consultant to NGOs and political analyst, was divorced from Wilhelm Verwoerd in 2005 and they have two children. Wilhelm is the great-grandson of the architect of apartheid. She started her talk to a receptive breakfast audience of around 80 people by focusing on her surname. She described introducing herself to someone at an event, starting with the disclaimer that her surname was very awkward, associated as it was with an infamous South African statesman. “Zuma?” the person had asked her.
Verwoerd proceeded to identify today’s political currents and share some of her predictions for South Africa’s future. Using movie titles and putting the candidates in key roles (Jacob and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma featured in a ‘poster’ for the Titanic; the same two featured in ‘War of the Roses’; while Ramaphosa, Sisulu and other featured in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, she ran through leadership options.
Her analysis held up Cyril Ramaphosa as the best political prospect for South Africa as a replacement for Zuma; however, she doubted Ramaphosa’s commitment to the leadership race.
In addition, self interest among Cabinet members, she suggested, would also hinder their ability to make good leadership choices.
What happened within the ANC in the lead-up to the December elective conference (and obviously those outcomes) would profoundly affect South Africa for the next 10-15 years, she said. Amid the political “noise” and unsettled climate, however, she was convinced South Africans had the capacity to pull through.