Durban – A case of playing the man and not the ball. This was the sentiment expressed by religious organisations reacting to the alleged extramarital affairs’ scandal that may or may not affect deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for leadership of the ANC.
The campaign has been modelled on moral and ethical leadership.
“Who doesn’t have skeletons in their closet?” asked Marie Pillay-Ramaya, president of the SA Tamil Federation, who felt Ramaphosa should have a chance to defend himself.
According to the allegations released by the Sunday Independent, Ramaphosa allegedly had extramarital affairs with eight women.
The article further claimed he had paid for their tuition, accommodation and other expenses.
Ramaphosa admitted to one affair, that with a doctor from Limpopo eight years ago. He said he had resolved the issue with his wife, Tshepo Motsepe, sister of South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe.
He said the other women were part of a group of 54 students both he and his wife helped financially.
Pillay-Ramaya said it was only Motsepe who could forgive Ramaphosa.
“Let her be the judge,” Pillay-Ramaya said.
“Once his wife and immediate family have forgiven him, then the rest of his family and South Africa can pardon him.”
Pillay-Ramaya said these type of allegations were common in the run-up to elections and were not limited to South Africa.
He cited the US as an example, referring to the country’s elections which were characterised by mudslinging between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“We play the man and not the ball,” Pillay-Ramaya said.
Faisal Suleman, of the South African Muslim Network, felt the country should take Ramaphosa at his word, that it was one affair and that he denied being a “sugar daddy”.
“It is a human frailty and Cyril Ramaphosa has been upfront about it, and working on it with his wife,” Suleman said.
He said this was not the first time someone in a high-profile position was caught.
He referred to Zwelinzima Vavi, the general-secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, who had an affair, and reconciled with his wife.
Suleman felt the public needed to know what Ramaphosa had done was wrong, but he had committed to not making the same mistake again.
He said this message was important because South Africa had a high rate of promiscuity, teen pregnancies and HIV/Aids.
“What is worrying is that people have resorted to besmirching each other. It is a dangerous state of politics and a poor sign of what’s to come. We should instead be debating policies and issues,” Suleman said.
Dr Thamsanqa Ngcana, a bishop and deputy secretary general of the Council of African Independent Churches, described the latest allegations as a smear campaign in the run-up to the ANC elections.
He said they did not condone immorality.
“These things happen to the best of us,” he said.
Ngcana also said the money Ramaphosa spent was his own, and not public funds.
“We fail to understand why this is coming up eight years later and closer to the ANC national elective conference,” Ngcana said.
“There is forgiveness and we pray for Cyril. No doubt God will forgive him.”
Ngcana said several high-profile government figures had been involved in sex scandals.
“We are fully behind Cyril,” Ngcana said.