President Cyril Ramaphosa said nothing new or earth-shattering during his media briefing at the Union Buildings last night.
He has previously said Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s investigative report about him was irrational, illegal and deficient in terms of fact and the law.
He also gave notice, after Mkhwebane’s release of her findings on Friday, that he would be launching a judicial challenge of the report.
But last night’s address to the nation – for that is what it also was – was notable for what he didn’t say, in so many words.
He continued with his “all things to all people” approach, preaching his gospel of unity in the ANC – above all costs, it sometimes seems – and refusing to be drawn into any discussion of the elephant in the room: the increasingly determined and bitter fightback by former president Jacob Zuma and those loyal to him.
Yet, one could not miss the iron fist in the conciliatory velvet glove worn by Ramaphosa, the diplomat.
He made it plain that he – and those loyal to him in the ANC and government – would not be deflected from their commitment to reverse the damage of state capture and to eradicate corruption.
Then, while he made soothing noises about respecting the office of the public protector and the person presently holding it, he also made it clear that he expected the judicial review process to not only absolve him, but also to “strengthen” the institution of the public protector.
That can only mean that if Ramaphosa wins in court, Mkhwebane will lose … and lose badly.
In that case, she will be shown up as the weakness in her office and strengthening it can only mean one thing: she will go, sooner or later.