“The rest is silence” were the last words of Hamlet shortly before his death and the end of the epic play by William Shakespeare.

Could this be the political  epitaph for the wounded presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa? Like the Prince of Denmark he is a figure of hesitancy and indecisiveness on one hand and a source of rash and impulsive statements on the other.

On the silence front, despite mounting evidence of a welter of potential criminal conspiracies embedded in the money heist from his game farm, he chooses no rebuttals or explanations. And it seems the presidential hush percolates throughout the system Ramaphosa bestrides, bar the rogue ex-spy boss and improbable whistle blower, Arthur Fraser.

On Thursday, a New York Times story was headlined: “A Theft from South Africa’s President. A Silence from South Africa.” The report recounts with meticulous detail how Namibian authorities, two years back,  were stymied by SA when they were hot on the trail of the suspects, who had transferred the alleged proceeds of the theft from South African to Namibian bank accounts.

According to the report, when Namibian justice department officials reached out to their South African counterparts to link the monies to the burglary, “they say they got an unusual response that killed their case: silence”.

The New York Times poses the key question, one asked by many South Africans beyond the fetid swamp where the RET criminals lurk: “Now, two years later, that silence is raising new questions about whether Mr Ramaphosa was attempting to hide the burglary from public view and mobilising the government apparatus to help him do so.”

In his blockbuster final instalment of his judicial report on state capture, released this week, chief justice Raymond Zondo has a lot to say on “mobilising the government apparatus” for nefarious and criminal ends, and on Cyril the Silent.

On the issue of Ramaphosa’s nemesis, Fraser, Zondo describes how Jacob Zuma stopped an investigation into the spy boss and prevented his indictment on stealing funds earmarked for his operations. To return the favour, Fraser, promoted to prisons head by Ramaphosa, freed Zuma on medical grounds after a brief imprisonment ordered, ironically, for contempt of the Zondo commission.

Ramaphosa on receipt of the report, blathered on about how “state capture was an assault on our democracy and violated the rights of every man, woman and child in this country”.

Ramaphosa is never short of a cliché to match every occasion. But this one was particularly inapt since the same Zondo report made some scathing findings against him too, essentially labelling him a willing assistant in the assault and violation of our democracy and constitution.

Zondo found it “difficult to understand” why Ramaphosa reappointed Fraser to head the prison service. Perhaps, as the New York Times suggests,  the answer lies in Namibia and not in SA.

Then there is the wider question:  Why Ramaphosa sat at the elbow of Zuma while the looting of the state and the destruction of its institutions reached hurricane intensity and did so little to change the weather?

Here, in his cautious prose, Zondo is especially withering: Ramaphosa “should have spoken out” about the Guptas as “he surely had a responsibility to do so’’.

Ramaphosa’s defence of his key role in government during the state capture period was eerily reminiscent of alleged reformists who justified membership of the National Party during the heyday of apartheid: they would change or resist the system from within its rotten portals.

Zondo was unimpressed. He concluded: “Considering the dire straits we find ourselves in, the effectiveness of President Ramaphosa’s decision to remain within state and party is not a given.”

About the only moment when Ramaphosa became animated during his laboured and unimpressive testimony before the commission was during his stout defence of cadre deployment, the original sin which enabled the parallel state to be constructed as the gateway to state capture.

Here Zondo moved from caution to explicit resolution. Of this poisonous ANC policy he said cadre deployment was “unlawful and unconstitutional”, finding it was an unfair labour practice to appoint or promote people based on the whims of the ANC’s deployment committee.

And who headed the committee when all Zuma’s worst and most compromised appointees were being placed in position to scythe through the institutions of state and loot its coffers between 2012 and 2017? Why that would be one Cyril Ramaphosa.

And yet the practice continues almost without let up to this day. Just do a search of the names of board members of any one of hundreds of state companies, and it is a veritable roll call of has-been ANC and union officials, unmatched in many cases to the technical requirements of the job at hand.

Of course it is tempting and politically sexy to personalise the entire apparat which led our country to the brink of ruin. But the era of cadre deployment and state capture has long and treacherous roots back to the Mandela and Mbeki era of 1997 when the finishing touches were placed on the project at the Mafeking conference of the ANC, just months after the constitution had been enacted. They pulled in opposite directions. And as Zondo proves, the cadres won and the constitution lost in the intervening 25 years.

Or as an early beneficiary of cadre deployment and state capture, Jackie Selebi — Mbeki’s handpicked police commissioner who had no experience in policing — once said: “Finished and klaar.”

Tony Leon, a former leader of the opposition, now chairs Resolve Communications. @TonyLeonSA