A tough week where the president had to face hostilities, abandon a meeting and deliver a speech in the dark
President Cyril Ramaphosa has had a torrid week ahead of the ANC’s January 8 statement which coincided with the party's 110 Anniversary celebrations in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, throughout this week.
But the president must have heaved a sigh of relief that it is all over and that Limpopo Province is in the bag by being the first to endorse him for a second term.
The province's premier and chairperson Stan Mathabatha said yesterday the province was confident in Ramaphosa seeing them through the next phase.
However, this week hasn’t been smooth sailing for the first citizen of South Africa.
It started to go awry when Number 1 was called a liar, forced to walk out of an ANC Women’s League Indaba where he was going to be the main speaker and finally had the lights go down on him right in the middle of an address at a gala dinner held at the Protea Ranch Hotel.
Ramaphosa’s itinerary from Wednesday to Saturday was a visit to the traditional leaders in Sekhukhune before his address to the masses at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium, a golf day and the much-awaited dinner where tables next to him cost no more than R1 Million for the privilege, before the January 8 statement rally on Saturday.
However, the traditional leaders clearly were not impressed with the president with Kgoshi Kagoshi Phaahla leading the charge and even calling the head of State a liar for failing to address concerns that chiefs have alleged they had raised with him in 2017, when he was still deputy president.
“Today, I’m still standing here without a single property being transferred. I’m still asking myself how many more lies we’re going to hear today,” said Phaahla.
In his response, Ramaphosa said he would have liked to hear about the challenges the people of Sekhukhune face instead of being told he was lying. He said he would prefer to hear about issues that “we need to address as a government, as particular interest of our people.
“What I would have wanted to hear is the interest of our people who are sitting here rather than people saying the president is lying, lying about this and that,” retorted Ramaphosa.
Then on Thursday night, the president was escorted out of the venue and couldn’t deliver the Lilian Ngoyi Memorial Lecture planned by the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) over security and Covid-19 concerns.
Those around the president have stuck to the narrative that Covid-19 protocols had been violated hence his abrupt exit but unconfirmed sources have told Sunday Independent that a leaked speech was what led to the ‘snub’.
The sources have alleged that former Minister Bathabile Dlamini had prepared a fiery speech that could have embarrassed Ramaphosa, but the speech was leaked to the president. This obviously didn’t go down well with the president because this would have had two bad strikes in a row. However, Dlamini denied the allegation when asked and dismissed it as unfounded.
Again on Friday, Ramaphosa’s Peter Mokaba memorial lecture got delayed due to a commotion caused by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) supporters outside Jack Botes Hall in Polokwane. They demanded entry amid strict Covid-19 protocol and tight security.
The president was expected to deliver the lecture at 15h00 but it was delayed by over two hours because of the unruly youth.
However, the ANCYL was forced to host the gathering outside the Hall.
Then during the much-anticipated ANC’s gala dinner on Friday night, while Ramaphosa was thanking the business community for its financial support, the lights went out.
The president had to finish his speech in the dark and project his natural voice as the power was off.
He was whisked out by his security detail and the deputy President David Mabuza and national chairperson Gwede Mantashe also left the venue.
Electricity was restored 15 minutes later.
During a media briefing, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said there was nothing to be inferred from the incident and refused to link the incidents that have happened around the president in the build up to yesterday’s event.
“There are not many issues, the electricity has tripped, why is the ANC leadership blamed for that? I don’t understand. What must we do? We don’t fix electricity, it’s not the government because it’s not load-shedding. Electricity has tripped in the venue now the leadership of the ANC must be embarrassed, for what?” a visibly irritated Mashatile said.
However, when asked what he thought about the incident, Provincial Secretary, Soviet Lekganyane said: “This is a serious national security concern. The security cluster must report as to what happened there. It can’t be that the head of state is talking and the electricity goes out.”
With the ANC's 110th anniversary celebrations and all that drama firmly behind him, Ramaphosa now has the daunting task of striking a balance between retaining his seat for a second term and gluing together a fractured and limping ANC so that it's strong enough to celebrate 111 years next year.
The road for the ruling party is set to be a tough one as provincial structures look at wrapping up their conferences ahead of the big national elective conference in December.
Last month,the ANC in its National Executive Committee meeting gave all provincial committees until March this year to hold their conferences.
The endorsement by the province comes despite two influential regions - namely Peter Mokaba and Sekhukhune regions - which recently held their elective conferences that saw the Radical Economic Transformation forces say they were not prepared to see Ramaphosa back in the seat after December.
But ANC Peter Mokaba Region chairperson and Polokwane mayor, John Mpe who is known to be sympathetic to former president Jacob Zuma made a sudden U-turn by saying the region agreed with Mathabatha to support Ramaphosa.
He said: “We have not known of any divisions. We don’t even know what the RET is. Of course, there are differences within the ANC. That is normal.
Mathabatha added: “I can publicly say that the ANC in Limpopo will support the province and will support Cyril Ramaphosa for a second term at the ANC conference.”
Speaking in his mother tongue, Sepedi, Mathabatha said there was nothing wrong with his statement.
“I can commit that as soon as the curtains open for us to nominate as a party. The ANC in Limpopo will actively canvas for President Cyril Ramaphosa. Why would you want to fix something that is not broken?” Mathabatha asked.
Lekganyane, who is Ramaphosa’s ally, also mirrored Mathabatha’s assertions.
“It is obvious that Ramaphosa is popular in this country. He was popular during the Nasrec conference. There is no difference now. He overwhelmingly won in Nasrec. The people of this country want Ramaphosa.
“There will always be issues in any organisation…and one of those in this regard is corruption and divisions. South Africans hate corruption.”
But some within the party have accused Ramaphosa of using the party's celebrations to campaign for a second term.
The Daily News earlier reported that several branches from KZN, who had originally planned to attend the January 8 statement had canceled their trip upon hearing that Ramaphosa planned on using the rally to "launch his campaign."
But speaking at the ANC's presidential gala dinner on Friday, Ramphosa called for the party to focus on a path of renewal.
And while Ramaphosa this past week indicated that he is willing to step aside if he is implicated in the State Capture report, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantasheearlier said: "As members of the ANC, we must not use the Zondo commission report to settle scores where we chase what we see as internal enemies. That commission report must help us rebuild the ANC."
Although he has not been widely mentioned in the first part of the state capture report, Mantashe was implicated by former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi, who alleged that the company installed security cameras at Mantashe's homes in Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape.
Mantashe stressed that the issue of whether to prosecute or not lies with the prosecuting body.