President Cyril Ramaphosa flanked by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on a campaign trail in Folweni, Durban where the president was heckled in some parts of the area. Pics
President Cyril Ramaphosa flanked by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on a campaign trail in Folweni, Durban where the president was heckled in some parts of the area. Pics

Ramaphosa: most booed, heckled ANC president of them all

By Karabo Ngoepe, Manyane Manyane Time of article published Oct 25, 2021

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The ANC will have it very tough at the polls come November 1 judging by the number of hostile encounters its president Cyril Ramaphosa has had to endure while conducting door-to-door campaigns for the ruling party in some parts of South Africa.

The president has been heckled and has had his presence questions during his campaign trial in some parts of Soweto, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Free State, Northern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. This forced him to move around with a rented crowd while campaigning in Tshwane.

This week there was commotion after Ramaphosa angered protesters while electioneering in Mangaung, Free State, for calling them drunk when they asked him to intervene in a dispute between contractors and the provincial department of public works.

In Orlando East Soweto, hostilities for the president went a notch up and forced Ramaphosa to ditch his campaign rally when members of the irate community decided to erect barricades and burned tyres, in preparation for his arrival last week.

The community had been living with power outages and cuts for months and they felt aggrieved that their electricity issues were not resolved.

Asked if the ANC was concerned about the heckling of the president, both ANC head of presidency Sibongile Besani and spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to our questions.

It is worth noting that even before the campaign trail kicked off, there had been numerous protests at the party’s provincial offices from members dissatisfied with the list processes after the party introduced a system where communities would “vote” for the person they wanted to be their councillor in a bid to appease the electorate.

But still the process was botched and resulted in more problems for the party.

The ANC’s NEC member Supra Mahumapelo is conceding that his party is set for its toughest election yet since 1994 because gone are the days where voters would take at face value what was being promised by politicians. (See page 6).

“We have more to answer to as the ANC. There are also too many problems internally with regards to how the lists were handled. The leadership should have asked those who were on the list wrongly, to resign and go back to the communities and say we have fixed the mistake,” he said.

But some political analysts believe that the ANC’s failure to improve the lives of the people and service delivery challenges are at the core of people’s anger and that President Ramaphosa was at the receiving end because he represented the ruling party, also because his presidency has been characterised by high unemployment rates, the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns and full scale poverty. This was forcing even his party supporters to give him a tough time.

There had been some disappointing presidents and Ramaphosa might well be one in the list of such uninspiring leaders, but the ANC leadership must be extremely worried about these incidents where the president was openly rejected by the people, said Sankarist and Law Academic David Letsoalo.

“They might not say it openly, but it should be a very serious point of concern particularly when the local government elections are just around the corner. The hard fact that they cannot shy away from is that the ANC government at various levels has terribly messed up, and thereby let many people down.

“The ‘stratagem' of the public pledge in terms of which the councillor candidates are enjoined to serve the people with integrity and not to steal from the public purse is a big act of acknowledgement of this mess.

“Unprecedented as it is, I honestly don’t think it’s necessary, to the extent that it is an optic mechanism to lull the voters and hoodwink them into thinking that the ANC is prepared to deal with the endemic corruption. It is not clear whether this stratagem and the usual distribution of T-shirts to the angry and frustrated masses will help the situation. The people are clear on what their challenges are: electricity, water, hunger and jobs.

“By the way, these challenges do not apply only to the communities where Ramaphosa was booed, it is a general problem in black communities. Certainly, such reactions should mean that the ANC is skating on thin ice as it approaches the local government elections.

“These ’receptions’ signal an open rejection of the ANC on account of a plethora of debilitating factors that have dogged the party for some time,” he said.

“The fact that the president is seen as a capitalist element within the organisation historically expected to deliver for the people from a social justice perspective might be one of the factors to persuade one to conclude that the people are tired of the president.

“In short, it is unwise, if not folly, to try and separate the ANC from its president. If we argue that the people are tired, they should then be tired of the ANC and its leader. You know, if there is a snake in the house, indeed how does one separate a snake from its own head?”

Sadly Ramaphosa is the personification of the ANC and that its ills were also directed to him, this is according to political analyst, Professor Siphamandla Zondi.

“This means Ramaphosa is seen in the same light as the ANC generally. The party's failures are always carried by its leaders. The ANC receives the bulk of this booing because it is the governing party, so the failures of its government are its own,” he said.

Zondi, like Mahumapelo, believes that internal factions were also involved in some of these cases of hostility towards the president.

“Some people are dissatisfied with ANC leadership, some with ANC governance. Some are just de-campaigning the ANC. Yet, others are fighting internal factional battles on the outside. But all of this shows the difficulties the ANC faces in this election in spite of its massive campaign using its advantage of incumbency to save resources needed to campaign,” Zondi said.

However, governance expert and political analyst Sandile Swana has said that Ramaphosa came into power when the ANC was deliberately weak in the urban areas.

“The major cities are going to be hotly contested regardless of Ramaphosa or any other celebrity. The ANC is a 40% party in the main metros and (it) will struggle to change that,” he warned.

While Professor Sipho Seepe conceded that Ramaphosa is the president who has been heckled and booed the most, he said there was a marked difference between the booing of Zuma and Ramaphosa.

“Zuma's booing was engineered by a faction in the ANC. And this happened twice. During the memorial of Mandela at FNB, and at a stadium after he stepped down during the January 8 statement. At no stage was Zuma booed by ordinary people.

“Zuma remains the darling of the ordinary people. He is mobbed wherever he goes. The biggest crowd that the ANC was able to amass during its January 8 celebration was during Zuma's term. Ever since the numbers have declined precipitously,” said Seepe.

Seepe admitted though that Ramaphosa was an amiable person at a personal level but the problem arose when it comes to politics.

“His first mistake was to present himself as holier than thou. The idea was to give an impression that he is innocent of anything that may have gone wrong in the ANC. For most people this smacks of hypocrisy and dishonesty.

“Third, within the ANC some have become uncomfortable with what appears to be a selective morality that defines the current ANC NEC. The divisions have deepened. A prevailing sense is that Institutions such as the NPA are used to target his political elements,” he said.

Political analyst Barry Hanyane said that it was noteworthy that Ramaphosa was receiving such treatment at the time when he was out and about trying to understand the experiences of potential voters for the ANC and some disgruntled residents who do not see themselves as voters in the upcoming local elections.

“The president is the president of the ANC and when we assess his behaviour it should be reflective of the image, the dignity and the brand called the ANC. I would believe that people would redirect their anger and disappointments towards both, and more so perhaps towards the party,” he said.

Timeline of Ramaphosa’s encounters with hostile crowds:

*October 18, Free State: Protesters jeer at the president after he said they were drunk. They wanted him to intervene in a dispute between a contractor and public works

*October 14, Orlando, Soweto: Ramaphosa had to abandon his plans to hold a campaign rally here after angry residents put up barricades to prevent him entering the area.

*October 11, Northern Cape: Ramaphosa is jeered and taunted by angry residents who wanted answers on service delivery issues.

*October 9, Folweni, Durban: Ramaphosa is mobbed and booed by angry ANC members while addressing a campaign rally in the area. His protection unit, the SAPS, Durban Metro Police and the party marshals are forced to form a security ring around the stage, mounted on an ANC-branded truck.

*October 1, Katlehong, Ekurhuleni. Ramaphosa is heckled by angry residents over power outages. He is in the area to launch his Vooma vaccination campaign but some community members want him to address the rolling power outages in the area that lasted up to five months in some places.

*September 18, Naledi, Soweto: Ramaphosa is booed and told to leave by some members during the ANC’s voter registration drive. The residents, who have had electricity problems, are saying the party only cares about them when it's time to vote.

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