Making waves: ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, right, and his deputy, David Mabuza, greet supporters at the party’s 106th anniversary celebrations in East London. Picture: REUTERS
Making waves: ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, right, and his deputy, David Mabuza, greet supporters at the party’s 106th anniversary celebrations in East London. Picture: REUTERS

New ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa revealed his secret weapon against President Jacob Zuma on Saturday: time management.

In a departure from common practice in the ANC, Ramaphosa delivered the national executive committee’s January 8 statement exactly on time at the party’s 106th anniversary celebrations in East London.

Party officials were on stage before 10am, in sharp contrast to what had become the norm in the ANC — wasted hours at events, with supporters sitting for long periods in the sun and often being drenched by rain while waiting for leaders to address them.

Perhaps seeking to bring in his experience from business, where time management often has a direct relationship with output, Ramaphosa said the party had decided to start its celebrations on time.

If he is to believed, this is a clear signal of change.

"Nelson Mandela would have been very pleased to see that we are starting our things on time," Ramaphosa said.

"We respect each other, we respect our movement and we respect our people.

"From now on, we want a new culture to spread around our movement and our country," he said.

"When we say we will start our meeting at a particular time, that meeting must start without fail. That is what the ANC should be doing as an example going forward."

Newly elected party secretary-general Ace Magashule had promised at a media briefing on Friday that Ramaphosa would address the crowds "at exactly 11am".

Zuma, meanwhile, showed himself to be yesterday’s man when he arrived late, accompanied by his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Apparently, Zuma had also showed up at the ANC’s gala dinner the night before. While party members at East London’s Absa Stadium cheered Kenyatta on Saturday, they booed Zuma three times.

Pressure has been mounting over the past year for Zuma’s removal, but this has not yet happened, although some say the writing is on the wall.

Ramaphosa, moving between English and most of SA’s other official languages, laced his confidently delivered hour-and-a-half long speech with jokes.

In jest, he said the party’s new chairman, Gwede Mantashe, had said that the ANC gathering was taking place in Buffalo City and that the party faithful were to be addressed by "the Buffalo himself". Ramaphosa, a game farmer, was nicknamed "the Buffalo" after he bid for a highly priced buffalo at a game auction in 2012.

The beast in question was finally sold for about R20m. The nickname was initially uncomplimentary, but ANC members and its leaders later took to it in the run-up to and aftermath of the party’s national elective conference in December. Now the name is woven into the jokes that lead to messages about party unity.

If there was one theme that Ramaphosa sought to emphasise, it was unity. He mentioned the word many times over. No doubt it was meant for some of Zuma’s allies sitting behind him as much as it was directed at rank-and-file ANC members.

After his speech, when Ramaphosa took to the dance floor to the sounds of "Happy Birthday", he shared the moment with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom he beat to the top job in the ANC during the bruising elective battle.

Ramaphosa is fully aware that in the lead-up to 2019 elections the party will need all hands on deck to stave off further electoral decline.

However, the first step is likely to be polarising. This requires the removal of Zuma, who is unlikely to go down without a fight.

mailovichc@businesslive.co.za

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