The buffalo years look promising to many South Africans, writes Makhosini Nkosi.
A BUFFALO is a badass animal. It is not top-of- the-food-chain but even the king of the jungle knows not to mess with it. Once a lion is cornered by a herd of buffalo it becomes a pussycat, it forgets about its dignity and try its best to get the hell out of there.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has openly embraced his Buffalo moniker in front of tens of thousands of party members and supporters at the weekend in Buffalo City.
He had a good day at the rally where he was the undisputed star of the show. It was like everyone there was a buffalo on the day. Well, everyone except the lion king, President Jacob Zuma.
He was booed not once, not twice but several times in front of his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta. It was cringe worthy.
The herd of buffalo was giving him the clearest indication that they didn’t want him as the king of their jungle.
He always said he would leave office if ANC members did not want him anymore. We will see if he will go, voluntarily anyway.
The late former president Nelson Mandela had wanted Ramaphosa to succeed him and become the second democratically elected president of the republic.
Ramaphosa was barely in his early forties when Madiba noticed his leadership qualities.
Ramaphosa’s ANC is dedicating this year to Madiba’s memory as he would have turned 100 years in July. It would probably make for a pleasing present to the old man if Ramaphosa took over the reins of the country this year.
Similarities between the two are beginning to emerge. Madiba was obsessively strict with time.
He could sulk for a long time if someone had not kept time and/or made him wait.
Ramaphosa at the weekend did what had not been expected by arriving before his scheduled time at the ANC’s birthday rally.
He further emphasised in his address that his gesture was an indication that things were changing in the ANC. It sounded like he was throwing shade at Zuma who had arrived late.
Madiba was a public relations (PR) master whose ingenuity on the subject is yet to be told. His popularity was not by accident. He knew how to effectively engage the mainstream media.
He knew how to give journalists the right photo opportunities and sound bytes. In return they always showered him with positive coverage, which in turn increased his popularity with people of all races and cultural backgrounds, here and abroad.
Ramaphosa showed his hand as a PR hit prior to the rally. He positioned himself as a people’s president, the man of the people.
The eNCA news channel showed footage of him going for a jog (though it was more like walking fast) by the seaside in East London, often stopping to greet ordinary people and posing for selfies.
Former US president Barack Obama, another PR maestro, was wont to do that during his tenure, deciding to walk to other buildings in Washington DC instead of being driven in his motorcade.
That would cause a headache for the Secret Service, which is responsible for the protection of American presidents.
When Obama did that the Secret Service would say “the bear is loose”. In Ramaphosa’s case members of the presidential protection unit were around and prepared for “the buffalo is loose” moment.
He even wore hideous red and white socks associated with a charity that one of his former companies funded.
The eNCA channel got its scoop and Ramaphosa was the darling of the middle classes and urban folks (some might include the ‘clever blacks’) going into the rally because he featured in their preferred channel.
Zuma would instead have given the honour to the public broadcaster or ANN7.
Quite like Mandela also, Ramaphosa was at his element at the gala dinner the night before the rally. He was animated and engaging in his presentation. He was not on Obama’s level but he was a massive improvement to his predecessor who would pause mid-sentence and sometimes suck his lips.
Unlike Obama and Madiba, Ramaphosa is multilingual. At the rally he was at home in the majority of South Africa’s official languages. He made most ethnic groups feel like he was their president.
Madiba must have been smiling from above. Multilingualism was a strength he wished he had. Unfortunately, he sounded like he was auditioning for a role in Emzini Wezinsizwa whenever he attempted speaking seSotho.
Snap online surveys conducted by the Nation’s Voice initiative showed that Ramaphosa’s speech was well received.
It also showed that he would restore some hope and confidence in the ANC that had been exhausted by the man the multitudes at the rally didn’t even want to hear his name mentioned.
During the celebratory dance Ramaphosa insisted on hitting the floor with his erstwhile opponent Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, holding her hand.
There was a picture doing rounds on the Internet of a jealous looking Zuma side-eyeing Dlamini-Zuma, perhaps realising that he was irreversibly yesterday’s man.
His speech and its presentation signalled a departure from the past. It had red meat for everyone.
To this writer his assertion that traditional areas and townships would be transformed into nodes of economic activity, struck the right chord.
Hopefully under his presidency the much needed department of small businesses will be a real champion for small and medium enterprises.
He also quashed some fears that he would be a white monopoly stooge emphasising the ANC’s resolution that land would be expropriated.
Oozing tons of political capital Ramaphosa could implement this policy without his intentions being question as it would have been the case with Zuma, or even Dlamini- Zuma.
Watching Ramaphosa on TV on Saturday many South Africans must have felt like a woman who had found the right man for her and could not wait to marry him.
Unfortunately, the woman is still married and her current husband will not sign the divorce papers or leave her alone, the booing notwithstanding.
Undoubtedly Zuma’s time is up and he knows it. It is now only a matter of when and not if. The buffalo years look promising to many South Africans and with that the nightmare for opposition parties is beginning.
Makhosini Nkosi is the founder and head of the Nation’s Voice initiative, which is aimed at amplifying views of voters.