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Centre caves in as Cyril Ramaphosa faces ‘gatvol’ factor

President Cyril Ramaphosa with Cosatu president Zingisa Losi and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande at a previous event. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa with Cosatu president Zingisa Losi and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande at a previous event. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 3, 2022


CAPE TOWN - The hostile reception President Cyril Ramaphosa received when addressing workers and Cosatu supporters during Workers Day celebrations in Rustenburg on Sunday could mean the centre "was no longer holding".

"We are starting to see cracks within the alliance. We will remember that the downfall of President Mbeki started with the booing in KZN and Zuma faced the same thing in the Free State,“ said director at the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University, Professor Zwelinzima Ndevu.

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“This could mean that the centre is no longer holding. The situation also demonstrates that workers can no longer settle for empty promises. They want accountability and action to be taken by those in charge and given a responsibility to rule. This embarrassing moment happened in a province and area where Ramaphosa is seen as part or even the source of workers’ deteriorating working conditions in the mining sector because of the Marikana allegations,” Ndevu said.

A crowd shouting “Cyril Must Go” forced Ramaphosa to abandon his address, escorted by a heavy police presence at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where he was to address workers as part of Workers Day celebrations.

Some were striking miners from Sibanye-Stillwater who are locked in a wage dispute with their employer.

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Ramaphosa was also booed in Soweto soon after casting his vote during the November local government elections.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said they did not condone the disruption of the event and he described it as regrettable.

"We did not invite him as the president of the country but as the president of the ANC, an alliance partner. He knows the issues. When the public service matter went to court, we asked if the court ruled in their favour whether they would regard that as a victory. We said he must be careful of a legal victory but a political defeat."

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Pamla said Cosatu supported Ramaphosa when he wanted to become president and he was given a mandate, but he did not stand by the agreement.

"Because of Covid, this was the first May Day rally where workers could gather and this is a big problem for him and his administration. What happened on Sunday is down to the policy choices that he and his administration have been making. We are in no position to predict what will happen at future labour gatherings but his decisions will determine what will happen going forward," Pamla said.

While Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale did not respond to the booing by deadline, ANC Head of Presidency, Sibongile Besani said the incidents were regrettable and not a reflection of Ramaphosa’s leadership.

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“When the rally started, the first speakers made speeches amid heavy interruptions. The president was asked to address workers, who raised the Sibanye Stillwater strike. The workers were appreciative of the fact that the president heard them out. Thereafter, the president came to the podium but another group of workers interrupted him too. All these incidents of booing are regrettable. It is no reflection on the president.”

He said Ramaphosa accepted the invitation to attend because Workers Day remained an important calendar day to reflect on the progress made by workers in their struggles.

“Therefore, being with workers, sharing and shaping the future together, is of critical importance, especially in these challenging socio-economic times," Besani said.

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said they were “not surprised” by the workers’ actions.

“The working class is angry and they have a right to be angry because they are really under a lot of pressure. There have been attacks on workers' conditions, benefits and wages, and the people that are leading the attacks are President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC administration that he leads,” she said.

Political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe said the booing of Ramaphosa spoke to the sense of “alienation” felt by workers and communities.

“There are two levels to make sense of this. One is at the political level and the other at government level. At a political level this indicates a disconnect among members of the alliance. Cosatu failed to see this coming, which suggests its disconnect with its own constituency. At the same time, workers are saying they are gatvol with Ramaphosa, his administration and the ANC. They see him as a stooge of white capital and anti-worker. They can also see through his smooth talking. At government level, the booing points to the failure of intelligence. A functioning intelligence machine would have seen this coming. Lastly the booing of Ramaphosa speaks to the sense of alienation felt by workers and communities. In him they see a person who has sold his soul,” he said.

Cape Times

Related Topics:

Cyril Ramaphosa