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It’s time to take Buffalo Cyril by the horns, writes Siki Dlanga

Oscar Mabuyane’s Eastern Cape ANC leadership victory and his subsequent endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa’s re-election spells more doom and gloom for the people of the Eastern Cape, says the writer. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Oscar Mabuyane’s Eastern Cape ANC leadership victory and his subsequent endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa’s re-election spells more doom and gloom for the people of the Eastern Cape, says the writer. Picture Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 12, 2022

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Siki Dlanga

CAPE TOWN - Oscar Mabuyane’s Eastern Cape ANC leadership victory and his subsequent endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa’s re-election spells more doom and gloom for the people of the Eastern Cape.

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You would be excused if you believed that the people of the Eastern Cape were under some spell to keep voting for their own poverty and failing leadership.

Social media users did not spare a moment as they used Mabuyane’s victory as an opportunity to laugh at the Eastern Cape’s endless woes.

His leadership has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, even during the deadly pandemic. His administration came with, thankfully, a now former health MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, who brought the Velaphi-style ambulance scooters that were meant for Covid patients, which were later pulled.

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It also came to light that Mabuyane and his former health MEC were linked with a now fugitive Nigerian professor, Edwin Ijeoma. The University of Fort Hare had laid charges against Ijeoma for irregularly admitting and registering Mabuyane and Gomba.

If you speak to regular people of the Eastern Cape, it is not unusual to hear rumours of Mabuyane’s insane wealth and possessions. They whisper about him, but what does that change?

The shameful R15 million Enoch Mgijima stadium amid a myriad of disasters, including heart-breaking rural neglect, which is often aired by SABC 1 Cutting Edge programme, is part of his recorded legacy.

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Recently, we saw the people of a village in Mount Ayliff crawling over a dangerously unstable wooden bridge, which had been donated to them by missionaries because their municipality would not build one.

The villagers share traumatic stories about how their loved ones died when they were swept away by the river. Their government simply does not care.

What is criminal about corruption and the lack of service delivery is less that the leaders become arrogant fat cats who amass wealth for themselves and therefore use it to remain in power. It is mostly that corruption results in death.

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This is beyond the deaths of hope due to the cruelty of failing municipalities that act as a stumbling block to the dreams of thousands of South Africans.

Corruption often causes the deaths of valuable human beings who should not have died had someone not pocketed service delivery funds somewhere along the way.

Think about how many died during the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of PPE corruption?

Millions meant for development have disappeared and sometimes defended from the top. The R15 million Enoch Gijima sports stadium was sarcastically duped by Twitter users as the Athi Geleba Super Stadium after she attempted to explain away the conspicuous corruption.

Geleba, the head of digital communications in the presidency, had responded to Floyd Shivambu’s tweet, which decried how the ANC could be proud of such a stadium when they paid R 15 million? She used her official account, which exists to carry out the communications of the presidency, to defend the R15 million stadium with these now infamous words: "Palisade fencing. Rock blasting. Earthworks. Layer works. Rugby & soccer field. Athletics track. Ablution facilities. Changerooms. Borehole. Water reticulation installation. Sewer system. Septic tank."

I do not hold Athi completely accountable for that tweet even though, as it is her job, we are all accountable for what we do. The tweet must be seen as the president’s own tweet for whom she tweets as the Head of Digital Communications. Why would the president defend an Eastern Cape municipality?

What we see displayed in this scenario is a phenomenon where the president’s reliance and exploitation of the Eastern Cape for power unmasks itself before the nation.

The Eastern Cape gains nothing from it except for only a few people at the top. In August 2012, for example, while Ramaphosa was busy purchasing a R18 million buffalo bull, it was largely people from the Eastern Cape who were being sacrificed with bullets for profit by capital and the state.

Six years later, in 2018, Ramaphosa called himself a Buffalo during his maiden speech at the ANC’s 106th anniversary as its president.

He saw it fit to make a mockery of a moment from a massacre that still stains him, the ANC, and raises questions about what kind of government this is.

He does this in the Eastern Cape, of all places, at Buffalo City. The brazen coldness of such a decision is chilling and more chilling because, like the Marikana massacre, South Africans moved right past it while we watched it live on television.

It raises the question: what kind of people are we? Is our conscience so seared that we can no longer tell good from evil? Are we numb, or are we simply bewitched? Do we accept anyone that speaks good English and call it good leadership?

Ramaphosa’s bull during the Marikana massacre made the massacre even more frightening about what initially seemed like an innocent democracy.

What leads a human being to be that disconnected from the reality of those they lead?

There are no amount of convincing words, bull’s eyes, or dramatised hand gestures that can ever shake that chill. The scenario continues to repeat itself blindly when he, even in jest, calls himself the Buffalo at Buffalo City, where the Marikana widows’ children probably attend university.

Mabuyane’s declaration of the Eastern Cape’s endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa’s second term is understandably good news to capital, but to anyone who cares, truly cares, it is chilling.

It spells more neglect and winning at all costs, and at the expense of the Eastern Cape, not unlike Marikana miners who were massacred for demanding R 12 500 while he could afford an R18 million buffalo.

As someone who had the ambition to be president, how did he not see the callousness of his decision until there was an outcry?

We still do not know what happened to the R 500 billion while the media convince South Africa that this man is the one to be trusted to deal with corruption.

It is time for Eastern Cape leaders, including Mabuyane, and those who are in proximity to the president, to wake up.

The province can not continue to be a sacrifice. It is time to get off the altar and get to work. Mabuyane and Ramaphosa may be the hope for the rich, but they are not for the poor.

That hope, rather, lies in Lindiwe Sisulu, her courage to speak truth to power, her attention to the real issues that can assist South Africa to move forward, and her relentless commitment to her people for whom her care and compassion are the direct opposite of the calculated carelessness of those who seek only their own interests.

Their ongoing war on her is, in fact, their ongoing war against the poor. Her resilience is the resilience of her people. In this ongoing darkness, that is the real dawn rising.

Dlanga is a political analyst and writes in her own capacity.

Cape Times

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