If there was ever a metaphor for the state we are in, we need look no further that a picture of a rather forlorn president looking out of a Metrorail train on Monday morning. He was stuck, like all the other commuters.
A short trip would cost him four hours. He’d miss his weekly Top Six meeting at Luthuli house. Who knows what it would cost his newfound travel mates - their jobs, or perhaps even the opportunity to get a job?
It was a fantastic photo opportunity, albeit inadvertently. It was an even better way for the president to show his street cred as a man of the people getting on to the streets, unlike his predecessor who went into the Marabastad Market in Pretoria like Joaquin Phoenix going into the Colosseum with his Praetorian Guard in the film Gladiator.
To be fair, Jacob Zuma did reach into his pocket and give a hawker R100. Still, after what he and his family are alleged to have got out of state capture, it seemed a mean little gesture, even then. Ramaphosa, though, came face-to-face with the lived reality of hundreds of thousands of ordinary South Africans - and, for a change, no one could blame the load shedding that had the rest of us stuck in interminable gridlock or praying to the office gods as our laptops teetered on 10% battery life and our cellphones sucked the life out of power monkeys that we’d only just finished charging.
He did emerge like Paul on the Road to Damascus, full of fire and brimstone about the standards (or lack thereof) of rail travel, prompting many to wonder where he’d been - either in 2015 when the public protector issued a report or back in the fifties when Can Themba rode on the same train west of Pretoria for Drum and had the same experience. As one wag noted: “Imagine when Ramaphosa has to fill up with a tank of petrol!”