Thunderous cheers and ululation greeted Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as he received a royal spear and cattle-hide shield from Venda King Tony Mphephu Ramabulana, signifying solid support ahead of the ANC presidential elections in December.
During his address to a packed Makhuvha stadium at the Radzambo Cultural Foundation traditional dance competition in Thohoyandou in Limpopo on Saturday, Ramaphosa spoke at length and strongly against tribalism and encouraged unity in Limpopo among Venda, Pedi, Tsonga and other traditional groups.
“As we go to the ANC conference, elected leaders will unite the party and take it forward,” he said to louder cheers, especially when he hinted what should be done with corrupt leaders.
“We should steer them to the side just like unroadworthy vehicles. Those corrupt must be moved to the side,” he said.
Flanked by King Mphephu Ramabulana and IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Ramaphosa was welcomed with song and dance and walked through a guard of honour formed by women and girls dressed in traditional Venda attire.
ANC T-shirts emblazoned with “CR17” and “siyavuma” in support of the Ramaphosa presidential campaign were swallowed by the colourful traditional gears clad by different cultural performers.
King Ramabulana steered clear of politics, but the founder of Radzambo Cultural Foundation, Chief Livhuwani Matsila, conveyed the nation’s “unreserved support” for Ramaphosa to succeed at the ANC conference in December and “lead the country” out of the current state of “anarchy, despair and maladministration”.
Matsila described Ramaphosa as “the son of soil in Venda, where his umbilical cord is buried” adding that people from around were “proud to have produced a leader of his stature”.
“It’s really good to be home ... I feel at home,” Ramaphosa responded.
The sound of the drums, reed-pipe whistles, songs and dance dominated the atmosphere, with Chief Buthelezi also seen moving his head to the rhythm of the African drums.
Earlier in the day, Ramaphosa went on a charm offensive in his home village in Khalavha village close to Nzhelele, attended a short church service and went on a “meet-and-greet” with traditional leaders in nearby VhaVenda villages before finally meeting the King, who had waited for him together with his guest, Chief Buthelezi.
It may have just been a cultural competition blessed by Ramaphosa for the happy locals, but it was a big deal for some like Buthelezi, who used the moment to close to publicly endorsing Ramaphosa for the ANC president.
In his speech, Buthelezi said he had for years fought for the full recognition of traditional leadership, raising issues with presidents from Nelson Mandela to the incumbent, Jacob Zuma.
For a leader of the opposition party, he appeared somehow optimistic that Ramaphosa was going to subsequently lead South Africa and he had a message for him.
“So as we stand on the eve of a conference that may well see the deputy president elected as the new leader of the ruling party, I want to give him a fair warning that he will hear from me about traditional leadership,” he said.