Suits and t-shirts – How Ramaphosa draws the line between state and party

2019-01-11 02:00

When the day starts in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, President Cyril Ramaphosa is wearing a black suit.

The black suit is a part of protocol for government occasions – any different colour is somehow frowned upon.

Ramaphosa has two different roles to play on Thursday: first as some kind of Father Christmas and second as the official ribbon cutter.

The flailing flags bearing the logo and colours of the provincial education department at Siqongweni Secondary School are unmistakable, positioned on both sides of the front gates.

Accompanying Ramaphosa is acting Kwazulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor, who all stick to acceptable levels of state protocol dressing.

It would take a lot to convince learners at Siqongweni Secondary School that Christmas did not come early this year as Ramaphosa dishes out gifts in the form of a library, a computer laboratory and a mobile science laboratory even before his five minutes or so speech ends.

Ramaphosa may not be donning the red fluffy onesie of Santa Claus, but the learners cheer in amusement at every moment of the announcement.

But Ramaphosa is (subtly) also more interested in the potential voters, singling out the parents and teachers for their hard work in helping the school’s matric class of 2018 achieve an 84% pass rate.

In a whiff Ramaphosa is off to Harry Gwala Stadium where he cuts off the ribbon to open the new athletics field, which is apparently IAAF accredited.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a suit, gets ready to unveil the new sports facilities in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Setumo Stone/City Press

Just like in Siqongweni, the provincial government department flags fly high in every possible prime spot.

Ramaphosa is still donning his black suit and this time Transport Minister Blade Nzimande joins the entourage.

Change scene, and the ANC truck and sound stage is in front of the minority groups which dominate Manor Flats in town.

By this time, Ramaphosa and all those accompanying him have dumped the black suits and they appear in ANC branded t-shirts.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing minorities while in his ANC shirt in Pietermaritzburg. Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24

The choreographed change in gear could easily go unnoticed to the untrained eye, but it also reveals a lot about Ramaphosa’s take on striking a balance between the party and the state.

Often the line gets blurred.

For example, in all the events he is travelling with the same state cars and protected by the same state bodyguards.

The speeches remain the same: how much government invests in education, sports, housing milestones since democracy in 1994, sanitation and so forth.

But the moments change as he heads to the City Hall for a small session with business and other stakeholders in the minority communities.

It ends on the same tone at a community meeting in KaDambuza – also Nzimande’s home ground.

Ramaphosa must get some credit for at least trying to draw some sort of line between the state and party.

Even though the difference is suits and t-shirts.

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September 15 2019