Cyril Ramaphosa’s apology to make an R18 million bid for a buffalo has been received with mixed reactions across the country.
Those who don’t necessarily see any point in Cyril’s remorse claim that he has no reason to apologize. Why should he be apologetic? After all, it’s his money he was spending. The wealth he presumably acquired through his hard work and not through any means questionable.
Those on the opposing end argue that Cyril was damn right to apologize. His conspicuous spending is a slap in the face of the poor, the working-class he dearly fought for during his days as a shop-steward. But now that he’s part of capital he has turned his back against the very same poor he used to sympathise with.
I like to believe that both sides of this argument have valid points. Cyril had every right to spend his stash however he saw fit. But Cyril is not just a nobody. He is an influential leader of the ruling party, a struggle hero with amazing credentials under his belt. So Cyril had to think twice before flaunting his cash because his integrity did not just vanish when he went to bed with capital.
The thing is, the marginalized of our society, the poor working-class hold the struggle heroes with so much esteem and in high regard that these people are really heroes to them. They know that these guys were at the forefront in the fight against domination, oppression and colonial-apartheid. And mind you, the struggle didn’t just belong to the leaders. It much had of its core foundations from the very same poor working-classes.
Now that the struggle was successful, and apartheid was overthrown, the leaders of the movement were better positioned to capitalize on the fruits that came with political power. This meant that the wealth of the country would trickle down from those who held positions in government before it got distributed to the masses, if it ever would that is.
With the Black Economic Empowerment policy being effective under struggle heroes’ administration, a rise of a black elite class emerged from a single place, none other than doing business with government. But another alternative was the shares that capital dispatched to well-positioned blacks within the dominant politically connected that saw them being millionaires within two decades. The masses which had fought apartheid side-by-side with these leaders were yet again marginalized as a result. They never had a slice of this rich bread, but were only tossed the crumbs of that came as RDP houses.
Cyril is on record as to say “it was lack of insight on his part to bid for the buffalo” and that many of his close comrades have “chastised” him for this incident. His fellow comrades understand that a people’s leader cannot opt to purchase game for this exorbitant amount while the people he leads are hungry and poor. Is life of a South African worth less than a buffalo?
Precisely, he should be ashamed of himself because what this does, is paint a bad picture about him as a sell-out. A resounding message out there in public is that “our politicians led us to the struggle in order for them to get rich at our expense.” One of the leaders is even on record as to say, “I didn’t struggle to be poor.” Let them eat cake, who cares? That’s how people see our political leaders today. And perceptions are everything in politics.
So it is with this understanding that Cyril had to apologise, and he rightfully did so. Though his timing and sincerity on the apology may be questionable, I understand and pardon him for his lack of compassion. After all, great leaders are not arrogant, but they admit to their mistakes. And they listen to the people. That is all that matters.
- Sphelele Dludla is a Journalism and Media Studies student at Rhodes University.
This article appeared on www.news24.com.