Dear Daisy

Andrew Donaldson on the questions President Ramaphosa didn't answer



A YEAR ago commentators were praising Cyril Ramaphosa for the way in which he was handling the transition from the train smash that was the Jacob Zuma kleptocracy to the New Golden Dawn. 

Now it would seem that even small children are writing to the President and demanding to know when he’s going to crack on with the job and put the place to rights.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa posted one such letter on his Twitter feed with the comment, “Any contribution to fulfilling the dreams of a child is the highest calling. Daisy from Buffalo City wrote to me asking if little girls can become Presidents. Her optimism for our country affirms my belief in the indomitability of the human spirit.”

Fair enough. But then the human spirit is invariably indomitable, is it not? 

We were reminded of this just the other day, here in the expats’ corner of the Slaughtered Lamb, when Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 75, announced that he would be walking from Robben Island to Cape Town to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg. 

An eight kilometre stroll. With weighted boots. Under the sea. With all those man-eating sharks swimming about. And just that indomitable human spirit to keep them at bay. And why not? Sir Ranulph is regarded by Middle England as the greatest living explorer in the world  and it is for charity.

We digress. Sadly, Ramaphosa’s response to Daisy of Buffalo City in her otherwise charming letter highlights another ubiquity: the invariable tendency of politicians to wholly ignore, perhaps by dint of narcissistic design, the genuine concerns of the citizenry.

“If you can make the world a better place,” Daisy demanded, “why don’t you?” 

Well, it doesn’t get any blunter than that, does it? Out of the mouths of babes, etc. But Daisy went on to ask:

“Are you kind to children? Can girls be presidents? How hard is it to rule the world? I like your work as a president. How many people do you need to vote for you? Where do you live in Johannesburg.”

Ramaphosa posted his reply to Daisy on social media, a letter which reveals that he is not one to waste an opportunity to accentuate the positive:

 “It means a lot to me that you like my work as President; because as I am sure you can imagine, it is not an easy job. I often have to make really difficult decisions, and sometimes people are pleased with the decisions I make but other people are at times not so happy. That is to be expected that people should have different views on various matters as we live in a democracy which allows everyone to have the right to have their own opinion and freedom of speech.”

There were other avuncularities, if I may put it that way. 

Daisy should study hard as education is the key to success in life. Daisy should be reminded that Nelson Mandela believed in children, and had he met her, he would have told Daisy that girls could be anything they wanted to — teachers, scientists, astronauts, even presidents.

“Let me tell you what I am interested in,” Ramaphosa continued, “caring for our planet and its people. That is why I will be visiting East London this week to introduce a new programme to encourage all South Africans to keep our country clean. It is called Good Green Deeds and we want everyone to play their part, including children.”

This is particularly apposite as elsewhere on social media a 30-second video of Free State University student Eckhard Binding picking up litter strewn over campus by protesting Economic Freedom Fighters, only to have the redshirt fascists deliberately toss the rubbish out again, was going viral, provoking outrage, even, it is claimed, among “moderate” EFF members.

The video struck a particularly raw nerve with many South Africans, according to one commentator, as it typified “the intersection of creation and destruction, humility and impudence, in a nation divided, at least within populist rhetoric”. 

Which is another way of saying this was just repulsive behaviour, not so much a case of EFF activism as atavism.

“This wasn’t a fun situation,” Binding was later quoted as saying, “but it was necessary to deal with it. I have to say that I noticed how scared people are to take initiative and get involved because it’s easier to brush it off … like it’s not your problem.”

Julius Malema didn’t seem to think it was Binding’s problem in the first place. “There’s no formula to peaceful protest,” the commander tweeted in response to those who criticised the EFF’s “inhuman” attitude towards Binding, “the question should be, was it a peaceful protest, and if the answer is yes, we move on. We can’t allow the elite to dictate the form and content of the picket lines.”

If the answer is yes, the EFF moves on. Presumably to find the eNCA’s Karima Brown and once more threaten her with rape. 

There is, in this, a lesson of sorts for young Daisy: namely, that when it comes to choosing a career path, it is perhaps better to opt for science or even teaching, as journalism’s getting to be a rather ugly business, especially for girls.

The EFF, of course, don’t regard Brown as a journalist but rather, as the fascists’ shouty little spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi put it, an “openly admitted ANC operative”. 

After Malema posted Brown’s contact details online, she was subjected to a stream of racist abuse and hatred. “We are not playing here,” one EFF supporter warned her. “We are dealing with racists… step aside or we will crush your prolapsed vagina.” Another called her an “Indian whore”. 

But to get back to Daisy’s questions, these are the answers she may have been wanting from Ramaphosa.

Yes, the President is kind to children. Especially his own children. He has, for example, generously remained rather tightlipped about the value of his son Andile’s Bosasa contract. This, even, in the face of a bothersome inquiry in the National Assembly.

How hard is it to rule the world?

Not very hard — provided you’re China. The enormous difficulty, however, in this part of the world is that the lights go out a lot and not only do you not know what is happening, but you also cannot see it happening. At such times you must keep your back to the wall and be very still. Because that is when your enemies come for you.

As for votes, well, you need as much as it takes. Certainly more than half. Which is about 2 500. This is at the party’s elective conferences. And that should be enough to hold sway over the rest of the country.

Lastly, where does the President live?

In a state of some anxiety, one would think. Otherwise blind panic or naive optimism. Anywhere but reality, it would appear.