Chris Moerdyk

Right on, Ramaphosa! Hopefully

2013-01-14 11:02

Chris Moerdyk

To be honest, I have become a lot less enchanted with the ANC over the past six or seven years.

Mainly because the Mandela ANC seems to have slipped away into oblivion.

Not only because he was a statesman of whom every single South African was proud, but all those wonderful things he stood for seem to have been forgotten by so many of the present party hierarchy.

So, it wasn't just about his successors filling big shoes with the result that what actually happened was like going to the theatre and watching St Laurence Olivier doing a scene out of Hamlet and followed immediately by a slapstick routine by Coco the Clown.

No matter how good Coco might be at his job, it's always something of a culture shock to have to watch someone like him straight after Olivier.

Anyway, for many years now I have been secretly hoping that Cyril Ramaphosa would get back into mainstream politics.

I have had the opportunity to meet him on a number of occasions and I have to say he is a man who impressed me no end. To the point where I do not believe for a minute that his basic character will change just because he is now deputy head political honcho.

The first thing that struck me about Cyril Ramaphosa was a complete lack of arrogance.

I was working for BMW and when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and as 1994 started drawing close, we as a company were extremely worried about his safety. We figured that if he had to be assassinated, South Africa would be reduced to smoking ruins in the aftermath.

I contacted Cyril Ramaphosa and asked if we could supply one of our armoured 7-series cars for Mandela to use.

He politely said that the ANC could not accept such an expensive gift but they appreciated the gesture.

We went back to the drawing board and then suggested to Ramaphosa that we would like Mandela to "test drive" our car for a year or so to get used to it and then  when he became president he could buy it or just give it back.  He did eventually buy it, paying full price with no Yengeni discounts.

The day arrived that a colleague and I drove round to the Mandela home in Houghton to deliver the car.

Nelson Mandela has just flown in from Taiwan but insisted we join him and Ramaphosa for breakfast.

He offered me another cup of tea and as I got up to pour myself a cup, Cyril Ramaphosa jumped up and said: "I'll get it, after all we have to get used to serving our people..."

The next time I met him was when a meeting was being arranged between Nelson Mandela and the chairman of BMW.

Cyril Ramaphosa phoned me to point out that as a matter of protocol Nelson Mandela should not be addressed as "Dr" Mandela, which a lot of people has started doing, because his doctorate was honorary one and protocol did not allow for the title "Dr" to be used.

I told him that in fact, the same situation existed with the chairman of BMW who was also an honorary doctor and we both agreed to inform our respective bosses that the greeting title of "Mr" should be used in both cases.

I arrived with my chairman, Eberhardt von Kuenheim at Shell House and as we walked into Mandela's office he came striding inwards us with a big smile on his face and his hand out: "Good morning Dr von Kuenheim, welcome..."

To which the BMW chairman responded; "A privilege to meet you Dr Mandela..."

They then both turned to see why Cyril Ramaphosa and I were chuckling.

I met him several times after that and what surprised me was that he instantly remembered who I was. And it was always with warmth, sincerity and bucket loads of humility.

Of course, he can be tonight. You don’t get anywhere in business or drafting a country's constitution without being tough.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president of the ANC and eventually the country, has certainly given me hope and even though it has been many years since I last came into contact with him I am willing to bet that if, in the unlikely event we should meet, he will know my name and what I do.

I hope that he will have a positive impact on the psyche of today's ANC - god knows it needs to be reinvigorated, rebooted and restored to those lofty ideals that Mandela held so dear.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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