Walking with the president: Ramaphosa's continued charm offensive is working

2018-02-20 16:57
(Tammy Petersen, News24)

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

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New President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday continued to win the hearts and minds of South Africans when, in a genius PR move, he started what will now be weekly morning walks with the public.

After being snapped several times over the past week walking on the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town, he invited South Africans to walk with him from Gugulethu to Athlone on Tuesday morning. 

Chatting to locals, laughing and smiling, and kissing the proverbial baby, Ramaphosa kept a brisk pace to complete the 5km walk in the early hours of the morning, coining the phrase #TummyMustFall in the process.

About 150 people joined him as passersby stopped to take pictures or gawk at the new president. Social media responded. 

"Funny how a poor president who rose to power on the ticket of being the 'people's person' became the most inaccessible despot, yet a billionaire president can easily walk with the community in a township," one man tweeted.

"Matamela is the people's president. Zuma never bothered to interact with ordinary citizens. Would have never pulled these morning jogs because 'he feared the people'," said another.

But the image being projected of a people's president is no coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that Ramaphosa hammered on about what the people want in his reply to the State of the Nation Adress (SONA) debate on Tuesday.

"… our people want to be involved," he said.

"We want to invite all South Africans to participate, to lend a hand."

Rams Mabote, reputation manager and PR specialist, says there is a clear strategy by Ramaphosa's team to endear him to the average South African.

Ramaphosa would only be too aware that, after nine years of being battered and bruised by former president Jacob Zuma, South Africans are desperate for someone who acknowledges their pain, he says.

"He realises that he has popular appeal and he needs to build on that. It's the right thing to do," says Mabote.

"He needs you and me because we are the people that have to vote for him to stay president in 2019. The fact that he prevailed at Nasrec and was able to cut short Zuma's second term has already gotten him far within the ANC, but now he needs the support of the average South African."

Solly Moeng, founder of DonValley Reputation Managers, agrees that Ramaphosa has, so far, said very little wrong.

"He is on a supercharged charm offensive and whoever is doing his PR is doing it very well. It's as if everyone has faith in him," he says.

However, he warned that this effect won't last forever. 

"South Africans have been so pained by Zuma that it almost seems too good to be true. I want to believe that he will do the right thing, but the honeymoon phase certainly won't last if he doesn't follow up his words with the right actions."

On Tuesday, in his SONA debate reply, Ramaphosa said an announcement on the composition of Cabinet will be made at the "appropriate time". It should be sooner rather than later if he is to keep the momentum and goodwill of the people on his side.

Read more on:    cyril rampahosa

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