Ramaphosa bids Nxamalala adieu
Johannesburg – It is 00:09 when ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe invites newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa to the podium amid cheers that evolves into chants of "ANC! ANC! ANC!"
Ramaphosa is beaming as he delivers the customary "Amandla!" that start any ANC-speech. This is in contrast to his face while secretary-general Ace Magashule read the conference's declaration minutes before. Ramaphosa sat behind his Apple laptop, with a serious expression, taking his glasses off often and wiping over his eyes.
Mantashe is seated behind him, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and Magashule to his right (probably not ideologically), and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile to his left. Deputy president David Mabuza is nowhere to be seen.
Jacob Zuma laughs heartily when Ramaphosa acknowledges him as outgoing president of the ANC and as president of the republic. Zuma just looks at Ramaphosa as he says he feels like he is walking in his shoes delivering the closing address.
There is less tension in the air in the plenary hall than the previous times the media were allowed inside. Upon entering, delegates were dancing to a song about the ANC played on the slightly tinny sounding sound system.
Duarte and Magashule were seated, but Ramaphosa was on his feet, dancing, moving his arms in a way reminiscent of Nelson Mandela.
Most delegates seem to be present, bar a few rows of the KwaZulu-Natal delegation's section. As the crowd sang with Magashule, for once there wasn't one song going in support of Ramaphosa, and another in support of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Ramaphosa is wearing a yellow long-sleeved golf shirt similar to the one Zuma wore when he delivered his opening address.
As Ramaphosa gets going into his speech a respectful silence falls over the hall, only to be punctured by applause and a few cheers – hardly boisterous – at appropriate times, like when Ramaphosa congratulate the delegates on turning their backs on slate politics, with reference to the composition of the top six.
Sometimes Zuma joins in the applause, sometimes the presidential eyelids seem rather heavy (not that he was the only one in the hall).
He particularly gets going when Ramaphosa announces that land will be expropriated without compensation, breaking into a big smile, nodding vociferously.
Amid applause, Ramaphosa says, "At the state level we must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families who, through the exercise of influence and the manipulation of governance processes and public resources."
No response from Zuma, except a slight pout of his lips.
"The actions of comrades who are deployed by the movement should always be informed by the interests of our members and our people, not personal gain," said Ramaphosa.
"Their actions should always be a source of pride and not a cause for embarrassment."
Again, no response from Zuma.
As Ramaphosa winds down, he thanks the media for their coverage of the conference and "register" his concern about "an incident at this conference involving a journalist and security officials".
Some journalists congregated in front of the stage – at Ramaphosa's feet – applauds, no one else in the hall, much to Zuma's amusement.
At the end of his address, Ramaphosa again pays his respects to Zuma.
"It was during your tenure Nxamalala, and thanks to your vision, that the National Planning Commission was established and produced the country’s first National Development Plan."
Zuma smiles and acknowledges Ramaphosa's remark by clasping his hands in front of his chest in the manner of a yogi that says "Namaste".
"History will record that it was at your insistence that South Africa expanded its antiretroviral programme rapidly and progressively to be the largest in the world," Ramaphosa fawns.
Ramaphosa, smiling broadly, says the officials will miss Zuma's jokes and the sweets he likes to distribute.
When in Parliament with Zuma sitting in the seat reserved for the president, Ramaphosa sitting in the bench next to him, Zuma can often be seen handing a Halls-sweetie to Ramaphosa, who always accepts with a smile.
Ramaphosa ends in song, the delegates joining him.
It is 12:55.
As Magashule announces that the results of the NEC election will be announced in 30 minutes, delegates stream through the exits.