Cape Town — Another beautiful morning in Cape Town when at 5am, President Cyril Ramaphosa embarked on his 6km "people's" walk from Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha to Rocklands, Mitchells Plain, on the Cape Flats. Doing his bit to promote a healthy lifestyle but also using the opportunity to address community concerns. Today, Ramaphosa was confronted with questions about school safety, crime, drugs and unemployment.
Dressed in black with a T-shirt emblazoned with the words Thuma Mina (Send Me) from late legendary musician Hugh Masekela's song, he stopped occasionally to speak to the citizens who waited for him on the roadside, some dressed in nightgowns, while others offered him water and grabbed an opportunity to take selfies with him.
The mood was upbeat and positive, with security visible but low-key and some of the about 200 people chanting, dancing and singing along the way. Activists from Equal Education and Social Justice Coalition were also present shouting slogans and carrying posters highlighting safety issues in schools.
The walk was really brisk and invigorating and filled me with hope for the future, seeing the different race groups come together. For me, Cyril Ramaphosa is, as president of the country and leader of the African National Congress, the party's best asset by getting to the grassroots and hearing the issues people are speaking about, which they hold dear to their hearts. - Esther Rose
Junior organiser at Equal Education, Silekhaya Mbongwa, said he was concerned about the safety of the children in schools, saying they "get robbed on their way to school and even sometimes inside the school premises".
"We are here to say to the president he must do something about the safety of our children in the schools. We only see blue lights in police cars when prominent people like the president are around, but what about our children's safety every day?" said Mbongwa.
Ndithini Thyido, chairperson of the Khayelitsha Development Forum, had a lengthy conversation with the president during the walk about a possible development of an engineering college between Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
"We want to integrate the two places and break the psychological barriers that exists between coloured people and black people through education," said Thyido.
When Ramaphosa and the crowd arrived at Rocklands Civic Centre, it was abuzz with song and a sea of colour as African National Congress supporters in yellow T-shirts sang Phakama Ramaphosa, Ixesha lisondele (Stand up Ramaphosa, your time has come). The venue was symbolic of how far the country has come, having been where the United Democratic Front was launched in 1983, an organisation at the forefront in the struggle to bring apartheid to an end.
For me, the initiative by the president to do morning walks and have conversations with the ordinary citizens gives me an impression that he is aware that some communities have been feeling neglected through the years and this shows that he is willing to do the work to regain the people's trust and he wants to move South Africa forward. - Nontobeko Mlambo
The president took the opportunity to urge the crowd to register to vote over the weekend and to update their information on the voter's roll. He touched on a number of issues that citizens had raised during the walk. He also took the time to speak against corruption, saying they are in a process of rooting out corruption in government.
"We want to get rid of corruption, get rid of people who steal our money, get rid of people who waste our resources, who lie to us, who lie in top positions," Ramaphosa said.
He also acknowledged the Equal Education activists, saying he has listened to their concerns about safety in schools, also touching on the issue of drug abuse and gang violence in the Western Cape. He urged the citizens to continue their morning walks (even without him) to promote a healthy lifestyle, and to join him as he ventures to other provinces.
Zizi Kodwa, the former ANC spokesperson who was recently deployed to the office of the Presidency, also participated in the walk, saying: "Today's walk was historic because it ended at Rocklands Civic Centre where the UDF was started." Kodwa vowed not to miss any of the president's walks, inviting "all South Africans as part of Thuma Mina and #TummyMustFall to join the president as he does all these morning walks through the country in all provinces, many cities and villages".
After closing the event, Ramaphosa did a walkabout and took photos with schoolchildren and their parents, and other well-wishers before being whisked off.
'Til next time Mr President, our 5am date with healthy living will become standard...