Charles Cilliers
2 minute read
23 Jun 2021
1:53 pm

Did the Ramaphosa robot’s programming break down?

Charles Cilliers

Without a script on his iPad, the president seems about as effective as my computer when it can't find its boot drive.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: @PresidencyZA

It was equal parts amusing and horrifying to witness President Cyril Ramaphosa’s near-breakdown yesterday when he was parted from his iPad.

We were left to witness what looked like the bizarre near-dementia-laden stream-of-consciousness monologue of a suddenly vulnerable-looking 68-year-old man who was evidently lost without being tethered to a script.

Obviously it probably looked a bit worse than it was and Ramaphosa’s detractors were quick to jump on the “evidence” that Ramaphosa can’t do anything without his “masters” telling him what to say. And his fans just saw it as yet another charming little thing about Cyril, much like the time he struggled so monumentally on live TV to put on a mask.

Earlier this month, News24 journalist Qaanitah Hunter said of Ramaphosa that he “is never unprepared and is always scripted in his public engagements” and, as a result, “hardly ever makes any embarrassing faux pas or says things he is not supposed to”.

Her observation was in the context of a discussion about one of the very strange things he did say when he was parted for a few hours from a script: that MPs earning more than R1.1 million a year, excluding benefits, “struggle to make ends meet”.

One can only wonder what other strange ideas are actually fighting for space in his head. We’re offered glimpses of the “real Cyril” so infrequently that, honestly, we can only guess.

Yesterday we witnessed the extreme of the scripted approach, where the president seemed to short-circuit and had a mini-meltdown when his prepared speech wasn’t around. He was like an old robot who’d lost his programming card and so just kept repeating its error message: “My iPad cannot be located. Please insert iPad to proceed.”

As amusing as it was, it was a reminder that behind all the scripting and programming, it remains difficult to know what Ramaphosa is all about, aside from loving money.

Two years ago, I wondered if he should be thought of as little more than a sock puppet stuffed full of cash.

We’ll probably still be wondering and arguing over what Cyril Ramaphosa did or did not think or believe in years after he’s retired.

ALSO READ: Is Ramaphosa just a sock puppet stuffed full of cash?

In the meantime, someone just needs to code some permanent instructions onto his logic board, like:

if (iPadInHand = false) {
return sitDown

That will hopefully allow him to go into standby mode in the event his iPad ever gets misplaced again.