Hundreds of business delegates intermingled with the ANC elite at a suave gala dinner hosted by the party ahead of its national conference on Saturday.
All their eyes fixed on the stage where President Jacob Zuma stood relaxed in his two-piece suit and red tie in front of a glaring animated ANC logo. The president, in one of his last speeches as the head of the ANC, was cheerful and confident.
The ANC spared no expense in hosting the dinner, which served as a show of gratitude to its sponsors – most of whom were in attendance.
Delegates were shuttled in from the main parking area at the Nasrec Expo Centre early on Friday evening, and, after a quick security check, were ushered into a waiting area where a live band and drinks on tap were already present.
Strolling down the red carpet were the likes of presidential frontrunner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and ministers Naledi Pandor and Mosebenzi Zwane. Also spotted was Durban business tycoon and Zuma pal Vivian Reddy and mining mogul Patrice Motsepe.
Enter the dining hall -- draped in the green, black and gold of the ANC.
On the menu: smoked salmon, "spiced medallions" of beef and a "lavender-scented" crème brûlée. It also seems the ANC had swapped Rupert & Rothschild wine -- spotted on the tables at their policy conference dinner earlier this year -- for a more humble Khoi Klaas blend.
Zuma entered the hall about two hours after the event was scheduled to start, walking in to a short burst of clapping. He walked the isle to his table with complete silence in the hall until the event host, Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, spurred on another round of applause.
Zuma, accompanied by his wives, took his seat next to Cosatu boss Sdumo Dlamini who greeted him with a smile and a handshake (despite the trade federation has made numerous calls for the president to step down). Motsepe was also seated at Zuma's table.
In his keynote address, Zuma said the ANC will unite behind whoever is elected into its leadership structures.
"We might have a lot of shortcomings, but bear in mind it's all done in good spirit to quicken [the] process of solving our problems... if the ANC disappears, you will go around looking for it," he said.
Zuma: "I always joke that INVESTING in the ANC is always REWARDED with BLESSINGS". #ANC54 🤔🙄😏— Amil Umraw (@Amil_Umraw) December 15, 2017
He also spoke about the need for economic growth and concentration in between a few jokes about how he is the "outgoing" ANC president.