I think this would be an idiomatic expression, this is not the really elephant we know. Looking at South African politics during the term of Thabo Mbeki and his removal as the president. The ANC tripatite allies thought Zuma would understand the needs of the people better than former President Thabo Mbeki and would preserve the interest of the working class first. This agaenda was even curried and supported by ANCYL president Julius Malema during the campaign.
Just hours after Polokwane when Zuma became the president things were not as expected by labour federation Cosatu and SACP. President Jacob Zuma was expected first to fulfull the interest of labour unions, that was the initial agreenment. Therefore labour federation were pushing their agenda and hoping President Zuma would work hand in hand to support them to achieve their goals. But President Gedleyihlekisa Zuma have push unionists leaders away after he has climb up the moutain, disappointing federation leaders who thought they were the champions of the working class. President Zuma has also shows no remorse to the expelled former youth league President Julius Malema. Looking at Zuma before he became a president, he was really giving hopes to many people besides federation unions, most people felt that former President Mbeki should not stand a third term and only Zuma was giving the hopes. People percieve him as the person who would understand better what the people want and taking into account where he original comes from. But he just an elephant in the presidency.