It wasn’t 27 years, it was a bit more than 27 days, but that didn’t stop Andile Lungisa stretching out his traipse from Port Elizabeth’s St Alban’s prison to his victorious press conference as his own Long Walk to Freedom.
The former ANC Youth League firebrand, best known for assaulting a DA Councillor with a water jug at Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Council and his Stalingrad bid all the way to the Concourt to ever avoid spending a night in the cells, was full of revolutionary fervour this week after serving two-and-a-half months of his original three-year sentence.
He’s out on parole. A sixth of three years is six months, but since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 12-month remission last December, while Lungisa was out on bail appealing to all and sundry, that apparently squares the parole. A sixth of two years would normally be four months, but in a country where 30% lets you pass matric maths, the missing six weeks is probably within the acceptable margin of error.
Lungisa, who describes himself as a “Leader of Men. Measured, fortitude and a keen grasp of historical waves. Last of a dying breed” in his Twitter bio, drew strength from the canon of true revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela, but was welcomed by the RET strugglistas led by Supra Mahumapelo and “Weekend Special” Des van Rooyen.
Speaking to the faithful, or rent-a-crowd, Lungisa effectively declared war on Ramaphosa, vowing to bring about regime change and finally put control of the country in the hands of the majority – as he recounted South Africa’s history as he understands it.
There’ll be a programme of action, a mobilisation campaign from village to town to city, all geared to getting Cyril out. What role Lungisa will play in this is unclear since technically, he’s out on strict parole.
Jail obviously unnerved him. Struggling to sleep on the second night in his cell, he had an epiphany of how Mandela must have felt, he said, before magnanimously forgiving Mandela for the compromises he and his generation made. Today’s problem, proclaimed the self-declared historian, was that South Africa had never achieved its independence in a historic revision that glossed over South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth, the declaration of the apartheid republic in 1961, mounting global opprobrium – and then April 27, 1994.
It’s the kind of post-truth/ alternative reality narrative popularised by millennials and weaponised by despots where opinions trump facts; heroes become villains; villains are reimagined as heroes and 27 days in a private cell with DSTV is the same as 27 years in a limestone quarry. It’s the same kind of narrative that frames the money spent on the Zondo Commission investigating a decade of kleptocracy, being better used to alleviate the incredible unemployment that exists today largely because of the tenderpreneurism that state capture metastasized.
All that was missing from the press conference was Cher. She couldn’t make it, she was too busy serenading Kavaan, the ‘loneliest elephant in the world’ who she’d apparently helped rescue from decades in a Pakistani zoo, as he was released in Cambodia.
Maybe Lungisa will get a CD of her greatest hits instead in his Christmas stocking.
Originally published on the 6 December 2020 in the Saturday Star