Marie Antoinette-style – and a shot or two of tequila


It was former President Jacob Zuma who famously opined in 2008 that the ANC would be in power until Jesus comes. This year Zuma arrived late, demonstrably and disrespectfully so on Day 2 of the ANC’s five yearly 2022 electoral conference.

His arrival, to the Delight Of His Grammatically Incontinent Daughter, at what some termed Naswreck brought everything to a standstill. Proof said the haters that the Buffalo, which the EFF/RET alliance has since redubbed the Ankole, was about to be gored. 

It didn’t happen though. In the end, KwaZulu Natal, the single biggest province in terms of party membership didn’t get a single person to the Top 6 – not even when it was reconstituted to the Top 7. And uMsholozi? He was hidden under a baseball hat, sitting in the cheap seats of plenary, Madame Defarge beside him.

If social media was an accurate barometer of real life, then we would all have been living in a Venezuelan paradise for a while now, wearing overalls and doeks – but not red like the cosplaying elite. But it isn’t real: as the rump of the first casualties of CR17 found out. Locked out of CR 22, they had to hold a parallel conference, full of vim, vigour and empty sound bites to their closest 100 supporters and a handful of disinterested journalists.

A week’s a terribly long time in politics – five years is an epoch – even though Ace Magashule, as the brand-new secretary general in December 2017, said it wasn’t when he told all the disgruntled RET-istas to bide their time. This year he couldn’t get in and had to hold court, literally at a petrol station forecourt. He was joined by Pep Store Carl and MK Barbie – who could get into Nasrec, but was humiliated on the floor. Afterwards the satirical Saxonwold Shebeen named The Lindiwe Sisulu Shot in her honour: tequila, a dash of bitters, lots of lemon, served with a tablespoon of salt.

Much changed in those four days – and perhaps very little. Mbaks’s transition from Minister Fixit/Fearfokal/FokAllesOp/DoFokal to Secretary General has the cynics wetting themselves with glee; if the smouldering ruins of his cabinet career are anything to go by, what’s left of Luthuli House will be next.

There was a definitely a Marie Antoinette, “let them eat cake” vibe about this conference. Nasrec didn’t have a single power cut, while the rest of Joburg groped about in the dark for the entire weekend. Then there was the battalion of cops guarding the delegates; 500 for just over 4 000 delegates. As someone pointed out, 200 are normally enough to secure the nearby 95 000-seater FNB stadium during a Soweto derby. But then given the level of (alleged and suspected) criminals at Nasrec – perhaps it was in fact a better use of policing.

It’s Christmas tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what they expect from Santa. As for the rest of us, we’ll keep waiting for Jesus of Nazareth, because even fewer South Africans have any faith in Jesus of Nasrec after this week.

Originally published in the Saturday Star on 24 December 2022.