Barely 12 hours after President Jacob Zuma talked about radical economic transformation for black businesspeople, he teed off in Melkbosstrand at one of the country’s most exclusive 18-hole golf courses, about 25 minutes up the coast from Cape Town. The Presidential Golf Challenge, held annually on the Friday after the state of the nation address (Sona), is aimed at raising funds for the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, which gives money to education charities.
A relaxed-looking Zuma admitted his swing needed some work – an admission he hasn’t yet made about his drab delivery of official speeches.
Players were treated to beers, cool drinks, cupcakes, macaroons and massages at several refreshment stations on the vast course. The event was sponsored by Cell C, Transnet, Eskom, government medical scheme Gems and the SA State Information Technology Agency.
“There are so many wet holes. We just can’t eat so much,” one golfer laughingly complained.
Golfers from across the political divide in the ANC made their way along the greens. Former Cope crosser Leonard Ramatlakane, former Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale and former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau rubbed shoulders with the in-crowd. The in-crowd – politically, we mean – included Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen and Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
It was a livelier event than the Sona red carpet, which took place in the middle of a ghostly quiet Cape Town.
The red carpet was rolled out for parliamentarians ahead of Zuma’s speech, and had to be swept several times as gusts of wind blew yellow leaves on to it.
Outside, the streets were barricaded with the kind of unscalable fences designed to keep people out, rather than invite participation. Several roads leading to Parliament were blocked with heavy concrete barricades.
Most Capetonians who could, left work early or worked from home to avoid the traffic jams and the military trucks in the city centre. Pedestrians in the form of die-hard Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) protesters and ANC supporters attending the People’s Assembly on the Grand Parade taking over the city centre. The red carpet event wasn’t really much of an event. Other than journalists being herded into the usual confined space from where they were expected to cover the arrivals, there really weren’t many people around. Now and then, sweating EFF MPs wearing red trousers and T-shirts saying “Fear Fokol” would come over from the streets where they were protesting, but they kept out of sight for the rest of the proceedings. They daringly dashed across the red carpet to enter Poorthuis even after it had been closed off ahead of formal proceedings. A parliamentary choir sang Msholozi’s theme tune, Umshini wami, while he was dropped off at the entrance of the National Assembly building. “In the early days, he walked this red carpet and children, Parliament staff and cleaners were cheering,” I told one of the army of police officers deployed to Parliament from another province to keep the president safe. “That was before the country lost confidence in him,” the police officer said. Just before 5pm, about two hours later than normal, there was a slight flurry of movement as politicians entered. Political royalty gave some spark to an otherwise funereal occasion. Journalists ooh-ed and aah-ed at Mandla Mandela and his wife Rabia’s Xhosa outfits. Out of all the MPs, the ANC made the best effort to remind all that the opening of Parliament really is about glitz, glamour and celebration. There was a definite trend this year to either use private, little-known or emerging designers, or to scale down a bit. Kwaito star Arthur Mafokate wore a snazzy light suit that he had in his cupboard, and some old socks he was too shy to show off. Even Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, who before named her designers like they were her friends, this year wore an off-the-rack black dress by Hip-Hop. Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, as always at fancy occasions, donned a dress in traditional colours (with the usual emphasis on ANC green) by her designer daughter Phindile. As in the past two years, Parliament observed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s belttightening measures by not having a swanky dinner afterwards. Instead, those who chose to could attend Baleka Mbete’s private Speaker’s Ball – possibly held in an attempt to launch her presidential campaign.
TRADITIONAL Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu wore a dress designed by her daughter Phindile