The party that got hi­jacked

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­

Months ago, when So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini’s spokesper­son went on a pro­fan­ity-laden de­fence of her boss, a jokester posted this com­ment on so­cial me­dia: “If Batha­bile does not drink, then what is she on?” It was an unfair com­ment be­cause if some­one or their con­fi­dante de­nies a vice, you have to take them at their word, un­less you can prove oth­er­wise. What made the un­for­tu­nate com­ment even more unfair was that it was en­tirely based on Dlamini’s favourite fa­cial ex­pres­sions, which have led peo­ple to be­lieve that she is no en­emy of en­hanced liq­uids.

Th­ese looks range from be­wil­dered to per­plexed to angry to in­tense to con­fused, some­times all at once. Just take a sec­ond to google her and you’ll see.

Dlamini was wear­ing that look when she am­bled to­wards the podium dur­ing the of­fi­cial ANC Women’s Day cel­e­bra­tion in Kim­ber­ley on Wed­nes­day. She po­si­tioned her­self in front of the mi­cro­phone and grinded her mo­lars in typ­i­cal Dlamini style. Then she bel­lowed “Amandla!”, “mal­i­bongwe!”, “viva!” and other re­lated slo­gans. She then paused and grinded her mo­lars again.

From there it was down­hill. Dressed in the women’s league’s high fash­ion, Dlamini pro­ceeded to heap adu­la­tion on the “tor­tured and per­se­cuted” Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. She said she was proud of him be­cause he was a “peo­ple’s pres­i­dent” who was “hum­ble” and never wanted to pay re­venge against “the en­emy.” He would al­ways sur­vive en­emy at­tacks be­cause he was not made by the news­pa­pers and the elites, but by the peo­ple of Nkandla.

Through­out her speech at this of­fi­cial state event, Dlamini was not a min­is­ter of state giv­ing a govern­ment speech. She was the pres­i­dent of the ANC Women’s League ad­dress­ing her com­rades at a po­lit­i­cal rally.

She was not the only one. Ear­lier, North­ern Cape Premier Sylvia Lu­cas – who gained infamy for blow­ing R53 000 of tax­pay­ers’ money on ham­burg­ers and fried chicken in just over two months – had done pretty much the same thing. Lu­cas ar­rived wear­ing an ANC jacket and her Women’s Day speech was an ex­tended air kiss to Zuma. Boast­ing that “we showed them”, this former Na­tional Party typ­ist was more of an ANC leader than the premier of a prov­ince that was host­ing a na­tional event.

The crowd was not just a crowd of or­di­nary cit­i­zens who were there to com­mem­o­rate a na­tional day. It was an ANC crowd who had turned up for a party rally. At the front were mem­bers of the women’s league’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive who, ac­cord­ing to Dlamini, had turned up to show Zuma love. On Women’s Day.

The rest of the crowd was clad in ANC re­galia, from the women’s league uni­form to or­di­nary party wear. The only signs of this be­ing an of­fi­cial state func­tion were ban­ners and minia­ture South African flags.

But this was not just an ANC event. It was a fac­tional ANC event. This was a pro-Zuma and proNkosazana Dlamini-Zuma rally. The pres­i­den­tial wannabe sat among her women’s league com­rades, soak­ing in their adu­la­tion and that of her ex-bae. When the crowd broke into song in praise of her, she flashed what looked like a smile. (You see, smil­ing is not some­thing she’s par­tic­u­larly en­thu­si­as­tic about.) What was quite sur­pris­ing was her ex-bae join­ing in the song. This was the leader of the party openly en­dors­ing one can­di­date over oth­ers.

While this was go­ing down in Kim­ber­ley, in KwaZulu-Na­tal, mem­bers of the Inkatha Free­dom Party Women’s Brigade stormed out of the pro­vin­cial func­tion be­cause it had been sim­i­larly hi­jacked. Clad in ANC and women’s league cloth­ing, a large crowd had been bused to the venue out­side Vry­heid.

“What was sup­posed to be a govern­ment func­tion turned into a clear ANC rally as ANC mem­bers sang ANC songs and chanted ANC slo­gans, with­out any ob­jec­tion from govern­ment lead­ers and other mem­bers of the KwaZulu-Na­tal pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture,” the women’s brigade said in a state­ment. This was de­spite assurances that any­one wear­ing party gear would be ejected.

The hi­jack­ing of govern­ment events for par­ty­po­lit­i­cal pur­poses has be­come so stan­dard in some prov­inces and municipalities that no­body bats an eye­lid. Th­ese are of­ten used to prop up the party in of­fice. An ad­di­tional ben­e­fit is to chan­nel busi­ness to favoured ten­der­preneurs who pro­vide lo­gis­ti­cal and cater­ing ser­vices for such events. The pro­ceeds are in turn shared be­tween the busi­nessper­son and the public of­fice hold­ers. Ev­ery­one is happy.

While the sit­u­a­tion de­scribed above could be de­fined as cor­rup­tion, the takeover of na­tional events de­bases our col­lec­tive her­itage. Oc­ca­sions such as Women’s Day, Hu­man Rights Day and Her­itage Day be­long to the na­tion. They are days of thanks­giv­ing for na­tional he­roes and hero­ines, both fa­mous and un­recog­nised. They are days of unity on which we ei­ther cel­e­brate or com­mem­o­rate to­gether be­yond po­lit­i­cal and racial lines. Those days are meant to be used as step­ping stones on our na­tion­build­ing jour­ney. It is there­fore wrong to con­vert them into party-po­lit­i­cal plat­forms, re­gard­less of who is in power.

If South Africans fold their arms and ac­cept this, it will end up be­ing the norm. And even when power changes hands, the new crowd will sim­ply im­i­tate the habits of their pre­de­ces­sors and ap­pro­pri­ate the oc­ca­sions for them­selves.

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