3 April 2014

South Africa: Partying With the ANC


I land in Jo'burg. In Midrand I meet my host for the week and she asks me to join some friends at a chisa nyama party.

It turns out to be a Party party. An ANC Party, to be exact. Many are wearing the green, yellow and gold. While many are wearing the usual uniform of ANC t-shirts and jeans or shorts, there is a young woman who's gone to town and is decked in a black gown with ANC logos on the right shoulder and on the lower left of the dress. I muse that perhaps this dress is an indication of the ANC as a centrist party... neither left nor right.

My host's cousin has a kanga with Mandela's face on it. I ask him whether he is a card-carrying member. "Yes. My branch is hosting this party." My 30-year-old host says she, too, is a card-carrying member of the ANC. "I was raised by the ANC. It's my political home. I don't know anything else." There are many beautiful young people here. This is the face of the bourgeois ANC.

The Secretary General of the ANC in Gauteng, David Makhura, comes onto the stage. As he is introduced, he gets applause from most in the crowd, and some boos from a few men at a table nearby. I suspect they are EFF supporters. Later I see them joined by another guy wearing a red "Vote EFF" golf shirt. Makhura, perhaps to avoid further boos from the rowdy bunch, says a few slogans and states that he is just greeting the crowd and will not be making a speech. Zille and Julius's names feature in the slogans quite a bit, preceded by the word "Phantsi." If the slogans are an indication, the DA and EFF may be the only two parties that are any threat to ANC votes.

After the slogans, I ask Makhura to convince me why I should vote for the ANC. He points to the improvements in infrastructure in Gauteng since 1994 and the growing middle class. Well and good, I say. But their presidential candidate has been in power since 2009. I want to know why I should vote for him again in light of Nkandlagate, Textbookgate, Marikana and all the other disturbing trends under his watch.

Makhura's response is telling. He says that I should vote for the ANC candidate because of ANC policies. "It doesn't matter who the leader is... they are guided by ANC policies and that is what will be implemented." Alrighty then.

As a writer, I want to know what the ANC policy is on literature.

"You have 40 percent local content for television and radio and yet when I walk into a bookstore, I cannot see any books by African writers in general, and South African writers in particular. There are over 20 000 state-funded libraries in the country and yet we don't see local books in these libraries despite there being budgets for purchasing. There is VAT on books so that the poor can't access the few that bookstores will sell, so where is the ANC's love for the writer and the written word? Why have none of your political leaders been seen at a book launch unless it's a book launch of a politician? Why should I or any writer vote for you when you aren't looking after our interests?"

A lot of questions, I know but I figure I may never get an opportunity to grill an ANC bigwig up close anytime again.

He admits to failures in implementation with regard to the arts in general, and literature in particular. He does, however, say he is a reader and a book buyer and promises to attend my launch.

Despite the cordial chat with Makhura, I may still need more convincing.

Zukiswa Wanner is an author and once every five years, a voter in SA elections. To help distract her Joburg friends from electoral stories, she is launching her fourth novel, London Cape Town Joburg on May 8.

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