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Dreams From Mangaung

For every occasion, there is an instance so poignant only the willfully blind and the intentionally deaf can miss it. Such moments tend to happen outside and in spite of the rehearsed and the orchestrated. They can be dramatic or surreal.

In the FIFA World Cup of 2006, such a definitive moment occurred in the 110th minute of the match between France and Italy -– when renowned footballer, Zinedine Zidane, angrily stabbed the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi with his (Zidane’s) balding head.

At the June 2011 ANCYL conference, the moment came halfway through the speech of Zuma, when he paused, pushed his spectacles characteristically up on the bridge of his nose and confronted one particular heckler directly by asking, ‘What are you saying sir, are you talking to me?’ – U thini baba, u khuluma nami? At that moment, the relationship between Zuma and Malema became finished and klaar.

The definitive moment in the ANC’s 2007 elective conference in Polokwane was the afternoon of December 18 when Fikile Mbalula and Mluleki George led two rival crowds inside the university of Limpopo Stadium –- within a stone’s throw of one another. At that moment, in that place, Mbeki ‘lost’ his bid for a third term, Zuma ‘won’ and COPE was ‘born’.

On January 8 2012, the ANC centenary was unleashed. In a continent and country where institutions have been hard to build and even harder to sustain, the ANC has achieved a remarkable feat. Over one hundred years and still, the ANC, PAC and Black Consciousness movement have certainly been the most important organisations in the lives of the poor. On the occasion of the centenary celebrations, different people will have chosen their own defining moments -– for there were many ‘candidates’ for such moments. For some, it was the moment when Zuma slaughtered the cow. For others, it was the midnight lighting of the flame on the border between January 7 and 8 2012 or the early church service held on Sunday January 8 at the Waaihoek Methodist Church – the very spot where the ANC was born.

The moment I waited for was the one in which former president Thabo Mbeki was meant to carry the centenary flame and hand it over to current President Jacob Zuma. I imagined Zuma stepping forward to meet him, flashing his characteristic and irresistible ocean-wide smile. I imagined them holding the burning flame together for a moment. I saw them each release one hand from the grip of the centenary flame to wave to the crowds in synchrony. Once they had placed the flame on the right spot in the podium, I saw them locked in an emotional embrace.

But alas, my dreams of Mangaung did not quite materialise. Mbeki was assisted by ANC veterans Andrew Mlangeni and Ahmed Kathrada in carrying the flame. Who better to represent Mandela and the Rivonia trialists than these two? And yet, I did not expect a trio-act at that moment. That is not what was announced and promised. I think I might have seen Mbeki and Zuma shake hands briefly –- very briefly -– as the trio handed the flame to the duo of Zuma and Motlanthe. As I watched their body language, Mbeki’s letter of October 9 2008 to Zuma flashed through my mind.

For several reasons, the flame handover was the moment of the centenary celebrations for me –- both for what happened and what did not happen. The dramatisation of ANC leaders handing over the torch to one another, just like they have done for a hundred years, was a riveting one. But it was a poignant moment also for the fact that Mbeki did not carry the flame alone and Mbeki did not hand it over to Zuma alone. Perhaps the centenary flame is too heavy and too hot for one man to carry -– both literally and metaphorically?

The moment was emblematic also for the fact that it speaks of the future of the ANC –- the flame must not only be handed from one set of leaders to another, but it must continue to burn brightly. If ‘freedom in our lifetime’ was the motif that inspired and sustained the ANC for a hundred years, what is the compelling vision around which the ANC will galvanise for the next hundred years?

Julius Malema has put forward the project of ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’. Upon closer scrutiny, it appears that the Malema Project is a project for and of the ruling classes. In putting it forward, Malema is only stating the obvious and the taken-for-granted among the ruling elite. Maybe that is why some of them are so upset with him. Indications are that the ruling classes are on course to reach their goal of economic freedom in their lifetime. Millionaires and billionaires are growing by the day among their ranks.

What the ANC needs to put forward is a compelling vision that will speak to the dreams of the majority for the next hundred years. Some of that work has already started in the planning commission discussions, but the danger is there for the latter discussions to happen parallel to and outside of the ANC.

Here is the irony: The compelling vision many South Africans dream is both lurking and lacking in the rhetoric of the ‘war against poverty’. A clear and permanent escape from poverty is what the vast majority of South Africans want. But the war against poverty will not be waged on 4X4s, BMWs and Mercs. The war against poverty will not succeed if education, health and the environment continue to be neglected — especially the scandalous neglect of the education and health of the poorest of the poor. Poverty will not be eliminated on the basis of economic models that have not only failed elsewhere, but models that have manufactured more poverty than wealth. I dream that in December, when the ANC meets again in Mangaung, the party will unveil and unleash with energy and clarity of purpose a comprehensive vision that will ensure that one hundred years from now, poverty will only be part of our history.


  • Tinyiko Sam Maluleke is a South African academic (currently attached to the University of South Africa [UNISA]) who suffers from restlessness, intellectual insomnia, insatiable curiosity, a facsination with ideas, a passion for justice, a crazy imagination as well as a big appetite for music, reading and writing. He has lectured briefly at such universities as Hamburg in Germany, Lausanne in Switzerland, University of Nairobi in Kenya and Lund University in Sweden - amongst others.


  1. Benzol Benzol 15 January 2012

    “I dream that in December, when the ANC meets again in Mangaung………..”

    Keep on dreaming.

    “Some of that work has already started in the planning commission discussions, but the danger is there for the latter discussions to happen parallel to and outside of the ANC………………..”

    I have followed the planning commission and read the output. A very disappointing rehash of the standard stuff. No project plan(s), no required budget. No turn around strategy. 80 million Rand later and 27 seven of the best minds at it, a very very disappointing result.

    I tried to engage, no response. Will try when the festive season is over in February.

  2. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 16 January 2012

    It is not surprising that Mbeki’s role was played down as much as possible.

    Zuma is the prodegy of Mandela, and Mbeki has attacked them both – specifically Mandela on Aids.

    Mbeki regards himself as the prodegy of O R Tambo – but I am not so certain that he was that.

    O R Tambo chose Zuma, not Mbeki, to head up the ANC secret third force, Operation Vula, and Mbeki was furious when he found out that it was operative. (Ref: “Shades of Difference” by Padraig O’Malley).

    It is a pity that O R Tambo did not pass on more information to Mandela before he died – but he died very suddenly, and probably expected to recover.

  3. ae ae 16 January 2012

    “I dream that in December, when the ANC meets again in Mangaung, the party will unveil and unleash with energy and clarity of purpose a comprehensive vision that will ensure that one hundred years from now, poverty will only be part of our history”.
    Dream on boet they have done nothing about it in the last 20 years what will make them change now?

  4. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 16 January 2012

    We will continue to live in a dream, all of us, as long as we suppose the future for this country rests only on the ANC getting things right.

  5. tebalo tebalo 16 January 2012

    the ANC is not going to be waging any war against poverty for the simple reason that they want to keep the poor and derelict where and as they are because these are the people who vote for them.Before any elections they go to these poor people,promise them jobs ,houses and the like.out of desperation they vote for them thinking that maybe, just maybe, this time they will fulfil their promises.So if they,the ANC, can provode jobs and houses for them,who will they keep on dangling the “fighting poverty and provide jobs’ carrot to ?

  6. MLH MLH 16 January 2012

    Seems that freedom is not all it was cut out to be.

  7. Chris2.0 Chris2.0 17 January 2012

    Good writing on (most of) this piece – any reason for skipping from 2006 to 2011, then back to 2007 and then to 2012?

    I’m also hoping the ANC-controlled government gets its act together sooner than later to address the ticking unemployment/education/poverty problems of the country, but it really seems to be rather enjoying its “4X4s, BMWs and Mercs”

    So I don’t have much hope for the ANC in general or its promises of “service delivery for all” in particular…

    Let’s all instead dream that a massively ramped up voter education drive manages to convince the poor masses who receive the brunt of the ANC’s corruption/tenderpreneurship and theft will rise up and vote them out of power without resorting to an African Spring where everyone loses…

    While I’m on my soapbox… Where is the 2 new universities that have been promised since the 90’s? Where are the free education for all South Africans, irrespective of race?

    But free education with a difference of course… Only the 1st year is free. If the learner brings his part and gets above 50/60/70% for the year, then the 2nd year is also free… Otherwise they’ll have to pay… The same for the 3rd and later years, until done.

    That’s the only way I can think of to get the “lazyness culture” that’s spread from the top down out of the system…And instill a culture of performance, of excellence in all South Africans, starting from their school years, right up till we all retire…

  8. Bernard K Hellberg Bernard K Hellberg 17 January 2012

    Visited Bloemfontein in October last year, and yes, it’s no longer a first-world provincial capital but a third-world ‘Mangaung.’ Suddenly, it’s just another dump lkike one finds all over the continent.

    At least, the ruling elite has had the decency to acknowledge this by pushing for a new name.!

  9. Shaman sans Frontieres Shaman sans Frontieres 17 January 2012

    A vision, not a dream – a vision by the prophet Ezekiel, which was the topic of the sermon that was preached in the Waaihoek Methodist Church by a senior Methodist minister at the centenary service –

    He chose Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones as his text and he preached forcefully on the topic – that the ANC is now a Valley of Dry Bones, which needs to be re-animated, renewed. And he nicely said that not one of those bones was trying to jump the queue for re-animation. And he said that the ANC is like the Greek mythical character Narcissus who was so entranced by his own image that he drowned in it.

    Dead dry bones in need of real spiritual or visionary renewal, and narcissistic self-approbation and self-absorption. The ANC’s own Chaplain General, sitting to one side, did not look happy. Nor did the Big Wigs in the front pews. I congratulate the Methodist preacher on his message and I hope that something good may come of it.

    By the way I notice that Zuma was not visible at the service. Too preoccupied with ancestral voices, cattle-sacrifice etc? He for one needs to take to heart Ezekiel’s message – the renewal comes, says Ezekiel, from the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, which is the final line in Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika – ‘woza Moya, or ‘Yiza Moya’ – an invocation to the Spirit. Not to the sundry spirits.

    Anyway …. Bring on the Wind, uMoya, of Change!

  10. Shaman sans Frontieres Shaman sans Frontieres 17 January 2012

    One other thing – maybe, just maybe, when our Great Leaders stop speaking of ‘struggle’ and ‘war’ they might be able to gain a mindset that starts to get things right.

    There can be no ‘war against poverty’. Poverty and wealth are fundamentally people, and people need to be engaged positively, not with war talk. People need to be respected, and this includes those who live in the meanest circumstances. They are the ‘poor’ and you can’t go to ‘war’ against them. It is absurd political idiom such as that which allows nothing ever to be done. Ever.

    This sounds like word-play but it’s a lot more. It is a matter of changing mind-sets, in striking ways, and this must begin with the idiom that is bandied about by politicians and indeed by journalists. They set the idiom that then sets the esteem of the nation, the people.

    We need leaders with real vision and guts and creativity, not dull hapless ones that mouth the same doctinaire and aggressive or complacent things decade after decade while perceptions are set in stone and society becomes yet more divided.

  11. lebza lebza 17 January 2012

    to lynden beddy stop fabricating nonses that Zuma was a prodegy of both OR and Mandela, it is recorded facts Mbeki closely with Tambo for almost 4 decades and was like a son to Tambo, Zuma only to exile and met OR in 1979 two decades later than how can OR rely on someone he knew only later in life than a man he brought up as a son. for your information Zuma was not in charge of ANC intelligency it was comrade Joe Nhlanhla. so next time you write about our history avoid feeding people with rubbish and lies.

  12. The Creator The Creator 17 January 2012

    Nice to have dreams, but someday you have to wake up.

  13. nzs nzs 17 January 2012


    Ignore this cheerleader. She has a penchant for peddling falsehoods that can reasonably be a product of “history” that is sucked out of her toes (take the note of the pattern of historical distortions in all her posts, and you will understand). What she needs to be forgiven for is her ignorance of the fact that Mandela had minimal influence in who got posted in influential ANC positions as he was languishing in prison at the time.

  14. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 18 January 2012


    Then how do you expalin the FACT that O R Tambo activated Operation Vula with Zuma in charge without the knowledge of Mbeki or the rest of the ANC NEC? (Ref: “Shades of Difference” by Padraig O’Malley, and “Thabo Mbeki” by Mark Gevisser)

  15. ZULU ZULU 18 January 2012

    The ANC is the only formation that has realistically changed the fortunes of the Black person for the better. I do not have a tender or BMW but the houses, schools and clinics that this government has built are there for anyone to see.

    I will not fall prey to the liberal media sponsored by our former oppressors that seek to turn the population against its leaders. I WILL VOTE ANC IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS..and so is the majority of our people.

  16. Said Said 18 January 2012

    “My soul looks back, less I forget”, this should remind us as a people in a country that the soul of South Africa looks back, less we forget.

    The mindset of the people of this country as a whole, is for progression and the betterment of life for all. Less we forget, it was not the ANC that placed black people in shacks, that denied them education and that did not afford them equal opportunities as their white counterparts.

    Through the efforts of the ANC and other liberation movements, black people now have a right to choose their representatives in governmet. The redress of the past may not be so easily reachable, but it has been attained by many other normal black citizens of this country and they have ceased the opportunities that are now within their reach.

    Less we forget, there has not been a drastic change in economic policy, the risk being unsettling investors. Yes there is corruption, which is not condoned and the ANC has a duty in this regard to rid itself of this scourge and has an obligation to the people that vote for them to represent their needs.

    Less we forget, poverty and unemployment and the lack of basic resources fro black people is not something new, it something that we hope to escape and eradicate. The policy of apartheid was formally entrenched in 1948 and was only denounced as such in 1994, with the goverment of national unity, that took 46 years.

    Lets give the people a chance as well as the ANC to surge forward in search of this…

  17. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 19 January 2012


    Are you going to reply? Nelson Mandela virtuously declares in “Long Walk to Freedom” how he explained to Judge Goldstone and De Klerk that the ANC did not have a 3rd force and Operation Vula had been an idea never activated – which most of the ANC NEC probably genuinely believed, including Mbeki.

    Then the books “Shades of Difference” and “People’s War” got published which gave the accurate facts.

    Unfortunately that was only years after the witch-hunt of the TRC, where Tutu attacked De Klerk 3 times for not admitting to there having been an officially sanctioned Nat 3rd force (Vlakplats etc were not sanctioned officially by De Klerk or his cabinet ever, but Operation Vula was sanctioned by both O R Tambo and Nelson Mandela).

    Mbeki did NOT know that O R Tambo had activated Vula, with Zuma in charge. So why not – if Mbeki was so close to Tambo?

  18. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 20 January 2012

    Sorry – it was not in “Long Walk to Freedom”, but in a number of other books, specifically the biographies, that Mandela was reported as virtuously explaining to Goldstone and De Klerk that Vula had never been operative. My mistake.

  19. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 21 January 2012

    There is no such thing as an unbiased and unprejudiced human, which is why South Africa Judges are trained to be aware of their personal bias, not to pretend it does not exist, and to give judgements ONLY on the evidence.

    Tutu had received no such training, and had no knowledge of law or concepts like the onus of proof, which is why the TRC polarised society and re-inforced racial divides

    Personally I am against International Criminal Courts altogether. The present witch-hunt in Egypt will polarise, not heal, their divides

    Africa has developed a tendency to refer the opposition to the new ruling party to the ICC.

    Plus war crimes in Vietnam, Iraq, Russia and China are swept under the carpet, and the small guys are targetted.

    What I do believe in is the International CIVIL Court – get back the money, and leave moral judgements to God.

    The owners of the oil refineries in Venezula have won such a CIVIL case for damages for their assets having been nationalised – a much more sensible solution.

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