16 June has been declared an official public holiday by the democratic government. The day is set aside as a public holiday in recognition and celebration of the youth generation of 16 June 1976 who took on the might of the apartheid regime.
The efforts didn’t immediately deliver freedom but the left an indelible mark on the regime which was exposed as vulnerable and available for the taking. The broad outlawed liberation movement was given a blood transfusion when hundreds of young people left for exile.
The dawn of freedom and democracy in 1994 is in part a by-product of the June 16 generation of young people.
It becomes important for the so-called born-frees to drink from the history of their forebears so that they don’t lose direction.
Today Dr Nelson Mandela turns 94 years, six years short of his political home, the African National Congress which this year celebrates its centenary of unbroken revolutionary struggle. Madiba, as Mandela is fondly called, has become larger than life – with his shadow loming larger than his ANC, South Africa, Africa and the world.
No wonder the United Nations has declared his 18 July birth date an International Day to be celebrated and honoured by the whole world. The day marks Nelson Mandela’s contribution to peace through his active involvement in resolving conflicts , promoting human rights, international democracy and reconciliation, and in addressing racial issues.
This year’s theme is : “Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day Mandela Day.”
Departure for Vhembe
A colleague and I left Polokwane some two hours before midday to beat the scheduled midday deadline for accreditation. We were in good spirits and spoke in animated tones all the way to Thohoyandou in the Vhembe district of the Limpopo province.
There was no way we couldn’t be excited. This was the day President Jacob Zuma was to deliver the Centinnial Commemorative Lecture on Nelson Mandela. Only 4,000 places were available at the venue of the lecture, Worship House Church Centre in the Shayandima Township, Thohoyandou. My colleague and I fell among the luck 4,000 – hence our uncontrollable excitement.
The Media was equally excited, and had for almost a month hedged bets that President Jacob Zuma would not enter his no go area of Limpopo. The ANC Youth League in the province added fuel to these rumours of possible annarchy by hosting their expelled president Julius Malema and making beligerent statements against President Zuma.
On arrival in Thohoyandou, we reported to the Accreditation Centre for screening and issuance of the tags and the wristbands coloured to suit your category of guests. Without both the tag and the band entry to the venue of the lecture would be denied.
Security was tight at the centre too. Our accreditation as special guests went smoothly. Two hours remained before the lecture. We resorted to go for a bite before leaving for the lecture.
At The Venue
At the venue security was even tighter with the police, MK veterans and ANC Marshalls complementing one another to ensure that guests are safe and secure. There was lso a razor-wire belt around the church centre.
Thanks to our tags, arm-bands and early arrival, our entrance was with ease and without incident. We were ushered to prime seats not far from the exquisitely decorated stage. This gave me a good vantage point to take photographs as I had brought along a to immortalise the day.
Over time the massive arena-like hall started to fill up as guests started to arrive. There was however concern that accreditation was slow and would see many still being processed when the lecture starts.
Whilst waiting for President Jacob Zuma and other leaders, the Church Choir and Band kept us entertained.
It was in the midst of the musical interludes that the ANC Youth League provincial secretary Jacob Lebogo walked in with his provincial chairperson Rudzani Ludere and Jossi Butane. They arrogantly made the rolling hands gesture of change in leadership. Lebogo was joined by Ludere and Bhutane in these provocative gestures. Their dance and song didn’t go very far as the Umkhonto-we-Sizwe Veterans Association (MKVA) were soon on them boots and all.
In this melee pepper spray was released, throwing everyone within inhaling distance to cough and have itchy eyes.
Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture
It was after an hour that the President of the ANC and the Republic of South Africa took to the podium to deliver a moving lecture that put the icon of the country’s struggle for freedom, Nelson Mandela, into the context of the struggle for liberation in the country and elsewhere in the world.
I was mightily enriched and motivated when I left the venue at the end of the lecture.
The ANC National Policy Conference is now behind us. Its legacy for the country are recommendaions which will become the crux of the party’s 53rd national conference scheduled for Mangaung, Free State province, at the end of the year.
Ahead of the policy conference the ANC released about eleven discussion documents for consumption within and without its ranks ahead of its festival of ideas.
These discussion documents were in the following areas:
- International Relations
- Peace and Stability
- Legislature and Governance
- Economic Transformation
- Education and Health
- Social Transfromation
- Second Transition
- State Intervention in the Mineral Sector
- State Owned Entities and Development Finance Institutions
These discussion documents were to form the basis of the policy conference as the ANC change gears towards a thorough-going economic transformation.
The media and commentators in a factional and opposition bias reduced the policy conference into the “build-up to Mangaung” with the focus solely on the Draft Strategy and Tactics Document – Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012.
According to the media and commentators, the Second Transition discussion document was President Jacob Zuma’s ticket to a second term as president of the ANC and of the country. Those who opposed Zuma’s bid for another bite at the cherry would be violently opposed to the document.
The media also fed the unwary public the lie that the national policy conference will be a dress rehearsal of the ugliness of the Mangaung national conference proper.
Contrary to these prophecies of doom and gloom by the media and commentators, the policy conference transacted its weeklong business without any disaster.
It is now all systems go to refine the recommendations ahead of Mangaung.
Today the ANC completes its National Policy Conference after five days of serious reflection on the State of the Organisation and the State of the Nation. The importance of ANC conferences resonate far beyond the confines of the structures of the organisation. It derives this far-reaching importance from the fact that it is the ruling party and its decisions are bound to affect government and other sectors of the South African society.
It is against the backround of the ANC being the party in government that its conferences attract hoardes of journalists and commentators. In the South African context, journalists and commentators derive their existence and relevance from the ANC.
In the event we were to wake up one bad morning and the ANC had disappeared, the bulk of journalists, commentators and the oppositions would disappear too. This is how their existence is tied to the ANC.
The ANC by virtue of being the ruling party should have hegemonised its views in every sector of the South African society. It was supposed to lead in the realm of ideas and the rest of society was supposed to follow. Sadly this is not the case – the historically advantaged sections of the South Africa society continue to lead with the ANC following.
Talk of the tail wagging the dog, instead of the dog wagging the tail.
Where we are today, the ANC has lost the battle of ideas. The agenda of this battle is set elsewhere other than in the ANC – a tragedy of massive proportions.
In future interventions I’ll shed some light on why the ANC is losing the Battle of Ideas and how it can recoup its losses.
This past month we laid to rest the mortal remains of George Muthundinne Phadagi. He died after a short illness. At the time of his death, Phadagi had been appointed a Special Advisor to Limpopo Premier, Mr Cassel Mathale.
Before his appointment as Special Advisor to the Premier, Phadagi had been MEC for Safety, Security and Liaison after his “redeployment” from the Public Works portfolio. He had come into the Limpopo Executive Council via his appointment as the MEC for Public Works in 1999.
Soon after his appointment as MEC for Public Works, he called for me to work in his support office.
The call was on the strength of our longstanding relationship and my knowledge and experience in the realm of media and communications. I didn’t wait for a second invitation before I could take the offer.
I went thorugh all the due processes until my appointment four months after his.
My duties as the Media Liaison Officer went way beyond the the job purpose, to render media liaison services for the MEC. It also entailed writing speeches for him and accompanying him on official duties.
Outside the realm of work, Oom George as I called him revived his newspaper, The Valley Messenger. He made me a key editorial player responsible for the coverage of the acrimonious politics of the ANC in the province. Over time the newspaper gained acceptance from the people of Limpopo and became their reliable and credible medium for news on the ANC and government.
Added to my specialist editorial responsiblities I had a weekly column which sought to have the province talking by raising topical issues of the day. There were also infrequent reviews of interesting books which were relevant to the readers of the newspapers and the people of the province in general.
Through the paper I was forced to produce editorial copy weekly and also had to read extensively. An amount of discipline was imposed on me to be able to juggle with my day job, the newspaper and still be able to sample the Polokwane evening life and home in Tzaneen over my rare free weekends.
Most importantly the newspaper gave me a weekly platform to hone my writing skills. Over time I could see my writing developing wings to soar as high as it could.
It is in my reading and writing that I’ll forever be indebted to the late Oom George. As I read and write memories of him come flooding back. I expect to hear his soft voice lazily taking me through an angle he wished a particular story to take.
At the time of his passing away I was becoming more involved in shaping the future direction of the newspaper. We had shared many ideas on how to grow its circulation.
Then death struck. He is no more. Sadly, the newspaper is gone too, sacrificed by family strife.
Here am I though – the embodiment of his love for the word. In me the word leaves on.