At a press conference to announce the ruling party’s readiness for its 103rd birthday bash in Cape Town this coming weekend, the ANC made it abundantly clear it was out of its comfort zone. Party officials spent more time talking about the DA than its own upcoming celebrations, failing Rule No 1 in the guide to political success 101: at your own press conference, stick to your own agenda, and stop giving your enemy free marketing. By MARIANNE THAMM.
Dateline: Cape Town, 5 January 2015, Sahara House, Thibault Square.
Event: Scheduled press conference by the ANC to brief press on the party’s readiness to host 103rd birthday celebrations at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, 10 January, 2015, as well as other planned events in the city leading up to the event.
The gist of it:
- Helen Zille is the wicked witch of the Western Cape.
- Helen Zille is determined to take the province back to “before Apartheid”.
- Helen Zille is hell-bent on destroying the heritage of the minstrels by concocting a rival carnival in competition with the annual parade.
- Helen Zille is applying influx control in an Apartheid province in order to poop on the ANC party.
- Helen Zille’s DA-run province and city has placed unreasonable demands and conditions on the ruling party expecting it to cough up R2.2 million for the stadium even BEFORE the event has taken place (notwithstanding the party’s dodgy credit rating in the region in relation to a four-year outstanding bill of R1.5 million it owes the Cape Town International Conference Centre for its 2011 provincial conference).
- Helen Zille’s DA-run city is vindictive and nasty for insisting on the “unheard-of” proviso that the ANC issue tickets for the event through Computicket (can you believe it?!!).
- Over and above all of this, the City of Cape Town rejected ANC posters because these didn’t comply with regulations.
(It’s not personal, one was tempted to shout out, it maddeningly happens to almost anyone hoping to hang a poster on a city lamppost.)
“All the measures the DA are making [are] to keep Cape Town white. They don’t want us here, they don’t want the minstrels here, they don’t want anyone here. They want to keep Cape Town uncontaminated,” ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe growled from the main table.
Ok, cool, we get it. Helen Zille is a party pooper extraordinaire.
But moving swiftly along.
What about the itinerary and what will be happening this week, so we can inform readers? Where are the door-to-door meet-and-greets? How are the 52,000 people going to get there? Will there be crowd control? When will the president speak? When will the event kick off? What is the order of proceedings?
General answer: “We’ll get back to you later. We’re still having a few meetings to finalise it all.”
For a press conference that was meant to be a report-back on the itinerary and the ANC’s readiness in relation to its 103rd birthday party to take place at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, 10 January, officials yesterday wasted a helluva lot of time talking about the DA.
There was a lot of swagger and bluff about it all. A special kind of bravado is required to pull this kind of performance off in a province in which you are the opposition party. An unconscious display of a sort of political small-man syndrome. You know, the guy who walks into the bar and starts a fight with everyone around him. The insecure guy who takes everything personally, a red traffic light, inclement weather, a bird shitting on his car.
But hey, the ANC is in town to celebrate 103 years as the oldest surviving liberation movement on the continent. You would think that this, in itself, would have provided the savoir-faire and quiet confidence that should come with such an accomplishment. Perhaps a little recap on that history? No? Maybe?
But were it not for that pesky Helen Zille we might just take a resolution to enjoy ourselves, have a good time, celebrate our achievements in spite of all the obstacles thrown up in Zillestan.
It was the ANC’s avuncular Gwede Mantashe who was sent in to charm and disarm. His characteristic gravelly voice drifted into the boardroom on the 7th floor provincial offices of the ANC long before his ample frame entered the room. He made a grand show of jovially greeting the media (singling out a few journalists personally) in the manner of someone trying a little too hard to sound cheery and on top of it all.
Western Cape ANC leader, Marius Fransman, provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile and Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, flanked Mantashe to his right. To his left sat Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.
Mantashe began by reading a prepared statement. Cape Town, he said, had played a significant role in the struggle and the celebrations honoured some of these local stalwarts including Dullah Omar (misspelled as Dullar in the written version given to the press), Christmas Tinto, Reggie September, Alex La Guma (misspelled as Laguma), Johnny Issel (referred to in the statement as Henny Issel) and Anton Fransch.
The SG said in preparation for the celebrations the ANC had “engaged in an elaborate mobilisation throughout the length and breadth of the Western Cape Province led by National Officials (caps provided) of the ANC.”
This mobilisation included “door-to-door, public or community meetings as well as blitz and walkabouts in various malls and townships.”
On Thursday, 8 January, said Mantashe, all regions of the provinces would participate in the “cutting of the cake and reading of the ANC by members to recommit themselves to the values of the ANC”. Where this is to take place was not mentioned. Perhaps the stadium. Let us know.
On 9 January a Gala Dinner (caps provided) will be hosted by the NEC at the CTICC and which will be attended by 2,500 guests. It was, Mantashe told journalists, a fundraiser for the ANC and “how much they [guests] pay is none of your business. It can’t be your business.”
On 10 January “a statement of the NEC will be delivered by President Zuma” and proceedings would start at 6am. Over 800 buses, 1,000 taxis and trains had been “secured” to help transport people to the event. And while the City of Cape Town had insisted the ANC pay for security, 1,000 marshals would also be present for crowd control.
Mantashe’s reading of the statement was followed by characteristic and compulsive tongue lashing of Zille by Fransman as well as a quick lesson on the history of the minstrels in Cape Town. It was Zille who had orchestrated that the march take place on the same day as the ANC birthday celebration, he alleged. It was Zille, said Songezo Mjongile, who was determined to “erase the history” of the Western Cape.
Mantashe – perhaps unaware that the Cape Cultural and Events Carnival Committee, organisers of the Minstrel Parade, had been given R2 million by the City, R2.35 million by the province as well as a reported R41 million from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund – said the DA wanted to “deprive the minstrels…a movement of working people who are just celebrating their heritage and history”.
About halfway through the conference, it was Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, who mercifully placed the focus where it should have been – the birthday party and, more importantly, the ANC, of course.
“Firstly, everything we are doing here is about the African National Congress. Secondly, we are a law-abiding organisation. The fact that [there] are these stringent conditions put on us… we don’t want to be seen to be an organisation that says we don’t care about the regulations. However, we are highlighting the conditions that are being pushed, because it is the African National Congress. But at the end of the day, we came here to celebrate the ANC.”
In the end, said Mokonyane, the message to all was “Come to the stadium on Saturday. It’s going to be fun.”
We take it Zille is not invited. DM
Main Photo: (L to R) Songezo Mjongile, Marius Fransman, Nomvula Mokonyane, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Zulu and Zizi Kodwa address the press. (Marianne Thamm)