Maverick Life


All hail the imaginative Johannesburg Mayor Thapelo Amad!

All hail the imaginative Johannesburg Mayor Thapelo Amad!
City of Joburg Mayor Thapelo Amad. Original image: Photo by Gallo Images/Papi Morake. Retouching and image design: Malibongwe Tyilo

The City of Joburg should be grateful to have such an imaginative mayor.

Dear Diary,

I feel a bit down today, which is truly unusual for me. Ever since my mommy told me as a child, what a special unique snowflake I am, I’ve never doubted my general amazingness and undeniable magnetism; not even once in over four decades of life as me.

Yet, recent events have made me wonder if I might be the kind of person who overestimates my capacity for brilliance, optimism, vision, and imagination. 

Banish the thought!

Still, even one as awesome as I, might have to take a bite of that humble Woolies pie, and admit that I may be infected and blinded by the worst kind of malady, Afro-pessimism.

Having driven up and down the bumpy streets of Johannesburg many times, I must confess that occasionally, I’ve lost hope and behaved like a kleva black. I wrote satirical columns about the city’s potholes, lampooning what I perceived to be failures of governance.

I see now that I was wrong to do so. Hence, it is only fitting that I now pen a mea culpa and ask for forgiveness as I try to do better, to rid myself of the unAfrican Afro-pessimism that has infected my very soul. South Africa is a truly great country led by some truly imaginative minds and they deserve my respect and reverence.

For this epiphany, I have one man to thank; a man I now realise to possibly be the most imaginative and Afro-optimistic among our leaders; a man who exemplifies a new generation of South African leader, a man untainted by experience and qualifications for the role he now finds himself in, the one and only Johannesburg mayor, Thapelo Amad.

So pure is Brother Thapelo, so unburdened with a competent working knowledge of capitalism, so blessed with a refreshingly childlike imagination that, while bouncing in and out of Jozi potholes that he has no idea how to fill, he sees in Johannesburg a future “smart city”; one that can be built now now, just now, with a 9.5 billion Rand loan at a 2% interest rate that falls far below the known benchmark interest rate of 7.75%. 

Surely, the Messiah must have had Brother Thapelo in mind when, as the Apostle Matt tells it, he said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 

So incredible is the light that shines from Brother Thapelo, that one of our country’s great moral authorities, a man known to hold the powerful to account and demand they “pay back the money”, a figure so fearless he would lurch at a sitting president in the halls of parliament in the name of the people, now finds himself somewhat softened by the light of Afro-optimism that glows from Brother Amad’s dewy eyes. None other than the great and righteous Julius Malema himself is putting everything on the line for our Thapelo. 

“We need to stop seeking validation from those who wish us failure; it’s a new thing we are trying to do and from time to time there will be gaps and we must close them if we are determined to make it work,” Malema said

Thanks to Thapelo, the Imam who is also a saint in my eyes, a true unifier, thanks to him, the seed of Afro-optimism has been planted in mine and Malema’s soul. Its growth will be a journey that I must walk. As I read news of poverty, violence, incompetence, and actual malice rained down on the populace from the hallowed halls of governance, I will bottle my tears and water the tree of Afro-optimism so that it may grow. 

So that, like the good Brother Thapelo and the sophisticated coalition machine that put this round-eyed visionary in a seat probably only his mother would have believed he would one day occupy, I too could look at Joburg’s potholes and see a city sommer just 9.5 billion rand away from Singaporean smart-cityness. 

As I make my way through the city’s loadshed traffic lights-turned-four-way-stops, and look up at the city’s homeless-turned-traffic-guides, I too, like Mr Malema, will feel the warm glow of Brother Thapelo’s childlike light and realise that “it’s a new thing we are trying to do and, from time to time, there will be gaps and we must close them if we are determined to make it work”. 

In the spirit of Afro-optimism that Brother Thapelo’s unbounded imagination has inspired in me, I will throw off the shackles of Afro-pessimism, and where others see unrivalled incompetence and suspect that we have reached rock bottom, I will see a trampoline that will shoot us back up to the glory days of … uhmm … let’s just say back to the glory days.




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