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Something great and special comes this way — The Gathering: Twenty Twenty-Four

Something great and special comes this way — The Gathering: Twenty Twenty-Four
Illustrative image | The Gathering 2024 (Photos: Gallo Images | Supplied)

The tectonic plates beneath our feet are shifting again. It is undeniable that this is a time of great uncertainty. Daily Maverick and an audience of 1,500 readers will get together in person for a full day on 14 March to talk South African elections 2024. It will be a momentous day.

A great global tide of incoming “modernity” is marching our way. Powered by Big Tech and often fuelled by violent energy provided by the worst among us, the new Age of the Unknown is upon us. 

This world was already hinted at, darkly, as we gingerly tried to negotiate AD 2023. It is here now, AD 2024 — the year in which 70% of global elections will take place, and at a time when the fear of the unknown starts dominating our every conversation.

But to paraphrase one great leader from almost a hundred years ago, the main fear we know is fear itself. 

It is not the first time that we’re living through such a shape-shifting space/time.

In 1938, as the world watched in shock as Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, a young artist named Orson Welles decided to play fear with fear. 

At the time, the 24-year old protégé, fresh from his Voodoo Macbeth triumph in Harlem, was tasked with a Sunday 8pm radio drama for Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS of today). And he was in search of something new.

The global public knew the fear of the known, aggressive superpower that Germany represented at the time. But the young genius invented an unknown, even greater fear — which he mined from HG Wells’s immortal SciFi novel, The War of the Worlds, in the shape of invaders from Mars.

The rest was, well, history. 

Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds became the most impactful broadcast of perhaps all times — it was reported that tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of people were genuinely convinced and frightened that the Martians had invaded the Earth, and that the end was nigh. Many tried to run away from their homes, especially those close to the New Jersey-based imaginary first landing of the also imaginary Martians. 

You can imagine the chaos. 

(And should you have an hour to spare, even now, 85 years later, this radio drama manages to feel real, and frightening. You could do much worse than listen to it slowly, in a dimly lit room, with your loved ones around you.) 

Soon after, the Orson Welles-made horror was replaced by the real-life horror of WW2.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024 — All your questions answered

Not unlike 1938, AD 2024 is such a year of profound fear.We don’t know what the future will bring, yet we certainly know that the present is threatening. Insecurity is everywhere. And South Africa is not immune.

One of those globally pivotal elections of 2024 is our very own national and provincial poll, now finally declared for 29 May. 

A political first?

For the first time in our modern history, the ANC’s political juggernaut is in danger of losing its absolute majority, South Africa’s increasingly vocal role in at least two major conflicts that are defining the planetary mood right now — Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war — means that the reverberations of what our local voters decide might be heard and felt far and wide.

South Africans have a right to feel fear about what is coming our way. Things have not gone well for years, and long forgotten is the fleeting hope that the apparent breaking down of State Capture would have made things finally, and fundamentally, better.

The prospect of prosperity brought by the great showcase of democracy appears hazy at the least. To many, tomorrow will likely be worse than today.

In this uncertain time, we at Daily Maverick will do what we hope we do best — confront the fear, face forward. We, and an in-person audience of 1,500 of our readers, will get together for a full day on 14 March to talk 2024 SA elections — where we stand, why we stand where we are, and where we, as people of South Africa, should be. 

That’s right, The Gathering: Twenty Twenty-Four is upon us. 

From 8am – 6pm at The Cape Town International Convention Centre, on Thursday, 14 March 2024. Tickets from R75. Or join the virtual event free, wherever you are.

Some 14 years after our first The Gathering (that one was in the cosy space of Theatre on the Square in Sandton City), our premier conference has become the place for dialogue in the times where discussions are rare and fights are a norm. 

From left: Daily Maverick journalist Queenin Masuabi, Leader of Build One South Africa (BOSA) Mmusi Maimane, uMngeni Mayor Chris Pappas, author Songezo Zibi and Daily Maverick associate editor/author Ferial Haffajee at The Gathering in Cape Town, on 24 November 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Tackling fear with reason

Unlike Orson Welles’ fear as the ultimate weapon, we will bring reason to The Gathering in this modern age of fear. Because once you unpack and expose the nihilists and their purveyors of violence and aggression, one always finds cowards and corrupt ideologues. Behind every scary and threatening Wizard of Oz, there’s a little frightened creature hiding in the corner. 

And this is the time when we, citizens of South Africa and the world, need real, courageous, inspirational leaders to transcend negative emotions and present a better future that we can once more feel hopeful about. That is not easy to accomplish even in “normal” times, let alone in this age of random threats. But it will not happen unless brave and selfless people step up to the task.

In just over two weeks’ time, politicians of almost all ideological colours*, civil society leaders, scientists, entertainers, journalists, businesspeople and ordinary voters, old, young, rich and poor will share the main stage at Cape Town International Conference Centre to discuss the future that’s seemingly thundering towards us. 

(* Since we exposed the criminal corruption by their leaders, Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu in 2018/2019, the EFF has refused any and all contact with Daily Maverick — sometimes at the threat of violence.)

Hosted by our very own Rebecca Davis, the podium will be shared by (in no particular order, and this is not a full and final list):

  • Trevor Manuel,
  • Ronald Lamola,
  • Glynnis Breytenbach,
  • Michael Beaumont,
  • John Steenhuisen,
  • Herman Mashaba,
  • Gayton McKenzie,
  • Velenkosini Hlabisa,
  • Bill Browder,
  • Mbali Ntuli,
  • Maria Ressa
  • Anton du Plessis,
  • Mark Barnes,
  • Ann Bernstein,
  • Iraj Abedian,
  • Songezo Zibi,
  • Mmusi Maimane,
  • Roger Jardine,
  • Christopher Pappas,
  • Zackie Achmat,
  • Pregs Govender,
  • Thuli Madonsela,
  • Tendai Biti,
  • William Gumede,
  • Lindiwe Mazibuko,
  • Geordin Hill-Lewis,
  • Dr Rekgotsofetse Chikane

Discussion moderators will be the stars of the Daily Maverick universe, the people who will make sure no time is wasted, and that debate will never stray from what matters. 

South African activist and film director Zackie Achmat during wheels of justice, in solidarity with South Africa’s ICJ case for an end against genocide and Justice for the Palestinian people at Western Cape High Court on 11 January 2024 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images/ER Lombard)

From its earliest days, The Gathering was imagined as a special conference, where attendees can enjoy both the content — keynote speeches, panel discussions and presentations — and catch up with other very interesting people over coffee or lunch.

This is not our first The Gathering in days of overwhelming apprehension; on 6 March 2020, this massive event also had a feeling of being the last time we would be together for a while — and Covid-19 ensured that it was. And yet, we all bounced back and returned to the building of a better world as soon as the deadliest phase of the pandemic was over.

Similarly this time, four years on, danger is in the air again, and it is laced with this omnipresent fear of what is next. 

Make no mistake, we will confront the unknown again, face first. Because we must talk about our future, and no one other than us should decide its shape. History has shown us that democracy must be worked on, every day. We intend to give this task a fair shake on March 14 — and hope all of you will do it in your own way too.

Our hard fought democracy is exactly that — OURS. Don’t you ever forget.


More than two weeks before the event, tickets are in short supply already. If you had an intention to wait until the last day, please don’t — do it today to avoid disappointment. Book yours here. Should you miss the cut-off or are in a different set of GPS coordinates, don’t worry, you can always sign up to watch it online here.

See you at CTICC soon — it’s gonna be a good day for SA and our democracy, the way our founding heroes imagined it. DM


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