The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four delivers a heady mix of SA impressions and realisations

The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four delivers a heady mix of SA impressions and realisations
Illustrative image: Mmusi Maimane, Mbali Ntuli, Zackie Achmat, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Songezo Zibi at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

I know most people will probably vote for the devils they know, but I think Zackie Achmat, Songezo Zibi and Mmusi Maimane deserve a seat at South Africa’s 2024 elections table. Listening to the ideas they have put forward for improving our country makes me believe they will elevate the level of debate.

Dear DM168 reader,

Outside my hotel window, the sun is kissing Lion’s Head, adding a golden glow to the flat top of Table Mountain. I have been here in Cape Town for the past two days to attend Daily Maverick’s The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gathering 2024

Waking up to this majestic view is a calming respite from the raucous reality of the roller coaster ride we are in for in the run-up to the 29 May election. The final debate at The Gathering brought this reality home as we watched a combined WWE Smackdown and Jerry Springer moer-mekaar-break-up-make-up fest.

My colleague Stephen Grootes clearly pressed the testosterone button of the all-male leadership panel. ActionSA’s Herman Mashaba and the DA’s John Steenhuisen were going at each other so much that they drove the more emotionally intelligent leader of the IFP, Velenkosini Hlabisa, to calmly assure the audience that the members of the Multi-Party Charter (MPC) are indeed singing from the same “get the ANC out of government” hymn sheet.

Admittedly, the bar was set very low, but the ANC’s Ronald Lamola handled himself with dignity and amusement at the MPC bickering despite having the entire audience pitted against him for the governing party’s role in South Africa’s 30-year descent into the depressing doldrums of 2024.

Gayton McKenzie of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), however, is a manifestation of toxic masculinity on steroid overdrive, even surpassing Steenhuisen, who, we must recall, thought it amusing to refer to his ex-wife and mother of his children as “roadkill” during a podcast.

McKenzie’s communication range pretty much boils down to gangsta rap. Shout, shoot and obliterate. He said he would bomb Lesotho if a terrorist organisation from there kidnapped and murdered South Africans. This was when Grootes asked whether he considered Israel’s continuing bombardment of Gaza to be genocide. And he also wants to bring back the dompas so he can weed out foreigners. As host Rebecca Davis noted, any voter who sees the PA as the answer to our country’s problems needs a frontal lobotomy.

That was the gutter. Here is the hope. There was an earlier panel, hosted by Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee and Nonkululeko Njilo, which featured newcomers Zackie Achmat, the activist who is standing as an independent, and Songezo Zibi, the leader of Rise Mzansi, as well as Mmusi Maimane, who leads Build One South Africa.

I know most people will probably vote for the devils they know, but I think these three deserve a seat at the table. Listening to the ideas they have for improving our country and their understanding of the work they need to do to participate fully and effect constructive change as members of Parliament make me believe they will elevate the level of debate.

Lindiwe Mazibuko and Mbali Ntuli – two young women who both left the DA – were impressive in their call for all of us to stop handing our power to politicians. Their call for us to participate in city Integrated Development Planning processes, ward committees and community policing forums is one we should all heed. As they said, we need to do more for democracy than voting once every five years.

The most sobering realisation about the upcoming elections is that there are no saviours in any political party who are going to lead us out of the current quagmire. And that is a relief. Ntuli, Mazibuko, Zibi, Achmat and Maimane are right. It is up to each of us to vote and to be active citizens wherever we live. Because we can never leave our fate in the hands of rabble-rousing, power-hungry, venal politicians.

The hope, dear readers, lies in us. As I leave the majestic mountains of the Mother City to fly back home to our administrative capital, here’s some poetic inspiration from Ben Okri’s An African Elegy:

“We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.”

Please hold these words in your hearts as I do. We need to see the light within us to work our way out of the darkness.

Our lead story is about the shaky state of the coalitions vying to remove the ANC, and how certain parties doubt the Electoral Commission’s ability to ensure free and fair elections. Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]

Yours in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Susan Goldstein says:

    Why do you consistently hold the gathering in CT? Many more of us live in Gauteng.

    • Jennifer D says:

      Maybe because Cape Town still has infrastructure and people enjoy coming here?

    • Jennifer D says:

      This is clearly an opinion piece and not unbiased reporting. The DM clearly does not support the DA and would love to locate a functional non-white party to support. So would we all – quite honestly no rational person cares whether the government is black, white or anything else, as long as they provide reasonable, ethical rule.
      Anyone who thinks a small % of tax payers can support the majority of people is just stupid. Sadly it seems that a large number of S Africans believe that they are somehow owed a living, free healthcare, free housing, free water and lights. When they do get a job, it is in title only – the function is not actually performed. They don’t do the sums, can’t see the consequences even when they are happening right in front of them – no electricity, no water, no roads, no law and order, degradation all around them. Who cares?
      It is desperate times for SA. Let us please just find a bunch of people who can set a plan for SA, set us on a path and somehow get people to start actually working.

      • District Six says:

        It’s titled, “Letter From the DM168 Editor.” I guess you didn’t read for understanding.
        So tell us, what exactly are this “small % of tax payers,” you glibly refer to, since VAT accounts for approximately 25% of tax revenue?

        • PJ T says:

          Just remember that those who benefit the most from Zero rated VAT items are the poor, and that the more affluent one happens to be the greater proportion of VAT one pays

    • Geoff Coles says:

      Guaranteed running water etc?

    • Hilary Morris says:

      Amongst other reasons, perhaps because we have (more) electricity, water, pothole-free streets, and just about the best of anything else you care to mention?

  • Denise Smit says:

    And you continue to hammer the DA and specifically Steenhuizen, ignore the impressive inputs from the Young DA mayors at your gathering and continue to promote Rise Manzi in spite of his unimpressive solution to SA problems. The first thing he would do is give food. At what level do you function, I ask myself

  • Just Me says:

    The DA is more consequential than the faces in the image (combined).

  • Just Me says:

    The author, Heather, seems to hold some or other grudge (completely unnecessarily) towards the DA. Our The amnesia about the legacy of the PFP’s/DA’s opposition to dictatorial and kleptocracy in SA is telling. For the Electoral Commission’s ability to ensure free and fair elections it would help if journalists are more free and fair themselves.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      The number of ‘omgekrapte’ DA supporters is quite revealing … a little like the Zionists who protesteth so much .. now that their genocidal intent has been laid bare ? Maybe not a good comparison ! On the other hand .. probably the same thing ?

      • Michele Rivarola says:

        And you would do what? Support the current government who is doing such a stellar job? Apart from Mchunu who has in fact decided that action is better than words show me one minister who can in fact lay claim to a score above 50%.

      • drew barrimore says:

        All it reveals is people sick and tired of kleptocracy. Somehow you make a leap to genocide? I suppose IQ in a post-truth world is irrelevant.

  • ST ST says:

    Look at the calibre of leaders we have and the conversations we are able to have! No gun, knife, or insult needed. Thank you DM for creating this space. So many minds are in the state of capture by the wrong kind of voices. Freeing SA minds is a noble course!

  • Peter Holmes says:

    I’m a bit slow. Only now do I realise why my negative comment regarding The Gathering didn’t make it past the DM censors – it was a DM event!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Others (like me) also face a similar situation … its simply the ‘system’ of approval that is at ‘work’ or to blame ! So ‘blaming’ it on DM is a bit far fetched … a sample of just how ‘slow’ you really are !

  • JAJ Stewart says:

    This ‘no alternative’ narrative is exasperating. New ideas are fun, inspirational and critical lo ling term success – but they are just that; ideas. Our country needs action and results. And the only party offering any modicum of results is the DA run Western Cape (warts and all). Another 4 years of yammering politicians while the national rot persists is not a solution.

  • Jabu Mhlanga says:

    This country requires a new breed politicians who promote and uphold the highest possible standards in public life. Ntuli, Mazibuko, Zibi, Achmat and Maimane are precisely what we need.

  • André Pelser says:

    This type of gathering reminds me of Davos, where “leaders” talk about current concerns for the benefit of the media and a minority that take the trouble to follow the event, and long term solutions. Very few of those that spoke on the podium at the gathering make a practical difference to the lives of citizens. Instead of “leaders” peddling hope and visions for a better future, we need citizens like the farmer in Prieska that took the lead in establishing a medical centre, or the farmers in Bonnievale that built a school for the community. An encouraging political climate is important for an enabling environment that fosters development on all fronts, but Lindiwe put her finger on the key to a better future – citizen involvement at the ground level; public participation in the IDP process at local government level, in ward committees, in community police fora, following council agendas and meetings, calling councillors to account.
    This is where real change starts.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    Oh dear lord, are you guys still going on about Steenhuisens horrible joke as the epitome of toxic masculinity? Priorities?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Do you remember the one about “grabbing women by the *ussy” … which still haunts the character today … though in some quarters it is seen as an accomplishment ? !

      • Karl Sittlinger says:

        That Trump and in no way comparable to Steenhuisens bad joke. That he said something mean jokingly but distasteful about his ex wife is nothing out of the ordinary. Very dishonest and disingenuous trying to directly compare this.

  • Bee Man says:

    So Heather, what has a comment or joke about an ex wife by John Steenhuizen a number of years ago really got to do with the 24 elections. You also dump him into the same category and paragraph as the uncouth Gayton, which only a very biased reporter would do…
    Thats actually when i stopped reading this article.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Everything ! … it reflects on the ‘character’ (remember MLKs take on the ‘content of your character’?) of an individual.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    I like the quip about “needs a frontal lobotomy” ! BUT what about a visit to a proctologist … to check on why they release so much BS ?

  • Dani Werner says:

    I was sitting front and centre at the event, and I agree with your assessment of the candidates. The final panel of the “big 5” alternatives was…disappointing. A bunch of macho men trying to out-manoevre each other and quite frankly scaring me at times. Meanwhile, the New Blood panel was inspiring, with much more mature behaviour. I left the event planning to look deeper into Build One South Africa in particular, as less than an hour is not enough to get a real sense of a party’s plans.

    Thank you, DM, for putting on this event. It was thought-provoking, entertaining at times, inspiring at others, and I left even more committed to supporting DM.

    Now how do we get Ntuli as president???

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