Opinionista Branko Brkic 29 October 2012

A Gathering like no other

So here we are, less than three weeks before our next attempt to bring our brand, our world view and our raison d'etre to the world of conferences. Make no mistake: just as the Daily Maverick is not just any online publication, so The Gathering will not be just another conference.

We at the Daily Maverick are a somewhat strange bunch. Apart from being hard workers, fanatical about what we do and pretty much living for the next story, we also have the ability to think small surgically removed from our brains.

So, when we wondered in 2010 – at that stage not even a one year-old website – if we could stage a conference that would leave attendees glued to their seats and asking for more when the day ended, we said: why not?

And you should have seen it: the overflowing Theatre on the Square, the speakers that actually had something to say and the audience that actually understood and had something more to ask. At one moment in the sweltering day, as Zwelinzima Vavi and Gwede Mantashe verbalised their differences, the tension in the room become palpable, the air full of electricity. It felt as though if someone were to light a match, the whole theatre would go up in flames. That’s how meaningful The Gathering 1.0 was.

That was the word that was crucial to us as we set on the path to The Gathering 2.0. Meaningful. The country is in a terrible shape; just listing all the troubles we’re facing right now would clog the rest of this column. The last thing we, or South Africa, need is another well-sponsored extravaganza of middle-aged people telling us in their own respective ways how we should feel good about ourselves. And, of course, that we will be insanely rich, just as soon as we start the feel-good mantra.

Perhaps you have gathered this already, but let me spell it out: the Dr DeMartinis of the world will never grace Daily Maverick gatherings with their illuminating presence. Life is short and we don’t want to waste it. We also don’t want to insult your intelligence.

Instead, we will bring the people who actually have something to say. The people who will broaden our horizons, make us think, make us understand. We may not always agree with them, the way we don’t always agree with our opinionistas. Still, as South Africa is hurtling towards the abyss, we need to start truly listening, especially if the ones who talk can make decisions that will materially affect the country’s, and our personal, future.

And The Gathering 2.0 speakers will indeed have something to say. Zwelinzima Vavi, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Mazibuko, Jay Naidoo, Mark Heywood, Clem Sunter, Wayne Duvenhage, Alan Knott-Craig jnr, Yvonne Johnston, Greg Marinovich, Ivo Vegter. All of them are household names, all of them are on top of their game, all of them are much more than just spectators in the show that is called South African Reality. There will be three more guests whose identities we will keep unknown until the very event – and you will understand why as they walk up the stage. Let’s just say they will round up the voices, even as some of them are currently voiceless.

On 23 November, the Victory Theatre will be a place for meaning and truth. Try joining us. (More info here)

And yes, we can’t wait either. DM



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