There is a lot of meat in Mangaung. The comrades will go through seven-and-a-half tonnes of dead cow over the next few days.
The Flatulent Forces of Change call us 100-percenters “voting cattle” and then, of course, there is the bedroom beef that is apparently being delivered to the swish guest houses of the ANC’s high and mighty.
I cannot reliably confirm the last, as I live about as close to the leadership as deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe is to unseating Jacob Zuma from the president’s seat in Luthuli House.
But I did notice a nubile with just a JZ kanga wrapped around her emerge from the shadows of one of these monolithic buildings at the University of the Free State at 3am arm-in-arm with a suited delegate. They clinched under the glow of the streetlights – for a moment it was beautiful – before heading off in opposite directions.
Romance dies so easily. Especially in Mangaung. Or, as the locals still insist, Bloemfontein. “It will always be Bloemfontein to us,” a young student confided early one morning in an Asian-fusion restaurant that appeared to specialise in charred steaks. The other students – none older than 25 – nodded sagely. They appeared as keen on change as the 100-percenters are, but that is where the similarity stops.
Apparently nobody is doing the midnight Mangaung Macarena because of the “heavy police presence on the roads”.
To me, it seems the locals are not just concerned about the darkies in government, but the fact that the darkies in government are running riot right here. The laagers have gone up, with Mangaung’s students, farmers and tractor mechanics not venturing far from their home-made brandy and cokes. Even the infamous Second Street, where Cubana – a favoured choice of power-broker delegates which is charging R200 a head to get in and get ahead, or some head – is dead, despite the legendary Mystic Boer just around the corner.
These mystic boers. Heard they wanted to celebrate iMpi yase-Ncome, or what they call Die Slag van Bloedrivier (The Battle of Blood River) on December 16 by setting off some fireworks at the conference. Not sure why the police had to step in and arrest them. I like bright colourful things – like yellow ANC T-shirts. That is why I joined.
There are, evidently, untransformed pockets in the Free State. Like I said, romance dies in Mangaung.
The last time I was here, Bafana Bafana were one-nil up at half-time against a 10-man France in their final group stage match of the 2010 World Cup. The three-nil win we needed to qualify for the knockout seemed an achievable dream. We won 2-1, but the dream died that day.
Romance dies in Mangaung, especially with news that members of the South African Football Association executive have been suspended for alleged match-fixing in the build-up to the World Cup.
Does that mean all that excitement and the gees before and during the World Cup was just a lie, as fixed up as this ANC election is going to be with the Flatulent Forces of Change seemingly unable to break any wind of change?
It seems Motlanthe’s romantic notion of desisting from attaching himself to any faction and slate is going to die like Bafana’s World Cup dream here.
It is unsurprising. While the Jacob Zuma strategists have been concentrating on mobilising their voting cattle and the tangapreneurs have been primping their flesh for the high-powered, the Flatulent Forces of Change’s focus appears to be everywhere but here.
Take Sis Thandi Modise. She is challenging the ANC’s incumbent, Baleka Mbete, for the position of national chairperson and instead of corralling her cows in Mangaung, she appears more interested in other kraals in the North West where she is premier.
Her office sent out a media release this morning congratulating police for “the recovery of 30 head of cattle stolen from Verdwaal village near Itsoseng” which she found “encouraging”. It would be more encouraging if you were counting your cattle closer to Mangaung, Sis Thandi. But, what do I care, I eat romance for breakfast with my well-done steak.
Nkosi Luthuli is a Maskandi artist from KwaZulu-Natal, a branch delegate and the Mail & Guardian's undercover diarist at the conference.