Fevered dreams as the ANC national conference looms

Wednesday. The air’s cool from the rain outside. I’m bathed in sweat. I’m bolt upright in bed. Trembling.

The image that drove me from my sleep was terrifying. ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, screaming that bastardised version of Harry Gwala of the Midlands, with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s name swapped for the old man’s.

In the dream I was back at Clermont’s Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday. Dlamini had breezed past with her entourage, just like she did then, on her way to the VIP stage. But instead of returning my greeting, she burst into song, while her head shot forward on a telescopic neck.

I understand what’s wrong with me. With three days to go till the ANC national conference, I’m already in the zone. The dreams will continue throughout conference. I had the same problem at Polokwane. And Mangaung. At least it wasn’t Gwede Mantashe offering me dick pics that tore me from my slumber.

The past couple of days have been a mad frenzy. Year-end report cards, bill paying and Christmas-present buying. It all needs to be squared away ahead of Nasrec. I haven’t slept much, which is probably good training for the week ahead.


Conference starts late and ends late under normal circumstances. I anticipate a small war over credentials, and over voting procedures, so there’s going to be a lot of waiting. And listening to cats who haven’t read any of conference documents asking four-minute questions.

I don’t envy the photographers. Sheer insanity during the plenary sessions, fighting like a pack of mad dogs over a scrap of flesh for the same image. Then hours of inactivity.

I’m ready for conference. A week ago I wasn’t. The idea of a week sweating my ass off at Nasrec rather than chilling at the beach still rankled. Five million Oliver Tambo memorial events had got to me. Too much factionalism in the name of unity. Too many court cases and press briefings. Too many rallies. Too many dead bodies. All I wanted was for one of the provincial factions to go to court and interdict conference. Put it on hold till next year.

I’m ready for conference. Not in a Dlamini-Zuma way. More of an, it’s too late now, thing. It’s that moment when you’ve taken the drop on a wave and you can’t pull out. Or that frozen instant before a car crash. You can see the collision happening but you can’t stop it.

An ANC conference is a strange beast. At least the last two have been. The earlier conferences lacked the ferocity that marked the ANC elective meetings under Jacob Zuma’s presidency. Before that, there wasn’t that sense of do or die that has marked the Decade of Daddy. I fear this conference will be even more ferocious. I hope not.

There’s lots of contradictions at conference. Socialist rhetoric from cats who have their lunch in the VVIP business section. Other comrades stand in queues for canteen food. Buses and Bentleys.

The contradictions don’t end there. A century old organisation that lives and dies by “unity” splits into factions. Fights a life and death battle while singing songs about the cats whose legacy they’re trampling all over. One faction wins. Banishes the other. The singing’s great, though.

The two factions up against each other at Nasrec are factions of the faction that won at Mangaung. Which were factions of the faction that banished Thabo Mbeki’s faction at Polokwane.

I’m not impressed. Neither CR17 nor NDZ has shown any intention to announce the legalisation of cannabis, or to recall Daddy, so there’s not much in it for me either way.

The mobile goes. It’s a WhatsApp from Edward Zuma, Daddy’s son. Eddie wants the comrades to reject electronic voting at Nasrec because certain people are planning to steal the conference. I roll out of bed and head for the shower.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
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