Supra’s doing a Daddy on us

Monday. It’s a perfect Durban autumn afternoon. The sun’s touch is gentle but it’s more than warm enough to hit the water.

I can smell the ocean from where I’m standing outside the Coastlands conference centre at the bottom end of Pixley ka Seme Street. It’s a city block away from the sand. There’s a pair of baggies in my laptop bag. The northern beaches are closed for sand pumping for the next month as the city tries to rebuild them. The southern beaches, so tantalisingly close that I can almost taste the salt water, are still open, calling my name.

I might as well be in Mahikeng. I have as much chance of getting into the water today as I would if I was hanging outside Supra Mahumapelo’s mansion, waiting for the Jesus of North West to throw in the towel.

Supra needs to take a page of out Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger’s book and resign. Do the right thing. Leave, before he gets fired. But, like former president Jacob Zuma, Supra won’t. Supra will do a Daddy and hang in there until he’s booted out, regardless of the damage it causes to the ANC. And the country. Supra, like his comrades here in KwaZulu-Natal, is, it appears, still lead.

It’s a short week, courtesy of the Freedom Day holiday on Friday. The early print date means a four-day weekend. The day less for writing means no oceanic frolics until the send button is hit for the last time for the week.

There’s a blue cordon around Coastlands. The street has been cut in half by double-parked official vehicles. Metro police, uniformed South African Police Service members, a platoon of public-order cops and a legion of bodyguards cover the pavement outside. There’s a task force contingent sitting in an idling minibus bristling with automatic weapons at the intersection of Pixley Ka Seme and Gillespie streets.

The crack dealers who work the corner have moved southwards, closer to China Mall and Addington Hospital. They have moved far enough away to be able to carry on with business without getting nailed by the cops for disrespect. They’re still in sight of prospective customers desperate enough to want to score with so much heat on the corner.

The small army of cops outside Coastlands is there to protect the lahnees inside, not clean up the streets. The last thing they want is to have to lock up a crack dealer for doing business under their noses. The runners on the corner know that. The cops know they know that. So the dealers move business half a block southwards, closer to the Point police station and everybody’s happy. Business as usual. Life goes on.

Inside Coastlands, Supra’s twin from the Free State, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, is seated at a table at the head of the second-floor conference room. The room’s clearly just been vacated by the comrades who had come from the ANC regions to meet the national working committee. The comrades appear to have left in a hurry. There are half-eaten plums and apple cores stuffed into glasses. Dishes full of peppermint wrappers. Empty water jars.

Ace is seated between KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial interim committee convener Mike Mabuyakhulu and committee co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala.

Mike and Sihle don’t look too overly enthusiastic about being where they are. Ace doesn’t look too pleased either. Then again, Ace has the kind of face that doesn’t look happy, even when he’s in a good mood — so he doesn’t look happy, even when he is. Ace doesn’t smile, Ace grimaces, like he’s eaten a lemon. Perhaps it’s the burden of leadership.

It’s boiling hot. Ace is sweating. Somebody turned off the air conditioner before we started the presser and it’s now unbearable. Perhaps it’s a strategy to discourage a long question session. Why else would it have been turned off? One never knows.

Ace’s delivery is curt as he grates his way through his statement. The national working committee meeting with the regions has gone swimmingly. The comrades are ready to go to regional and provincial conferences. Unity is being built.

Ace makes no mention of the chaos outside the Pietermaritzburg venue where he met the Moses Mabhida leadership the previous day.

Question time opens. Briefly. What about the Maritzburg incident? The hostile reception President Cyril Ramaphosa got from the eThe-kwini region at the Olive Convention Centre? Supra?

Ace’s answers are sparing, like he’s saving his words for when he gets home. The provincial and regional conferences will happen. Perhaps they’ll happen this year. Perhaps not. The provincial interim committee has become a provincial task team.

A question gets directed at Mike. Zizi Kodwa, standing in for ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, closes things down. Ace speaks for everybody here. We’re done.

The ANC top brass left as we were ushered in, so the blue phalanx is gone. As if it had never been there. Only a roll of discarded crime-scene tape, used to keep the public off the pavement, remains as evidence of their visit.

Traffic is flowing normally. On the corner of Pixley ka Seme and Gillespie, the task team minibus is nowhere to be seen. The runners have returned to their patch. Business is back in full swing, the temporary inconvenience gone.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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