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Forced to sit through hours of slow plenary sessions in stifling heat, some comrades couldn't endure the torture, succumbing to the comfort of sleep.
The ANC's sleeping delegates
You may think us cruel for putting up photos of sleeping delegates. Or maybe you just thought it was funny. But for us it was an indictment of the ANC's poor treatment of their own people.
The some 4 500 delegates, who were gathered in the massive tent over five days, were an incredibly privileged bunch. Because of the quirks of our democracy, where one party holds enormous sway, these delegates were making decisions on behalf of 51-million other people. That's 0.008% of the population, in case you're wondering.
But instead the ANC leadership seemed to treat their delegates, who should have been alert and comfortable to make sense of the enormous amount of policy documents and leadership decisions before them, like cattle.
Accommodation in the host city of Mangaung was block-booked by opportunistic business people in the party, and rented out at inflated prices. The party stepped in and organised hostel accommodation for some delegates, but many spent their first two days at the conference sleeping in a bus with no access to a shower or a bed to stretch out. No wonder they were exhausted.
And as temperatures soared to upwards of 30 degrees in the Free State city, the heat in the cloistered white tent climbed far higher in the throng of thousands of bodies singing, dancing and fighting to stay awake.
Whoever organised the tent didn't bother accommodating for the additional heat all those people would generate. The heat was so unbearable some people passed out. I felt weak and struggled to concentrate. The situation never improved despite how clearly unbearable it was.
Elsewhere delegates waited in long queues, snaking out across the dusty paths outside the tent under the hot sun. On the first day Jacob Zuma's address was three hours late and people had to wait in the heat all that time. On some days delegates were expected to attend proceedings until the early hours of the morning - up to 5am - because of the tardy programme.
There was a sense that as long as the delegates did their job of singing and dancing on cue, all was fine. The ANC leadership are enormously confident in the enormous reserves of patience their people seem to have, subjecting them to conditions others wouldn't normally put up with.
We don't blame the delegates for falling asleep, we just mourn the callousness of a party that doesn't care for the basic comforts of its senior members.
See the full Mangaung special report here.
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