Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Of Cubans and other Amigos


It’s day 405 of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m a little baffled by the South African Football Association (Safa) choice of Hugo Broos as Bafana Bafana coach. 

Not because AmaZulu FC’s Benni McCarthy would likely do a better job than a pretty much unknown 69-year-old from Belgium who sounds more like a parfumier than a football coach, but because I’d expected our football powers-that-be to follow the line of march of their political bosses and appoint a Cuban to the job.

After all, we have Cuban doctors fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and Cuban water engineers to sort out our water crisis, even if they aren’t qualified to work in the Republic. So why not a Cuban football coach? 

The fact that footie — like running water — isn’t much of a thing in Cuba shouldn’t worry Safa too much. 

These cats coughed up millions to employ Carlos Alberto Parreira as Bafana coach and got Joel Santana instead, so why not a Little League baseball coach from Santiago de Cuba to teach us how to qualify for competitive football tournaments again?

Perhaps Jordaan and Associates (Pty) Ltd will change their minds.

They’ve done it before.

Drop Broos and give former Cuban president Raúl Castro a shout, now that he’s at a loose end.

Perhaps the ANC will take their policy of contributing to job creation in Cuba to its logical conclusion and import Cubans to run South Africa, instead of themselves.

Comrade Raúl would make a great stand-in for suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, given that Comrade Five Years has been locked out of Luthuli House until the end of his corruption case.  

At 89, Comrade Raúl is a mere spring chicken in ANC terms and — as former secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba — a perfect candidate to keep an eye on the shop until Five Years gets back.

Unless Five Years gets convicted of corruption, swaps the London Fog for an orange overall and changes his name to Comrade Fifteen Years and Raúl gets to stick around for the duration.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

I was watching ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu’s testimony at the Zondo commission about his time as party treasurer and how the ANC’s money in the province works when word came of Ace’s suspension.

Mabuyakhulu was trying to explain to Zondo what happened to the millions the ANC got from the so-called “Amigos” trial accused. Mabuyakhulu got arrested over the deal, but beat the rap when the case was withdrawn. He is currently out on bail over payment for a jazz festival that never happened when he was KwaZulu-Natal economic development MEC and has stood down as ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chair.

“Ndiyema” (Mike’s clan name)  says he’s innocent, the victim of a stitch-up.

Mabuyakhulu comes from a family of trade unionists. He was a regional secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa for what was then Northern Natal. His brother Vincent was one of the founders of the South African Democratic Teachers Union. 

I worked with his other brother, John, and with Mabuyakhulu himself, in the ANC/Cosatu/SACP joint working committee (JWC) in the early 1990s and in the 1994 ANC election campaign.

Then one day we got word that the Amasinyora, an Inkatha-aligned gang that had been murdering activists at KwaMashu, were on their way to the offices to attack the leadership. We had been exposing them, jamming them up, and they wanted payback.

The provincial police management had offices a couple of floors above the JWC in what was then Metal Industries House.

That meant nothing.

The cops were in cahoots with the Amasinyora, arming them and using them to take out activists, so we knew we were going to have to run, or fight.

Mabuyakhulu happened to be the leader who was in the building that day. He took cover in a locked office on the sixth floor along with a bodyguard and “Toes” Persad, the JWC development coordinator. 

The rest of us hit the pavement, armed with whatever weapons we could find in the filing cabinet. The Chief, the then ANC chief marshall, had stored an array of okapis, sharpened screwdrivers and diving knives there after she confiscated them from the comrades at a rally the weekend before.

From what I can recall  — I was off my face most of the time those days so my memory has its limitations — I had a small hatchet with a blue leather handle in my terrified, sweaty hand as we waited on the pavement for the inevitable.

Thankfully, the attack never materialised. 

The leadership safe, we headed back upstairs. 

Stowed the weapons in the filing cabinet.

Hit the bottle store for something to stop the shaking. 

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Basic web lessons for South Africa: Government hacks point to...

Recent cyberattacks at the department of justice and the space agency highlight the extent of our naïveté

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

More top stories

Sisters pave the way with ecobricks

The durable bricks are made from 30% recycled plastic, some of which they collect from a network of 50 waste pickers

If the inflation-driving supply strain in the US lasts, it...

In South Africa, a strong trade surplus, buoyed by robust commodity prices, will cushion our economy against pressure arising from US policy

Farmers squeezed by big retailers

It may be beneficial for consumers when supermarkets push to get the lowest price from suppliers, but it can harm the farmers

Covid-19: No vaccine booster shots needed yet

Scientists agree it is important to get most of the population vaccinated before giving booster jabs

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…