/ 7 January 2021

Virtual reality a relief this year

Anc Siyanqoba Rally At Ellis Park Stadium Photo Delwyn Verasamy
Second-wave politics politics: This year Cyril Ramaphosa and comrades will have to deliver their annual statement online — — better for public health and the public purse. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G


It’s day 287 of the Covid-19 national lockdown. Week two of life back under level 3 of the state of national disaster restrictions. 

When President Cyril Ramaphosa hit us with the “with immediate effect” and moved us back to level 3 just in time for the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief, given the behaviour of millions of our fellow South Africans during the first part of the jolly season. 

If anything, the head of state should have reined us in ahead of Christmas, rather than after it.  #Ratherstaypozi gave us the benefit of the doubt, which appears to have been the wrong move, given the 20 000 new cases that have been confirmed overnight. 

We’re still going to pay the full price for the truncated festive season in the months to come.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is preparing to postpone all the by-elections set for the next three months — a pretty clear indication that we’re going nowhere, come January 15, that another couple of months under level 3 are the best that we can hope for.

The first working week of 2021 is nearly done with. It’s been a crazed start to the year — no slow news week to warm up, gradually, after the two-week break. Mayhem on the borders. Beheadings in Taurus Road, Shallcross. A massive spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Oh, and what could be seen as an attempted coup in the United States.

If its opening stanza is anything to go by, 2021 is going to be a vile, evil bastard of a year. Worse even than 2020, if such a thing could have been imagined. 

After four days, a break is already desperately needed. 

Only the ANC’s January 8 statement, the governing party’s annual declaration of intent, stands in the way of a couple of days’ down time. This year’s statement is, fortunately, going to be delivered virtually by Ramaphosa wearing his party hat, rather than at the rally and subsequent shindig to which we have become accustomed since the ANC ceased to be a liberation movement and became the governing party.  

No mass rally. No awards for veterans. No bus loads of comrades. No DJs. No motorcades. No bikers to drive by. No Cubana after parties.

Just the president and a couple of the officials, live from Luthuli House, at 7pm on Friday night.

Perhaps Ramaphosa and the other comrades will have to sneak into Luthuli to deliver the January 8 statement, given that there are court orders, attaching the party’s property and outstanding staff salaries, to pay. 

Given the ANC’s finances, perhaps the comrades will have to sneak into Luthuli house to
deliver the speech

I lost track of the whole sorry mess during the holidays, but the party’s finances — or lack of them — could explain the late-night broadcast, especially if some of the bills have been paid and the lights are back on.

Perhaps they haven’t and January 8 will have to be delivered on the fly, underground, as it were, like back in the day, but different, using a generator borrowed from the fish and chip shop downstairs, diesel siphoned from the tank of ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s state vehicle.

Perhaps the comrades will use the back door, rather than the main entrance. Perhaps they’ll abseil on to the roof from a chopper, all camouflage overalls and black, green and gold bicycle helmets, daringly, evading the circling mashonisas, to deliver the January 8 and move.

Hit and run.

Perhaps they’ll brazen it out.

Perhaps the leadership will go in through the front door, hoping the sheriff won’t recognise Ramaphosa or Mantashe, what with all the masks and face shields. 

Perhaps Cyril and company will pose as rival debt collectors, sent by another angry creditor, to seize secretary general Ace Magashule’s photocopier and the empty cash boxes in treasurer Paul Mashatile’s office, and breeze past the heavies posted on the corner.

Doing January 8 off the screen, rather than from the middle of a stadium, surrounded by whatever masses the ANC could scrape up for the day to witness another display of smug, self-satisfied opulence, is another bit of a relief.

It’s not just a Covid-19 thing. 

This way, there’s no getting shoved around by action-starved ANC security cats, who’ve been waiting since this time last year to wield some power. No eight-hour shift in the sun. No haul to the middle of nowhere and back; no bad accommodation, worse stadium food; no failing cell-phone signal.

Whatever the motivation, the online option is certainly more suited to the ANC’s current budget, now that all eyes are on the national till and the party’s ability to raise funds is curtailed, somewhat, and may be the way to go in the future.