Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Polokwane on the map of history..

Its strange. I grew up in Pietersburg, and often, people ask where it is.. If you travel internationally, you say you're from South Africa, or Janu-be-Africa or in places like Egypt, simply say Bafana Bafana or Nelson Mandela and that kinda situates you. In South Africa, you get asked where Pietersburg is and you sorta waffle an explanation about the 'city' on the way to Beitbridge, and into Zimbabwe. From Johannesburg, onto the N1 Northbound. Easy driving, good concrete highway now patched with chewing gum tar where the wear and tear has raised its bruised craters, and roughly 380km in distance, a little over two hours gets you clean into the city centre. As if all of that didnt encourage geographic problems of explanations and make for more talk than the weather, Pietersburg, just over a year ago was renamed 'Polokwane'..
An eclectic mix of people from all over Africa and around the world, this little town with little known identity has this last few days become the topic of great conversation, amidst much anticipation, controversy and festivity as the host of the 52nd ANC Conference. And, as the place where the ANC leadership has just changed hands from an intelectual core to, well, Im not quite sure. That bit remains to be seen. Yesterday, in a sweeping victory, the Zuma camp of the deeply divided ANC cleared majority votes of roughly 2300-2400 against the Mbeki camps 1300-1500. The democracy of an apparent electorate easily equated to the cult of the mob. And Polokwane is the place where all of this is convened. And will be remembered for this historic moment. But alls not over yet. This, is in fact, just the beginning.

But what interested me both as a sociologist, and as person who knows Polokwane to be an unpretentious and simple city with just enough amenities to keep its residents sane, and that much of the old-school dorpie feel to it to keep it grounded and make it home.. is the ironic simple prominence of delegates, MP's and councillors walking around the city, in some cases relatively anonymous to the public on the pavements. I stopped by Savannah Centre about an hour ago, and took note at Mac Maharaj chatting with some old NEC members most casually and comfortably at one of the main shopping centre's popular coffee shops, Cafe Rossini. And all this time I had thought that they would remain carefully stowed away onboard the guarded Mother Ship constructed for the duration of the conference on the outskirts of Polokwane at UniL. I was glad to know how wrong Id been. Refreshing thought, to know that the bigwigs had ventured to get to know the little host city and engage in its mundane everyday experiences. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to think about.


yaseen said...

You know, enough has been said about the new ANC NEC, already, and I'm just quite keen to see how things develop from here. Not so much regarding ANC, but Government for the next year. Will we see a cabinet reshuffle?

Also, I thought it was quite a nice touch having the ANC conference in Polokwane, the only town, then Pietersburg, to vote NO in the referendum of 1992.....

protocolinpractice said...

Nice piece! You know, change is good, it creates a kind of energy.

The ANC is almost 100 years old and although there has been this big hoo-ha about Zuma/Mbeki, the organisation itself is pretty focussed. I have faith that everything will all come out ok. And JZ - well there is a while still until the next General Election, we'll have to see how the cards fall. On the positive side, he is a listener and a consulter which can only be good.

He also truly reaches the grass roots people who are most affected by violence and disease so I think he is more likely to be able to drive real change in crime and AIDS policies.

Anonymous said...

i agree with protocol about the energy! the rest is up to time and seeing whether the challenge to mend the rift in the ANC gets underway smoothly and successfully.


KimyaShafinaaz said...

hey all

@yaseen: what, no blog link? :P

about the '92 referendum.. interesting point u make there! i must say, tho.. that the climate in Polokwane has seen much change in the fifteen or so years since! while some are rather reluctant about these changes, they have been energetic and positive for the most part, as can be evidenced by the proceedings and mostly the setup at UniL for the conference, among other things.. influences, networks.. an ever-rising professional and intelectual black African core are some of the features.

true... change is good! lets hope that the energy thus generated has enough momentum to propel us ahead of the mudslinging contest into a future with much progress to look forward to.

What are the options? a mending of the ANC or a total split between the Zuma and Mbeki camps? Will we see a whole new party formation in the not-too-distant future?

diatribe said...

signs of the times - eish!

KimyaShafinaaz said...

i visited the local Clicks Pharmacy and chatting to the sales cashier about the conference, I learn this: he excitedly tells me that his hero, Zuma, is in Polokwane, and that he's going to 'try his level best to meet him'; when he does, his going to ask him for a better job. Cool. So the expectancies are being measured and verbalised by the many. The he says, you know.. Zuma understands things the African way. The white people dont understand rape. Rape is legal now. Its the African way. Appalled at his crass misreading of power and culture in general, I ask him if he has a mother, and sisters? Yes?.. And if any of them were accosted in the street or someplace and molested/raped? Before I can finish the shared thought, he says 'I will kill him!'. Ok. And a voice behind me, the security guard at the door, empahtically states, 'Zuma is not Gods man - a man of God would not say that rape is alright'. Perspective is such a strange thing isnt it? Sigh.