OFF-AIR ! Beyond the Mangaung Date-Line…

South Africa's Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.
South Africa’s Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.

Friday, 21 December.  Johannesburg South Africa.  The  much-anticipated African National Congress ( ANC)’ s 53rd National Executive Council’s  Elective Conference has come to an  end –  with South African President Jacob Zuma still retaining his seat as the conductor of both party and state, flanked by  multi-million rand business man and former scribe of the country’s constitution Cyril Ramaphosa as his right hand man.   And the World didn’t end.

The road (sic) Dateline to Mangaung was an uphill one, even I sometimes doubted that it will come and go without  even a slight  fever from my side.  The real drama happened before Mangaung and I guess by the time the conference got into full swing, people (delegates) were worn, down,out and were so tired that I imagine all secretely wished for it to be over and done with. I mean it was evident in my work place, from lift, to bathroom, canteen and studio.  People sighed, puffed and served with such reluctance I almost felt like a champion for having had the to wait for my breakfast this morning for almost 45 min this morning.  Everyone is tired.

Of course there (are) were those still high on  adrenalin or just pure natural energy who  were still  excited about the goings on of Mangaung,  and gave blow-by-blow accounts of the conference.  There were those who had no choice, whose job it is to inform. There were those working on “other stories” and had to be there to shake hands, make deals, sign contract, see people.

Even the news that the National Prosecution Authority “may have” found the location of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala,’s bodies  – was very low-key. Fred Bridgland  a veteran foreign correspondent who has spent more than three decades covering African affairs for, among others, Reuters discovered while following up on his book on the incidents around the Mandela United Football Club in the late 1980s, that the bodies of the youths had been found.  Bridgland  told a newspaper that the NPA had located the bodies of Sono and Shabalala, whose  disappearance and deaths were linked to the now  newly elected ANC- NEC, Member Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the  Mandela United Football Club.   Fred Bridgland says he got his information from Dorothy Sono, Lolo Sono’s step mother  who told him that the  The National Prosecuting Authority  (NPA) of South Africa  contact them to advise them  that  Lolo Sono’s  body had been found and that the  exhumation process will happen in the new year when the dust from Mangaung had settled. In response to newspaper headlines the  NPA released the following statement:

The investigations into this case are still ongoing and possible burial sites are still being examined on the basis of recently obtained information. No exact burial sites have yet been confirmed or excavated.

Once excavations and exhumations are planned in this case, the media will be notified and will be invited to attend, as it will be a public process.

The two youth’s disappeared 24 years ago, and their bodies have  up until now not been found.  Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the activities of the Mandela United Football club had their own special public  hearings  during the  country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission back in 1997.  The SABC recorded those hearings – this is a transcript of the recordings read by Johann Vollenhoven:

“Officially, it was called the hearing into the Mandela United Football Club. Unofficially, everyone referred to it as the Winnie hearing. For nine days between November and December 1997, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela faced a battery of journalists in Johannesburg at the Truth Commission’s special hearing. “She created her own vigilante gang” out of the Football Club, said one of her fellow top ANC members. But Madikizela-Mandela, one of the most potent symbols of apartheid resistance, appeared unfazed. Throughout the hearing, she was dressed elegantly, wearing her trademark sunglasses and flashy gold rings .  Witness after witness implicated Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in killings and assaults. Like Nicodemus Sono, who told the Truth Commission that he last saw his badly beaten son, Lolo, in her minibus “

Nicodemus Sono:

“…She raised up her voice. She was speaking very loud, you know: “I cannot leave him with you! He is a spy!” So I tried to plead with her. What she said to the driver, she said she [he] must pull off. So the driver engaged the gears and he pulled off. When I looked at Lolo, he was in a terrible state, he was shaking. I pleaded with her until she said to me: “I’m taking this dog away. The movement will see what to do.” The kombi turned left at the stop street and as it wanted to proceed, I asked Michael [Siyakamela] to please stop…” 

Though Madikizela Mandela refused to accept responsibility for the mysterious disappearance of the two youths the truth commission found that she was somehow involved:

The commission finds that Madikizela-Mandela was involved in Lolo Sono’s abduction and knew that he was kept on her premises,” its report said. “The commission finds, therefore, that Madikizela-Mandela must accept responsibility for the disappearance of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala.”

The real DRAMA though  happened ahead of Mangaung, and is in my opinion why so many people were too worn out and tired to pay much attention when the ruling party conference eventually got going.   First it was the Spear Painting in which artist Brett Murray depicted South African President Jacob Zuma in a pose reminiscent of  Lenin, with his genitals exposed. The painting triggered a defamation lawsuit by Zuma’s party, theAfrican National Congress (ANC), and was vandalized on 22 May 2012,  by two men one of them a security guard – destroying the “evidence” as it were. The spear was all everyone could talk about for a while in South Africa, from newsrooms, buses taxi’s and in madam’s kitchen bars or beds.  The country was divided along racial (sic) lines or more nuanced fault lines of what constitutes, art, culture, freedom of speech -expression, and respect for one’s elders, traditions etc.  President Jacob Zuma however had come out the victor in this battle as many Africans young and old agreed  that exposing a grown man’s genitalia regardless of what they have done is just – NOT ON.

Then as if out of the blue – the country watched as police opened fire on a group of striking mine workers in the North West,  in what was to become the Marikana Massacre. More than 34 Lonmin mine workers lost their lives on the 16 of  August.  The workers were demanding a 12-thousand-500 rand wage increase.   Then while the sound of bullets going off was still ringing in the public’s ears, the police arrested 280 striking mine workers on charges of murder – for killing their fellow workers, despite the video footage showing the police opening fire at the mine workers.  Then People started to pay attention but not for long.  Later Lonmin agreed to pay its workers their 12 thousand 500 wage demand. President Jacob Zuma lauched the Marikana Commission of Enquiry, set to continue next year, Standard and Poor and several other economic rating agencies downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating .  But by then Miners across the country had gone on strike, some demanding up to 16 thousands rands in wage increases,  even farm workers in the Western Cape’s wine lands  found the strength to say 50 rands a day is barely enough to live.

The strike actions were labelled illegal, wildcat,  and unreasonable. Workers were urged to go back to work or lose their jobs.  No negotiations. Government said it cannot speed up the process o increasing the minimum wage.  Soon after it emerged that President Jacob Zuma spent 247million adding/upgrading his private Nkandla Residence in KwaZulu Natal.  Newspapers reported:  ” A breakdown of spending on the Nkandla compound, which forms part of the public works department’s prestige portfolio, includes R23m for “emergency work”. Other payments include R121m to builders, R2.4m for bulletproof glass, R9.2m for a fence and a payment of R1.9m to a leading international elevator company. President Jacob Zuma – stood in parliament and said the  upgrades were part of “security upliftments” afforded to any presidential residency, and that he had built it in consultation with the Zuma family using the family’s funds.”

Ah well.  Then came the bulldozers  razing homes to the ground in Lenasia, a residential area/town South of Johannesburg.  What for? People asked and wondered.  Their  home had been built illegally on government land ear-market for low-cost housing. The home owners had obtained the stands illegally through the officials in government. The human rights commission – tried – but the government was not breaking the law – the homes, the owners built themselves because they didn’t qualify for free  RDP homes – were also illegal. They were destroyed. Two houses will be were one had been.Compensation. No refunds.

An air-force Army plane crashed on the mountains of the Drakensberg  on its way to Former President Nelson Mandela’s Qunu home for a routine medical check-up. All eleven people on board are killed.  Soon After 94-year-old Madiba is flown to a Private Hospital in Pretoria where he’s been receiving treatment for a recurrent lung infection and an operation for Gallstones.  He is still in hospital though his condition is said to be improving.   Somewhere in between all this  a  researcher from North West University has found that the internal organs of cattle kept in the area around the Wonderfontein Spruit have been contaminated with uranium and cobalt, the Afrikaans  Beeld Newpapwer reported on Tuesday.

David Hamman, in research conducted for his Masters thesis in environmental science, analysed the animals’ kidneys and found that uranium levels were 4,350 times higher than those in a control group.

In his study, titled “A Holistic View on the Impact of Gold and Uranium Mining on the Wonderfontein Spruit”, Hamman found that the cattle were eating grass that grew next to the river.

This proved that the heavy metals bio-accumulated in the grass, Hamman said.

Even then the story didn’t get much notice – everybody was looking forward to their holiday of well deserved Braais (barberque ) and parties, everybody knows  a plate of food is not complete without a piece of meat. No once can take the pleasure of a “Chisanyama” – Burnt Meat (braai/barberque meat) even though it may be infested with Uranium.

Then  Mnikeli Ndabambi from the South African Weather Service said we could not rule Climate Change as the cause of the countries erratic and expected weather patters, such as a tornado in middle of winter or a lack of summer in summer. But Climate Change didn’t make it as a hot top issue  on the ANC’s policy discussions in Mangaung.

You’re predictions are as good as mine when it comes to what the future holds for our beloved rainbow nation or the world.  The African Cup of Nations  will begin in the new year with the country’s Football association SAFA, just recovering from a match fixing scandal.  No matter… the rand has strengthened, the appointment of  business man Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have done the trick in providing  emergency first Aid to the country’s gaping raw wounds.

It’s been a tough year. In my humblest assessment of  things to come this is not the End as so many have  so far predicted, It’s only the beginning.

For now though I’m sure everyone from the country’s top six to the slaving masses of the country, are looking forward to a few days of time spent with family friends and loved ones, with some good food, music and laughter, mostly at the ludicrous events of the year.   Because  when all is said and done, that’s all that matters.

Home sweet home!

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