The ANC's renaming curse

David Bullard writes on how the ruling party punishes its heroes in the afterlife


One of the ANC’s more quirky traditions is to name places after the party’s former heroes and role models. This, of itself, is nothing unusual and we Brits have been doing it to great effect for centuries, particularly back in the days when we ruled the waves and all the pink bits on the Philips world atlas belonged to the British monarch.

Hell, we even named entire countries and provinces after our heroes or, more correctly, they named them after themselves. We Brits are not known for our humility. This is where the ANC place naming model parts company with the Brit model. They usually name things after dead people as a mark of respect. However it’s the things they name that causes me to label them quirky.

Whereas the Brit model was to arrive in a country, decide that the weather was pretty good, that the country offered unlimited commercial possibilities and then call it Rhodesia as a tribute to yourself the ANC model is to name a squalid informal settlement or a failing municipality with raw sewage running in the streets after former party stalwarts. The fortunate ones are those who have motorway off-ramps or intersections named after them. This, incidentally, is where the term ‘intersectionality’ probably comes from.

I don’t lose much sleep over the matter, but I do occasionally wonder whether the late Nelson Mandela would have been happy to have his name linked with the seemingly perpetual disaster area now known as Nelson Mandela Bay. Surely a fertile chunk of the Stellenbosch winelands would have been a more respectful tribute to the man who gently guided us towards what looked like a non-racial democracy way back then? Maybe the ANC naming committee didn’t see it that way and decided to punish Madiba for being a ‘sellout’ by giving him a windy chunk of coast-line with lots of squabbling politicians, a generous dose of corruption and a perpetual water problem.

While many of the ANC municipalities and informal settlement’s names are familiar to the majority of South Africans I did have to run a quick Google check on the late Enoch Mgijima whose municipality made the news last week.

Briefly, in a pre municipal election vote boosting exercise, the ANC summoned the party faithful from Lesseyton near Komani (formerly known as Queenstown) in the Eastern Cape to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the handover of their brand new sports stadium. This was obviously to disprove all those imperialist naysayers who suggest that the ANC is a corrupt party of non-deliverers. As pictures on social media and news reports showed the term ‘sports stadium’ might be regarded as a rather overblown term in this instance.

To quote a media statement which appeared on the website ‘Polity’:

“The so-called stadium is little more than scaffolding, the field is dry and hard, and the rugby poles have collapsed. The changing-room facilities also have no running water and, therefore, cannot be used.

This Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) project, which was initially tagged at R22,7 million, was then slashed to R15 million. The DA approached professionals in the building, steelworks and landscaping fields who weighed in on the cost of the existing structure

According to them a very generous estimate of work done and existing structures, considering the substandard materials which were used, is R4,85 million. If blasting is included (the video evidence does not clearly indicate where the blasting took place as no pre-existing buildings surrounding the site are seen in the video) and an allowance for bad weather delays is built in, the absolute maximum this contract should have cost is between R6 and R6,5 million”.

So it would appear that there may have been yet more financial chicanery on the part of the ANC but nobody should be in the least bit surprised at that. It is, after all, about the only thing the ANC is known for alongside poor service delivery of course. The residents of Lesseyton (Population around 3000) must just suck it up and trust the ANC to build back better after November 1st. Who knows, there could be a t-shirt or a Big Mac in it for voters if they do?

On the other hand, maybe the ANC loyalists in Lesseyton who have been denied the privilege of having their own sports stadium will have other plans when it comes to casting their vote. According to an article on Daily Maverick there has been no running water in Lesseyton for fifteen years. Residents either have to walk three kilometres to get water from the river or hire a bakkie at R500 to collect potable water. Plus the ANC also splurged R4 million on a taxi rank which can’t be used because it’s too small. Not that I imagine there is too much traffic in and out of Lesseyton over the poorly maintained roads.

One can’t blame the late Enoch Mgijima for the current non delivery woes of the municipality named after him (he died in 1928) but his life story does give some clue as to what might come to pass. Born in 1868 he became a Christian Xhosa prophet and evangelist who later formed his own breakaway church known as the ‘Israelites’; 163 of whom died, 129 were wounded and 95 taken prisoner in a land dispute that became known as the ‘Bulhoek’ massacre (1921).

He had his first vision in 1907 in which an angel appeared and told him that God had chosen him to help his people get their worshipping practices more in line with what is pleasing to a deity. When he saw Halley’s Comet in 1910 he became convinced the vision was genuine and that God was getting pretty fed up with the lax ways of mankind and it was up to Enoch to help them buck up their ideas.

Flush with his success and the ever growing number of followers Enoch decided to go in for a bit of soothsaying and predicted that the world would end before Christmas 1912 and that would be followed by thirty days of rain. As a result all his followers stopped their agricultural activities on the sensible premise that there wouldn’t be much point in planting anything to harvest if the world was going to end.

One of his sharper followers asked how they would know it was raining if the world had ended which rather flummoxed Enoch. Needless to say the world didn’t end by Christmas 1912 making this one of the first examples of non delivery by a community leader in the Eastern Cape. Neither did it rain for thirty days so nothing new there.

A battered and bruised Enoch went off to sulk and have a lot more visions and when he was told by his fellow evangelists to lighten up on the visions he refused and was ex-communicated from the Church of God and Saints of Christ which is when he formed his ‘Israelite’ movement. Despite his hectic schedule of talking to angels and running a ‘prophetable’ enterprise Enoch also managed to father seven children who survived him. It’s a pity about the sports stadium though. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___


Now that South Africa has been removed from the UK’s COVID ‘red list’ can we expect to see hordes of pasty-faced poms arriving for the summer season? Let’s hope so but that rather depends on the availability and cost of flights and all the attendant and expensive COVID testing nonsense that goes with it. Not so long ago you could get a return flight to Morocco from Gatwick on one of the budget airlines for around £40. Now it costs you considerably more than that just to get a PCR test and you still have to pay for the flight.

However, a looming food shortage in the UK thanks to supply chain problems caused by not enough truck drivers, existing fuel shortages which have led to kilometre long queues for petrol, idiots from Insulate Britain blocking the M25 and adding five hours to a two hour trip, the possibility of a very cold winter thanks to a shortage of gas supplies and the possibility of the country having to conserve energy by returning to a three day working week makes an indefinite stay in sunny South Africa look very tempting; particularly as the ANC has made the rand so cheap to buy.

Add to this the cheerful news from Dr Jenny Harries (the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency) who warned through the UK media last weekend of the possibility of a new COVID variant and the certainty that if you get both COVID and one of the many strains of flu that are going to be around as the UK slides into winter then you are twice as likely to die.

Given that scenario, a few weeks holiday in the winelands with a mask free walk on an immaculately clean Strand beach in the early morning, several great golf courses to choose from and fine dining at little more than the cost of a pub lunch in London and it’s a no-brainer. And our politicians are much, much funnier than theirs.