Twenty seven disastrous years later ...

David Bullard reflects on the ANC's crushing of the hope and optimism of 27 April 1994


”Let us not abandon hope that we can become the country our forebears fought for.
Let us not give in to doubt and pessimism. Let us keep striving.
Step by step, brick by brick, let us build this nation together”.

The final words of President Frogboiler’s message to the nation on what is, with no obvious sense of irony on the ANC’s part, still called Freedom Day.

I remember the 27th April 1994 very well. It was a gloriously sunny day in Rosebank, Johannesburg and the voting queues formed early at the local school and trailed around the block under the shade of huge plane trees.

Everyone was in good spirits and upbeat about the promise of a new future for South Africa. Even we permanent residents had a vote back then but I must have obviously got mine wrong because they never gave me a vote after that. I still believe the Soccer Party would have made a great parliamentary opposition.

Some of the local ‘madams’ who didn’t fancy standing in a queue deputized the domestic (armed with a cell phone) to do the queuing with strict instructions to phone the madam when she was ten people away from the school door.

As we all waited patiently in the autumn sunshine to cast our votes foreign film crews were scouting the voting stations desperately looking for outbreaks of inter-racial violence or evidence of the much promised right wing uprising that was supposed to be happening.

They were horribly disappointed and I felt so sorry for them as they went along the lines of voters hoping for a vox-pop which would demonstrate to the rest of the world the simmering discontent and racial hatred that was bubbling just under the surface of what appeared to be an orderly democratic election. It was a wonderful day to be alive and to be part of the changing history of this beautiful country.

Twenty seven disastrous years later and the simmering discontent and racial hatred is alive and well; brought to us all by the very party that was supposed to usher in the brave new non racial world of equality and democracy. At least that’s what the prospectus promised at the time. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___ 

On 27th April 1994 nobody had any idea that a job advertisement would have to end with the words “we are an equal opportunity employer blah blah” which was widely accepted as code for whiteys need not apply.

Nobody had any idea that all the pale males that had been running utilities rather well for many years would be told to bugger off for good. In those days we didn’t need to import Cuban engineers to run things for us.

We could also never have imagined the looting and corruption that was to come. There were plenty of financial scandals under the Nat government but nothing to match what the ANC have managed to achieve in the past fifteen years or so.

They may not be too hot as a government but as a criminal enterprise they have shot the lights out. Before the ANC persuaded the Sunday Times to get rid of me in 2008 I described the ruling party (as they liked to label themselves) in a Sunday column as “the largest disorganized crime syndicate in South Africa”.

Horrific stories of malfeasance concerning arms deals, dodgy tenders, freebie tickets to Wimbledon and Silverstone, strange funding for an AIDS musical and travel scandals were already swirling around in the early 2000’s.

Nobody was ever punished although Tony (Sweaty Palms) Yengeni did spend a very small amount of time in one of the more comfortable wings of our local prisons before being carried shoulder high by his ANC colleagues and returned to public life.

He may be a convicted fraudster, an uncouth thug and a rather dangerous drunken driver but that, in the ANC’s opinion, is no reason why he shouldn’t have been appointed chair of the ANC’s Crime and Corruption committee.

Back in the early 2000’s we thought the amounts being stolen by our elected officials (the ones we knew of) were scandalous but they turned out to be small change compared to the strenuous efforts of the likes of Ace Magashule and Jacob Zuma et al to help themselves to anything they could lay their thieving hands on.

Amounts of R1.2 trillion are mentioned when talking of State Capture but I would suggest it is almost impossible to quantify, particularly as each week brings fresh news of corruption. Just as each week brings no news of any intention to prosecute those who have been doing the looting.

Ace Magashule clearly thinks the whole idea of standing aside while your fitness for purpose is determined by a court of law is a huge joke. But that’s the problem when you appoint a gangster as the secretary general of your party.

In fact, Ace is probably an ideal person to represent the ANC at the highest level because he epitomizes so many of the party’s qualities. And we must understand, there’s more looting to be done so it would be a great pity to be forced to leave now.

But, we must also remember two important things. Firstly, everyone is innocent until proven guilty; no matter the overwhelming documentary evidence of guilt meticulously put together by investigators or the sudden unexplained luxury lifestyle. This means that all you need to do is to delay your court appearance by whatever means necessary and, hey presto, you remain innocent of all charges.

The second thing we must remember is that this is all the fault of that dratted “apartheid legacy” as Pres Frogboiler reminded us on Freedom Day. He managed to keep a straight face as he spoke these words:

“As we celebrate this Freedom Day, we can point to the great progress we have made in confronting the apartheid legacy – from the provision of water and electricity to millions, to opening the doors of learning to the children of the poor, to the provision of health care, to lifting millions of people out of poverty”.

There are many in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga who might question the phrase “great progress” as they watch raw sewage run down their rubbish strewn roads, as they negotiate pot holes and as they wonder why they have no running water and sporadic electricity. The fact that 78% of municipalities are in a parlous financial state doesn’t suggest any cause for self-congratulation to me.

And if the ANC has ‘lifted millions of people out of poverty’ how come there are so many service delivery demonstrations and such high unemployment? What ingratitude from the masses.

South Africans of all colours and races will have seen this Freedom Day speech for the steaming pile of horse manure it is. After 27 years of this sort of contempt for the people of this country it’s almost impossible not to give in to doubt and pessimism unless you are on very strong medication. And as for building the nation brick by brick Mr President…..a fine idea but it’s only a matter of time before the bricks will be stolen. Have you seen Jeppe Station lately?


In 1986 the Automobile Association produced what would now be regarded as a ‘problematic apartheid era’ book with the title ‘Off the Beaten track (selected drives in Southern Africa). As the title suggested, it recommended sight-seeing drives for those who wished to discover the more interesting parts of South Africa. Apart from descriptions of the various places you may wish to visit there were plenty of photographs to further whet your appetite.

Following R W Johnson’s terrifying column ‘Our Growing Urban Crisis’ last week I decided to take my copy down from the bookshelf and flip through it. I’m convinced the book will be banned by the ANC at some stage because it contains pictures of towns and cities in their pre-ANC pristine state. It also uses names like Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and Warmbaths.

Page 176 refers to Pietermaritzburg and describes it as one of the “best preserved Victorian cities in the world”. There are pictures of the old Pavillion and the Bandstand at Alexandra Park, of the spectacular red brick and cast iron clad railway station and of the Old Provincial Council Building.

The roads are clean, the lawns are mown and flowers are planted in front of the local government buildings. No more sadly and judging by several articles in the media the criminal Msunduzi municipality who allegedly run the place couldn’t give a toss about the destruction they’ve caused. Half time score – Decolonisation 1- Service delivery 0. Another Freedom Day brag for the ANC perhaps?