His name was Bubhesi (Lion). He was my best friend. I don't remember much about his family. We were kids, five years old at the time. He spoke isiZulu and I spoke only Sotho.
When former president Nelson Mandela transferred R1-million into the bank account of the then recently fired Jacob Zuma in 2005 he was acknowledging a truth many other ANC leaders knew full well. Zuma, since his arrival back from exile in 1990, had struggled financially and had slowly but surely drifted into a position in which he was no longer his own man.
It was interesting that President Jacob Zuma found time, in welcoming the investigations into the latest Gupta scandal, to underline that they should not have an "impact on the warm and friendly" relationship between South Africa and India.
ANC leaders have been engaged in an orgy of back-slapping and high-fives since they returned, triumphant, from the party conference in Mangaung. Their joy emanates from their claim that the party is united and operates as a cohesive unit.
The many fans of the late British prime minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, have doggedly tried over the past week to paint her as someone who contributed to the demise of apartheid. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This week, many people will cast their mind back 20 years and remember Chris Hani, the fiery ANC and SA Communist Party leader. They will shudder, those who remember, and reflect on just how close we were to civil war this week 20 years ago.
Africa's great novelist Chinua Achebe has died. Across the world his novel Things Fall Apart is being celebrated. And so it should be, for it is a great work of art and of humanity, and is fully deserving of the praise heaped on it.
If just half the stories that have been published about the Gupta family are true, then we have a cancer in our society.
It is interesting to me that there is so much that President Jacob Zuma does not want us, the people who elected him to power in 2009, to know. He will strain every sinew in his body to keep these things from us.
The mind of South Africa cannot be fully perceived from the names we know.
In about 14 months we will all go out and vote in national and provincial elections. Well, actually, I fib: some of us will go out and vote.
It's no longer time to just talk. It's time to act, urgently. It's time to talk and do something about men - about how we make them, groom them and send them out into the world to rape and kill women.
Let me make a prediction that will be dismissed as alarmist, pessimistic and just plain wrong: the education system in South Africa will be as broken in 10 years as it is today.
A frisson of excitement last week rushed through many of us who consider ourselves political animals.
There were several scandalous aspects to the press conference by Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi to explain away the Nkandlagate mess yesterday. There were the obfuscations. There were the lies. Yet Nxesi ignored the one really huge scandal in front of him. He totally ignored it, despite the fact that it was breaking wind in his face and begging for attention.
What's left of South Africa's Left? It's dying. It's dead.
ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa kicked off the party's 2014 election campaign this week by declaring: "The time for talking is over. We want action, and Action Man Jacob Zuma will ensure that this country moves forward."
They're funny things, second terms. At the end of your first, you fight and fight; you turn enemies into friends and friends into enemies, just to get a second term.
What lies in store for the ANC after a litany of invasions, insults, a shooting and general acrimony at its provincial conferences this past week?
THE second one got to me. The first one didn't. That was almost mechanical. I have become inured to them, you see. They suddenly appear at your window. You glance down at the middle bit of your car, near the gear lever, where there is usually some change.
We are led by men and women who, as someone said, know the price of everything. They can, like our communist Higher Education minister, give you the rand price of a huge new car for themselves.
In the late 1980s, as the apartheid state collapsed under the weight of its own rot and the ANC prepared itself for freedom, a member of the party's constitutional committee submitted a paper for an internal seminar on culture.
It is time to leave President Jacob Zuma alone.
SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande was squealing like a stuck pig on Saturday when striking miners disrupted a Cosatu rally in Rustenburg, North West, because they believed the trade union federation had sold them out.
THE Nigerians are talking about changing their constitution. They say having 36 states is too many, too unwieldy and a nightmare to manage. They want to administer the country differently and carve it into six economic zones.
The fat lady has not yet sung but right now the only factor that can dislodge President Jacob Zuma from the presidency of the ANC is a combination of another Marikana massacre and a Sonono Khoza-type scandal.
It is truly amazing to what levels of depravity President Jacob Zuma manages to make men stoop.
The ANC election battle is now officially on. The party's members will nominate leaders of their choice for election at the party conference in Mangaung from December 16.
Stephen Bantu Biko was murdered by the apartheid police on September 12 1977. I thought about him this week.
March 28 1994 was a beautiful day: crisp, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. I remember it well. I woke up late that day. I had worked the evening shift the previous day and then gone out for drinks with friends. I had a hangover.
What were we obsessing about a month ago again? Oh, yes, it was the late or non-delivery of textbooks to schoolchildren in Limpopo. I am sure many government officials are very happy that the Marikana massacre came along and took the textbook issue off the front pages of newspapers.
I have made this point before on these pages but in light of the events in Marikana recently I must return to it.
Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu met all the players in the Marikana mine massacre on Saturday .
I doubt that Kaizer Motaung knew, when he left the legendary soccer club Orlando Pirates, that he would change the face of football in South Africa.
We are led by men who are in office but not in power; men who are interested in enjoying the fruits of being in office but misunderstand and squander its opportunities; men who are gripped by a victim mentality and do not know how to become agents of change.
One thing I will say about President Jacob Zuma's rise to power in the period to 2007: it gave us a large number of melodious songs.
Disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi's problem is not his grave illness - if such it is - or his massive debt to the state for his legal costs. Selebi's problem, and our collective problem, is that our institutions are losing legitimacy.
THERE is a lovely little list of economic data that is published every week at the back of The Economist magazine. It lists about 43 countries and compares their gross domestic products, interest rates and consumer prices.
When I was about 13, my sister and I fell upon a delicious French expression. It was hors d'oeuvres. We rolled it around our tongues. We explored it and sucked at it and spat it out. Hors d'oeuvres. It was exotic and wild. We had found it in a book, a spy thriller, that we had both recently read.
Every so often a group of people come together and manage to provide fresh answers to intractable old problems.
There is no doubt that the ANC is in huge trouble and deep pain. This is no longer in question. The symptoms are there for all to see.
THE first time President Jacob Zuma gave us a cabinet reshuffle I nearly died of joy. When he had a second, I ran around the block just to sweat off my excitement. Now he has had a third and I am happy, but I am also beginning to wonder.
What a lovely week to be on the campaign trail. All the elements were there: a populist narrative, a victimised persona, podiums afforded by factions in the trade union movement.
The central, compelling idea of a new South Africa was not merely to defeat apartheid and replace it with a new, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist order. That was merely the first step. The main step was to build a South Africa that broke comprehensively with the apartheid past and restore a "human face" to a country dehumanised by this evil system.
We sat over a couple of beers and some wine at our favourite restaurant in Pretoria and shook our heads in despair.
I have just finished reading a moving, gripping new book about South Africa today and yesterday.
Now that the ANC has managed to get rid of Julius Malema, its troublesome youth league president, and his rude sidekick Floyd Shivambu, the party might want to concentrate on something meatier. It might want to ask its president, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, what kind of rotten state he is running in its name.
The rape of a 17-year-old mentally disabled girl by a gang of seven men and boys was among the subjects of a statement issued by the cabinet on Thursday.
Way back in February 2007, just 11 months before the ANC's Polokwane conference, First National Bank decided to launch a major campaign to sensitise President Thabo Mbeki to concerns about crime.
Here is an Easter story, just for fun for the holidays. It is March 2023. President Tokyo Sexwale is in his private study at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the presidential residence. His brow is furrowed, his eyes steely. Across his desk sits the secretary-general of the ANC, Floyd Shivambu, a former ANC Youth League firebrand who has risen to the top of the party
Every few weeks we hear reports of schoolchildren - packed up to 20 per taxi - being involved in a horrific accident. Three weeks ago it happened again, when a taxi driver overtook six cars at a level crossing. The taxi was hit by a train.
The ANC's succession race is now well and truly under way. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, long the "what will he do now" man of South African politics, is reportedly now ready to run against President Jacob Zuma for the top job.
Africa's greatest problem over the decades has been leadership or, more correctly, the lack of it. The problem of Africa today remains exactly the same: poor, lousy leadership. We are in trouble.
If President Jacob Zuma wins the ANC presidency in Mangaung in December, a large chunk of the credit must go to Julius Malema.
Excuse me, but was that a raised hand I just saw? Was that Mathews Phosa's hand waving from afar? Has he, finally, girded his loins and put himself forward to lead the ANC?
Sometimes you forget. Life waylays you. There is always something going on: one has to rush to the president's State of the Nation address. Or stop to condemn those who are corrupt.
When they conclude their national executive committee meeting in Tshwane this afternoon, the ANC's leaders might want to take a 10-minute drive through the area before they rush back to their homes.
Every so often I pop open the champagne, plonk myself on the sofa and drink to this great, good and crime-ridden country of ours. I did that on Saturday.
The black African of 100 years ago faced massive and seemingly insurmountable problems.
There are three names that will one day tell us something about the way we live now. They are not the names of powerful or influential men or women; they are not the names of the rich and the famous.
There are people you just have to love. There are all sorts of reasons to love them, but the key one is this: they make South Africa a better place to live in.
There is a sense of boredom as I look at the South African political scene and once again have to comment on the latest developments. It is not that there isn't anything happening .
Last week I wished I kept a diary. It was one of those Dickensian weeks: the best of times and the worst of times, the heaven and the hell, of living in this magnificent country and maturing democracy.
One of the most tedious aspects of wading through primary school was taking "religious studies", a subject that was always taught first thing in the morning.
The year 2011 is meandering to a close. It may be time to ask ourselves: what have we achieved as a nation this year?
The age of Julius Malema, the ANC Youth League leader smacked down by the ANC this week, was the age of poor leadership. Not poor leadership on Malema's part, but on the part of South Africa's political class, business leadership and civil society.
SO PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has brought his personal lawyer, Michael Hulley, into the Presidency as his legal adviser. A few months ago, Zuma brought in Mac Maharaj, his long-time political ally and a close friend of his financial benefactors, the Shaiks, as his spokesman.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian resistance movement leader, was not what one would call a Bollinger Bolshevik.
President Jacob Zuma has been sitting on the public protector's report about the scandalous behaviour of Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka since Wednesday.
There is a cry in the night. A woman is being dragged down the street. She is screaming for help. A gang is about to rape her.
On Friday a colleague of mine went to take her driver's test. She failed, and it was not the first time - this was her fifth attempt.
THEY are killing black people in Libya. They are killing them in the street, they are killing them in hospitals, they are killing them in transit camps, they are killing them in their houses.
WHEN chief justice nominee Mogoeng Mogoeng is installed in office by President Jacob Zuma he might want to reflect on a few things.
ON THURSDAY evening I flew out of South Africa on an overseas trip. At the airport book shop I noticed a new-ish magazine called Business Times Africa.
IT WOULD be very nice indeed to think that the ANC leadership decided to charge the party's youth league leader Julius Malema out of a love for order and discipline in the party.
FORGET about the present and the future. South Africa cannot escape its past. If anything, the past week's events and debates underline how divided, how far apart, we still are.
A YOUNG woman is living like a prisoner in Swaziland. She is one of King Mswati III's numerous wives. She reportedly had an affair with one of his friends and for that she has been placed under lock and key in her house.
THE Africans are dying again. This time it's the Somalis, thousands of them. Emaciated and parentless children, looking like walking skeletons, are arriving in camps in Kenya after walking for days without drink or food. Behind them lie arid lands and warfare.
South Africa and the world celebrate Mandela Day today. We should all be doing our bit to honour the man who represents the very best we can be: ethical, moral, activist, true and generous.
THEY are young. You can see they are afraid and unsure, and they are egging each other on. There is no bravery here, no valour. Just false bravado fuelled by ignorance.
IN THE early 1990s South African cynics coined a phrase that they gleefully used to denigrate journalists who saw the positive side of the changes the country was going through.
We are back at that terrible place again. On the radio, the debate has descended to 1990 levels. The whites, at least those who call in to talk radio at night, are talking of packing their bags and leaving the country. In typical talk-radio fashion, the blacks respond by showing the middle finger: "Go if you want."
THE story is often told of how the apartheid Security Branch was waiting for Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma at Jan Smuts Airport in 1990 - to arrest and torture him - after picking up intelligence that he was making his way into South Africa. Zuma was at the time head of ANC intelligence.
The great ones . well, they are dying now. The elders of the struggle, the ones who raised a fist of defiance and shouted "Amandla!" even as they were bundled into police vans to be sentenced to years, decades even, in jail - they are leaving us now, at a faster and faster rate.