Black belt in pandering
IT WAS not in the prepared speech. It could not be, for that utterance would surely not pass the editorial vetting of the tripartite alliance readers for whom the mere mention of the word "inspector" induces uncontrollable political spasms.
So what were those presumably off-the-cuff remarks made by the president in his political report at the opening of the 53rd national elective conference of the ANC?
"I want to see [school] inspectors back. Some might oppose this. Some of our friends in labour even don't like this idea. If they don't, then we will just send them to find teachers not doing their work."
I have to say, I like the personal stamp of authority: "I want to see." They call that leadership. I like the identification of the problem: "Our friends in labour." Also, I am sure those "friends" will not enjoy the irony of being sent on search missions to expose lazy teachers.
I do not for one moment believe that school inspectors will be reintroduced. This is, after all, a political speech. The audience for the inspectors quip was outside the big tent. That audience is the concerned elite - business people and middle-class citizens who, rightly, see a massive social and economic disaster coming down the road if we do not turn the schools around.
But simply sending inspectors into schools would be akin to sending more policemen to Marikana. The crisis is much more complex than policing the problem into some degree of order.
People, however, say strange things on a political platform. The most bizarre was the ANC's priest, who could hardly contain his partisanship as he blurted out: "Viva God!" at the end of a solemn prayer. Anyone who has even elementary knowledge of the scriptures from any major religion would know this is blasphemous. How can you wish long life to the Giver of Life? Or should we believe that, at that moment, God was decked in green, yellow and gold, pumping the air as the top six slithered onto the conference stage ?
The priest knows, of course, that the audience for that prayer is inside the big tent - his preaching about a "revolutionary morality" might have had the rest of us rolling on the floor in mirth but, remember, we are outside the tent.
Outside the tent, Mangaung and the streets around campus were littered with dirt as comrades disposed of their rubbish in public spaces. Some travellers slept on pavements and in cars; others washed and shaved on the open road.
The conference opened more than three hours late and those outside the tent drew the logical conclusion that, if you cannot open on time for a conference that was planned a year in advance, why should we expect textbooks to be delivered on time?
Inside the tent, the microphones did not work and the lack of air conditioning during a Free State summer was bound to seduce comrades into a state of slumber, which was happily caught on cameras belonging to those outside the tent.
Outside the tent, the media insisted there was a bloody contest coming - Afrikaans papers even referred to a slagorder (slaughtering order) in reference to rival slates. Inside the tent, there was calm because comrades knew that the Jacob Zuma slate would win. Nobody inside the tent questioned why the suspects of a bomb plot were conveniently arrested in the opening days of the conference, generating huge sympathy among the followers of the ruling party. Only days later would it be claimed there was no link between the said would-be bombers and the tent.
There were two moral revolutionaries at the conference.
Outside the tent was journalist Gaye Davis, who resigned from her job after her newspaper's editor refused to pull a story announcing that Cyril Ramaphosa had declined nomination for the position of deputy president of the party.
Listen to this: "Ethically I cannot [publicly] distance myself from the story while remaining in the employ of Independent Newspapers," she said.
Inside the tent, Kgalema Motlanthe must have known he would be defeated in the vote for the party presidency. But he understands democracy and that it is important to model democratic practice by allowing the branches that nominated him to express their wishes at the conference.
Viva the real revolutionary morality, viva!