Winnie still savours the sweet scent of survival
DO YOU remember the poor? All those bedraggled looking individuals who queued for hours in the hot African sun to vote back in 1994 in the hope that a fresh, democratically elected government would bring with it a new and better life.
The sort of people who live in shacks on the banks of the Jukskei and whenever it rains and the river floods they have to change their postcode. Well don't worry too much if you have forgotten them because they are likely to make a dramatic reappearance next year as we approach the 1999 election.
Having looked after themselves remarkably well over the past few years and milked every cent out of black empowerment deals, it's time once again for politicians to start babbling on about the plight of the poor in the hope of catching their votes.
I suspect that what the poor would be more interested in hearing is how some of their former leaders have managed to become fabulously wealthy.
The mining industry is about to shed thousands of jobs, yet recently "empowered" black businessmen apparently live a life of unparalleled luxury. Whatever happened to all those socialist principles?
Even union leaders have become recreational socialists and developed a taste for fine wine, cigars and short gourmet trips to France, just so long as they can manage to get back to Johannesburg every so often to lead the workers in the struggle against capitalist oppression.
As a ruling party, the ANC is in the enviable position of having no serious opposition.
The NP seems to be reinventing itself as a new touchy-feely, caring organisation. Interestingly though, only one person in five I asked could tell me the name of the new party leader.
The strange liaison between the odd couple of politics, Bantu Holomisa and Roelf Meyer, still has to come up with an original policy document and appears to be little more than a final resting place for sacked members of the ANC and disenchanted Nats.
It would be a great pity if the DP, the most active and intelligent of the government opposition parties, stopped exposing government profligacy, but it might be too much to expect that they would present a real challenge to government.
So, paradoxically, the only opposition to the ANC is the ANC itself. Although the organisation is understandably keen to play down stories of ideological differences, the recent Damascene conversion of Peter Mokaba to capitalism is hardly likely to sit well with the party's rank and file who can barely afford the price of today's lunch.
PERSONALLY, I am delighted that Mokaba is finally saying something sensible. Unfortunately it is not me that Mokaba needs to convince; it is the time-warp stragglers from the SA Communist Party and the economically illiterate members of his own party.
However, hard lessons about reality, and admonishments to work harder and become globally competitive, probably won't go down well with an electorate who were led to believe that, within weeks of the 1994 rainbow transition, their miserable lives would be changed forever.
The sort of questions they will be expecting answers to are where are the houses, the jobs, the hospitals, the schools and the land they were promised?
THE ANC has realised that delivering the goodies as a government is a far cry from promising the goodies as a campaigning party, but the balancing act between social upliftment and neo-Thatcherite economic policy is a difficult one.
Enter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the famous baby-sitter and deputy president in waiting. If there is one thing designed to send a shiver down the spines of the ANC hierarchy and foreign investors alike, it is the recent coverage of a turbaned Winnie addressing the million woman march in Philadelphia.
The sisters had asked Winnie to give the keynote address, apparently unconcerned that she still has to explain a few legal inconsistencies back home.
No matter. With a superb sense of irony Winnie told the mob that they have a shared responsibility to save the world from violence. "Amandla," she shouted to the crowd at the end of her speech. "Amandla," they enthusiastically shouted back, uncertain whether this was a rallying cry or a new fragrance from Chanel.