Mangaung, or Bloemfontein, is the perfect place for this weekend’s ANC birthday celebrations.
It’s where the organisation was born in 1912 and where its failures are now displayed, despite efforts to paper over the cracks. Cape Town might have sufficed as a venue.
That’s where the National Assembly building is still in ruins – one year after a fire for which no one is being properly held to account.
But Bloem is special, having hosted notable ANC gatherings over decades, including the organisation’s jubilee in 1937 and its centenary in 2012.
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In April last year, Mangaung was placed under national government administration because the metro was experiencing “significant financial and service delivery failures”.
Those failures persist, regardless of assurances that the venue is not in the derelict state described in writing by acting city manager Tebogo Motlashuping.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is due to deliver his January 8 address at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium.
In a 21 December letter to the ANC, Motlashuping listed shortfalls which, he said, “could render the stadium noncompliant”.
All toilet facilities had been vandalised. There was no running water. There was no electrical certificate. No fire safety certificate.
Lifts were “nonoperational”. VIP suites were damaged and unavailable.
There were also concerns about the safety of a “sunk” northern part of the stadium, awaiting a structural engineer’s report.
On Tuesday, the ANC said all concerns had been addressed and the venue was in good order.
Even if that is true, it is akin to putting lipstick on a pig, defined as making superficial or cosmetic changes in a futile effort to disguise fundamental failings.
Given the ANC’s pro-Russian leanings, a more apt comparison could be a Potemkin village, “an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition”.
The term refers to a portable fake village built by Grigory Potemkin, lover of 18th-century Empress Catherine II, to impress her on her tours of the empire. (Catherine is an inspiration to Vladimir Putin).
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Mangaung, the stomping ground of former Free State premier and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, remains an ANC mess, still under administration.
A hastily repaired stadium won’t diminish Magashule’s destructive influence on the province and the party.
The fractious Free State ANC is in the care of an interim provincial committee (IPC).
After the violent disruption of a 6 December IPC meeting, the committee warned: “The tension is a serious precursor for violence and possibility of loss of lives”.
Tensions within the Free State ANC may have some connection to the negative report on the readiness of the stadium.
There will be cadres who do not want to see the party led by re-elected Ramaphosa holding a successful birthday bash on their turf.
Bloemfontein – Afrikaans for “fountain of flowers” – is also the City of Roses.
The imagery is appropriate for the ANC. Right now the metro, like the party, is in need of a clean-up. Time for pruning.
Cut away the rotten, infested, decaying parts in order to stimulate growth.
Root and branch removal recommended. Bloem, the ANC’s birthplace, is an appropriate place to bury the party. If not this Sunday, soon.
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