I had a dream and for a moment there was reprieve from the suffering, but it morphed into a nightmare, South Africa
Mr President, I quit. Mr President, I had a dream within a beautiful dream, but it quickly morphed into a nightmare. For a moment, I had a reprieve from the pain and suffering I feel for South Africa. My pardon occurred on July 18, when the world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday. For a day, it felt good to be a South African. I started dreaming again. My heart yearned for the new beginning so that I could watch SA children play by the river and hear the chatter of their voices echoing around the hills and valleys of our beautiful land. I marvelled at the sweeping lawns and landscaped vistas of our suburbs. I imagined myself appreciating the mundane undertakings such as watching the morning rain droplets and admiring Mother Nature for the evergreen countryside’s gift. I began to be filled with hope about a tomorrow as I banished despair to the deeper recesses of my troubled mind.
I saw the new dawn emerge from the ruins of the recent past. In the dream, I was born again for real, unlike in the biblical sense of the Jewish Pharisee named Nicodemus. Because of the magnitude of the separation from the world of lucid dreams that my mother’s womb made possible, and the entry into the unknown world, I cried. As my mother held me in her arms, I started feeding, and it was total bliss. I saw a tear falling from my mom’s left eye. She wasn’t crying but rejoicing that her bundle of joy was alive and feeding. Then I had another dream within a dream. I saw a 16-year-old girl walking in the streets of Soweto, and there was no catcalling. She had no fear in her heart. She walked confidently as scores of her male peers played cricket on the newly built stadium nearby. She, too, started dreaming; she saw herself as a president one day. I whispered into her ear: “All your dreams are valid.” Back in my first dream, I heard a voice telling me that I was lucky to see my mom, because “many people are born blind, and only a few will ever learn to see”. I misunderstood this haunting line from the novel The Famished Road by Ben Okri, and his metaphor of blindness.
I suddenly thought the blindness metaphor referred to all the thieving ANC cadres and other rent-seekers in the private sector, and that they will never see the error of their ways or the inside of a rat-infested jail cell. I wondered aloud if my parents hadn’t stolen from the fiscus before I was born. I remembered, though, that I didn’t have a father. My father is nothing but a blur. He died during the Covid-19 pandemic, alone and lonely. He couldn’t find an ICU bed, so he perished. According to the Covid-19 Commission of Inquiry, the budget earmarked to fight Covid-19 was misdirected to friends, husbands, wives and associates of those who held public office at the time.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Suddenly, my beautiful dream morphed into a nightmare. I saw familiar faces — of mayors, premiers, councillors, tenderpreneurs (black and white), party lackeys and ANC party bigwigs — feeding at the trough. Upon my arrival, they laughed a haunting laugh. They appeared as shiny jail uniform effigy, with torn facemasks emboldened with the words: “If eating is against the law, then the law is an ass.”
Despite the facemasks, I could read their faces, and if joy is a person, I have seen it all. A voice said to me, just like in the biblical end of times, that the day of reckoning will arrive like a thief at night. “All the thieves and imigodoyi who stole the Covid-19 funds meant for the people will meet their comeuppance.”
The voice in my head grew louder as I scanned the new politicians’ faces on the telly promising fire and brimstone for the accused arising from the ruin of the “nine lost years”. I woke up sweating profusely and with a shortness of breath. As I glanced over the morning newspapers, I saw the headline: “Husband of presidency spokesperson in a R125 million PPE scandal.”
Subsequently, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) confirmed that they are investigating 90 companies that were given Covid-19-related personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders. Ninety! This is the latest in a long list of the ANC’s alleged entanglement in tender manipulation. My stomach turned, till next week, my man. “Don’t send me anymore. I quit.”
This Letter to Mahlamba Ndlopfu is written by Bhekisisa Mncube, the Zulu ambassador based in Pretoria, and he is a former presidential special envoy, an author as well as former senior Witness political journalist.
This opinion piece was first published in the Witness.