Aww... Little politician goes to school

2012-03-08 10:58

If the ANC political school was a public school, it would have been a Model C type.

When I went there briefly this weekend, I was greeted by all the trappings of a well-to-do Model C school.

Parked outside the fancy St George’s Hotel in Irene, Pretoria, was every luxury German sedan available in South Africa, and a few Maseratis, like the one the school headmaster Tony Yengeni cruises around in.

The hall where the schooling was taking place had a typical Greek name, Spartan, while outside fountains and plush greenery made it seem like a place of quiet contemplation and high-level thinking.

The coffee and tea the ANC put out was some decent Nescafé and on the table outside the door brown envelopes were neatly packed out in row with each schoolgoer’s name on it.

This was where they had to leave their cellphones, so that it doesn’t disturb them from the important lessons they were being taught.

In the parking lot there were a few delinquents having some refreshments of their own, as the clinking of ice cubes attested to.

There was even an attempt at stokkiesdraai (playing truant), as one minister rushed out halfway through the school day with an unsatisfactory explanation.

The ANC decided to start schooling its own years ago already, but it has only been since the deepening relationship between the party and China that the plan began to take shape.

Every member of the ANC will eventually go to this school, but for now it is the top brass – national executive committee members – who spend Saturdays in the lecture hall.

When ANC officials talk about the success of the Chinese political schools, their eyes light up. They explain how the Chinese made sure everyone who applies for membership of the Chinese Communist Party goes back to school, as a kind of rite of passage.

The ANC officials would wax lyrically about how the Chinese made sure the party takes orders from the state, and not the other way around.

The ANC wants to take baby steps, by using the first phase of the school – the one I had sight of this weekend – to ensure every official is on the same page about policy.

Aren’t all members anyway on the same page? “Thinking that will be the biggest mistake you can ever make, Mandy,” one official made plain to me.

The school will eventually move out of its fancy premises at St George’s Hotel to a custom-built campus in Parys, Free State.

The campus will be on a heritage site, which makes rezoning and approval of building plans a mini-nightmare for the governing party. One would think it would have been easier given that Parys is the hometown of Free State strongman and premier, Ace Magashule.

The members of the school governing body will still be determined, but the school principal will be convicted fraudster-turned-Maserati-driver Yengeni.

The curriculum will include the history of the movement, which will seemingly be the responsibility of veteran politician Pallo Jordan, while the teachers for the more touchy subjects like economics, international relations and governance are yet to be determined.

Former SA national defence force soldier Siphiwe Nyanda would have been perfect for physical education and perhaps police boss General Bheki Cele can come in on special lectures on safety and security.

I know this makes the school look like an oasis in the political wilderness for those who couldn’t cut it in the big league of the ANC, but as the saying goes – those who can’t do, teach.


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