Class divide taints Polokwane conference

2007-12-19 00:00

The gaping class divide within the broad church of the ANC is clearly visible in Polokwane, as members of the government and the business elite arrive at the conference centre from their guest lodges in German luxury cars.

Even more impressive are those government officials who arrive in speeding blue light convoys and get waved through by the police while other delegates heading in the same direction have to pull over to let them pass. These VIPs also have a separate entrance and eat in separate dining halls. “What’s the hurry? They are not on government business, we are all heading for the same conference, why must I make way for them to get there first,” said a harried delegate as he stopped for a string of blue light vehicles to whizz by.

Another delegate sitting on the lawn watching the new elite hobnob, said it is hard to believe that these people once lived in townships “just like us and ate pap and vleis”.

To ordinary conference delegates this class divide one of the a reasons why Mbeki is unpopular in some quarters. The gist of their grouse is that he has created an “us and them” situation. They see his reign as characterised by a ruling elite and those who are ruled.

A delegate who was at the Stellenbosch policy conference in 2002 said no bodyguards were allowed and all delegates went in as equals, whether you occupied high position in government or you were a street sweeper.

A feature of the Polokwane gathering is the Business Network lounge, where politicians and business people can mingle, enjoying buffet lunches and suppers at R165 per person.

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