Where delegates dop, dine and doze

2017-12-17 06:00
A group of ANC delegates gather at Sakhumzi Restaurant to have a chat and enjoy a few drinks before the start of the party’s national policy conference PHOTO: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

A group of ANC delegates gather at Sakhumzi Restaurant to have a chat and enjoy a few drinks before the start of the party’s national policy conference PHOTO: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

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In the print edition of the newspaper, City Press ran a picture of a man at Sakhumzi restaurant in Soweto and erroneously reported that the man was ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa. City Press apologises for the error

A decade ago, ANC elective conference delegates used to sleep in university residences and cheap hotels. But that is history now.

The party has booked accommodation for its delegates in hotels with three stars and more. But there were others who chose to arrange their own accommodation elsewhere, mainly along factional lines.

From a budget hotel near Southgate – just a few kilometres from Nasrec, where the ANC’s 54th elective conference is under way – all the way to the east and north of Johannesburg, many hotels had no beds to spare by Friday night.

The ANC booked 5 940 beds across the city and beyond, but not all were occupied by their intended guests. Some delegates opted instead to arrange their own accommodation, which allowed them their own space to discuss the campaigns of their various factions.

Several delegates told City Press this week that this alternative accommodation was arranged by wealthy ANC members or government tender beneficiaries, whom they call “Guptas” – the same name attributed by the delegates to their funders.

These funders, the delegates said, often find themselves not knowing which faction to support to secure the future of their businesses. Their duties range from buying anything from airtime to food and alcohol for the delegates and their entourages.

These are the people who have, since Friday night, been settling bills at fancy nightclubs and restaurants where delegates have been enjoying themselves.

The ANC hired 91 buses with 4 708 seats, and 128 drivers, to ferry delegates from nine provinces to Nasrec.

But not all seats were occupied. Some delegates from Limpopo and the North West told City Press they could not travel on the same buses as those who supported rival campaigns – either that of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We just can’t sleep, eat and travel together when we’re having different positions on who should lead the ANC next. This is a serious race and we can’t risk sabotage in any way. Hence, we need to be on our own in hotels, restaurants and transport,” said one North West delegate.

Meanwhile, during a night of extravagance and rigorous partying, ANC members booked out the entire VIP section of night spot Cubana in Cedar Square, Fourways. They popped expensive French champagne and puffed on top-of-the-range Cuban cigars on the eve of the elective conference.

One ANC member told City Press that the preparty was just the beginning as they had planned to revel until the conference concluded on Wednesday.

Bottles of Moët & Chandon, high-end Montecristo Cuban cigars priced between R343 and R450 each, hired hookahs and young women dancing to Distruction Boyz’s Omunye were what brought the VIP section to life for the mainly male members of ANC branch 114.

Money was apparently no object as they splurged, nonchalantly swiping their credit cards to keep the young women who kept them company, happy. The women were dressed to the nines in designer heels, their hair and make-up flawless.

It appeared that the ANC members who occupied Cubana belonged to the Ramaphosa camp as they lustily sang the campaign song We Are Ready For Ramaphosa, bringing everyone in the VIP section to their feet.

It was evident, though, that many of these men were married as they were sporting their wedding bands. But when City Press tried to take a photograph of the group, one of them said sternly: “You can’t take pictures of us here; nobody knows I am here.”

Cubana management went all out to please the group. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the deejay belted out struggle songs, including Asinavalo, which generated plenty of excitement as they merrily sang along.

But south of the city, in Soweto, on Friday night, Sakhumzi restaurant on Vilakazi Street was the place to be.

Other well-known night spots in the neighbourhood, such as Nexdor, Kwa Lichaba and Vuyo’s, were also busy.

Read more on:    anc  |  politics  |  anc leadership race

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