Class division at venue separates the haves from the have-nots

Justice Malala

Justice Malala

There is no apartheid at the ANC's conference in Polokwane, but there are distinct class divisions.

Depending on where one eats and hangs out, three groupings of people have emerged: the tent people, the street people and the lounge people.

These people are as different, and as far apart, as one can be in the ANC today.

The tent people are largely poor delegates, the street people largely independent-minded individuals while the lounge people are filthy rich - or want to be.

The tent people are the ordinary delegates who have arrived in buses and minibus taxis from across the country and are housed in the University of Limpopo's numerous student accommodations.

They are served their food in the tents and receive a staple of rice or pap, meat or chicken, vegetables and some chips if they are lucky. Bottled water is in abundant supply.

Politically, these are the masses who have been singing and dancing, and largely voted Jacob Zuma into power.

The second grouping is the street people. These are the delegates and leaders who feel a deep hankering for some serious home-style cooking.

Outside Gate 2 of the university, tens of ladies who cook delicious, sweet-smelling pap and meat do a brisk trade at lunch-time serving them.

This grouping is not exclusive at all: anyone who feels like it just takes a seat and gets served by the ladies. The food is cheap, ranging from as little as R15 a plate to R35 at most stalls.

On Monday, former SANDF chief Siphiwe Nyanda and Jacob Zuma's chief strategist, Mo Shaik, were seen sitting down, enjoying one of these meals.

The last grouping goes to the Network Lounge. This is a space specially created for large corporates to put up stands and entertain guests.

It is heavily populated by the BEE classes and cabinet ministers.

Typically, they arrive outside the Network Lounge in massive 4x4s (the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover are favourites) and go straight to the air-conditioned lounge where various exhibitors offer them fabulous wines.

On Monday evening, the rotund sports minister, Ngconde Balfour, could be seen squeezed into a chair at the Standard Bank stall while all around him his staffers quaffed Rupert and Rothschild wine.

Here, too, the moneyed delegates can eat at the restaurant where a huge selection of food is available, with a generous wine list to choose from.

At the Network Lounge could be found ANC bigwigs like Smuts Ngonyama, who once said:

"I did not join the struggle to be poor." Others sighted there are business luminaries, dealmakers and of course, a fair supply of hangers-on.

It is a world as far away from the tent as the distance between the Mbeki and Zuma camps.

It is almost insurmountable.