A tug on the sleeve interrupted the tedium of waiting in the boarding queue this week at OR Tambo. Turning around revealed an impossibly chuffed mother.
“He’s going to walk out with Bafana,” she said, gesturing to the young boy beside her.
Soon a girl popped up beside them – both youngsters clad in what must have been their club kit.
It was soon explained that they had been chosen from their team in Cape Town and sent by the SA Football Association to accompany South Africa when they walked out of the tunnel against Nigeria in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) quarter final on Wednesday.
The players take the field for the Afcon quarterfinal match between Nigeria and Bafana Bafana at Cairo international stadium on Wednesday. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
That a smiling stranger couldn’t resist sharing the news of this honour to anyone who would listen should tell you everything you need to know about how running deep in this competition has come to mean to some people.
Senegal star Sadio Mane is one of those people.
“For me, the most important thing is to win it with Senegal,” he said of Afcon last week. “I will try to score more goals and help my teammates score so that we can finally win this cup.
“This is my absolute dream. I am here for this.”
Hardly a trivial statement coming from a man that lifted the Champions League a little over a month ago. Nor does it feel like a platitude.
This is the first iteration of the competition in it’s new format: moved from a troublesome January slot and upsized to 24 teams. The change in date in particular is arguably a well overdue decision. It’s about far more than removing the nervous gaze of European teams as their stars risk injury under the African sun midseason – it’s about giving Afcon its own slot to strut its stuff on the world stage. Just as the Euros and Copa America have theirs. It no longer feels like a stepchild.
Whatever the cause, it’s easy to identify the teams that have been willing to fight to the bone to keep themselves alive. Your Sadio Manes and so forth. Those that have not have duly tumbled out.
The most obvious example to the contrary, of course, are hosts Egypt.
Arriving in Cairo three days after their elimination at the hands of Bafana felt like arriving at a party that had long since moved on to the next happening spot.
Literally the first thing we saw after disembarking was an adjacent Egypt Air plane covered in decals of the national team. Perhaps it was a biased imagination filling in the blanks but the images looked tired and washed.
What is for sure is the men themselves had long since departed. As we exit the airport our driver points out the road leading into the Marriot Hotel. The route had been inaccessible until now, he says, thanks to heavy military guard while the squad made it their base. Their exit had quite literally necessitated the recall of a mini-army.
Continuing down the main road there are endless posters and billboards wishing the Pharaohs good luck. One massive adidas advertisement shows an austere Mohamed Salah peering at you with the caption “100-million strong”. Elsewhere in the city New Balance has similar patriotism-stirring imagery. So too countless other brands, both local and international.
Salah initially begins to feel like the eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby. An omnipresent figure moralising your decisions as you pass through the streets of Cairo.
But then you remember how he and his cohort met their tournament end and the Liverpool star instead starts to resemble Cairo’s biggest white elephant.
Gathering a quick street and market place consensus here and there, for whatever that’s worth, many Egyptians feel indifferent about the whole getting knocked out thing. They’re pissed off, make no mistake, but everyone claims to have seen this coming and have been unimpressed with the running of the national team for a while now. The phrase “monkey business” came up at least twice. That’s before anyone goes on to mention the player-forced recall of sexual harassment accused Amr Warda, something no one seems impressed with.
In the aftermath of Egypt’s first elimination as hosts since 1974 (they won it in 1986 and 2006) it’s clear that they might have been onto something. Parliament has called for an explanation, coach Javier Aguirre and his backroom cohort have all been sacked and various Egyptian Football Association (EFA) board members have fallen on their swords and resigned.
“This decision comes as a moral obligation,” EFA president Abo Rida reasoned with the solemnity of a judge handing down a sentence.
“All the technical staff are sacked after destroying the hopes of Egyptian football fans.”
Bafana Bafana, of course, may want a bit of the credit for destroying those hopes.
It was Stuart Baxter’s perfect formula last Saturday that was their ultimate undoing. The duel flank threat of Percy Tau and Thembinkhosi Lorch; the midfield regulation authority of Dean Furman and Bongani Zungu; the perception that Sifiso Hlanti and Thamsanqa Mkhize were put on this Earth to stifle Salah and Trezeguet.
The Super Eagles won 2-1, netting a last-minute goal, and South African fans were appreciative they made it this far. (Sumaya Hisham/Reuters)
The performance left an unmistakable impression. Answering the obligatory “where are you from?” enquiries invariably sparks up an immediate conversation about the game. “Bafana Bafana!” is said over and over by the more garrulous cab drivers and strangers that you come across. Shopkeepers use it as a segway into offering their wares, promising lower prices thanks to our team’s performance or jokingly threatening to jack them up as revenge.
Despite the newfound recognition, everyone promises that the journey will crash to an end against Nigeria. One ridiculously charismatic salesman at the aptly named Royal Perfumes goes as far as to take a bet with one of our party, promising that he will give her three free bottles should South Africa progress to the semifinals.
Others are less gregarious when it comes to discussing their recent pitfalls. Deeper into the Nasr City district, away from the usual tourist attractions, Ibn Hamido offers a tiny slice into the Cairo dining experience. Filled with the most pleasant and subtle wafts of seafood, the double-storey restaurant is almost entirely full by 3pm on week day. Amid the bustle, neither the waiters or patrons have time nor interest to indulge any excitement over Bafana’s endeavours.
As can be expected, many non-football fans now have little interest who comes out on top of Afcon now that Egypt have been eliminated. No one, however, denies having a vested interest in the successful conclusion of the tournament.
A handful of isolated terrorist incidents over the past three years, most recently a car bomb that injured South Africans travelling to the Giza pyramids, have threatened to derail much of the progress made in the years since the Arab Spring. Once one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, that distinction has been understandably rocked by regime change and instability.
In Afcon 2019 – given to the North Africans after Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights – Egypt has an opportunity to prove on a global stage that it once again deserves to be foremost on most bucket lists.
As you would expect roadblocks are everywhere: policemen in white shirts and pants stopping vehicles at random. All the major hotels have security checks, german shepherds sniff your taxi while metal detectors greet you at the main entrance. Driving along the main roads there are sentry towers placed at various key points, as assault rifles protrude out.
Even as Bafana leaves their evening training on Tuesday evening, numerous police cars and a bakkie filled with heavily armed soldiers follows close behind.
When asked if the average residential area was safe to walk through (a top-of-mind Jo’burger type of question), our driver enthusiastically exclaimed that these days it’s perfectly safe. “Before the revolution, if you came here at night,” he said pointing to the endless rows of tall, grey blocks of flats. “They would take your wallet, car and your wife. Now it’s fine.”
The security checks may be vigorous but, so far at least, Egypt looks to have secured the Afcon legacy it would have targeted. It’s Pharaohs are no longer present but those here in their stead are hungry and will in all likelihood give us a memorable semifinal round. As long as a mother remains proud to see her son walk onto the field for an Afcon match, is there any other measure of success we need?
Secrets and lies were our friends in the…
First we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. In the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.
For those of us who were actively involved in the anti-apartheid Struggle, who bled for the Struggle, who were arrested and tortured for the Struggle, who committed acts of terror for the Struggle, who killed for the Struggle, and yes, who died for the Struggle – if there is one thing that is like a warm cashmere blanket in the icy winter, it is secrecy.
For without it, the revolution would have been constantly compromised. The names of our fellow comrades, the safe houses harbouring state fugitives, the next rendezvous point for our crucial treasonous meetings, who said what in which meeting, and where the arms caches were hidden. This was the nature of the anti-apartheid game. Secrecy was everything. Because contrary to most, we were engaged in a war. It was a war of attrition between those fighting for liberation and those opposed to it.
I once attended a mass rally in my home town at one of the high schools in Mitchells Plain in 1986. I was one of the young student leaders of the 14 high schools in the area. One of the speakers at the rally, unfortunately, implied that another of us was collaborating with the security police and pointed him out in the crowd. Before we knew what was happening, the student had been accosted by an angry mob and in no time was attacked. The kicking was relentless and simply too much. He later died of internal bleeding, succumbing to his injuries.
I tell this horrific story because in my time, at the height of our struggle for freedom, it was callous to say this one or that one is, or was, a spy. Necklacing was almost a certainty at the time, and so comrades knew that you’d better have, and present, irrefutable evidence to make such a claim because a life was on the line. The only people who used it in such a callous manner during our time were either agents provocateurs themselves and/or the very spies they so foolhardily called out.
This is what I remembered when I heard Jacob Zuma making such irresponsible and callous claims about certain comrades.
An agent provocateur (French for “inciting agent”) is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group to which they belong.
This is Jacob Zuma! To save your own skin, to dabble in the art of misdirection and to destroy comrades and their families is what an agent provocateur such as yourself does.
How else does one explain what transpired in South Africa over the past 10 years under Zuma’s watch? Who if not an agent of apartheid, appoints known collaborators of apartheid, spies and askaris into high government positions? Gives them contracts to the tune of millions, whether it be in the police, intelligence services or state-owned enterprises or from the former apartheid security structures?
Zuma did this, no one else. He allowed the state to be hollowed out, virtually bankrupted us and actively facilitated State Capture with his friends the Guptas. Zuma is the last to talk of apartheid spies. These vile threats will not deter us from our mission to clean up your mess and in the process arrest, suspend, expel and humiliate those that actively participated in eroding our state and the ruling party.
Having said this, however, I do also want us to investigate the causes of this phenomenon. This, in my opinion, is symptomatic of us all lying to our people, it is haunting us all because of how we have opted to lie to ourselves and the people of Mzansi.
The exiled comrades who now find it more convenient to be held up as heroes who selflessly fought for our liberation in foreign lands. Never must there be any mention of the illegality that took place with the full knowledge of the then leadership. It had to be done because we needed the money to keep the organisation and its huge infrastructure going. But besides this, there were the criminal elements among us who personally benefited from such illegality. The rapes that took place in our camps, not to forget the firing squads for those who dared to instigate mutiny in the ranks. Or those accused of spying in the camps.
The lying about qualifications to this day, because you think you can get away with it, stems from those days.
The internal United Democratic Front (UDF) comrades who did not want to readily admit the level of infiltration in our midst, in every organisation, be it student, youth, civic or labour movements. Rumours abound to this day about this one and that one having been a spy.
I recall meeting one of the security branch people in Muizenberg a few years ago with a friend while he was doing research work for a book he was thinking of writing. The security police officer was one of the so-called coloured ones that collaborated with the white security police during that time. It struck me then that when my friend asked him whether he would be prepared to mention the names of all those at the time that spied for the security police, his answer floored me: he said, no, I cannot and will not do that. We took a decision together as the security police after 1994 that our contribution to the Struggle will be to not mention any names because that would simply distract all of you from what really needs to be done, which is to transform our society for a better life for all, instead of fighting and killing each other, because this one was a spy, an impimpi or an askari. I could not believe this guy. In short, he was saying, we are doing it as our contribution to the Struggle. What kind of perverse logic is that?
But then it got me thinking – maybe there’s some truth in that logic. And as I had previously written, we could find it in our hearts to forgive the white enemy, who killed and maimed us; treated us like imbeciles and young boys even though we at times were older than them; humiliated us for centuries just for fun at times; and exploited us in the most inhuman way in the workplace and ensured the triple exploitation of women on the basis of race, class and gender. We listened to Mandela and we forgave them for all of the above and so much more, and yet we cannot do this for the numerous collaborators, spies and askaris. Why is that?
And then I realised why we are not capable of such a reconciliatory act: because first we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. So, in the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.
Allow the legends, untruths and lies to fall, so our people may have confidence in us once more. So that the moral fibre can be visible again. And just before all the non-ANC types shake their heads in agreement, let me also appeal to you to divulge your truths. White South Africans must acknowledge their role in apartheid, whether in the form of an apology or indeed a developmental tax. The Inkatha Freedom Party must own up in terms of their role with regards to black-on-black violence in the early 1990s. And the so-called coloureds that collaborated with the National Party in their ill-conceived Tricameral Parliament must speak up.
Many of our hands are anything but clean, we owe it to our people. We will not be able to build a nation-state when the very foundation is built on lies.
We must all become agents of truth because truth is the daughter of time. DM
In other news…
July 18 marks Nelson Mandela day. All over the country, South African citizens devote 67 minutes to charitable causes in memory of Madiba. It’s a great initiative and one of those few occasions in South Africa where we come together as a nation in pursuit of a common cause. An annual 67 minutes isn’t going to cut it though.
In the words of Madiba:
“A critical, independent and investigative free press is the lifeblood of any democracy.”
Every day Daily Maverick investigates and exposes the deep rot of state capture and corruption but we need your help. Without our readers’ support we simply won’t survive. We created Maverick Insider as a membership platform where our readers can become part of our community while ensuring that we can keep doing the investigations that we do and, crucially, that our articles remain free to everyone that reads them. Sign up to Maverick Insider this Mandela Month and make that meaningful contribution last longer than 67 minutes.For whatever amount you choose, you can support Daily Maverick and it only takes a minute.
Ursula von der Leyen confirmed as next European Commission president
Diver Swims Alongside A Jellyfish That’s As Big As A Human : NPR
A diver looking for interesting undersea video footage recently got more than she bargained for off the coast of Cornwall, England, when she happened upon a giant barrel jellyfish that was bigger than she is.
“I’ve never seen a barrel fish — or any jellyfish — that big,” diver and biologist Lizzie Daly said. Clearly elated, she added, “It was the size of my body, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
In video of the encounter, the jellyfish looms large, pulsing along, its large frilly tentacles trailing behind it.
Sharing a swim with the gargantuan jellyfish was “absolutely incredible,” Daly said.
The giant barrel is the largest jellyfish found in U.K. waters. The Wildlife Trusts says this species of jelly, Rhizostoma pulmo, has a bell up to 3 feet wide and can weigh nearly 80 pounds. The leviathan Daly saw was clearly larger.
While she swam near it, the animal trundled along, pulsing through the water. Daly tells The Guardian that she wasn’t worried about its tentacles: “It has got a very mild sting and poses no threat to humans – some people don’t even feel it.”
Surely, though, they would see it.
The jellyfish made such an impression on Daly, a conservation advocate and wildlife host who works with the BBC and other outlets, that on Tuesday she wrote a thank-you note to her new rhizostomatid friend.
“Dear Giant Jellyfish,” Day wrote. “Do you know how many people you have inspired in the last few days? People asking..what is it? Is it really that big? That cannot be in UK waters?!!”
Daly’s swim with the jellyfish was captured on video by underwater camera operator Dan Abbott — who captioned his photo of Daly being dwarfed by the jellyfish, ” I can’t believe that just happened!”
Daly and Abbott were working on a special called Wild Ocean Week, highlighting the splendor that can be explored underwater, and to encourage people and organizations to do more to preserve the oceans’ beauty.
Saying her goal was to inspire a wider audience, Daly wrote, “Giant jellyfish you have done just that. So THANK YOU!! I feel humbled to have shared the same space as you.”
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