Everyone of stature in the ANC has been trying to snatch the limelight in the weeks running up to the party’s national conference in Mangaung. It has been a little like being given an inside view to the locker-room “look-at-my-big-muscles” display before the mighty wrestling match starts on Sunday at the Free State University arena


While wrestler-in-chief President Jacob “The Fearless” Zuma has been playing to the gallery at everything but the opening of a paper bag, his deputy, Kgalema “Black Eye” Motlanthe, has kept his struggle and tactics manual close to his chest.

The head Zuma cheerleader, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, has been practising his song: “Protect the chief wrestler’s dignity at all costs even though he has little.”

Black Eye, however, has puzzled the people on the stands by praising the chief wrestler while at once questioning the manner in which the match has recently been fought. The chief’s contribution, he says, is an example of how positive thinking thrives against all odds.

Black Eye has also refused to pre-arrange his spot on the wrestling board rankings, preferring not to be pegged in advance as second-best wrestler.

Then we have Comrade Cyril “McDonald” Ramaphosa, who has issued not even a squeak about the match, leaving the crowd wondering if he is, indeed, to be on the wrestling mat at all. The audience are in agreement, however, that should he appear, he will snatch the second best spot.

While the other A team wrestlers, Gwede “No Nonsense” Mantashe and Baleka “The Slip” Mbete have been quietly keeping fit, commentators say Mathews “The Spear” Phosa and Thandi Modise have probably blotted their copybooks a little too much. They simply haven’t been practising according to the chief wrestler’s game sheet.

In Phosa’s case he has spent too much time assisting lesser wrestlers like the former rising star, Julius “Malevolent” Malema. Phosa has also been mumbling a little too volubly about corruption spoiling the matches. Modise had spent way too much time on her own North West property empire, it is said in the corridors. So they may drop out of the A team and be replaced by Zweli “The Mirror” Mkhize and Jessie “The Dart” Duarte, respectively, for the fourth and sixth wrestling spots.

Then we have the aspirant B team. Top of the pops is Western Cape wrestler-in-chief Marius “Jellytot” Fransman. He believes a lot of unnecessary sweat could be saved if the chief wrestler simply gets installed in this position for 10 years. That would deflect focus from any possible weaknesses the chief wrestler may be concealing, which would not be in the interests of the sport, let alone the country.

It would also mean that the Western Cape chief wrestler can be assured of staying on the executive committee.

Then there is the aspirant captain of the B team, Tina “Loony Tuna” Joemat-Pettersson, known to devastate ring opponents with her withering “blowup doll-like” icy glare. She has declared herself in favour of another term for the wrestler-in-chief and has promised to suspend the wrestling hall manager from the rafters if he allows an unseemly contest for top spot.

The Wrestlers’ Manual, the sport’s weekly publication, has suggested there should not be too much pre-arrangement of the outcomes. The struggle and tactics document must be crafted in such a way that the people on the stands believe there could be real change, but the main wrestlers must also be assured that not much of their own blood will be spilled.