I was in eThekwini last weekend. Yes, they are very happy down there. The ANC has no headaches. It won the elections as though there had been no opposition. I went to the shopping malls. Looming recession? What looming recession? They are shopping. They are eating. At the Gateway Mall in Umhlanga the shops were open. Even the bookshop, Exclusive Books, was packed.
I couldn’t find a place at the restaurants. Finally, I could sit and wait at Tashas until there was room. The place was packed, with tables occupied by one set of diners the minute another set had paid their bill.
You don’t see that sort of thing in most other parts of the country. Certainly not in Polokwane, where I was just the week before. Man, they were depressed. I mean, not everyone was depressed. The ANC guys were depressed.
The EFF is now the leading opposition in Limpopo’s capital city, where the party went from zero to 28.21% of the total vote. The ANC led with 57.16% and the DA came third, with 10.98%.
You can imagine what’s going through the heads of ANC leaders in Polokwane. They are remembering that the ANC was at 66% of support in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2006. Now a Xhosa-speaking white guy called Athol Trollip, with a bunch of eager beavers from the DA, is about to dismantle the patronage networks that made that city nearly collapse under the weight of corruption. What’s to stop Polokwane going the same way in five years’ time, led by mayor Julius Malema?
I wanted to go to Seshego to eat. But then I thought: actually, I know what the middle classes in Seshego have said emphatically to the political elite of Polokwane — they have said: "Go jump in the lake."
So I decided to go to Polokwane to see what its 1% is saying at this turn of events. They are not too hard to find. Opposite the Polokwane Golf Club is a lovely five-star hotel where Saskia, one of Polokwane’s star restaurants, is nestled. This is where the Polokwane 1% was, clearly, because the Fusion Boutique Hotel’s website told me so: "The word is out and A-listers are flocking to Saskia Fine Dining Restaurant ... for sundowners and decadent dining, under the watchful eye of Rembrandt’s replicas."
So off we went, my intrepid partner and I, for lunch. It was a Friday, so I expected the place to be buzzing as the Polokwane elite put its feet up and digested the election results.
Not so. It seems that Saskia started off well around six years ago. People raved about it. But time has taken the shine off it somewhat. There was a table of two entrepreneurs who had a revolving door of supplicants coming and leaving. They were noisy and didn’t eat, just drank copious amounts of fruit juice. A private room was taken by about six people.
The wine list, which I had heard about from all sorts of wine aficionados, is still impressive. The menu still boasts loads of meat, from lamb (apparently such a favourite that it is written in Sepedi: "nama ya nku" so patrons are not confused), to chicken and beef curries and steaks, lamb shank and oxtail. Our waitress, Nare, was enthusiastic but tended to disappear when we needed her most.
I was still feeling high from the election excitement, so I ordered the Ghost Corner sauvignon blanc. It wasn’t cheap. It was delicious, though. The lamb curry was excellent, but my grilled sole was tough, dry, browned as if it was biltong and overly salted. It was just not what one would have expected from a top-flight chef.
I will go back, though, for a second assessment.
*** Saskia Fine Dining
Fusion Boutique Hotel
124 Suid Street, Polokwane
Tel: (015) 291-4042
***** Thuli Madonsela