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Such prophetic greetings


Kole Omotoso

It was Banquo who first challenge the three witches. Who wouldn’t want to know the future if one found those who can see the future? “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow, and which will not Speak then to me,” After they had spoken to him in their usual double tongue, they decide to disappear but not before Macbeth had commanded thus: “Stay, you imperfect speakers tell me more: Say from whence You owe this strange intelligence, or why Upon this blasted heath you stop our way With such prophetic greeting? Speak I charge you!” Of course, they disappear.

Very soon, as Christmas ends and the new year approaches, the prophets, usual of doom will begin their trade in new year prophecies. They will claim that God or Allah or Olodumare has revealed to them who would die and who would not. Those who really “look into the seeds of time/And say which grain will grow and which will not” spend time studying their subject. Our first example is Mr. Mark R. Sullivan was the president and director of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co., based in San Francisco, said in an address Thursday night. His statement was published inside the local newspaper The Tacoma News Tribune, a few days later on April 11, 1953. He was looking 40 years into the future. “Just what form the future telephone will take is, of course, pure speculation.

Here is my prophecy: “In it’s final development, the telephone will be carried about by the individual, perhaps as we carry a watch today. It probably will require no dial or equivalent, and I think the users will be able to see each other, if they want, as they talk.


Who knows but what it may actually translate from one language to another?” This short report carried the title “There’ll Be No Escape in Future From Telephones.”

By 1993, 40 years after, the first clunky, heavy personal cell phones were available in South Africa. They had been available in the United States of America a few years before. The translation bit did happen but that would be another twenty or so years more. Today, it is possible to carry on quite smoothly a conversation in foreign languages through fluent simultaneous translation. Here, two technologies meet each other. Sound transmission worked on its way to carry communication to everywhere including outer space. Language technology working on ease of multilingual communication worked on its own. Today what seemed impossible fifty, sixty years ago, what was a miracle and a prophecy half a century after.

The second example comes human beings, from an unusual individual, none other than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918 – 2013. While he was being tried for treason, he boldly declared that he was prepared for his idea of working to end white domination and black domination. Only a visionary could have foretold the type of black domination we have experienced under President Jacob Zuma with his son Duduzane and his business partners, the Gupta brothers. In 1994, when the first democratic elections would take place Nelson Mandela had to choose who would be his deputy. There were two main contenders. One is Cyril Ramaphosa. He had seen delicate and complicated negotiations so the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers and the first Secretary-General of the Congress of South African Trade Union.

He was Secretary-General of the African National Congress. Under this responsibility, he worked hard in the process that brought South Africa through the bloodless revolution of the end of apartheid. He would go on to write the much-acclaimed South African constitution.

The second person is Thabo Mbeki who had been brought up by the parents of modern African National Congress the ANC Oliver Tambo and his wife, Adelaide Tambo. At the age of twenty Thabo Mbeki was sent to Oliver Tambo with his father

Govan Mbeki on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and the fear that his mother Epainette Mbeki might soon be arrested, Thabo was handed to Oliver Tambo to bring up. He attended the University of Sussex where he obtained master’s degree in Economics. He became an astute diplomat for the ANC. If any one was the child of the party, Thabo Mbeki was royalty of the African National Congress. Who should be deputy to the presidency of Nelson Mandela?


Nelson Mandela preferred Cyril Ramaphosa. The party preferred Thabo Mbeki. And Thabo Mbeki became the deputy president to Nelson Mandela. And here is where the prophecy comes in. Here is how Robin Renwick reports the prophecy in his book How to Steal a Country: State Capture and Hopes for the Future in South Africa: “Rejecting Mandela’s offer to make him Foreign Minister, his reaction to being outmaneuvered by Mbeki was to opt out of politics and concentrate on developing his business career. Mandela reacted philosophically to this, telling his and Ramaphosa’s friend Johann Rupert that it could be no bad thing for the young man to go off and make some money, so that he could act without fear or favour when he returned to government, as Mandela hoped and believed he would.”

Mandela’s prophecy was made in 1994. Twenty years later, in 2014, Cyril Ramaphosa returns government a rich man worth R550 million. Like in all prophecies, the times would have changed to alter the circumstances of the prophecy. In the case of the telephone the issue of personal details and finance gave way to new criminalities. In the case of Cyril Ramaphosa South Africa had become far more complex and complicated to be worth presiding over. Virtually, every official who preceded him needed to be tried and thrown into prison. Officers of the party, officials of the government up to the president and members of his family. Evidence is provided a plenty. The consequences of the criminalities are well documented. The investigative organs of state have now been strengthened. All that remains is the arrests and trials of these individuals. Most have been replaced but still command support within government and in the party hierarchy.

Others are firmly in government and in the party. How do you unravel this conundrum? According to one of them: “All of us there in the NEC have skeletons and we don’t want to take out all skeletons because all hell will break loose.”


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