With so much speculation about the outcome of the ANC conference’s election, journalists decided to consult two experts to settle the matter once and for all.
The two diviners Sapa asked were however also divided about whether President Thabo Mbeki, ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, or a mystery third contender, would get the ruling party’s top job.
Sangoma Agnes Ramakgopa, 74, threw the bones for reporters in the living room of her small home in the village of Botlokwa, about 50km outside Polokwane.
From the arrangement in which about 20 animal bones, bits of hooves, seashells and a piece of glass fell out of leather bag onto a small woven mat, she could see Mbeki emerge as the winner.
With a metal spatula fashioned from a long nail, she pointed at part of an animal’s hoof, saying it represented Mbeki. Lying next to, but slightly behind it, was a domino-shaped piece of bone with pits carved into it. This represented Zuma, Ramakgopa said.
She sat on the edge of her leather couch, muttering as she hunched over the bones, while pop music blared from a sound system next to her.
“I see two candidates fighting over positions, with Mbeki standing a good chance. Mbeki is the most powerful of the two and he is the one who will win,” she said in Sotho.
On the edge of the mat onto which she had spilt the bones, behind the first two pieces, lay an animal’s knuckle. This, she said, was a mystery third contender, a man she could not identify.
At the end of the session, she picked up a few of the larger pieces, including a large seashell, and let them fall onto the mat again.
This, she said, was to determine if her prediction had been accurate.
“What the bones said is right,” she concluded. Reporters paid R50 for the visit.
Before consulting her, Sapa paid a visit to a “prophet” of the United African Apostolic Faith, Raphudu Mapokane.
Combining African tradition and Christianity, Mapokane works from a newly built, freshly painted compound, a few blocks from Ramakgopa’s home.
Mapokane spoke to the reporters in a large room furnished with several polished wooden benches arranged in rows. They sat in a corner at the back, next to a few animal hide drums, where Mapokane draped a green cape over his shoulders.
He asked the reporters to place the R30 fee on the floor at his feet. He held his hand over it and, looking at his palm, bowed his head and began to pray loudly and rapidly, asking Jehova to help him see his vision. He ended with “Amen”.
“South Africans want a change and they see Jacob Zuma as the ideal person for the presidency. Zuma will definitely win the election,” he said during his consultation which he interrupted once to answer a call on his cellphone.
On Mbeki’s future, he said: “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction and it will be difficult for him to emerge from that unhappiness and still be a president.”
He said Mbeki would be involved in a lot of controversy which Zuma would take advantage of.
While Mbeki had the support of women, the majority of South African people felt that Mbeki had failed them, said Mapokane.
A third sangoma approached by Sapa reporters said she could not throw the bones for them as there had been a death in the family recently.