This week, listening to African National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s powerful oration to the party faithful, I was spellbound. Limited space here permits only key extracts.

"I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. I don’t want to rule anyone. I’d like to help everyone, if possible — Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness — ubuntu — not by each other’s misery.

"The good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. Life can be free and beautiful, but we’ve lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls.

We’ve developed speed, but shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

Aeroplanes and the internet have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men — cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all.

"Don’t give yourselves to these brutes who enslave you, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel. Don’t give yourselves to machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You, the people, have the power.

The power to create machines. To create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful. So, in the name of democracy, let’s use that power.

Let’s fight for a decent world that will give our people a chance to work, and give youth a future, and old age a security.

"Brutes have risen to power. But they lie. They don’t fulfil promises. Dictators free themselves but enslave the people. Let’s fight to free the world and do away with greed, hate and intolerance.

Let’s fight for a world of reason, where science and progress lead to everyone’s happiness. Comrades, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!"

Suddenly, I woke to a harsh reality check. I’d been dreaming, and transposed Charlie Chaplin’s timeless speech from his 1940 classic, The Great Dictator, into a truly presidential address in Mangaung.

Brian Sandberg

Durban