This Is It: The Summer of Our Discontent in South Africa
For a while now I’ve been sat on the sidelines of the blogosphere – much to the consternation of my editor, Henno Kruger. Yes he’d send me messages asking me ever so nicely whether I had any new piece(s) to submit, and I would tell him yes I did – and I really did have a few to submit until I read them again. And that is when they would meet their untimely demise and serve to fill up the trashcan on my screen. And off we’d go trying to write about something else – anything.
I have wracked my brain trying to come up with something worth speaking or commenting on. What with all the talk that the government of the United States of America had “shut down” and that non-essential government staffers were picking up temporary employment driving tour buses, and asking barely comprehending Japanese tourists if they wanted “bittersweet skinny mocha sauce, espresso and steamed non-fat or skimmed milk, lightly topped with shavings of exploitation and I hate my boss”. What we as South Africans are ever so painfully aware of is that our government went on “verlof” a very long time ago. To some of us it seems our government is completely non-essential.
The only time we remember that South Africa’s government “functions” is when it shoves its grubby paws down our pockets while forcing us to bend over, without even the courtesy of lubrication in the form of an announcement of the lending rate remaining unchanged. This is what I call ”Love In The Time of Corruption” – a rather tainted love.
Disclaimer: I am a man of many opinions. Varied opinions. Opinions that have made people swear off and at me. I okay with all that. What I am not okay with is having any part of me associated with the man who currently presides over this wonderful – and at times ineffectual democratic – country of ours. I say this because Jacob Zuma is Zulu. As if the Zulu nation hasn’t had enough to deal with being widely considered as the clan that invented violence and also mini-bus drivers. If you don’t believe me go and stand at the Noord taxi rank in downtown Johannesburg and go see for yourself. Of course you’ll need to know how to speak isiZulu.
To put in sporting terms: if being a taxi driver was a sport and the Zulus were a country, we’d be Brasil – because we do it better than the rest and we export the most taxi drivers. And many of them very rude so much so you’d swear they all came from the same womb. But I digress. What I am trying to articulate here is that being Zulu and obviously being black – the only two non-black Zulus that I can think of are Johnny Clegg and Lance “Zulu” Klusener – it is very hard to turn a deaf ear when El Presidente, King of eNkandla, Jacob Zuma opens his mouth and set not only race relations back several decades, but makes me rather ashamed to be Zulu.
To somebody else this might seem like a foreign concept, and they may even go as far as to ask themselves how a single man’s actions can have such an impact on my person. Well it’s all rather simple. See, much like the Na’vi, the trees, the six-legged creatures and the flying shadows that want to kill you on Pandora, all Zulus are interlinked. One might expound on that and say that all black people are interlinked, but our Eywa tosses chicken bones and dice and burns incense at R 500 a pop. It must be noted that at times the Shangaans of Limpopo are left out and with good reason – they are after all responsible for that calamity of organic material we have come to affectionately know as Juju. He’s a topic for another day however.
Getting back to the matter here. Jacob Zuma has managed to take the hope that Madiba gave us; the reality and institutions that Mbeki crafted with the help of his Masters Degree in Economics and Development from Sussex University, and completely and truly stuffed everything up – and not in the Ferris Bueller awesome way neither. Jacob Zuma’s political term as president has been peppered with all levels of inappropriateness. He has committed crimes that he shall never be prosecuted for because it is his prerogative to dismiss any and all charges levelled against him. He fashions himself a king rather than a president – I guess he is competing with that lunatic whose country is in financial and social dire straights on the other side of the Mpumalanga Province. He has people who have pledged fealty to him, even though now he faces a stern challenge in the stupid ranks from his former mutt – the aforementioned Juju.
My biggest gripe with this person is that regardless of how much the ordinary South African tries to heal the wounds of a past that played itself out on the global stage, he and his ilk are always there to set race relations back some decades. As one stand-up comic once stated, “When Jacob Zuma became president black people were asking how much the ticket to Australia cost” and he was correct. There was little hope within black people themselves (a generalisation yes, but it makes my point) because many of us were well aware that he was in no way going to enhance the image of us in the eyes of our fellow South Africans, and peoples of the world. It’s like refusing to invite your friends to your family’s braai because you have that one relative (aunt or uncle) who, quite frankly, embarrasses the shit out of you. This relative does things like walk around without pants / panties and has discovered that they don’t need anybody else to pull their finger. They can do it themselves, self-detonate and watch everyone scramble for windows, doors and/or holes to burry your heads.
To many of us people of a darker tinge, Jacob Zuma was that and a side order of chicken feet. I thought I would have stopped commenting about him and the poli-tricks that this pea-brained peanut head was using. I thought that I would only vent when in the company of my family or friends because to be brutally honest we are all in the same long drop and without a rope to pull ourselves out with. But I also realised that I needed to rant as a matter of urgency. I see political messages and all the opposition parties jostling for the crumbs that the ANC are letting fall from the table. I wonder exactly how many of these parties and their campaign strategists actually understand the politics of the ruling party and its band of rapacious goons. South Africa, as we are all reminded, is a rainbow nation. I am sorry to say, somebody took a dump on our rainbow a long time ago and now were are a country that celebrates together when our national teams triumph over traditional sporting rivals, but are back to name-calling in the Monday morning peak traffic. It is a hard truth to be faced with. I guess there is a sell-by date on Nkosi Sikelel and Shosholoza. This is not our doing though.
The saddest part of our combined story is when the representatives – purported or otherwise – of a different race make damaging and acutely distasteful statements the people who have been getting along so well find themselves on differing sides of opinion. In popular culture terms one could even liken it to watching one of the many Harlem Shake videos on the Internet; seemingly normal people breaking out in convulsive moves as soon as the voice says, “Con los terroristas”. That is usually the cue for people to realign their views to fit with those of the majority. I mean that is what we are taught – strength in numbers wins the day. The president in his infinite wisdom went as far as reminding parliament in 2012 what democracy was, but his blatant misrepresentation of the concept had me seething. His majority is a race driven ploy to satiate the majority.
What he fails to recognise is that the concept of majority is a fast changing one in a South Africa where consensus is that the needs of the people constitute and call for a re-imagining of the term. I believe that the next political party to wholly embrace that concept has the potential to hold the ruling party to task, and maybe even force their hand at holding former office bearers accountable for the losses suffered by all South Africans under their tenure. This is a far off concept/ dream, but I am certain that it is not one that we cannot attain. All we need is political will.
I didn’t set off trying to write a piece that would appear on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN. I set off trying to vent my frustrations with South Africa’s government and the man at the helm of the government. Many people might say he’s not the only one to blame, but I say let’s start where the buck stops – at the top. Thabo Mbeki was a man who had his many faults and the TAC will readily remind you of them, but he was a man who was not afraid to state that at the end of the day, and as leader of the government, he was the person to address our disillusionment and discontent with our government. So that is what I did. I did not write this to enforce a narrow-minded view that some people might have. It is not to be used to further your bigoted views.
I wrote these words because I have grown weary with all of us South Africans whinging at every given turn “It never was, is not now, or ever will be our fault”. If we don’t question those who are still here then in the future we will be the ones at fault. I cannot foresee future generations holding on to our refrain. It cannot be good for our country. I thank you all.
Let me know what you think. Feel free to comment on this piece. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here.
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