NEWS & ANALYSIS

We really don't want to know, Cyril

Andrew Donaldson says our politicians should stop behaving like fodder for gossip magazines

FAMOUS GROUSE

THE Mahogany Ridge regulars seldom agree with anybody from the Northern Cape, much less the ANC. But when Deshi Ngxanga, the ruling party’s provincial secretary up there, suggests that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa think twice about plans to tell all about his personal life, we must concur.

The reach-out to Ramaphosa came after the latter told Parliament last week that a full disclosure about his trouser business would be forthcoming in a matter of days. This after reports on leaked emails which allegedly linked him to eight extramarital affairs. 

As Ngxanga put it in a statement, “We believe that the deputy president has already surrendered a lot of his personal life to the public in the course of doing his job. There is a line that should not be crossed.”

Let’s have a conversation about this, as they say on talk radio when they want to sound smart. True, the buffalo billionaire has admitted to one adulterous affair, a little distraction that ended some eight years ago. 

But this hardly counts in the torrid department and is not the sort of fireworks we were expecting from the deputy president. Where were the sordid selfies in the hotel room? The viking nonsense with the ice bucket helmet? The room service orders at 3am for oysters and whipped cream? Perhaps we will never know.

This is a well-known political strategy, old as the hills. Give them an inch and they’ll forget about the yard. There may or may not even be something about it in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “When the elders accuse your men of sacking the village, raping the women and stealing the horses, your response should be, ‘No, they were actually ponies.’”

So it was with the Public Service and Administration Minister, Faith Muthambi. Questioned about reports that she had improperly hired 27 people, including close family and friends, to her support staff, this eminently certifiable Zumanaut told Parliament on Wednesday: “Out of the people I’ve appointed, nine of them are my family and South Africans who deserved to be hired.”

See? Not so bad. Only a third of the nepotism you imagined.

We digress. Ngxanga is correct that there is a line being crossed here. They may think otherwise, but our politicians are not showbiz celebrities, and they should stop behaving like fodder for gossip magazines, airing their dirty laundry and grumed sheets in public. 

Take, for example, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s affair with Buhle Mkhize, the professional socialite now based in New York. Perhaps none of us would have ever been the wiser about Gigaba’s bit on the side had his wife, Norma, not decided to tell a TV show all about it some months back.

There may, she offered, even have been something of a karmic blowback regarding the affair. She, after all, had been Gigaba’s mistress when he was married to his first wife.

With that, the floodgates opened. Now it’s almost impossible to scan the internet without seeing a vengeful Ms Mkhize, the woman scorned, in some form of undress in the clickbait that pollutes the bottom feed on our favourite news sites.

Pouty, bulbous and preposterously orbed, she does rather resemble a bag of eggplants about to fall into the hot tub. Looking at her one can easily understand Gigaba’s penchant for dressing up as an airline pilot. All those stupid jokes about the cockpit…

They don’t tolerate this sort of nonsense in Zimbabwe. There, at least, they know a woman’s place is in her undies. Robert Mugabe just about said as much at a rally in Bindura, Mashonaland, last weekend. 

He was commenting on the decision to ban the dancer Zodwa Wabantu from the Harare International Carnival because of her “legendary” performances without knickers. 

Apologising to many “disappointed” men, Mugabe reportedly said of Wabantu, “You just come without covering your decency. What do you want? Men to see you? We don’t want such.”

No to such? Speak for yourself, old man, we hear those young Zimbo lions roar. 

As it is, speculation is rife, north of the Limpopo, that it has indeed been many, many years since old Bob has been anywhere a such, least of all his wife’s.

This may or may not offer an explanation for her violent behaviour in that Sandton hotel room some weeks back: that the display with the extension cord was nothing other than a deep, frustrated cry for help from Zimbabwe’s next president and that she’s just a sensitive soul in some sort of mental anguish. Or perhaps not.

There may even be a racy, “specialist” memoir in here somewhere. We could call it Fifty Shades of Grace or maybe A Such Too Much. With clever marketing, it could sell hand over fist.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.