AS with most folk, The Ten Days that Shook Our World™has preyed heavily on my mind and it was with a sense of both duty and dread, seeing that this may be our last Christmas before junk status, that I made my way to the parliamentary district on Wednesday morning there to join the ranks of the #ZumaMustFall rowdies.
I lasted maybe two hours before I returned to the Mahogany Ridge for a more comfortable participation in the country-wide protest action on this Day of Reconciliation.
But I did buy the T-shirt.
Callous as that may sound I must stress that I did later that day have a pressing prior engagement, a charity event I’d committed myself to long before the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene, the finance minister accused of Financial Prudence™.
But two observations.
Firstly, the time I spent hanging out around the statue of Louis Botha was two hours more than most South Africans could muster. Which is not to accuse anyone of any sort of shabbiness. No, sir.
Cape Town’s eventual turnout – as usual, three hours late – was, it transpired, enough to trouble Marius Fransman, the deep-thinking chairman of the ANC in the Western Cape, to pen a stinging public rebuke of, um, Allister Sparks, noted journalist and apparent admirer of Hendrik Verwoerd.
Fransman not only made weird noises about the approved manner in which to tackle corruption – the quieter, the better, apparently – but also name-dropped Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky, American foreign policy, Israel and Palestine.
And, just to demonstrate the extent of Sparks’s alleged racism, Fransman provided an utter misreading of the former’s suggestion that Nene’s replacement, David “Des” van Rooyen, was the worst political appointment since Caligula made a horse a Roman consul.
The horse may have been a bit much. It’s one thing to suggest, as ANC deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte did this week, that the nonentity Van Rooyen was “young” – which gets you an eleventy-twenty advantage in the euphemism stakes – but Fransman is not your typical classics scholar.
Quite why he believes it racist to be compared to a horse is a mystery.
He did however hit his stride – to run with the horse, as it were – when he accused the #ZumaMustFall movement of having a hidden agenda, namely regime change.
He was not alone in this; the ANC’s alliance partners have been whining on about the same thing, complaining that his detractors not only wanted the president, Jacob Zuma, to be shown the door, but also his entire administration. As matters stand, I’d suggest they were probably correct. There certainly seems to be such an agenda. But I just wish they would stop making out like it was a bad thing.
On to that second observation. The T-shirt was made in Nicaragua. Not China.
This is fairly significant in terms of international trade relations and what-what, suggesting a higgledy-piggledy market-driven world that was not bound by formal agreements and the much-vaunted though somewhat careworn BRICS confab, one that would give you bang for your buck. If your buck was bangworthy, that is.
Speaking of which, there was a certain entrepreneurialism unfolding here. Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu would have been proud of the some clever clogs had seized the moment with the T-shirts. They were going for R50 a pop but R100 got you a T-shirt – and a vague promise that a second T-shirt would be given gratis to a needy person.
Suffice it to say, there was a plague of buffalos changing hands. For an item that cost maybe R10 – a rhino! – to produce. There’s a lesson there, people. Listen up.
Other than that, the T-shirt was a de riguer item. It was fashionably black in a sort of Steve Jobs way. The white logo on the chest – “#ZumaMustFall” – was in a tasteful font that suggested a term or two in design school.
Worn with a lightweight jacket on a summer evening – one of those Kirstenbosch Garden concerts, let say, where yet again a cocktail version of Bright Blue’s Weeping had to be endured – it would certainly signal an awareness of the groundswell of discontent out there.
Throw in the fashionable man-bun and a pair of flip-flops with distressed jeans, and we’d have more than a knowledgable raising of the hipster eyebrow to what is known, in a postmodern manner, as “the Situation”.
Turned out in such an ensemble who would dare deny you the right to express yourself as a citizen?
Actually, on an unsettling note, there are those who do argue the #ZumaMustFall campaign has a “neo-liberal” agenda driven by mainly middle and upper-class whites who have appropriated the “hashtag” revolution. The narrative here being that these people be denied their freedom of expression because of their race and class.
You know what? It’s rubbish. But never mind. Here’s to a happy holiday. I’ll be back in the new year.
A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.