Malema's mission to the English

Jeremy Gordin on the ex-ANCYL leader's efforts to drum up investment, and other matters

I note that Nadine Gordimer, our Nobel literature laureate - she who drives her trolley around the local Checkers at high speed, or used to do so in her younger days  - came out today on SaFm with both barrels blazing.

"Our education system is a wreck. It's a shamble. I can't believe that three-quarters of the year have gone by and so many of our schools, especially in the rural areas, have been without textbooks," Gordimer, 88, is reported as saying.

"It is the [education] minister's responsibility to see that the books are ordered in time and delivered. How can you teach people to read if there are no books to read from?" Gordimer continued.

As I mentioned recently, her latest book, No Time like the Present, really climbs into the state of the nation - so much so that it makes JM Coetzee's Disgrace seem like a picnic at Emmarentia's botanical gardens.

Trouble is, though, that most people don't read 421-page books any more and Gordimer doesn't always construct easily-comprehensible sentences and paragraphs any more. She seems to think that her version of stream-of-consciousness is somehow cooler than crisp, lucid prose.

It's a pity. If she were more readily comprehensible, she could, for example, have been called as a witness about the state of the nation in the Boeremag trial. Were she more readable, many Politicsweb readers - not known for their positive feelings about the present regime - would also probably start re-reading her books.

And I think the pupils (sorry, learners) in Limpopo would be deeply pleased with No Time like the Present, provided they know enough English to read the thing and provided they could get it delivered up there.

I also understand - though, oddly, I can't find her actual words quoted anywhere - that Ms Gordimer had unkind words to say about the president's polygamous life-style. What precisely his wives and girlfriends have to do with more than 5 000 rural schools being without textbooks for more than six months of the academic year, I'm not entirely certain.

But, hey, it's always good to blame Zuma. And it's always good to carp about polygamy and extra-marital sex - it appeals to people's righteousness.   

Meanwhile Zuma is having to kick rapidly for touch with far greater aplomb and more rapidity than Patrick Lambie or Morne Steyn. Everyone wants him to fire Angie Motshekga. But they don't realise that Mangaung is coming up fast and she is president of the women's league. Moreover, in Zuma's world, you don't fire or punish people; things are way more subtle; you just let ‘em know that they owe you big time, so that they'll show up when needed.

But things are not entirely bleak. It seems that Julius "Little Julie" Malema and his buddy, suspended league spokesman Floyd Shivambu, have journeyed to England.

Their mission is to convince leading business people to invest in the beloved republic, South Africa. Interesting time to choose to "engage" with English captains of industry, isn't it?

And, as my friend David "Bullfinch" Bullard said to me over a kosher breakfast at Scusi on Monday, one would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall at their meetings in London.

But, to begin with, what about their hotel? Surely Little Julie and Shivambu are staying at a fancy five-star hotel. I have read, however, that all "normal" London hotel prices are up by some 60 percent, due to the Olympics.

So who's footing the bill? The Yoof League? The Democratic Alliance? Is it courtesy of the aborted youth subsidy?

You can also imagine the two fellows putting through their phone calls to some head of a super investment house and hedge fund.

Super assistant to assistant super assistant: "I say, Mildred, there's a chap on the line, didn't quite catch his name, Pink Floyd or something, said he's here with the genuine leader of something called the youth league. I don't know if that's a soccer division, sort of like the Hibernian league here.

"He says they want to speak the boss. I really don't know what to say about Rupert because you know that he, and everyone else, has gone off to the Olympics. In fact, Mills, you're going to have to take some champers over to the box later. But Pink Floyd doesn't seem to realise that we're having these games."

Then, if Malema and Shivambu score a meeting with Sir Rupert Everett-Mandible (a fictitious name), one can also imagine the ensuing conversation.

Sir Rupert: "Now, let me get this clear, my dear Julius, you wish me to invest thousands, well scores of thousands, of pounds in mining infrastructure and so on in Limpopo. And then you're going to nationalise it all? I say, can you run that plan by me again?"

Of course, leaving aside the suitability of Malema and Shivambu as emissaries for high finance, I am pleased they are in London because we need a high-ranking somebody to represent us.

Here we are, starting to rake in the medals. We've got one from Cameron van der Burgh and another from Chad le Clos, and, if Caster Semenya can take a couple of placebos rather than those testosterone-attenuating pills, we might get yet another. But we have no one really serious representing the beloved country.

I was most taken aback - gave my snoring wife an elbow in the ribs - during the grand parade on Friday night not to see the president or the deputy-sheriff or jovial Fikile Mbalula waving at our doughty sports people.

What's going on? Not like our leaders to miss a fun trip at the taxpayer's expense. If most of the royal houses of the world could show up - and if even the British queen, Elizabeth II, Zuma's china, could parachute in to the games - I really think we could better than Sam Ramsamy.

Anyway, I blame everything, as does the president, on Hendrik "Frenchy' Verwoerd. Verwoerd wouldn't read Gordimer, he certainly wouldn't want anyone black to have text books, and I don't think he'd have fancied the Olympics. Too flippant; insufficient rugby.

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