Mumpy Rumpy

Jeremy Gordin asks what the Agang founder has been smoking? The tendrils of her jester's hat?

Did you see Mumpy Rumpy's (Mamphela Ramphele's) headgear at the launch of her new political party (though I believe I'm supposed to call it a "party political platform" or something)?

I mean that black and white jobbie that sat on her head like a pixie's ears or like the anemone-like arms of some weird creature in Star Wars. Do you know that great Bob Dylan song?

Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin' like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Though this was, as far as I could see, by no means a leopard-skin pill-box hat. But I'm no expert in headgear. My areas of expertise are limited to medieval philosophy, frottage, local prison conditions, hernias, diabetes type 2, and tabloid journalism.

But I'd say Mumpy's doek looked as though it was modelled on a medieval jester's cap, those ones with bells at the ends of the tendrils - though she had bead balls rather than bells (or whistles). She ought to have been flourishing a pig's bladder on a stick as well, don't you think? (Did you know that the word "slapstick" derives from medieval jesters slapping around their pigs' bladders on sticks?)

I don't mean any disrespect - actually I quite like Mumpy, notwithstanding her sometimes squeaky voice, and I thought her speech was actually quite moving - but I have to ask: what's Mumpy been smoking? The tendrils of her jester's hat?

Young Gareth, son of my favourite Seffrican writer, Chuck van Onselen, has written on this site that Mumpy's decision was the triumph of "narcissism over strategy". Seems accurate. As far as one knows, Mumpy has no party infrastructure or anything approaching such.

She's like all those weenies who've clambered into the ring over the years, demanding things and saying that they could do it on their own. Remember them? Denis Worrall, Japie Basson, Wynand Malan, Louis Luyt, Bantubonke Holomisa - all of them, it turned out, running parties that consisted of one person, his spouse, and a fax machine, and each having the political appeal of a squashed newt.

Surely Mumpy knows that Seffrica is traditionally a one-party state? We fancy a monolithic structure. That's the way we like it, aha-aha. We don't like all this opposition party stuff - though they (the opposition parties) are always good for laughs around about state of the nation time.  (I think I just - on TV, out of the corner of my eye - SAW JG Zuma falling over himself with laughter in response to Lindiwe Mazibuko's words in parly.)

One thing I have enjoyed about Mumpy is that she does make those ANC types who have some intelligence and some values - there are a few left - Mumpy makes such folks wonderfully defensive.

One of them, a dear friend, so no names, no pack drill, explained three times to me the other evening - she thought that I just didn't get it, and maybe she was right - she explained that Mumpy would have done so much better if she had not been so vain as to announce a political party, with herself as its chief but, rather, had used her connections and stature as a conduit for the urban, middle class black intelligentsia (some guys in Midrand?) who were clearly ticked off with the ANC. You don't understand? No, me neither - which is why it had to be repeated.

What was really going on is that my dear friend was feeling uncomfortable in the expensive leather suit that she occupies on the ANC bullet train - no steam, diesel or electricity required, baby, we run on corruption and incompetence - it's a metaphor, guys, a metaphor - and she knew full well that everything Mumpy says is correct and that people of good conscience ought to form up behind Mumpy. But, hey, Mumpy's too taken with Mumpy and not much, if anything, is going to happen.

Besides, Mumpy seems confused about "leadership". She announces a new party, with herself as chief, and then asks everyone to advise her on what should be done. That's leadership Seffrican-style but it ain't leadership; I want my leader to lead me, not listen to what I and everyone else have to say.

What's also interesting is that the guys to whom my friend was referring have now distanced themselves from Mumpy. There's a rather wonderful press statement on this very site. Check it out:

"At no point did the Midrand Group have any contact or relationship with Dr Ramphele either under the banner of the Citizens Movement or Agang. There is also no relationship between the Midrand Group and FPD, the organisation in which Messrs Malada and Mashele were and are employed respectively, in the same way that there is no relationship between the Midrand Group and the employers of the Midrand Group's other members. As they are no longer involved in any way with Great Potential for South Africa, the matter of their resignation from the Midrand Group did not arise at the time Dr Ramphele formed Agang."

Now if you know what that is all about, you're better people than I am, Gunga Dins. That reads like a piece written collectively by Eusebius McKaiser, Pierre de Vos, Gareth van Onselen and Jacques Derrida. But I do know that "Agang" is something that Scotsmen shout when they're running through a crowd - similar to "gang way!"

I also know that Mr Mashele is Prince Mashele, the author of some scurrilous pieces critical of our beloved president, Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. They are the sort of pieces that certain editors think are brilliantly intemellectual. All of these editors doubt (quite correctly) the valency of their own intellects and are easily impressed with codswallop. I refer of course to Mpumelelo Mkhabela of The Sowetan, Makhudu Sefara of The Star, and Moshoeshoe "two shoes" Monare of The Sunday Independent. What can you do? We live in an age of doubt, codswallop and broken dreams. We live in an era in which whippersnapper princes have become kings, aha aha.

This returns us to Mumpy because this is precisely what she was trying to say. But enough. This was not a good week to launch a political party. This was not a good week for any news or thought - because the country is rivetted by Oscar Pistorius.

What is there to say? I leave it to a friend of mine who sent me an email.

"You know," he wrote to me, "when we were young men and we met some really gorgeous nookie, the idea was to try to shtup her - not kill her. This killing is a new twist, one that I do not like at all."

I concur with my friend.

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