Omnishambles: A new word tailor made for South Africa

David Bullard admits to a horrible error of judgment in endorsing Zuma in 2009

The word "omnishambles" has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary just in time for the forthcoming Mangaung fiasco; an event guaranteed to bring even more shame to this country in just a few days time. The word was coined by the writers of a British TV show called The thick of it and describes a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged. I cannot think of a better word to sum up the mess the ruling party finds itself in at the moment.

I've just spent a most enjoyable few days in the bush with friends of long standing. It was a festive occasion but as the wine flowed during dinner I found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain myself to my host.

Just before the last election I appeared on stage at the Sandton Convention Centre at an ANC event (to the great surprise of most of those present). As a recently discharged "racist", late of the Sunday Times, I had been invited to publicly endorse the ANC ahead of the election. Since I'd recently been forgiven by Jacob Zuma and had strong anti Mbeki sentiments I thought it sounded like a good idea.

Besides, I could see that the newly formed COPE party was already falling apart even before the election. I genuinely thought that a fresh start under Jacob Zuma was a good idea so I appeared on stage in my snappiest business suit, took the mike and told the audience that this was no time to hand the steering wheel to somebody who had never driven before.

The comment got a roar of approval from the assembled loyalists and Paul Mashatile evidently liked it enough to quote it later in the proceedings. As I returned to my seat my hand was enthusiastically shaken by the party faithful and shortly after my phone rang with calls from incredulous journos who had heard that I had just endorsed the ANC.

Naturally this surprise endorsement made the news (I even had a call from one well know radio presenter who expressed the view that this ranked as an act of near genius when it came to self publicity) and I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I even started fantasising about the call I would be bound to get from President JZ inviting me to become ambassador to the UK. Unfortunately the ANC endorsement didn't go down with certain friends who were staggered that I could even consider supporting a bunch of commie kleptocrats.

In my defence I offer a plea in mitigation that I led a deprived earlier life. Unlike the bouffant haired Prof Anton Harber and revolutionaries like Zapiro and Comrade Nic Dawes I had to work for a living during the eighties and never had the leisure time or the financial backing that would enable me to chuck bricks at the apartheid pigs. So I thought I ought to make up for it just before the last election.

Anyway, this touchy subject came up in the bush last weekend over a glass or two of particularly vicious cognac (at least, that's what it said on the label) and I had to admit that I had been horribly wrong, as had all those good folks at Polokwane in 2007. I had really believed that Jacob Zuma would be a huge improvement on his predecessor and that things would get better. He just seemed like a decent guy who was comfortable in his own skin. I thought he was smart enough to know what he didn't know and would gather talent around him to get the country up and running. How wrong I was.

I can guarantee that I won't be endorsing another Zuma presidency or, indeed, another five years of ANC kleptocracy. On the evidence of the past four years that would really be a dumb thing to do.

But, dumb or not, that's almost certainly what the delegates at Mangaung are about to do. Unlike me, they aren't particularly concerned with what has happened since Jacob Zuma became President. On the contrary, they will regard the country's slide into economic chaos and endemic corruption as rather encouraging because it sets a new standard for looting for the next five years or so.

How awful it would be to have a President and cabinet ministers who demanded high standards of integrity and punished those who failed to perform. How much better to have a President who can blow a quarter of a billion rand of taxpayer's money and then tell a few porkies to the nosy media about how his family is paying a large chunk of the cost of refurbishment of Fortress Zuma. It sets a standard. If the Pres is dipping deep into the public purse to fund a luxury lifestyle when obviously it would be impolite for other senior members of the ANC not to follow suit and also go in for a bit of their own plundering.

So it looks as though JZ is a shoo-in for another five years of Presidency by which time we may not even have a country worth the mention. Encouraged by his first term of office, even dimmer cadres will be deployed, more money will flow in unusual directions, there will be no discernible economic policy and corruption will be the order of the day and will go unpunished. All the while the party faithful will grin with glee because they honestly believe that all they are doing is getting even for the past. And in 2019 a new word will appear in the Oxford English Dictionary. It will be "megaomnishambles".

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