NEWS & ANALYSIS

Rise of the Red Shirts

Andrew Donaldson on Sasha Martinengo's defenestration by the EFF, and other related matters

A FAMOUS GROUSE

THERE are moments in our lives when we are rudely reminded that time has indeed moved on, our youth has sadly passed, and whatever hopes and dreams we’d once cherished had long since been swept aside by a new order that brashly disregarded all that preceded it.

Such a moment came, some 20 years ago, when I first heard Sasha Martinengo on 5FM. Dear God, but it was awful.

It was not his fault, of course. He worked for a radio station that aggressively pandered to a young urban audience, and at the time, rave culture and house music was on the rise, the robots were marching, and rock was dying. 

Hip trendies were listening to dance music in their cars. 

Sitting down! It made no sense. 

Nothing drove home the fact that I was now a dinosaur more than that relentless doof-doof-doofing and the inane yammering from Martinengo and his pals. And I loathed it all.

Still, it was with mixed feelings that I learnt that he had been summarily dismissed from his latest gig for calling Julius Malema a “monkey” on his Tuesday morning show on Hot 91.9 FM. 

It was a stupid thing to do, but it does suggest that some sort of national convention is needed to decide on non-offensive terms of abuse and invective, if only to further social cohesion.

Martinengo did however later issue a vague apology.

“I’m sorry if I offended anyone,” he tweeted, “but I stand by what I said. Anyone, irrespective of their race, colour, creed, religion, gender who disrespected a woman is a monkey.”

Actually, people who disrespect women are more likely to be misogynists. 

Monkeys, on the other hand, are widely considered to be intelligent and sociable creatures.

So much so that, here at the Mahogany Ridge, there was the usual drollery about their deep unhappiness at the comparison with the Economic Freedom Fighters’ commander-in-chief, as well as a few off-colour asides about alarmed bonobos being put off their strokes, but we needn’t dwell on that.

The last time they were this upset, it has been claimed, was in 2010 when the then national police commissioner, Bheki Cele, said of British businessman Shrien Dewani:

“A monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here. Shrien thought we, South Africans, were stupid when he came all the way to kill his wife in our country. He lied to himself.”

Some are monkeys, apparently, and some are not. And the less said of Dewani’s prosecution, the better.

Speaking of which, the EFF want Martinengo to be criminally charged. More to the point, they have ominously hinted at the consequences for Hot 91.9 had they not acted against the deejay.

“Unlike many who accept apologies from racists, this station refused to stop there and took a step further by firing a racist,” the party said in a statement. “It is obvious that they acted decisively because they knew they would face the full might of the EFF like H&M did.”

And who could forget the thuggery and vandalism in January this year when the EFF trashed the clothing chain’s stores across the country after the appearance of an H&M advertisement featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the legend, “Coolest monkey in the jungle”? 

At the time, an unapologetic Malema told reporters, “We are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us, to exclude us. We are black we are proud, we are black we are beautiful. We are black and we are not ashamed of being black.”

Neither, it seems, are they ashamed of being violent blackmailers — for that now seems to be the way they go about their business these days.

The brawl between redshirts and staff at a Hungry Lion fried chicken franchise in East London last weekend is a case in point. 

According to Buffalo City regional EFF chair, Mziyanda Hlekiso, members had gone to the outlet to hand over a memorandum of demands as part of a campaign against exploitation of workers. 

Quite why the fight broke out is unclear, but a video of the red shirts punching and shoving employees is doing the rounds on social media. More prosaically, they’re said to have also helped themselves to chicken as they left the store.

Police are reportedly investigating a case of assault, but Hungry Lion national marketing manager Tashalane Reid has said that no staff member was injured and the company will not be taking any action against the EFF. 

Perhaps there are concerns the fighters will return for more chicken should the Hungry Lion make a fuss, but News 24 did quote one employee as saying that a staffer, their shop steward, was in fact badly hurt: “He is on sick leave because they injured his ribs.”

The EFF’s threats against finance minister Nhlanhla Nene on the eve of his testimony before the Zondo commission was another form of blackmail: if he didn’t resign after giving evidence at the state capture inquiry, then the red shirts would expose Nene’s “darkest secret”.

Well, Nene hasn’t resigned, and here at the Ridge we’re wondering exactly how dark his darkest secret could possibly be. 

And so is David Maynier, the DA’s shadow finance minister, who has suggested that, if he had such dirt at his disposal, Malema should now tell the commission exactly how Nene had been captured by the Guptas. 

Either that, or shut up.

Nene, meanwhile, has since apologised for meeting the Guptas at their Saxonwold compound and at their business premises in Midrand and has admitted it was a mistake to see the brothers in such places, even with bodyguards.

Nowhere, though, have the EFF’s blackmail tactics been more blatant than in their campaign to remove Port Elizabeth’s mayor, Athol Trollip.

It was claimed that Trollip was ousted because the DA refused to support the ruling party’s shambolic plans to expropriate property without compensation. But it’s far more likely that Malema wanted him out simply because he was white.

As he taunted Trollip on Twitter in March this year, shortly after another motion of no confidence against the mayor was filed: “Hahaha, you are going white man. I’ve got no sympathy for whiteness, it feels so good for a black child to determine the future of the white one.”

So, choosing corruption over complexion, the EFF reinstalled the ANC back in Nelson Mandela Bay under a stooge mayor, the United Democratic Movement’s utterly compromised Mongameli Bobani. The hypocrisy, if not the racism, is staggering.