The Mbeki defensive boogie-woogie

Jeremy Gordin on one legacy of the former president that is alive and thriving

SOB... Zizi Top and the Mbeki defensive boogie-woogie are alive and well!

When our former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC, I felt sorry for the man.

Yes, he could be deeply annoying and, yes, there seemed little doubt that he had lost the plot. The firing of Billy Masetlha, the former spy guy, and of Vusi Pikoli, the erstwhile national director of public prosecutions; Mbeki's support of the former minister of health (what was her name? - the one who borrowed a patient's watch when she was a nurse and who was alleged to have a propensity for alcoholic beverages - oh yeah, Doctor Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang); Mbeki's complete inability to talk straight and clear about HIV-Aids or to talk straight and clear to Robert "Comrade Bob" Mugabe ... all these things suggested that Mr Maa-beki (as the honkies from Natal called him) was seriously tired and out of touch.

But, overall, there seemed no doubt that he had worked his posterior off on behalf of the country and - notwithstanding all the bleats from the arms deals whiners - I certainly didn't think Mbeki was crooked.

My gorgeous wife disagreed vehemently with me about the arms deal. She said "everyone" (except us, because we're so stupid) had had their snout in the arms deal trough. We used to have terrible arguments about this, late at night. The neighbours called the cops - who joined in or asked for bribes.

But, hey, we run a democratic and modern household - and, provided my wife grilled the Norwegian salmon of an evening and washed my feet, she was permitted to disagree with me.

And, anyway, when Mbeki walked away from the seat of power with so little fuss, I was almost ready to concede defeat to my wife. Why, unless there was something to hide, something that JG Zuma knew about, would Mbeki walk away so quietly?

But this is a subject for another day - or another book. What I wanted to say today is that I feel less sorry than previously for Zizi Top (which is how I affectionately refer to the former president) for the simple reason that it seems palpably clear that the man is getting his revenge (and revenge, as we know, is sweeter than honey).

He's getting his revenge, firstly, because many, many people are behaving just like him. This is to say that, instead of considering an argument rationally, discussing it, and either agreeing with it, or refuting it, partially or altogether, they are reverting to the "Mbeki defensive boogie-woogie" (MDB-W).

The MDB-W means that you call "nonsense", "propaganda" or "racist" whatever argument is advanced - and trash it as best you can.

Did you, for example, read the gentle and balanced article by my learned friend James Myburgh, the editor of Politicsweb, on the propensity of the circulation czar at the Sunday Times to try to keep the newspaper's figures pegged at a certain number?

It's common cause (so common it's almost boring) that most circulation bosses and newspaper managements fiddle, as legally as they can, with their bulk sales; they have to do so to keep their "sales" numbers up, especially in these trying economic times. But how did most people, including the learned editor of The Times, Ray Hartley, react to the article?

They said - as they dipped to the left in the first move of the Mbeki defensive boogie-woogie - that Myburgh's article was merely "propaganda", part of the Great Bullardian Onslaught (GBO) on the Sunday Times. They say that Myburgh was simply joining the Bullfinch in tickling the lion's testes and so on and so forth.

Why there exists this paranoia on the part of the Sunday Times and many others - why they fear that there are barbarians, led by Bullfinch, intent on destroying the ST- I do not understand.

After all, the Sunday Times' editorial and other management have done a magnificent job on their own - without the help of Bullfinch or anyone else - of screwing things up. They sold the sea to the aliens, they backed the wrong oke in the presidential succession battle, they quoted the doctor who ministered to Schabir Shaik in part only, and so on and so forth.

Then, leaving aside these puny and irritating journalism wars, the second way in which Mbeki is getting his revenge is that there are people, who ought to know better, who are talking utter, defensive codswallop (in which Zizi Top specialised) as though it had some semblance of logic and intelligence - as though they seriously believe they are fooling someone.

I am referring of course of the ministers of communication and higher education - Siphiwe Nyanda and Blade Nzimande - and to those bloody motor vehicles known as Beemers, which for some reason people consider to be desirable.

Guys, you should not have bought the cars. They are over-priced and unnecessary. You have completely - in one fell swoop - kicked your credibility in the balls, after years of building it up in various ways, sometimes bravely.

Give the damn things back. More importantly (since you are not going to give them back), stop pretending that there is some vaguely good reason for having them. Concede that you want them because you want them - and let's move on. You are seriously insulting people's intelligences - and you two, above all, should know that one does this at one's peril.

Finally - and I say this without any joy at all - it's starting to look as though what I (and others) wrote about Caster Semenya was accurate. It appears as though she is what is known as intersexual - that is, someone who has an atypical combination of the physical features that usually distinguish male from female.

And the big question is whether her handlers et al at Athletics South Africa (ASA) knew about this before Semenya went to Berlin? Whether they knowingly used this vulnerable person because they wanted a medal and all the stuff that goes with gold?

But still the feminists and various others will bang on that it's all a result of the reactionaries in our society (such as I) not understanding that a woman is not necessarily a man just because we don't understand a woman can be a man and still be a woman (or some such crap) - and yet others will say that the results of Semenya's tests were caused by racism - or perhaps by Bullard.

Zizi Top lives! Viva! Pambile!

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