You want to know what's going to happen at Mangaung?

Jeremy Gordin says the wheels are coming off, and no one seems to have a clue

Speaking to family members of the victims of 9/11 at the Pentagon yesterday, American president Barack Obama said: "Al-Qaida's leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again."

I'm glad to hear that. But I daresay we Seffricans are facing different sorts of threats. I think we're still reeling, dumbfounded and bamboozled, following the Marikana massacre while at the same time we - civil society, government, everyone - are sitting in a mud puddle.

We seem to me to look like a giant fat infant sucking its collective thumb, waiting for (the results at) Mangaung in December to haul us out and give us a bit of direction. ("Kry ‘n bietjie rigting, troep," as they used to shout on the playing fields of De Brug.)

Of course, I could simply be projecting my own feelings. It could be that I consumed too much lunch today (yesterday to you) and am merely feeling even more like Oblomov than ever. But I don't think so. The newspapers are nattering inanely about whether or not Zuma's going to win another term ...

... while, in the meantime, our exports have declined, mine unrest is spreading like a nasty rash, so-called service delivery protests are daily occurrences, most municipalities are financial morasses, the SAPS is a disaster in nearly every department, the national prosecuting authority clearly doesn't know if it's Arthur or Martha, public hospitals are said to be on the cusp of toppling into the abyss, Section 27 says the basic education department is still screwing around, the Johannesburg city council can‘t organise a billing system to save its life, and the Springboks can't even beat Argentina.

Bring back Snor, I hear them crying in the hostelries of Melville.

In short, the wheels appear to be falling off. Actually they came off some time ago; it's now the axles that are being ground down against the tar and potholes as the Seffrican vehicle lurches from curb to curb.

Are we getting any guidance from our leading journalists? I have to say that the best journalism I've read this past week was a book review of André Brink's Philida by Rian Malan in the Sunday Times magazine.

When that scruffy Malan chap is on the money, boy oh boy, is he on the money. It's about time someone pointed out that much of what Brink gets away with is politically correct stuff about as deep as a shallow bidet - or, as Malan puts it, "manipulative and opportunistic". Maybe Malan's being beaucoup bitchy. Well, good for him, at least he's being something.

This is more than one can say for the rest of the fourth estate. You remember The Incoherence of the Incoherence (in Arabic, Tahāfut al-Tahāfut) by the 12th-century Andalusian Muslim polymath and philosopher Ibn Rushd ("Averroes" to you honkies)? Well, sometimes I feel, reading the newspapers, that I'm perusing the incoherence of the incoherent.

As Eusebius McKaiser noted politely on this site on Sunday night, "the Sunday newspaper titles have incompatible analyses about what the ABZ [Anyone But Zuma] -camp(s) decided this week."

He continued: "The media is over-hasty in ‘confirming' slates and camps, based on thin evidence."

You think?

And more: "All these stories belie the more complex ANC constitutional reality that nomination processes are bottom up and there aren't guarantees that branches and delegates will simply follow orders from regional or provincial leaderships as they prepare to go to Mangaung." Well, don't push it, china; the nomination processes might be bottom up but the pressure on the bottom is top down, if you follow my drift.

He concludes: "Remember Polokwane 2007 when the media made the same reporting mistakes?" Yup, I sure do; Ranjeni Munusamy and I walked around for weeks with shit-eating grins on our little punims ....

Then there was, also on this site, a rather odd piece by someone called Walter Mothapo, allegedly a member of the PEC of the SACP in Limpopo. (Do you think the Politicsweb editor concocted him, just to liven things up a trifle?)

He takes the 10 most common criticisms levelled against President Jacob Zuma, apparently with the intention of refuting them.

These are that Zuma is: anti-women; uneducated; tribalistic; influenced by communists (horrors!); anti-gay (isn't everyone?); his government is weak on corruption; he benefits his family with business links; directs development projects to his village; has lost touch with the people; and is a dictator.   

Surely someone should have told Mothapo that the anti-women stuff is only ever taken up these days by young lady reporters needing to fill a column in the M&G or by Redi Tlhabi (also needing to fill a column) and that the uneducated, tribalistic, and anti-gay allegations are also a trifle passé.

Doesn't Mothapo know that there are much more serious issues with which to tax Zuma? Have a look, Wally, at the fifth paragraph from the start of this piece.

Even worse, much worse, mortifying in fact, is that our Walter reads like a made-simple version of my biography. Gordin 101. Gordin for SACP members. Where's Wally been all these years? Thanks goodness my bubbe isn't alive to see this.

Anyway, enough of this foreplay. You want to know what's going to happen at Mangaung, don't you? Ok, I'll tell you. First off, do you know what a bellwether is? It's a male sheep that leads the flock (usually wearing a bell). It's therefore an indicator of a trend or direction. (It is also, ironically, a synonym for a person who leads a mob, a ringleader.)

And do you recall that on September 5, Solidarity, the trade union, laid charges against Little Julie Malema of incitement to public violence and intimidation?

Ok, if Little Julie gets arrested in terms of these charges and appears in court, then I say that Zuma might swing it at Mangaung. But if Malema carries on untouchably his merry way - as he seems to be doing - then I say Zuma's finished. The latest charges against Malema are an important bellwether.

Besides that, I would say to you - on no basis whatsoever, but a feeling deep in my pockets - that, unless something radical happens, Zuma is not going to make it at Mangaung. There are too many folk in the ANC that want to change the guard - for a variety of reasons. It's going to be messy; in my view, the Zulus are going to make a battle of it.

The real problem, I think, is who would replace Zuma? Pusillanimous Kgalema Motlanthe? Tokyo Sexwale (about whom I shall say nothing lest Politicsweb be charged with defamation)? Cyril Ramaphosa?

Do you know Act II, scene 2 (ll. 47-150) of King Lear when Kent beats the crap out of the little slime ball, Oswald? Cornwall asks Kentwhy he's done it. Kent replies that he doesn't like Oswald's face. Cornwall then says, well, maybe you don't like the face of anyone around here.

Kent says: "Sir, ‘tis my occupation to be plain: / I have seen better faces in my time/ Than stands on any shoulder that I see/ Before me at this instant."

Till next week, cheers.

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