Monday's shutdown: It could be worse

Jeremy Gordin says what we should really fear is an EFF that decides to behave itself

Note: Readers not interested in solipsism, life in the slow lane, and the core journalistic principle of p--sing people off are advised to proceed directly to part 2 of this article.

1. While talking about himself (as usual), Gordin tries to address readers and his fellow journalists & c. 

I was about to begin this article thus: “If you’ll forgive me, I’m going to start on a solipsistic note …”

What a moronic, faux-shrewd[i] sentence to want to have written! Because I know full well, as do readers, that Solipsism R Me (and for solipsistic, read “egocentric”). Even having thought about writing that sentence is, I realise, symptomatic of what I’ve become.

Let me explain. In recent months, even for longer, I’ve noted and been concerned about a trend among Politicsweb readers. Quite a few of them, i.e., quite a few of YOU (plural), have become much kinder and less rude to me than in the good ol’ days of yore.

I’ve therefore wondered what I’m doing wrong and asked myself in the dark reaches of the night whether I’ve lost my touch (such as it was). Because whatever I or anyone else might claim, one’s primary relationship as a columnist is with one’s readers. And if I’ve stopped seriously p--sing off the Polweb readership, something’s gone seriously awry.

Obviously, something has. I could blame my anti-depressants. But I don’t want to shift my own culpability onto extraneous causes; after all, I am a solipsist, and I am not an ANC cabinet member. What’s clearly happened is that I’ve gone soft; misplaced my zest and lost my edge.

This can (and does) happen as one reaches three score and ten, when you “suffer from” diabetes 2, neuropathy, and so on, and worst of all when the chicks no longer check you out [ii].

Grasping at the persona of being “a kind, gentle, elderly person” then beckons, like that vershtunkende snake in Gan Eden, though how it or him beckoned without hands, I’m still trying to figure out.

To take a personal example (vu den?), I recently asked my friend Roy van der Isacowitz why a certain, lovely person with whom I lived for years in Israel (before the flood) won’t have anything at all to do with me – and I was shocked by his response. “Are you kidding?” he replied. “Jeremy, you’re the original bloody misogynist, and you ask me that?” (Moi? A misogynist?)

Or, to take another example, today I stumbled across a sentence in an otherwise “good” article by SA Jewish Report head honcho, Howard Sackstein [iii], where he wrote: “The vote [to downgrade the SA embassy in Tel-Aviv] means little to Israel, which views the ANC as a criminal kleptocracy …”. To be sure, Howie, to be sure. But, tell me, how would you describe Israel’s present government and its kleptocratic prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu?

My point is that a few years ago I’d have been certain to mention scathingly Sackstein’s sentence, as I just have. But these days (until today) I might have thought twice. Because these days (until today) I have considered myself to be so over this sort of thing and so done with quarrels and faribels (grievances) that I even read – sometimes without even snorting – the works of Adriaan Basson [v]; and I’d even read, if I knew where to find their stuff, Peter Bruce, or heaven help me, Eusebius McKaiser. ...

Thank you, dear Polweb readers, for taking the time to read my lengthy excursus ­– some 590 words of mea culpa, self-pity, and me mourning my lost youth. But I hope it’s not time or space wasted. For I’d like you also to think of my words as a reaffirmation to you of the journalist’s Hippocratic oath [vi] and my promise that I shall henceforth re-emerge from the stuffy closet into which I have foolishly confined myself, and that now I’ll grab some amphetamines and get on with things.

Additionally, though, and this is important, I’d like readers to consider my cri de cœur as a call on fellow journalists, writers, and talking heads, whatever their age or stage and wherever they are in the world [vii], also to stop being such kiss-arses and to reaffirm their oaths, vacate their respective closets, and get back to p--sing people off, especially those in (non-electrical) power.

2. Gordin tries to get on with the job

Now then, there is, to put it mildly, much angst throughout the land about the EFF’s planned “Day of Thunder” or national shutdown on Monday, 20 March. I don’t have to point out why, do I? As the learned (well, maybe) Stephen Grootes has pointed out on the pages of the Daily Maverick, known affectionately by me as the Daily Schmendrick, “people in some communities are receiving messages warning them of possible violence.

“The DA,” Grootes continues, “is going to court in a bid to get an interdict to stop the shutdown. While it is almost impossible to predict what will happen on Monday, it may be that underpinning the fear in some communities is what happened in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021”. Good thinking, Steve; I like a person who joins the dots à la Pravin Gordhan.

And, as the doughty Rebecca Davis has pointed out, also in the Daily Schmendrick, the EFF has apparently gone “all out” to make the day a success. Street posters advertising the shutdown have (allegedly) been put up in all major cities, and EFF-branded bakkies, says Davis, have also been witnessed cruising the streets with loudhailers, warning businesses to shut down on Monday or face looting. (I haven’t seen any posters nor heard any loudhailers, but then I live in the [predominantly] white location.)

The ministers of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS) have, however, assured Seffricans that Monday will be a normal business day. Which of course it won’t be in any case – because Tuesday, 21 March is a public holiday, Human Rights Day, and real Seffricans will have gone away for the weekend and also, as traditional Seffricans, will have spent most of the weekend getting as blotto as possible.  

Be this as it may, speaking on behalf of JCPS, police minister Bheki Cele said measures have been put in place to ensure that people can go to work, travel for leisure, and do business in a safe and secure environment. “We laud residents and businesses who refuse to be intimidated or bullied,” said the country’s chief bully. “We assure them that everyone in the country and their property will be protected.” Whoops. My mommy told me never ever to make promises I couldn’t keep.

But here’s the thing. What is the stated goal of shutting down the country on Monday? The EFF have, as I understand it, called for a “National Shutdown to demand electricity and the resignation of Cyril Ramaphosa”.

So what is so bad about that? What’s not to like? Shut down the country (which is largely shut down anyway, and would almost certainly have been on the day before a public holiday) and demand electricity and Ramaphosa’s resignation.

We all want electricity, don’t we, and in theory we all want Ramaphosa (and his so-called government) to resign, don’t we? I have written “in theory” because if Ramaphosa resigned, there could be some complications, which I hope to get back to below. But Ramaphosa’s not going to quit, not on Monday or Tuesday anyway – so it doesn’t matter.

So why, I wonder, would a public-spirited and dear friend of mine, David Bullard, be so against the Monday shutdown? Why would he write things like this? “The adults in the room will probably question how on earth a registered political party whose members of parliament pay themselves generously from the public purse can be calling for the destruction of the economy and encouraging massive damage to South African infrastructure.”

The partial answer is that Comrade David’s forgotten for the moment that the economy is pretty much destroyed anyway and that, except perhaps in the Cape where he lives, there’s not much infrastructure to speak of.

But I think that the answer, or part of it, lies elsewhere. Have I ever told you about my Uncle Dan? He was a millionaire in the Cape in the days when being a millionaire meant something; so he was a pretty smart fellow. But his father, grandpa Max, is alleged to have once said: “My boy Daniel is very, very clever; but he’s not as clever as he thinks he is”.

Now, I think Julius “little Julie” Malema, the EFF comandante, is beaucoup politically shrewd. But I don’t think he’s as shrewd as he could be. Why? Well, I don’t mean to sound like a member of some elite [vii], but seems to me Julie and his lads are missing something in terms of what we could call “education” or “cultural background”.

In plain English: if these okes weren’t so bullying, threatening, crass, loutish, big-mouthed, and racist – if they weren’t so palpably such little bull(ie)s in a china shop – I think they’d score a lot more votes than they have so far in elections, and than they will in 2024.

But they’ve just got no finesse; they think “charm offensive” is a deodorant you buy at Clicks. If they had any sort of finesse, they’d manage to sell the stayaway day to the likes of Bullard and me; and they could double, if not more, the percentage poll they generally achieve. But, given their present behaviour, there exist plenty of black folks, some of whom are in the ANC, who can’t stand them.

But I for one am pleased that Malema et al are as unshrewd and unsweet as he is. What we are seeing now in the coalition wars in the big municipalities, tedious and petty as they might seem, is a dress rehearsal for next year; and therefore need close attention.

The EFF and the ANC are getting prepared for the ANC not getting a majority in the 2024 general elections – and the oke who’s going to drive the ANC deal with the EFF is going to be, methinks, Paul Mashatile, the new ANC deputy-prez. Which is why I remarked above that it might not be such a good plan (if it were possible) to dump Ramaphosa in such a hurry. I’m just saying.

As for this coming Monday, well, I’m not digging up my AK-47 from the bottom of the garden yet. But then again, I have occasionally been known to get things wrong.


[i] I think it’ll fool people.

[ii] I flatter myself; point is they don’t even know you exist!

[iv] Though there might yet be hope for the lad. “Adriaan Basson called out for ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ remarks”. https://sundayworld.co.za/news/adriaan-basson-called-out-for-racist-and-sexist-remarks/

[v] “I swear by Hunter S Thompson, and by PJ (Patrick Jake) O’Rourke, likewise Bob Dylan, Samuel Johnson, and Mordecai Richler (notwithstanding some of them not being members of my ethnic exogroup), and call on all the gods and goddesses to witness, that I will observe and keep this oath (“Dost think that because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” as asked by William Shakespeare via Sir Toby Belch), to the utmost of my power and judgment”.

[vi] They know who they are, and readers know who they are. Obviously, however, journos in the following countries or areas are excused from my petit bourgeois concerns; they just have to work at staying alive: Palestine, Russia, Belorussia, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo (Kinshasa), Tajikistan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Burundi.

[vii] Which of course I am by virtue or vice of my skin colour, having had both parents around full-time, and my edjamacational opportunities (at Brakpan High!).