EFFnik snobbery

Andrew Donaldson says the Fighters continue to jeer John Steenhuisen's lack of a degree


It is good the Economic Freedom Fighters recognise the value of higher education. Their concerns about academic qualifications were noted in their responses to John Steenhuisen’s election as Democratic Alliance leader. Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), we expect nothing less from the party of Julius Malema, a man who once swore he’d kill for a leader who had cracked Standard Two. 

This is not the first time the Effniks have drawn attention to Steenhuisen’s education. Most of the noise has come from Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the party’s former chief lip, and Fraud Shivambu, the redshirts’ second-in-command. Shivambu, who has little time for study these days, now that he’s applying his mind to the criminal charges he potentially faces, got the ball rolling two years ago by tweeting: “So @jsteenhuisen doesn’t have a degree or diploma or certificate in anything? His shallowness explains the whole thing.” Then Ndlozi jumped in. In a reference to a 53-year-old woman who had recently passed matric, he tweeted: “#Steenhuisen can do well to see that it’s never, ever too late @jsteenhuisen #SteenhuisenGoToSchool”.

With that, the hordes were unleashed and there came from far and wide accusations of white privilege from the usual suspects. Steenhuisen, then the DA’s chief whip, had gamely responded, in a fractious parliamentary debate, that a degree wasn’t necessary to “see the EFF for what it is: an elitist clique that steals from the poor and downtrodden”. He told the National Assembly it was ironic the “so-called vanguard of the working class” was calling for a qualified franchise. It was the “ultimate form of hypocrisy”, he added, that the fighters should “play dress up” as miners and domestic workers and yet didn’t want to represent them in Parliament. 

In the furore that followed, several of the so-called vanguard shouted that Steenhuisen had not even finished school. This, of course, is untrue; he has an old-style matric – not the Angie Motshekga 30 per cent discount special – and had enrolled to study law at Unisa but did not finish the course due to work and financial considerations. 

But the braying resumed last weekend, with Ndlozi tweeting, “Baas John is 44-years-old. He’s been a DA politician for over 15 years. All this time he never saw the need to study because whites think merely being white makes you clever, a natural leader and naturally educated! Baas John’s election is the best instance of white male privilege!”

The DA’s new chief whip, Natasha Mazzone, tweeted in response: “Can you imagine how sad Dr Quinton Ndlozi is, that no matter what he ever does, how hard he ever tries, he will never be his party’s leader, but always the guy who gets ice for his leader’s drink? It’s sad actually.” And it is sad. Heart-breaking even. Not because of the cruel “ice boy” memes on social media inspired by footage of an obsequious Ndlozi handing Malema a bottle of water during a rally, but because this is a case of unrequited love at its most painful. 

Mazzone touches on a raw nerve here. Ndlozi is regarded as an attractive individual. With customary authority, Wikipedia reveals that a combination of brazen youth and “unaltered looks with a unique uncombed but amazing hairstyle and a huge achievements academically and politically” (sic) have earned the doctor the sobriquet “the People’s Bae”. For the uninitiated, “bae” is an acronym for “before anyone else” — a sweetheart, in other words. 

No prizes for guessing who’s bae the beau who doesn’t get his hair products from Clicks want to be. As the wags of social media have noted, it must be love when someone gazes at you with yearning of this intensity. It is wrong to toyi-toyi with the affections of others, but it’s particularly crushing that Juju appears oblivious of this youngster’s feelings.

Trump done

Almost four decades ago, in a sanguine yet simpler age, the impressionist Rich Little released a satirical album to help the American public – and indeed a bewildered world – come to terms with the Ronald Reagan presidency. 

At the time, you may remember, Donald Trump was just a real estate developer dreaming of cityscapes cluttered with vulgar hotels, and the idea of an audibly over-dyed B-grade entertainer in the White House seemed too bizarre to contemplate. Horrific even. But it was nevertheless worth lampooning.

Little’s album, The First Family Rides Again (1981), opened with a sketch in which the Gipper attempted to explain Reaganomics in his customary folksy, down-home manner. 

If memory serves, it began with Little, in a perfect Reagan accent: “Take this apple pie. Well, you cut it in half…” He went on to explain that one half of the pie would address a trade deficit, one half would take care of foreign policy and defence concerns, and another half would go to welfare. There was an awkward moment when it was pointed out that this was, in fact, three halves. But the president continued without skipping a beat, “Take these 15 blueberry muffins…”

That sketch suddenly sprang to mind in the early hours of Friday morning, as the doldrums of the US election coverage stretched out in the interminable caffeine-blitzed fog. It was MAWA time — Make America Wait Again. Surfing the news channels revealed yet more bleary-eyed reporters doing pieces to camera, droning on about a nation divided…

And indeed they were! That old apple pie! Divided once more! In this half, Donald Trump’s supporters on the East coast and the Midwest wanting officials to stop counting the votes; in that half, Trump supporters in the Southwest urging officials to count the votes; and in another half, Joe Biden’s lot gawping away in utter astonishment at this mess

Last week, I suggested that it would have been all over by now, bar the shouting. However, there was no predicting this insanity. Christmas was coming early and bigly for the lawyers. The president was holed up in the White House on Thursday evening, telling journalists victory was his. Raging away about electoral fraud, he declared he was launching a series of lawsuits to invalidate the votes cast for his opponent. It was very Third World ratbag gone mad. The straplines rolling across the TV screens were beyond parody. CNN had this gem: “Trump complains that mail-in votes are being counted.”

Incredibly, three major US TV networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — cut away from Trump’s presser, having had enough of his false claims that the election was rigged. Fox and CNN stuck it out — then poured scorn on Trump’s claim. CNN’s chief anchor, Anderson Cooper, summed it up thus: “That is the president of the United States. That is the most powerful person in the world. We see him like an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun, realising his time is over.”

How Cooper must have relished those words. After four years of enduring attacks on their professionalism and insults about fake news, CNN delivers the coup de grâce to the Trump presidency. It is pig-sticking time. And we cannot pretend it’s pretty. 

The “loading” Biden Derangement Syndrome, as the commentator Gareth van Onselen put it, is going to be convulsive and ugly. Oh, woke betide us all, cry the Trumpists. There is a murmuration of a hard leftist plot afoot, that Biden is being used as a Trojan horse to get Kamala Harris, “a black woman” (gasp!) And “a socialist” (double gasp!), into the White House, and they’re going to be stripped of all their assault rifles and white sheets and pointy hats. But all this rancour will fizzle away, and the memory of Trump’s presidency will fade.  

As far as the rest of us are concerned, well, there seems to be some consensus that a Biden presidency will be good for the planet. The US will resume its commitments to the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organisation. We shall see. South Africa may not loom large in the scheme of things, but at least it won’t be maligned as a shithole. Well, at least not in public.

A public school dish best served cold

From Trump to Britain Trump. Someone at the Times Literary Supplement had the inspired idea to hand Tom Bower’s biography, Boris Johnson: The Gambler (WH Allen) to former Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart to review. The result must be the hatchet job of the year. Given their history, this was perhaps inevitable. But Stewart does give credit where credit is due. He writes:

“Johnson is the most accomplished liar in public life. Perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister. He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie and the bullshit lie.” 

Stewart also notes that, after Johnson beat him in the leadership contest, the future PM told him: “Rory, don’t believe anything I am about to say, but I would like you to be in my cabinet.” Stewart’s reaction to this? “I laughed in admiration.”

Other matters of the heart

Recent developments indicate that, whatever misfortunes may befall the benighted Rainbow Nation, all continues to proceed swimmingly in the trousers department. Jacob Zuma’s bid to get Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to recuse himself as chair of the state capture commission is a case in point. 

The former president claims Zondo is biased on the basis of their “historical family relations”. To wit, about 25 years ago, Zondo fathered a child with a woman he was in a relationship with. This relationship ended in the 1990s. But, in 2010, this woman’s sister, one Thobeka Madiba, married Zuma to become the sixth First Lady. The Zondo-Zuma connection is tenuous. It depends on whether you’re Carl Niehaus or not. But you’d have to travel far and wide, across burning deserts and frozen tundra, before coming across someone who isn’t related to, or unknown to, anyone who has been blessed by Accused Number One.