Andrew Donaldson on the unpleasant task of cleaning up after the ruling party's failed uprising
A FAMOUS GROUSE
IT was my old hooligan friend and bandmate Glen who some years ago introduced me to the evocative term “mock charge”. I no longer recall the details or the occasion, but it almost certainly came up in a discussion on an overwhelmingly nauseating matter. Perhaps something long dead but still humming that the dog had rolled in, or maybe even a Dali Tambo muumuu.
The mock charge describes that moment when the gorge rises with sudden forcefulness resulting in a reflexive, convulsive shudder. It is an ominous sign, as the dry heave or practice run is a reliable indicator that the arrival of a full Persian carpet is imminent.
Sadly, it would appear that Mandela Day has become a time of the massed mock charge. It was never meant to be thus, but an otherwise joyous celebration has been beggared and stripped of meaning over the years by overweening sentimentality. The opportunity to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela has been lost. Hallmarked to little more than fatuous gesture, it is now a superficial exercise in mawkish nationalism and faux patriotism.
This year it was especially crass and cheesy. On Friday, in the aftermath of an orgy of death and destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, Cyril Ramaphosa appeared on national television and urged the country to honour the occasion of what would have been Mandela’s 103rd birthday by joining clean-up operations in riot-torn areas. In a departure from his prepared speech, he said:
“My wish is that this cleaning up campaign that has been sparked off by cleaning up the mess of this violence can become a continuous process in our country where we all work together to clean up our country so that we can emulate other countries — even on our continent — that have clean streets where people work together on set days of the month, of the week, to clean up their neighbourhoods, to clean up their country. This is the moment that I would want us to use to begin this culture of cleaning up the areas where we live.”
In essence, then: sweep up the mess of this mayhem that has been visited upon your suffering selves by this crazed cabal, this leeching Jacob Zuma faction, the feudalists who operate with impunity within my own party, the one I supposedly lead — and, hey, while we’re at it, my people, why not keep on cleaning up, on a regular basis, like every every month?
Gosh, there’s a thing, except … we’ve already been there. Municipal services? We used to have them, didn’t we? Even paid for them with our taxes.
Not wishing to be dramatic, but Squirrel’s vision of a citizenry setting aside time to clean up their neighbourhoods on a regular basis does chime neatly with prime minister Nkosazana Dlamini Virodene Proxy Zuma’s Pol Potty Year Zero nonsense of a nation rising in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic to create a socialist Utopia. And after the streets have been cleaned, perhaps the comrades could march the people to the fields where they could grub for potatoes?
Here’s another thing: are South Africans not sickened to their back teeth by this ceaseless characterisation as being indomitable in spirit? Forgive the cynicism, but it’s so very, very Cheddarish.
Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis wrote a trenchant piece about Mandela Day at the weekend in which she took issue with this notion that an exceptional resilience should colour the “post-riot nation-building narrative”.
Granted, the images and stories of ordinary citizens who had selflessly banded together to pick up the pieces of their shattered neighbourhoods and wrecked businesses were moving. This was, if anything, exemplary community action, charitable and worthy of the highest praise. 
But, as Davis pointed out, it was also wholly unnecessary: we do not need this, to keep rallying together “in the name of Mandela to rebuild”, forever making withdrawals from the “rapidly depleting Ubuntu Bank”. She writes:
“As South Africans, we don’t get to be playful, or grumpy, or stingy, or sexy, or any one of a hundred other options for national stereotypes. We get to be RESILIENT. A nation of resilient little battlers, constantly picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after national tragedy or government scandal.”
This was not an occasion to boast yet again to the world of South African “exceptionalism” and our capacity for forgiveness and moving on. “This is a government,” Davis says, “that has failed its people again, and again, and again…
“When you look at those hardy and magnificent citizens out there cleaning the streets, Mr President, you should not feel national pride. What you should feel is shame. Shame that for the millionth time in this country’s history, it will be ordinary people dragging this nation forward once more.”
Frankly, I don’t think Squirrel has much time for shame, what with all the dread and panic he has on his plate. He’s just emerged, dazed and confused, from what to all intents and purposes is a failed uprising — and his enemies are not so much still out there, at large, plotting away at will, as sitting cheerfully at the table with him. There’s a lot to be said for that old chestnut about keeping friends close but enemies closer but this is pushing it.
The factional divide at the top of government is glaringly obvious. Members of the cabinet’s security cluster openly disagree with the president and his generally accepted description of the violence as an “insurrection” and, according to the Mail & Guardian, advised him against describing the “Zuma riots” as such.
Those who downplay the violence as “ordinary crime” include the state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the police minister Cheek Bile.  Demands that Squirrel sack this unholy trinity grow, but still he dawdles — if that’s what lame ducks do — as the insurrection over his use of the term “insurrection”continues.
It is quite clear why the label “ordinary crime” is preferable; it conveniently permits a line to be drawn under the matter and frees the authorities of the responsibility of taking further action: “ordinary criminals” have been arrested, and that is that. Without an “insurrection”, ringleaders in the upper echelons of the party who may have plotted the president’s downfall escape sanction. Finish and klaar.
On Tuesday, KZN provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli joined the fray, declaring Squirrel’s description an “exaggeration”. News24 quoted him as saying: “An insurrection or coup, as some ministers have made reference to, first and foremost must be having a distinct and noticeable leadership. It can’t just be a chaos of people in different parts of the county whose actions are in essence counter-revolutionary. That may later on result in chaos in society that may give rise to a condition for an insurrection.”
This simplistic “counter-revolutionary” prattle is copybook stuff; Ntuli was simply parroting earlier comments by the doctrinaire Mapisa-Nqakula.
The defence minister has however now changed her tune. “The president has spoken,” she has said. “It was an attempted insurrection. I confined myself to [the term] counter-revolutionary but ultimately, remember, any element of counter-revolution ultimately may as well lead to insurrection in a country.”
A revolutionary reverse ferret, then. But still not enough to convince some, like EFF leader Julius Malema, who has gleefully added much incendiary confusion to the situation as possible.
This was not an insurgency, the Sowetanquoted him as saying, but “protests” fuelled by the ANC’s internal politics: “This government is an illegitimate government because it could not handle civilian matters in a civilian manner. What they did they went to take soldiers and put them on the ground, that is why they call it an insurrection because they want to justify why there are soldiers on the ground.”
The violence and carnage was “typical” of any South African protest action: arson, looting, destruction of property, death — all part of a normal day spent on the rampage.
“It is not an insurrection,” Malema said, “it is a protest whether there is looting or fire. All of protests have fire, all protests have looting by the way, even in 1976 bottle stores were raided. Every revolution has got elements of destruction to property and therefore you cannot say because there is looting it is illegitimate…”
Such madness is a symptom of Long ANC. Over the years, the country has consistently ignored warnings to socially distance and isolate itself from the idiots, and is now plagued by a useless government.
And still they’re kept in power. Gareth van Onselen makes it clear in Business Day that our democracy provides us with an obvious solution to our problems: we are able to vote the ANC out of office — but we choose not to. He writes:
“How do we fix the unfixable, encourage the deaf and best support our torturer? That remains the frame of reference. It is mad behaviour. And the history of this particular period will make us all look like fools, if there any books left for it to be written in.
“The ANC steals; we condemn. The ANC destroys; we denounce. The ANC kills; we lament. The ANC fails; we criticise. But in the final analysis, we tolerate. For the ANC is still in power.”
Belated birthday greetings, Madiba — and pass the bucket.
Among the more interesting video clips circulating on social media over the past week has been footage of stolen refrigerators, mattresses, microwave ovens and other goods abandoned in fields outside Pietermaritzburg by looters who feared arrest during the police’s “Operation Show Us Your Receipt”. The volume is staggering.
Eyewitness News reports that these appliances have been recovered and the police will in all likelihood destroy them as retailers have no further use for them. Surely it would be better to donate them to responsible charities, like Gift of the Givers?
Elsewhere, an interesting fashion trend has been noted: clothing, often ill-fitting as if hastily grabbed off the rack, but all sporting, like prominent badges of honour, various anti-shoplifting devices. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
An earlier happy return
A curious tale appeared in The Times some years back about the open air concert in London’s Hyde Park to celebrate Mandela’s 90th birthday. One of the many stars on the bill was the late Amy Winehouse, who sang the 1984 Special AKA hit Free Nelson Mandela for the afternoon’s finale.
The song confused Mandela, though, as Winehouse had changed the chorus to “Free Blakey, my fella!” Prime minister Gordon Brown then had to explain to him that Blake Fielder-Civil was Winehouse’s husband, who was on remand following his conviction on robbery and drug offences. Winehouse later told Brown: “You know, Nelson Mandela and my husband have a lot in common. Both of them have spent a lot of time in prison.”
The EFF are a clever lot, and lest we forget it, they are forever reminding us that, when it comes to university degrees, they have far more than DA leader John Steenhuisen, who has none. The most learned of the redshirts is probably their second-in-command and bronze medal winner in the Uncle Fester lookalike competition, Floyd Shivambu.
It was perhaps for this reason that Shivambu was recently invited by the producers of Al Jazeera’sInside Story to take part in a discussion on the Zuma riots. Rather astutely, Pretty Boy Floyd managed to prattle at length about the ANC government’s long history of corruption and looting but avoided any mention of his party’s not consequential involvement in same. 
A busy man, Fraud has also penned an opinion piece for the Star questioning the wisdom of jailing Accused Number One. “Imprisonment,” he writes, “is universally accepted as a mechanism and method of justice, yet a question remains as to what form of justice is the South African government seeking through its imprisonment of the country’s former president and head of state. How does the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma help South Africa? Is imprisonment a correct mechanism to resolve the otherwise complex political problems?”
The thinking here is of concern. Firstly, it is the Constitutional Court and not the government that has imprisoned Zuma. The two are separate. Secondly, Shivambu suggests the country is beset by complex political problems and that jailing uBaba does little to “help the situation”. The problems may be complex, but they stem from criminal enterprise. If imprisonment is an accepted method of justice, then that’s the benefit of Zuma’s incarceration: it’s a shot in the arm for the rule of law.
Lastly, it is perhaps not wise that Shivambu draws attention to himself with such nonsense. Thieving is not a complex matter, and a former head of state, imprisoned for contempt, continues in his attempts to derail a fraud and corruption trial that will in all likelihood increase his time behind bars. It is only a matter of time before the authorities get around to the affairs of the little leaguers. It will be ugly.
The Times reports that the UK children’s cartoon series, Peppa Pig, is “infusing American children with a vocabulary and accent honed in Britain”. The pig, the newspaper says, is leading the fightback after decades of Americanisms on TV programmes have “rampaged through Britain laying waste to swathes of the Queen’s English”.
Parents in Canada and the US claim kids are now “talking about strange objects with funny accents”. Their vocabularies include such Anglicisms as “biscuits”, “petrol stations”, “faucet”, “telly” and “optician”. One woman said her daughter now sounds like a “little lady [who] says ‘lovely’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all the time” and is “learning about London, she knows about the Queen”. Some are plainly baffled. “We don’t understand her to begin with,” a couple said of their five-year-old granddaughter, “and now she’s speaking British?”
The recolonisation of North America aside, I wonder if little Peppa could be put to use in our neck of the woods with DVDs of her inspirational adventures dropped off at Luthuli House?
It’s well known that very few ANC members sound or even behave like little ladies. It would do her no harm, for example, if acting secretary-general Jessie Duarte said “please” and “thank you” more often. And when last did women’s league leader Bathabile Dlamini describe anything as “lovely”? Does Lindiwe Sisulu, prominent member of the struggle royal family, know much about the other queen?
 Just as those cleaning up after floods in Germany or battling runaway fires in the United States should surely be praised for their resilience?
 I introduced the anagram in the early days of lockdown. At the time, it did not seem possible that any government would tolerate such a buffoon as a police minister during a national crisis. He’d be fired within a week or two, and we could all move on. How wrong I was. Now I’m stuck with the tired joke, an idiot curse.
 The Depression-era American bank robber Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd (1904-1934) was regarded by many as a hero for reportedly burning mortgage documents during robberies, thus freeing many from debt. He is celebrated in the Woody Guthrie outlaw ballad Pretty Boy Floyd: “Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered, I’ve seen lots of funny men; some will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.” This is not a song they sing down at the VBS Mutual.