No escaping the red-shirts

Andrew Donaldson writes from a country just like ours, only different


MILDEW Coates, Tatterton, Low Warbling, Larking Aboute, Stench-On-Way, Phlegm, Dribbling, West Slapping … and they certainly have a knack for names here in the supposedly bucolic shires. At least, I think that’s what the signs said. It was difficult to tell, what with the nausea. Let me explain.

They have a simple, if odd system of speed restrictions in the country. Generally, it’s 30mph, about 50km/h, in the built-up areas (a few cottages, say, a pub, a post office and a street light or two.) Otherwise it’s 60mph. 

At which speed our driver hurtled down these narrow winding lanes, before suddenly slowing to a crawl as we entered the next hamlet, and then accelerated like mad upon exit. 

Given that the place is choked with villages, about half a mile apart, it’s all fast-slow-fast-slow-fast-slow in rapid succession from point A to B like a bad fairground ride. Hence the car sickness.

Closer to our destination, we enter a world of interminable roundabouts, industrial parks, enormous warehouses, shopping malls and what appears to be gated communities without gates. 

It’s just like Boskruin, Randburg, only bigger. We feel immediately at home.

But it’s not home. Most of our new neighbours have draped twinkling lights and other decorations over their semi-detached houses and put up Christmas outside their front doors. In the morning, they’re still there. No-one has stolen them. How odd.

In the supermarkets, when journalists (and others) find themselves being harassed by people in red uniforms, it’s more likely to be pensioners in Santa suits waving collection tins for a local charity and not Julius Malema’s supporters.

In this regard, the bad news from home does reach us, albeit in a somewhat strangulated form. Like jam being strained through a sieve.

The South African National Editors’ Forum has laid a complaint against Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters with the Equality Court in a bid to stop the little nasties from harassing journalists.

Part of their complaint includes an affidavit from Ranjeni “Jump Ship” Munusamy, in which the former Daily Maverick now Tiso Blackstar journalist claimed she was out shopping late last month when three men began “mocking” her in an incident that took place shortly after Malema singled her out for attention and possible correction by supporters.

During a live media briefing, Malema had accused her of being part of an “Indian cabal”, of being a “politician” who was striving to protect Cyril Ramaphosa and Pravin Gordhan’s interests.

“One of the consequences of Mr Malema’s election to single me out is that every time he publicly attacks me, my Twitter account is flooded with abusive and threatening tweets from his supporters,” Munusamy said.

“I’ve been called a witch, a c**t, a snake, an achaar-eating bitch and a street girl, was told to ‘go hang’ and have been accused of being a racist. I have also been told I should be ‘f**ked in the arse to be taught a lesson’.”

They have a way with words, these guys. When they threaten to rape someone, they do so in a most unequivocal and emphatic manner. With a large dollop of racism on the sides (and the top). Their mothers must be so proud of them.

Up here, just by way of contrast, there’s an almighty row going on over an incident in which the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, allegedly referred to Theresa May as a “stupid woman” during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

Corbyn, who vehemently denied the charge, had apparently uttered the insult under his breath as an aside. Angry Tory MPs, however, were having none of that, and there was what these people charmingly refer to as an “uproar” in parliament as they appealed to speaker John Bercow to review the incident on video.

In the video, it did appear that Corbyn — coincidentally recently described as “not overburdened by the weight of his intellect” by the Observer columnist Nick Cohen — had referred to May as a “stupid woman”. 

But he insisted that he had in fact said “stupid people” in reference to May’s mockery of the Labour Party’s unwillingness to call for a no confidence vote over her what-what Brexit deal. 

Which made the Tories even more enraged. One of whom, Andrea Leadsom, even reminded Bercow that he himself had once called her a “stupid woman” too.

May, of course, may or may not be stupid. But there’s considerable opinion she’s quite the little xenophobic villager when it comes to immigration policy. And now there’s much chatter in the news about reducing the number of foreign settlers by not allowing “stupid people” into the UK. (I may just like it here.)

But, speaking of which, Sanef announced their legal action with a statement that indicated a regrettable naivete in as much as the red shirts were concerned:

“We did not take this decision to institute legal action against the EFF lightly. We believe in the South African way of resolving disputes around a table, but Sanef has been unsuccessful in seeking a meeting with Mr Malema and other EFF leaders about the remarks which we view as blatant hate speech.”

You can’t sit down around a table with these people. Fact. It’s better to stand with your back against the wall and watch the doors.

But elsewhere, and further to stupid, it does seem highly telling that the Education for Social Justice Foundation should welcome basic education minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement that history is about to be rewritten.

This after her “history ministerial task team” had found that a “complete overhaul”, as one report put it, “of the history curriculum [was needed] to help rebuild a lost identity on the continent”.

With no apparent realisation of how senseless it sounded, the foundation’s Hendrik Makaneta explained, “We believe that the time has come for our history to reflect Africa content which is more diverse. For too long we’ve learnt about European history and the African history which was not complete.”

What? Oh, never mind… It’s time to get festive. Stay out of trouble while you’re at it, and all the best to you and yours. See you in the New Year, and here’s to completing that African history. Cheers.