No one likes a rat

Andrew Donaldson on NDZ's plan to turn us into a nation of informers


CAN South Africans go Stasi and spy on their families and friends? The prime minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, believes it is our patriotic duty to do so and “our responsibility to call the police when we see people with alcohol”.

It is a monstrous proposal. Anyone with the merest ken of The Recent Past™will know that to be an impimpi is to be damned for all time. The fates, for example, of those who spied for apartheid are instructive. Not content with having shopped those closest to them, undercover spooks like Olivia Forsyth and Paul Erasmus seek to justify their appalling behaviour in tawdry memoirs and tell-alls. In doing so, they consign themselves to the ninth circle; instead of our understanding, they gain only further scorn and mistrust.

It is to this shadowy hell of betrayal and subterfuge that we are to be condemned if we do the bidding of Clarice, as some now refer to Dlamini-Sarafina-Virodene-Demon Nanny-Apron Strings-Coronavirus-Cheshire Cat-Hand That Rocks The Cradle Only To Then Push It Down The Stairs-Proxy-Zuma. 

But it won’t happen. We are a freedom-loving people and know full well, in the words of the 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke, that bad laws are the worst form of tyranny. Clarice’s rebooted lockdown regulations are not merely rotten, they appear to serve some ulterior evil purpose. The fact that responsibility for enforcing her bizarre assemblage of diktats continues to rest with Cheek Bile, the special needs police minister, refuels suspicions of some Pol Pottish agenda at Luthuli House. 

More Clod than Plod, Bile was unusually pleased with himself when he recently told parliament that more than 270 000 people had been picked up by police in the past three months and charged with such crimes as being outdoors, running spaza shops, being in possession of cigarettes, walking on the beach, surfing, jogging at the wrong time, cutting the grass on the pavement, chatting to neighbours on street corners, not masking, being flippant and disrespectful and yes, even drinking in their homes.

That’s a staggering number of arrests. To put it in perspective, and to return to East Germany’s Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, in all the years they were active, from 1950 to 1990, the Stasi only arrested 250 000 political prisoners. 

True, their chief function was to spy on the population, which it did primarily through a vast network of citizens turned informants. But the “Shield and Sword of the Party”, as they referred to themselves, did regard themselves as being exceptional when it came to hauling away such threats to the state as rock music fans, journalists and students in possession of troublesome literature. In this regard, according to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, they were “much, much worse than the Gestapo”.

Another major Stasi activity was to drive people mad. The original “gaslighters”, they developed an effective psychological harassment programme, Zersetzung (literally “decomposition”), to undermine the credibility of their opponents. Far more effective than crude, overt measures such as arrest and torture, this approach to “controlling” normal folk and other undesirables was subtle enough to be plausibly denied and even passed off as being for the common good.

This is a tactic that the Clarice understands only too well. The ruling criminal enterprise has driven the country to drink over the years, and now they have robbed the people of even this small fleeting pleasure. Even more galling is the suggestion that this will help Covid-19 victims:

“When people drink in groups, they let their guard down,” Clarice has said. “The masks will come off, and the social distancing will go. That’s when the spread will happen. Alcohol itself discourages good behaviour … People go out, drive, and create accidents that clog our trauma units and theatres, taking away from those who need support for Covid-19. That is why we have had to suspend the commercial sales of alcohol and discourage things like family visits. This fight against the virus requires a society wide effort. It requires all of us to make sacrifices, which at face value may seem unreasonable.”

Well, if it walks like a duck, etc. 

Some would suggest that there’s something fundamentally fascist about punishing an entire community for the behaviour of a few irresponsible individuals, like a drunk judge, let’s just say, who has driven his car into a wall. 

Besides, have you seen the state of our health care facilities? The BBC has been showing its viewers the condition of Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital. If drinking is going to deny coronavirus patients admission to institutions with such fouled wards, where rats splash about in pools of blood and mattresses appear to be crusted with various bodily discharges, well, I’d say bottoms up, time to come over all patriotic and get off our faces.

The Old Jokes Home

Talk of snitches reminds us of the time one Patrick O’Reilly travelled from Dublin to London to take part in the BBC quiz programme, Mastermind. His chosen specialty subject was Ireland’s independence struggle and he faced tough questions about the activities of such nationalists as Michael Collins, Thomas MacDonagh and Joseph Plunkett. His response to each of these was a terse “Pass!” Towards the end of this embarrassing ordeal, a member of the studio audience bellowed out in a thick Irish accent: “Good man, Patrick! Tell the bastards nothin’!”

Weapons of mass destruction

The Times of London reports that South Africa risks becoming the target of jihadists if it deploys troops to combat Isis militants in Mozambique. Islamist insurgents are active in Cabo Delgado, the country’s northernmost province and home to Africa’s largest energy project. They’ve warned “crusader oil companies” backing the $60-billion gas development that they are “risking their investment”. Pretoria is under pressure to respond to an escalation in militant raids. But Isis has warned that SANDF deployment “may prompt the soldiers of the Islamic State to open a fighting front inside [SA] borders”.

Unfortunately, this ominous news comes just as a Stellenbosch University academic, Tristen Taylor, has called for the entire defence force to be abolished. Writing in the Financial Mail, Taylor paints a grim picture of corrupt bungling and military ineptitude. Billions have gone missing from defence budgets. Generals splash out on luxury cars while arms deal aircraft and rusting frigates clutter bases. Sexual exploitation is rife within the ranks. The average age of a solder is, ludicrously, between 40 and 48, and only 10 per cent are medically fit. Peacekeeping capabilities are nonexistent, and when the army does get itself in a spot of bother — as in the Central African Republic in 2013, or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2015 — they usually return amid sex crime allegations and with weapons “missing”.

Easy pickings, in other words, for the jihadists in Mozambique. But should they cross the border into SA, Isis would be in for a nasty surprise. Our taxi industry is a doomsday weapon, one of the most destructive in modern warfare. Its power is frightening. A few months back, for example, an errant mini-cab crippled a fully laden army Casspir in Mthatha merely by driving on the wrong side of the road.

Many regard taxi operators as a law unto themselves. This is not so. They’re doing their bit to combat the pandemic and have selflessly agreed to run at 100 per cent capacity in the revised lockdown. This means transporting less than half their usual number of passengers, a sacrifice that will affect profit margins. Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), there is consensus that it won’t go well for the jihadists should they cross a grumpy taxi driver in rush hour traffic. Paradise may be just down the road, but getting there will be hell if it’s in a chop shop Quantum.

Statuary matters

I wonder if the vandals who used an angle grinder to decapitate the bust of Cecil Rhodes at Rhodes Memorial were Fallists or merely ordinary criminals hoping to sell the head to a scrap metal dealer. I suspect the latter. Table Mountain is crawling with murderers and rapists. Dog walkers and hikers think twice about entering the forests on its slopes. Given the lockdown and the absence of their usual targets, it is not surprising that these desperate individuals should now attack a monument to imperialism.

Had this been an anti-colonial demonstration, the media would no doubt have been summonsed to record this heroic gesture. It could well be that the Iqbal Survé newspapers no longer employ photographers. But where are the selfies, and the YouTube video clips of the dancing and cheers as the head rolled? Surely recordings of such a momentous event would have been all over Twitter? 

No matter. Another Rhodes has fallen, and the bust will no longer compromise or threaten the wellbeing of visitors to the memorial.

Elsewhere, I note that Dali Tambo has renewed efforts to drum up interest in his Long March to Freedom project, which aims to create 400 life-sized painted bronze statues of struggle heroes. As the project’s website explains: “From the rebel chiefs and revered kings to the more well-known activists of the 1980s and 1990s, each figure is poised in walking motion, symbolically fighting for the liberation of South Africa while marching forward to the inevitable advent of democracy.”

Sadly, and as is so often the case these days, this venture is running out of money. “A three-year drought in funding as a nonprofit institution has brought the project to the cusp of imminent closure,” Tambo told the Sunday Times. “We hope visionaries in our public and private sectors will join us on the battlefield of memory and assist us with a flanking manoeuvre of funding, so that this national treasure might win the day.”

This mad nonsense has stalled at 100 statues, which are currently on display outside Century City in Cape Town, “a monumental pantheon”, the newspaper reports, “[that] is already the largest exhibition of its kind in the world”. 

Such hyperbole is justified. It is difficult to think of a bigger display of kitsch anywhere.