Helen Zille's campaign to discredit the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) is the latest example of hysteria in our South African body politic. Happily the SAIRR has previously had to endure castigation from politicians, not least from Verwoerd and his generation. It is perfectly capable, simply on its record from 1929, and the quality of its work and its Council, to withstand the pernicious assault from Helen Zille.
Another example was the ANC grabbing hysterically onto the word "refugees" when used by Zille about people who came from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape, allegedly, to escape poor education there.
Whites develop an almost instant hysteria around Malema even though the ANC have marginalised him and most blacks dislike him. It was the same kind of hysteria that Terreblanche excited - interesting but unimportant.
Tony Leon became a victim of a hysteria, deliberately generated by the ANC, over his use of the "Fight Back" slogan.
Another is the use by Jacob Zuma of the well recognised Zulu idiom "until Jesus returns". In English the term "until Kingdom come", means exactly the same, but the name of Jesus is not mentioned. No hysteria around the use of that English idiom.
Jacob Zuma, himself, is a victim, not wholly undeserved, of hysteria.
He is assumed to be thoroughly corrupt and that that is his "default mode". Yet both Tony Leon - "Zuma is comfortable in his own skin" -- and Zille herself, as well as others, admit that he is extremely personable. Those friends who use some Yiddish, would say that he is a "mensch" and good company at a braai.
Because Zuma is our President, we need to have less, not more, hysteria around him. As Frank Chikane pointed out (Cape Town Press Club in August), he never ever went to school. To move from being a houseboy in a private home on the Durban Berea to become the President of one of the BRICS countries must command anybody's admiration. He neither smokes nor drinks. He is a God-fearing man and is comfortable in the Shembe Church, where polygamy is accepted.
At a political level, in KZN he managed to marginalise the evil and violent Harry Gwala, build a relationship with the IFP and bring peace to the province. He was a key mediator in the Burundi conflict. In his September Heritage Day address he stressed the value and important linkages between both the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park and as well as Blood River and Ncome.
His response to Marikana was completely correct. When he heard the bad news, he abandoned the SADC Presidential Summit to return home, visited the injured in hospital and announced a judicial Commission of Enquiry to be headed by a wise and experienced judge. He set up the National Development Plan and left the Commissioners to get on with the job. He has pushed the campaign against AIDS.
Most importantly, he is not shy to shuffle his cabinet and to fire Ministers and senior civil servants. Mbeki clung to Selebi. Zuma didn't waste time in getting rid of Bheki Cele. Siphiwe Nyanda has gone. Dinah Pule is no more. Sbu Ndebele has been moved sideways from Transport -- one suspects because of the bungling over the Gauteng E-tolls -- to Correctional Services. The same applies to Jeremy Cronin.
On foreign policy he seems trapped in the outdated ideas of the old Bandung Conference, not the new global realities, but that was Mbeki's problem as well. To his credit, a South African now heads up the AU Commission and being part of BRICS is a huge feather in our National cap.
He has failed South Africa in not addressing our scandalously high murder rate. Common sense, not brains, is all that is required to see that a death penalty would reduce our murder rate dramatically. He is also going to have to tame the Communist trade unions. BMW's decision not to expand it's investment is but the tip of the iceberg of how the unpatriotic COSATU trade unions frighten off investment. Already Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya are planning industrialisation on a large scale.
The hysteria, and much of it is not hysteria, but valid criticism, is around his naiveté, to put it at it's most charitable, about how lackeys and courtiers around a President, will act - "who will rid me of this troublesome priest" -- on namedropping and hints. In English we would call them "boot lickers" or in isiZulu "khota umlomo". A classic example is the Gupta connections. Zuma should exercise much better judgment in this area.
Unfortunately South Africa must brace itself for about six months of political hysteria until the elections are over. By attacking the SAIRR, Helen Zille has demonstrated that for the DA, the gloves are off, there is only black and white and no grey will be allowed in trashing the ANC, and everything, including e-tolling, will be manipulated to hysterical heights. As the election roller coaster gathers speed there will be much screaming. Let's all get ready for it.
Graham McIntosh MP (COPE) has been in and out of Parliament since 1974 and a member of the SAIRR since 1961.
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter