Renaming games

Andrew Donaldson says more chair-throwing public meetings should be held at Cape Town airport


THEY should hold more public meetings at the airport where rival factions throw chairs about the place, especially during the tourist season. 

Foreign visitors would thus be immersed in the local culture the moment they exit customs, and trained guides could even be on hand to assist those who, weary after the long flight, are confounded by the melee and struggle to make sense of it.

For example, a guide may direct the goggle-eyed gaze of British tourists towards EFF supporters and tell them, “Those red shirts? They’re the racists now. They especially don’t like Asian folk. Much like your National Front.” 

French visitors, meanwhile, may be told, “Their leader is, how you say, l’agriculteur? But he is sadly failing with cabbages … the choux. Also, uh, très bruyant. Much shouty-shouty. Would you like to take some photographs? Très cheap…”

The airport, sans doute, would by then have a new name. Even so, we’d still be at loggerheads with one another over some other threat to the sainted ubuntu and the very fabric of society or whatever. 

Like maybe the ANC’s new African nationalist history school syllabus. Which will apparently definitely not in any way be government propaganda (*eyes roll*). 

Or it could even be over the re-renaming of the airport. And why not? These things, so to speak, aren’t set in stone, and it’s not as if its name hasn’t been changed before.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, we were initially indifferent about all this. Common sense, we supposed, would prevail. Cape Town International Airport, after all, was not only a recognised brand the world over but also a “politically neutral” label. 

Besides, only the truly belligerent, aware of what tempestuous and fractious folk we are, would campaign for the place to be named after a controversial “struggle icon” in this Age of Outrage™ and then cynically seek political capital from the distractions that would follow.

Julius Malema is, of course, that cheap belligerent. His provocation that the airport be renamed after the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela did predictably stir up much heated squabbling. There was even a suggestion this would heal the nation and there came, yet again, the ominous threat of social cohesion.

As an aside, it’s remarkable how the EFF get to throw their weight around in our neck of the woods. 

They have next to no foundation in the Western Cape and, judging by recent by-election results, are shedding support by the truckload in other regions too, save for the wild hinterlands to the far north. Little wonder, then, that Malema has called on the Faith Gospel Church to pray for his party ahead of elections next year. 

Be that as it may, it does appear that Madikizela-Mandela is now a leading contender as far as renaming the airport is concerned. 

Some of the Ridge regulars have drolly suggested maWinnie may even have passed through the place on the rare occasions she popped into Parliament to do a day’s work. 

Others, noting her diamond lifestyle, have suggested that Kimberley Airport gets the dubious honour. Granted, it is a miserable place — seasoned travellers report that public lavatories in Soviet-era Albania were more welcoming — but it too is up for renaming, along with airports at East London and Port Elizabeth, in terms of the government’s Transformation of Heritage Landscape programme. 

Now that they’ve claimed her as one of their own, the EFF would want every public space in the country named after Madikizela-Mandela and they were out in force at the airport meeting, ensuring that no-one else got in a word about their choices.

One of those who clashed with the EFF was David Kamfer, Khoi leader and provincial chair of the Independent Civic Organisation of SA. He told reporters afterwards, “We are sick and tired of the Mandelas.”

Kamfer had a valid point, we felt. Were he still alive, even Nelson Mandela would probably have been sick and tired of this cultish lickspittle idolisation of his family. 

What’s more, Mandela may even have endorsed Kamfer’s call for the airport to be renamed after Krotoa, the 17th century Khoi woman who worked for the Dutch as a translator before banishment on Robben Island. 

In 1971, when he was on the island, Mandela wrote, “The full story of our past heritage remains incomplete if we forget that line of indigenous heroes who acted as curtain-raisers to the major conflicts that subsequently flamed out, and who acquitted themselves magnificently.”

Krotoa was certainly one of those heroes. They probably won’t teach much about her in the new history syllabus, but if it helps, think of her as our own Pocahontas.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.