Sham Guevara

Andrew Donaldson writes on the indestructible and ninja-like Carl Niehaus



IT was maybe a bit surprising that Carl Niehaus, the ruling party’s Sham Guevara, was present at that squalid hullabaloo outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Monday. 

He is not often seen in public, what with the cunning use of jungle camouflage and the low-key, retiring manner with which he conducts himself as spokesman for the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association.

A master of covert creepiness, Niehaus is usually invisible to the naked eye. Even when he is there, he is not all there, if you get my drift. 

But give him a microphone and he is suddenly all over the place. When he bursts into view from the shabby undergrowth of the state capture project, it’s with such startling force that audiences are stunned, escape is impossible and all are done for.

In this, Niehaus is like a ninja. 

Close study of Asian action cinema suggests that when the night guards catch so much as a glimpse of the masked buggers in black tights slipping over the compound wall they are nanoseconds from death by lethal flying stars and the like.

Carl’s victims, meanwhile, are doomed to lobotomy as he rails away, spluttering and goggle-eyed, at the happy-meal rallies where they sing the praises of the fallen Jacob Zuma.

And so it was in Pietermaritzburg. There, Accused Number One’s lawyers argued that the fraud, money-laundering and racketeering charges against their client be permanently withdrawn. The matter has dragged on for so long now that a fair trial is no longer possible and, anyway, the whole country is sick to death of the arms deal case. 

Or something like that. (We shall ignore, if only for the moment, the fact that the Thief-in-Chief’s “Stalingrad defence” is largely responsible for these delays.)

Outside the court, there was yet more tedium from the Zuptoids. 

There was, for example, Black Land Black First leader Andile Mngxitama, fresh from his party’s staggering underachievement at the polls. (Apparently he really did say afterwards: “We wuz robbed!”) 

The future mass murderer of our pets was his customary racist self, shouting on about “judicial lynching” and “white monopoly capital” and a president, Cyril Ramaphosa, “who is working with whites”.

But it was Niehaus who stole this particular sideshow by suggesting that, just maybe, the media did not hold him in sufficiently high or perhaps even middling esteem. 

Where he gets these ideas is a mystery. Frankly, it’s inconceivable that reporters would not have anything but the greatest regard for him. Or, heaven forfend, venture an off-colour opinion that he dresses funny.

But there he was, jowls wobbling with apoplexy: “How dare you call this uniform we are proud of as soldiers who fought and died for this liberation a Pep store outfit?”

This is indeed unfair. Mention of the retail giant is surely not warranted in the same column, let alone the same sentence, as Niehaus. 

Ominously, he knows who the real culprits are, and has warned that MK vets will be taking the necessary action. “These so-called journalists,” he said, “must be under no illusion that we will come for them.”

Perhaps he means the hacks must be under no illusion that MK vets will not be coming for them. But then who can really trust what is reported these days? 

Nevertheless, this is patently fighting talk from a fighting fighter in his tailored fighting fatigues, and the reporters in question are no doubt dreading the reckoning to come. And it will come. It is unstoppable. Like the veritable winter.

Unusually, and evidently unconcerned about their own hypocrisy, some senior ANC members took to Twitter this week in a vain attempt to remind Niehaus of the shifting dynamics within the party. 

Fikile Mbalula, the small and strangely-tufted loyalty-fluid person who shouts above his height, was particularly forthright, bluntly stating that our warrior-poet is a fraud who, among other things, lied about his mother’s death and claimed he had bone marrow cancer to weasel money from his unsuspecting victims.

“You are a crook,” Mbalula tweeted at Niehaus. “What the hell you doing at Luthuli House is still a mystery to us. Now that we are done with elections we must deal with you.”

This is an interesting development, and worthy of reflection. 

The ANC headquarters has for years been home to a recidivist group-sink. It’s an enormous petri dish where the most malign of political cultures has thrived. Or, to put it in agricultural terms, a nightmarish orchard growing only vrot apples. 

Could it now be that, after all the toxicity that has percolated and flourished there, the party has reached a threshold of sorts regarding unacceptable behaviour? That a bar of sorts has been identified? 

Granted, it is a very, very low bar indeed — especially in an environment where the likes of Jessie Duarte, Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, David Mabuza, Mathole Motshekga, Baleka Mbete, Billy Masethla, Blade Nzimande, Jackson Mthembu, Gwede Mantashe, Ruth Bhengu and many, many others have done pretty well for themselves. 

But is Carl Niehaus now too rotten for even the ANC? 

No, probably not. 

Granted, he is an unlikeable sort. He has an annoying habit, for instance, of surprising colleagues in the oddest of places and touching them for a loan. (It is said that trips to the men’s bathroom at Luthuli House are particularly hazardous.) 

And he’s a genuine embarrassment at rallies where, among other cringeworthy klutz-ups, his take on the toyi-toyi is much in the league of the drunk uncle wedding mambo.

But there’s a good reason why the ANC should keep Niehaus on side, as it were. 

Down in the parliamentary precinct, the first signs of Ramaphosa’s vaunted “New Dawn” are emerging, and there is fearful chatter of knives being sharpened; much in the way of trimming in the not-too-distant future, and dead wood cruelly set adrift.

Those in the firing line could learn a thing or two about survival from the unsinkable Niehaus. He may be small-fry, but he has the half-life of plutonium. His shamelessness has given him an exoskeleton of silicon carbide, one of the hardest substances known to man. Bullets bounce off him, even as he fibs and lies.

There’s something in his very essence, deep in his sap, that makes him a perverse miracle of our age. He is indestructible, impervious to all manner of opprobrium and reproach, and his fleshy countenance remains unlined by the ravages of both scorn and scandal.

Little wonder, then, that the desperate tolerate him so. He is their version of St Jude and, while they’ve learnt not to give him money, they will certainly offer up their prayers to him.


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