A FAMOUS GROUSE
NEVER mind the State of the Nation Address and the by-now customary parliamentary pandemonium. Here at the Mahogany Ridge our concerns lay with Speaker Baleka Mbete’s after-fracas party at a posh Camps Bay hotel.
Billed as the Speaker’s Ball 2017, and intended to “recognise and celebrate” Mbete’s office, this was a knees-up the ruling party had insisted was a private affair and had nothing to do with Parliament or the ANC.
Mbete herself had said as much when, earlier in the week, she revealed that her guests on Thursday evening would include “stakeholders, colleagues, friends and comrades”.
These, we supposed, were exactly the sort of people Mbete needed to impress now that she has declared her intention to run for presidency of the ANC at the party’s national conference in December. Still, this hadn’t stopped speculation as to exactly who was footing the bill for the ball.
Sadly, many of us felt the party should have been held on another night.
Consider. The President was due to start his speech at 7pm. The ball’s invitation was for 8pm with dinner, after cocktails, at 9pm. What was Mbete thinking? Arriving fashionably late is one thing, but there was no way she was going to make her own party — even if, by some miracle, arrangements went according to plan. Which, as we all know, they never do.
For a start, the speech was 5 600 words long. A skilled orator could have sailed through that dull stinker in perhaps 45 minutes. Even with flesh-pressing afterwards and posing for photographs, there would have been time enough for Mbete to be whisked off to the ball and there arrive, Cinderella-like, well before guests sat down to eat.
Let’s just say that Jacob Zuma is not that orator.
Now factor in the Economic Freedom Fighters. Julius Malema and company were always going to disrupt proceedings. They said as much themselves, and often.
The only surprise here was that they prevented Zuma from speaking for a full hour before the Whiteshirts’ eventual, violent intervention. ANC national secretary Gwede Mantashe believes they should have been ousted after 20 minutes.
But as that hour dragged on, Mbete’s frustration grew more apparent. Was she worried the canapes would be cold by the time she got to the ball? Would her comrades save her dessert? Would she make it to the hotel before the witching hour when her carriage turned into a blue-light pumpkin?
More worryingly, at least as far as members of the public gallery and TV viewers were concerned, it became distressingly clear in that eventful hour that our parliamentary discourse had sunk to the dim depths of the worst sort of barroom prattle.
Frankly, the insults were appalling, and ours is indeed an age of dumb if the evening’s most memorable contumely was the EFF’s description of Zuma as a “constitutional delinquent”.
We are, of course, a young democracy. And an unread one. It will therefore be a while before we hear disparagements from our lawmakers that are genuinely worth repeating.
The sort of thing, for example, that former American presidents say of one another, like Lyndon Johnson of Gerald Ford: “[He’s] a nice guy, but he played too much football without a helmet.” Or Harry S Truman of Richard Nixon: “He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and even if he caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”
It’s true, however, that many of our MPs and government members have come a long way without books and they perhaps see no reason to get started with them now.
That is why, in the interests of a more lively public life, we have developed The Mahogany Ridge Patented Random Old School Insult & Mild Oath Generator.
Simply choose any number of terms from the list A below with any one of the terms in list B, et voila, the ideal verbal assault from the back-benches. Granted, people may wonder what you’re on about, but there’s no doubting how immensely intelligent and “old school” you’ll sound.
A: Yellow, knuckle-dragging, small-eared, pongy, homely, snuffish, revisionist, light-footed (offensive), decrepit, regressive, fascist, agrarian, boondoggling, low-born, carpet-bagging, plebbish, Chartist, crony, special needs, hard-of-thinking, federalist, colonial, child-bothering, groupthinking, three-legged, lumpy, nomenklatural, bog-standard, mendacious, bongo-drumming.
B: Worm, couscous-eater, Neanderthal, poodle, night-walker, used fish-monger, bird-dogger, pulpit bully, MK veteran, crony, dark horse, kiddy-fiddler, double-speaker (recommended when rising on a point of order), fifth columnist, soup of the day, jingoist, hollow person, pygmy, junta baby, visigoth, mixed metaphor (I’ll bet), oligarchist, suspicious stain, winky puff.
This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.