The RET Queen

Andrew Donaldson on the faction's move to have Lindiwe Sisulu challenge for the ANC presidency


STRUGGLE princess Lindiwe Sisulu’s controversial attacks on the Constitution and on the integrity of the judiciary are a clear indication, observers say, that she has thrown her hat into the ring for leadership of the ruling party.

We should be thankful that it’s just the hat. Had the tourism minister also thrown in her wig, well, we may have had another disastrous fire on our hands. 

It’s unclear what combustible chemicals were employed in fashioning that sheepdogs-in-coitus vibe, but one spark, and we’re in Hindenburg territory. It’s almost certain that Patricia de Lille, the squawky public works minister now damned in an independent report into the blaze at parliament, has overlooked safety inspections here too.

Sisulu will of course be campaigning on the RET ticket. She did so in 2017, when she unsuccessfully ran for deputy president of the party, a position that went to David “The Cat” Mabuza. 

Time alone will tell whether her luck will now change, but my old friend and all-round waste of space, Carl Niehaus, seems to think that the party presidency is hers for the taking and he’s been giving her the full-on Electrolux treatment in recent weeks. [1]

Sisulu, in turn, appears to have drawn deeply from Carl’s trick-bag of brazen fraud and deception, landing herself in a plagiarism row. 

Responding to criticism of an IOL column in which she attacked the "mentally colonised" judiciary and the “neo-liberal Constitution”, Sisulu penned another in which she claimed she’d been “misread”. 

A significant chunk of this second column was apparently lifted without references from a 2013 speech by then UK attorney general Dominic Grieve. 

The similarities were first noticed by Business Day columnist Gareth van Onselen. News24 then completed a report with Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service, which found that 12 per cent of Sisulu’s column appears to have been copied, word for word, directly from Grieve’s speech. What’s more, Turnitin found that another 11 per cent had allegedly been pinched from other sources. 

Awkward, you would have thought. But no, quite wrong. We’re dealing with ANC royalty here, after all. 

Rather than a bit of mea culpa and whoops, pardon moi, flunkies were instead despatched to remonstrate on behalf of Sisulu. There came the usual accusations of sexism and misogyny levelled at critics of lousy public figures who happen to be women while the substantive issues were ignored. 

Best turn in the alt-facts department, however, came from her spokesman, Steve Motale. A former Sunday Independent editor with a disturbing interest in Cyril Ramaphosa’s sex life, Motale is possessed of a Niehausian disregard for reality. There was no plagiarism, he says, and anyone who argues otherwise is just ignorant: 

“Plagiarism is when a person, in writing something, uses the words and thoughts of someone else without giving credit to the original author. Minister Sisulu cited the author, the source, the specific piece and date of publication or court ruling instance. This is the exact opposite of plagiarism.

“Whoever makes this charge is either incredibly stupid or incredibly desperate to smear the minister. He or she is a scandal. Go read the ‘plagiarism declaration’ every university student must sign for every paper they write. This is completely ridiculous.”

Such sophistry almost beggars belief. Despite the obvious similarities to his writing and opinions, Sisulu’s column makes no mention of Grieve — although her cut-and-paste job does include, by happenstance, his quoted sources. This, Motale absurdly states, is proof alone that no plagiarism has taken place.

Besides, and unlike her unfettered foliage, the minister favours a trim and orderly precision in her scribbling. “The writer is not expected to clutter an op-ed piece with footnotes to the extent [her critics] seem to imply,” Motale said.

The brouhaha has unfortunately drawn attention to Sisulu’s columns. Suitably emboldened by the presence of what may be considered “a readership”, she followed up with a de rigueur think piece in City Press calling for the decolonisation of education. With her best thinking wig firmly in place, she begins where a lot of such thinking takes place — in the bar full of idiots:

“There is a story of a highly educated gentleman at the pub who, during an argument, bragged to his fellow patrons: ‘Look here, I know what I am talking about — I have a master’s in biochemistry.’ To which someone responded: ‘You have a master’s in biochemistry. Can you make beer?’

“The takeaway here is that the application of knowledge is essential; nothing should be for its own sake. This is the challenge facing South Africa as we grapple with the education and skills deficit of a marginalised majority, many of whom have been reduced to being recipients of social grants.”

Actually, the takeaway here is probably a couple of six-packs from Tops. It is inconceivable that biochemists and other “highly educated” persons would not know how to make beer, one of the oldest and most widely-consumed drinks on the planet. 

However, rather than muck about in sheds and garages with DIY brewing kits, they realise that it is far more practical — and hygienic — to simply get the stuff from the local liquor store. A decolonised university degree is not required to grasp this. [2]

But, speaking of intoxicants: back in the days before it was razed, and on the few occasions I was there, I would watch Sisulu work the room, as it were, from the press gallery in the National Assembly chamber. At times, during lulls in proceedings, she would happily drift  about the ANC benches, handing out sweets and chocolates to favoured colleagues. 

I was intrigued, and wondered why certain MPs got candy and others not. Were these rewards or inducements to join the state capture project? It was well-known, even then, that she was an ardent supporter of Jacob Zuma. She was his chief assistant when Butternut ran the ANC’s intelligence services in exile. She presumably knows where some of the bodies are buried. 

I sometimes imagined, usually after the second bottle had been opened, that those treats had been laced with a mind-controlling drug. The Manchurian Candidate would spring to mind along with images of drooling, sugar-crazed MPs in her sway and zombie cadres standing by to do her bidding. Thus one possible explanation for Squirrel’s apparent reluctance to take action against the errant Sisulu: she could be a witch or something. 

The Sunday Times, however, reports that firing the tourism minister could jeopardise the president’s chances of winning a second term at the party’s national conference in December. Sisulu’s dismissal, ANC sources tell the newspaper, would cast her as a victim and thus gain her “sympathy votes” at the conference. Damned, then, if Squirrel does, and damned if Squirrel dozes.

Either way, Sisulu must be approached with extreme caution. The use of a mirrored shield, as Perseus found on mythical Sarpedon, is strongly advised. Direct eye contact must be avoided at all cost.

Windsordämmerung ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee in June and already 2022 is turning out to be an annus substantially more horribilis than the original (1992) as the full significance of Prince Andrew’s present difficulties dawns on the Firm. The Duke of York must now respond to Virginia Giuffre’s claims that he had sex with her when she was a minor, a charge he continues to deny, and he must do so as a “private citizen” in an American court.

Andrew will be the first royal in the history of the British monarchy to be sued in the US — and the first to appear as a respondent in a sex trafficking case. He has failed in his bid to have this matter disappear and, as a result, the lawyers will not be easy on him. What’s more, there is talk now of serving his daughters and ex-wife with subpoenas to answer questions, embarrassingly, about trips to a pizza outlet in Watford. For the first time, Camilla Long writes in The Sunday Times of London, the prince, and by extension the royal family, “will get a taste of how it is to be treated like everyone else. And it will not be pretty.” She adds:

“There will be no VIP breaks for Andrew in a court in America, no special treatment, no suddenly being allowed to remember or forget things, or whatever, despicably, makes royal cases go away [in the UK]. He will have to defend himself on his own terms, in his own words, using his own money, and what a chaffering, ill-equipped, mediocre excuse for a big old freebie-loving baby he will seem.

“Many of us are looking forward to this long-overdue reckoning — finally, people might see what cavilling, publicity-obsessed husks the royal family are. But for the monarchy it is an extinction-level event. You can’t spend a thousand years telling everyone you’re special and then everyone discovers, in real time, in a court case, that you are really not.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere, in another of the former colonies, many still live in hope that members of our own flea-bitten untouchables will eventually face such a reckoning in open court. 

One train smash after another

The UK retailer Marks & Spencer has rebranded a popular brand of sweets, Midget Gems, as Mini Gems to avoid offending people with dwarfism. This, the BBC reports, after Dr Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in disability studies at Liverpool Hope University, had argued that the term “midget” was a form of hate speech. The news has prompted one of my brothers to suggest that by simply stocking the confectionery on a higher shelf, M&S may have avoided a lot of bother. 

One a more serious note, it does offer a possible explanation for the extraordinary inability of Fikile Mbalula, the diminutive transport minister, to solve any of the problems he has promised to fix: the solutions, it seems, are just out of reach. Even when he stands on boxes.



[1] A photograph of the UmKhonto we Sizwe and Military Veterans Association spokesman with Sisulu has been circulating on social media. In it, Carl wears a shirt declaring Jacob Zuma to be the “revolutional soul of MKMVA” (sic). Some regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) believe this could be shortened to “R soul” in the interests of clarity and accuracy.

[2] Sisulu’s City Press column (no suggestion of plagiarism here, touch wood) was headlined “How we will win the future” on the News24 website. “How to be stupid” would have been more appropriate. “Let’s get this clear,” she writes, “South Africa is an African country. Consequently, like the illustrious African empires of old, it must strive for African excellence that is on a par with or superior to the rest of the world. It should begin with rebuilding the confidence undermined by colonialism. After all, confidence is half the battle won.” Unfortunately, we know this “confidence” all too well, and its name is Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

It is worth noting that Sisulu’s own education is overwhelmingly colonial: she was taught at Waterford College, in Swaziland, and then successfully studied for degrees in education at the University of Swaziland and the University of York.