Why not "Mickey we Sizwe"?

Andrew Donaldson's modest proposal for settling the dispute between the ANC and Zuma's MK Party


THE Disney corporation has for decades fought to protect its most famous creation, Mickey Mouse, and was notorious for enforcing its ownership of the character. However, the version of Mickey that appeared in Walt Disney’s 1928 cartoon short, Steamboat Willie, fell into the public domain this year and horror movie producers have wasted no time in making merry with the little rodent.

Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a slasher flick in which a killer in a Mickey mask stalks a group of friends celebrating a 21st birthday in an amusement arcade, will be released in March. The trailer reveals that scenes from from the original black and white Steamboat Willie feature in the film. “The mouse is out,” viewers are warned.

I mention this only because Mickey may help settle another copyright dispute, namely the beef that the ANC has with the recently formed Umkhonto we Sizwe, or MK party. The latter has been registered to contest the forthcoming national elections. According to the official gazette of the Electoral Commission of SA, the new party uses both the name and the logo of the ANC’s armed wing.

This has greatly upset the ANC and it has demanded that the MK party stop using the MK logo and branding pronto. It argues that it has been using this image — a Zulu warrior with a shield and a spear — for decades and therefore has statutory rights in the trademark. It further claims that the new party’s unauthorised use of the image, along with the MK name, may mislead members of the public, giving them the impression that there is a link between the two. Which, the ANC states, is not the case — although that is not strictly true. But more of that later.

Two issues here. Firstly, the name. A simple change to Mal-khonto we Sizwe would allow the newcomers retain the snappy MK acronym, and this may mollify the ANC’s top nobs somewhat. (I have absolutely no idea where mal-khonto came from, or what, if anything, it could possible mean. But I like the sound of it. Failing which, there’s always Mickey we Sizwe.)

Secondly, the logo. The problem here, as I see it, is that a fair amount of money has been splashed out on T-shirts and other garish paraphernalia all with the “illegal” MK logo. But rather than trash all this merchandise, a bit of Mickey could save the day. Armed with black felt-tip pens, the comrades in the art department could simply “rectify” all those logos by adding those familiar, distinctive circular ears on the warrior’s head. If they’re up to the task, they may even add a mouse’s tail.

The ANC has other problems with the upstarts. There is the embarrassing matter of Jacob Zuma, who came out in support of the MK party last month. Announcing his decision to not vote or campaign for the ANC, the former president declared, “In 2024, I will vote for Umkhonto we Sizwe party. I have decided that I cannot and will not campaign for the ANC of [president Cyril] Ramaphosa. It is not the ANC I joined; it will be a betrayal to campaign for the ANC of Ramaphosa. My conscience will not allow that.” 

The ANC had no idea what to make of that — especially after Accused Number One insisted that he remained a loyal member. “I will vote for MK, but I will not leave the ANC, I will die there. The ANC is different from other political parties. It was built by our ancestors, religious leaders and intellectuals as a party opposing white people who did not want us to have rights.”

Still the same old Butternut. Mad as ever. Plagued by strange voices that only he seems to hear. He nevertheless continues to give the ANC leadership a bit of a headache — even as that same leadership, according to City Pressstruggled to reach consensus on how to deal with the errant old fool. As the newspaper put it, “His brazen and continuous defiance of the ANC has left the party even more divided, anxious and uncertain as it prepares for what will probably be one of the fiercest election battles in its history. There are deep rifts among its leaders about how to confront the Zuma conundrum.”

This defiance has played out at the several MK rallies in KwaZulu-Natal where that conundrum has been banged rather loudly. Because I lead a sad and somewhat unfulfilled life for reasons I have yet to understand, videos of these gatherings have flooded my X/Twitter feed in lieu of the usual clips of fluffy kittens and other cute animals. I have watched some of them, and it seems that here, too, the ANC may feel justified in complaining about copyright infringement.

They are carbon copies of the Zuma rallies from a decade ago. Each is a celebration of the weird cult of uBaba, right down to the familiar coterie of hangers-on, grifters, dancers, praise singers, demented prophets and, of course, the tossers. This latter group, incidentally, are essential at such occasions: they are tasked with handing out the happy meals to the faithful, usually from a back of a pick-up truck. It’s not an easy job, as tossers do run the risk of being overwhelmed by ravening hordes. The more hapless of these functionaries have emerged from these melees badly bitten, and there are unconfirmed reports of missing fingers.

But, at the centre of all this, is the man himself, raging away, full of piss and vinegar as if he is campaigning for re-election as president, which of course he cannot do because he is a convicted criminal. Which is irrelevant as far as the very many faithful are concerned. And therein lay the ANC’s dilemma.

On the one hand, some members believe that if they paid much attention to uBaba’s crazed ramblings and his endorsement of the MK party, he could damage the ruling party ahead of the elections. On the other, it would seem that Zuma’s already caused so much division within the ANC in KZN that he may have already cost the party the election in the province. Or, as that horror movie trailer put it, “The mouse is out.” 

And, if that was the case, well, hooray for Mickey Msholozi.


To many, John Pilger, who died aged 84 late last month, was the finest crusading journalist of his generation, a reporter who did much to draw attention to some of the worst human rights abuses of the late 20th century. He was, for example, among the first to reveal the full horror of the Khmer Rouge’s “killing fields”, thus prompting a global humanitarian response to the crisis in Cambodia. Similarly, Pilger’s work drew attention to the brutal occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. And, of course, he weighed in on the South African story as well. Along the way, he picked up numerous humanitarian and journalism awards, including the UN Media Peace Prize, the Sydney Peace Prize and the Bafta Richard Dimbleby Award for factual reporting.

Unusually for an Australian, he was also extremely vain, self-righteous and utterly humourless. 

In 1982, the Daily Mirror published a sensational story by Pilger in which he claimed he’d purchased an illiterate eight-year-old girl, Sunee, in Bangkok for £85. This “slave”, Pilger wrote, was just one of an estimated 200 000 Thai children “forced into hard labour in sweatshop factories or as domestics and prostitutes”. His “exclusive” concluded with the happy reunion of Sunee with her mother in her home village.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Pilger had been tricked. In their follow-up to the story, the Thai press revealed that there was no Sunee; the taxi driver who’d been hired by Pilger to find a genuine slave girl had failed in this regard, so instead bribed a mother and her school-going daughter in Bangkok to play the part. 

When the satirist Auberon Waugh commented on the hoax in The Spectator, Pilger sued the magazine for questioning his integrity. As a result, Fleet Street was initially reluctant to touch the story. Waugh, however, was undaunted, and wrote in his Private Eye diary:

“Jon (sic) Pilger, the Daily Mirror’s repulsive and sinister ‘heartthrob’ reporter writes about how he bought an 8-year-old girl in Thailand for £85 on Mirror expenses. He blames the government in Thailand, and now the newspaper is full of hate-letters against one of the very few decent governments left in South East Asia.

“He might have mentioned that the trade is illegal and punishable by 10 years in a Thai gaol. Never mind. When I was last in Bangkok they said the price was £12 for a Thai baby — perhaps some error of transmission occurred in the Mirror’s expense account department — and I seriously thought of buying a couple to be raffled at last summer’s Church Fete in Combe Florey.”

Waugh later coined a new verb: to pilgerpilgerise, or be pilgered: “To present information in a sensationalist manner to reach a foregone conclusion; using emotive language to make a false political point; treating a subject emotionally with genuine disregard for inconvenient detail; or making a pompous judgment on wrong premises.” He also coined the terms pilgerismpilgeringpilgerishpilgeresquepilgeritepilgeration and pilgerama, and later explained that “it means when anybody wants to make a good argument shouts and waves his arms about a lot and, oh, vaguely blames you for murdering Vietnamese babies”.

According to The Times, the term was later withdrawn from The Oxford English Dictionary of New Words after further legal action by Pilger. But no matter; the notion of pilgerism, whether justified or not, was now never far from our thoughts when reading Pilger or watching any of his hectoring TV documentaries. The trouble with his work, the Daily Telegraph suggested, was that he was “never content to let the facts speak for themselves”; for Pilger the “real story” was about the dirty tricks of hidden American and British agendas.

“In many situations,” Pilger’s Telegraph obituary noted, “there was evidence to support this narrative. But in his demonisation of western leaderships (he once described the American political class as ‘the Third Reich of our times’), Pilger never had a stop button. Thus the important thing about the killing fields of Cambodia for Pilger was not so much the murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge as his tendentious theory that their role in Cambodia had been sustained by British and American backing.”

Pilger found such hidden agendas in South Africa. In his book Freedom Next Time (2006), he claims the World Bank effectively imposed a traditional “structural adjustment programme” on the country after apartheid — with the complicity of the ANC. “The unspoken deal,” he writes, “was that whites would retain economic control in exchange for black majority rule.” Secret meetings were held in the UK before 1994 between Thabo Mbeki, members of the Afrikaner elite and powerful business leaders. 

All very conspiracist, you will agree. One suspiciously pilgerist Pilger tribute which has done the rounds in Daily Maverick, the Morning Star and CounterPunch dwells on a remark made by billionaire philanthropist at the Davos Economic Forum in 2001: “South Africa is in the hands of international capital.” 

This, the article by University of Johannesburg sociology lecturer Patrick Bond implies, “led directly to state crimes such as the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012, which evoked the infamous Sharpeville massacre more than half a century earlier. Both had been protests about injustice. Nelson Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid.”

Which may or may not be the case. But the trouble with such radical posturing is that it is so tedious and dreary. No wonder these people are terrible dinner party guests.

Love action

The war in Gaza continues to divide communities. From Australia comes word that a lesbian couple have rejected a sperm donor because he is Jewish. According to a report in The Times, Jay Lazarus, a gay hairdresser from Perth, had “connected deeply” with the unnamed Queensland couple following his decision in October 2022 to help same-sex couples start a family. But after months of medical tests, counselling and embarking on a strict diet and fitness routine to improve the quality of his sperm, the women, who knew Lazarus was Jewish from the outset, suddenly changed their minds and sent him this text message last month:

“We are down a rabbit hole with the depth of our emotions and ethical challenges, and truth be told we feel out of depth proceeding with this donor relationship. We are about kindness and love. Everything we do, say, work towards is love in action, for every human being. We are sad for the Israeli’s (sic) and we are sad for Palestinian people, so deeply sad. We don’t have the capacity to navigate parts of your identity in this donor relationship so we are respectfully ending this now. Ultimately with all the above, this is the only decision we can make.”

This sad state of affairs so upset the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) that polite conversation was well nigh impossible for what seemed like a very long time.