A FAMOUS GROUSE
TODAY marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the formal acceptance of the Nazis’ unconditional surrender. Here in High Kipling, the bunting has been dusted off and, like the darling buds, little Union Jacks flutter in preparation for the weekend’s commemorative events.
The lockdown has of course dampened proceedings. True, we weren’t expecting the sort of spontaneous bacchanal that erupted on Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus on May 8, 1945. But we’ve been reduced to self-isolating picnics in the garden, weather permitting, and these are poor substitutes for the village’s renowned tea parties and rousing church fetes.
Nevertheless, we do recall the sacrifices of that horrendous conflict. Despite the terrible losses and hardships they endured, our grandparents’ generation rose to the challenges of rebuilding their world after the fighting had ceased in Europe.
It’s for this reason the anniversary is important; it resonates with a yearning for release from the pandemic. It will be ages before normal life returns, we are told, but it surely will. Until then, we live for the moment the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) reopens as all this drinking at home is turning us into alcoholics.
For Carl Niehaus, though, the war hasn’t stopped. His struggle continues. In his mind’s eye, the MK veterans’ spokesman is forever with the Red Army as they engage in pitched battle to halt the fascists’ advance on Leningrad. This is the Volkhov Front, so-called because whenever Carl touches them for a loan, his comrades tell him to Volkhov.
It may seem odd that a man avowedly preoccupied with our future should dwell so much in the murk of the past. But then Carl does have history on his side. He has often said as much. And should history forget this, as it occasionally does, he will go back and bother it until history sees the error of its ways. Following crazed wallows there, he often returns from these sojourns to earlier, overly mythologised revolutionary eras in a state of some confusion, but in a fairly combative mood all the same. He has enemies. He has issues.
To be honest, this behaviour has been noted elsewhere. In Russia, for example, there is a yearning for the old days. A recent increase in defenestrated dissident scientists has reinforced the need for social distancing among pedestrians in Moscow. Elsewhere, president Vladimir Putin has awarded Kim Jong-un, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, a medal for his role in the Soviets’ victory over the Nazis. According to recent reports, the medal, featuring an image of a Russian soldier writing “Victory!” on the walls of the Reichstag, was to be awarded to those who fought against Hitler’s armies or contributed significantly to the Soviet Union’s defence, as well minors held captive in Nazi camps or ghettos.
While it’s unclear what role Kim played in the Great Patriotic War or what he and Carl discussed during their heroic advance on Berlin, recent photographs suggest the North Korean leader did eat a stack of pies along the way.
As an aside, I must admit that many readers, especially the old school “counter-terrorism” experts, are unhappy with the attention I pay Carl. Giving him the “oxygen of publicity”, they argue, strengthens his position. Builds him up and gives him a platform. Look at Julius Malema, they say; once a struggling DJ and a failed cabbage farmer but as a result of careless coverage in the fishwraps, now the populist leader of a mighty neofascist rabble.
Instead, they suggest I write more on Donald Trump. But this is silly. The US president has enough press as it is and it would be unnecessary to draw yet more attention to the problems he has even with stairs and escalators, let alone facts and Mexicans.
Carl is no lightweight. Besides being their national spokesperson, he is an elected member of the national executive committee of the uMhkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association. He is also the communications front man for the Gauteng Radical Economic Transformation President Zuma Support Group. Important titles that just about fit on the letterhead, although there is some crunching of words towards the margin.
He is also an authority on journalism and has personally urged me to improve my reports on his activities. My writing, he complains, is “as blunt as an overused koevoet in a granite quarry” and that I can do “bettter”. He is right. I must try harder.
Carl’s adventures in the newsfeed are accordingly worth noting. His latest, this week, is an impassioned defence of the president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. He did it twice, in case we missed the point the first time. On Monday, it was on behalf of the MKMVA, and on Tuesday, the flat-earther Gauteng RET bunch.
In both cases, Carl called on Cyril Ramaphosa and the Potemkin cabinet to support the president in the face of the severe criticism she has endured as a result of prolonging the ban on tobacco products. What’s more, he suggested they “resist every attempt to sow disunity, to close ranks, and defend each other from malicious and divisive attacks and propaganda” in rallying behind Nanny-Zuma.
The MKMVA statement is the more interesting, I’d argue, as Carl uses the occasion to travel back to 1973 and return suitably equipped with the Spartist jargon of the student politics of the time to lay into both the establishment media, in the form of The Sunday Times, and that dead horse, white monopoly capital, in the form of British American Tobacco SA.
The latter, Carl points out, is “overwhelmingly white, and male owned, with 72.24 per cent in the hands of white males such as Johann Rupert and his Rembrandt Group, officially known as the Rembrandt Trust Limited”. Elsewhere, he complains that ours is “a patriarchal and male dominated society”.
Orthodox grammarians will note the use of redundancies. Or, as noted above, how Carl likes to say things twice. But let’s not cavil. Which is nitpicking. Let us instead stick with his message and the gist of his statement, which seems to be an appeal that we lay off Proxy-Zuma. And, uh, stop giving her such a hard time.
Carl is offended — outraged, even — that Sarafina-Zuma has been subjected to attacks that are sexist and mysogynistic, as well as being vicious and downright racist. He has singled out commentators like Sunday Times contributors Peter Bruce and Barney Mthombothi as the culprits; the former for describing Draconian-Zuma as “Vector in Chief” and Mthombothi for suggesting she is the “metaphorical power behind the throne”.
I’m certainly not going to defend either Bruce or Mthombothi. They’re both big enough to look after themselves. But I did read their columns. Put it down to those blunt koevoete, but they were reasonable and measured in tone, and hardly going to raise much in the way of blood pressure.
A more reckless commentator, for instance, would argue there’s nothing metaphorical about Virodene-Zuma’s power. It’s very real and it’s right there for all to see in the foreground of the big picture of the mess that is the ruling party. So I wonder if Carl and I take the same edition of The Sunday Times.
I also question whether he’s entirely correct that Apron Strings-Zuma’s age is “constantly referred to in a derogatory manner, which in our sexist society is exclusively reserved for older women, not men”. Think of all the derogatory references to Robert Mugabe’s age, for example. And any number of other disgraceful African leaders. All big men who stubbornly clung to power way, way past their sell-by date.
Speaking of which, Carl also bashed out a statement on behalf of the president’s ex-husband on Sunday. This time Gauteng RET wanted to express its unwavering support for the Thief in Chief ahead of his corruption trial — and to apologise in advance for the lunatic fringe’s rubbish turnout:
“Those of us who have supported President Zuma throughout the more than 20 year long ordeal that he has been subjected to, are on public record to have planned a mass gathering at the Pietermaritzburg High Court to support him, and to protest his continuing persecution on the 6th of May 2020, which was set as the next date for him to appear in court. However, as law abiding citizens we would not have gone ahead with those plans because of the COVID19 pandemic, and the resultant lockdown.”
Carl did note the trial’s postponement to June 23, 2020. And duly promised he’ll be making a fool of himself there. It’s a date, then.
As for Accused Number One, well, he and his son Duduzane popped up on YouTube this week to launch Zooming With The Zumas, a chatshow in which they shoot the breeze about the issues of the day. Like poisoning. Which is how mom, Kate Zuma, did herself in. And it was how then Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza got so ill. You know, regular pops and junior stuff.
And there was some mockery of Cyril Ramaphosa’s handling of the lockdown and his difficulties with a face mask. Carl has hasn’t said a word about this yet. But then he still has a war on his hands.