Tuesday, December 23, 2008



Spit & Polish
Published:Dec 20, 2008

I’m sick of hearing the same old yadda yadda yadda coming out of our politicians’ mouths — let’s hope Santa drops off some real new beginnings

Are your halls decked with boughs of holly yet? Is your gay apparel freshly laundered and devoid of price tags, so that you can hit the Yuletide party scene like a — well, I was going to say “bomb”, but post-Mumbai and considering the rest of the world’s woes, that might be too close to home — if you can still afford to own a home, that is.

This fabled “season to be merry” is having a hard time shaking off the recent memories of collapsing financial institutions, massacres in luxurious hotels and letters from banks that say “we want your house back”.

Against that dismal backdrop, here’s what I want for Christmas, and top of that list is change. I don’t ever want to vote for Thabo Mbeki or any of his cronies again because they’re way too close to the cash and they cluster around all the functional escape routes with an eager watchfulness that does not make me feel entirely safe.

At Polokwane, Mbeki folded like a paper doll that was left out in the rain. Any attempt at making a comeback from a soggy heap of errors is not going to win my vote if, indeed, he even makes a move to return to political office.

Mbeki should take his legacy, his website and whatever portable property he can carry, and head for those foreign lands in which he spent so much of his presidency, flying on a commercial SAA flight, for which (I hope) he paid full price. That’s always assuming that after Maria Ramos skidded so deftly out of the corporate danger zone, SAA will keep flying at all.

Still pursuing my theme of change as the perfect Christmas gift, I’m not so keen on voting for Jacob Zuma and his cronies either. Even as I write that sentence, I am aware that simply saying those words aloud in certain parts of the country might ensure that I never vote again.

Zuma is going to great lengths to say the right things in the right places to the right people, which is great. If he had already been saying them 10 years ago, I would have been more convinced, and if his message were not so precisely tailored to his audience, it would seem a bit more spontaneous.

His masterful control of the media reminds me of how the “Ou Krokodil”, PW Botha, was able to engage his core audience with a lively mix of traditional rhetoric, promises that would never be kept and references to the past.

From Botha the rhetoric drew from the “laager”, the Boer War and Afrikaner supremacy. From Zuma it is all drawn from his imprisonment, his tribal identity and his militant liberation struggle.

Botha and Zuma may look like opposites, but remember that the opposite sides of a single coin may look very different, but they are actually made of the same stuff and they produce the same result.

That’s the problem with the supposed division between the African National Congress and the Congress of the People — you can hardly tell the difference. Comrade Terror has said little to reassure me that he has any new ideas or that he has groomed any new people who have ample intellectual resources and a vision broad enough to implement them.

Helen Zille and the DA have perhaps the freshest and most dynamic focus on change, but they are in the minority, and a minority opposition, no matter how forward- looking and dynamic it is, the best it can hope to do is to expose and scale down excess and error in the ruling party. But that’s not the same as being a leader.

So what I want for a Christmas is a South African Barack Obama, a man of wit and status whose skin colour counts for a lot, but his values and his personal charisma count for a great deal more. He must be eloquent, but also smart enough to handle the nitty-gritty details, like understanding the power of the Internet as a political tool, something our politicians have never done. Mbeki’s weekly newsletter is about as far as they have ever got with that concept.

So if anyone has seen the change I have described, even if it is your own, let me know, so that I can at least come and look at it because another year of hearing the same faces saying the same things to the same lawyers, and spending the same vast amounts of our money to secure their power-base at our expense, will be enough for me to start looking for my own “umshini- wam”. And in Joburg these days, they are not so hard to find.

Comments: (8)View Latest
balstrome said at Dec 21 2008 5:19AM
What we need in this country is a dedicated, open minded discussion forumn, where everyone, who wants to, can comment without fear of being restricted in anyway.

Let the racists, moderates, and others, all mix their world views, and lets see what we get out of the pot. Comment with no police force in place.

If your views are able to change peoples opinions, then let it happen.

jlopean said at Dec 21 2008 9:37AM
Its a good wish i will give you that!

i agree COPE and the ANC are very similar it seems (Cope with the advantage though primarily because the ANC have questionable leaders). However, its the promise of competition that excites me, the prospect that perhaps the politicians will have to put some more meat in their promises and become more delivery oriented.

let us hope and pray..

donorfatigued said at Dec 21 2008 10:41AM
The only value to COPE (now that we see that their principles are flexible in accepting the likes of Boesak the criminal into their ranks) is that they can reduce the majority held by the ANC.

If the reduction in parliamentary majority is sufficent, then we will see new dynamics in politics.

Moving away from the obscenity of a 65% majority in parliament such as we have endured these many years is a good first step in creating competitive and accountable politics in SA.

Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM
SA's Obama is on the way. When he gets here it wont be business as usual however. And he's going to demand quite a lot from you whites. The days of going to watch cricket rather nation build will come to an end, for one thing. During those days you might wish for a Thabo Mbeki all over again. And so it goes.

JhbBoykie said at Dec 22 2008 10:18AM
Barry, I am stunned by the fact that an intelligent person like you can fall for a charlatan like Obongo!

Am I correct in assuming that, not unlike Terracota Patta, you also "creamed your jeans" on the day he was elected as the new POTUS?

I think you should rather stick to what you're good (in fact, great) at: show business!

pickedlast said at Dec 22 2008 10:43AM
Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM

A South African "Barack Obama" wouldn't expect anything from whites, he would expected everything from South Africans.

You see that is the difference a person like Obama doesn't see a Black America or white America he just sees America! That is what is needed in S.A. a person who doesn't care about race, tribe or what they need to get because of the struggle.

We need some one who wants everyone, not just the poor, not just the rich , not just white, not just blacks to prosper but everyone.

And the only way to do that is to allow people themselves to prosper! So hold onto your hate, to your prejudice because if/when an Obama hits our shores you my friend will be left speechless.

Thinkfirst said at Dec 22 2008 11:14AM
Rantwa said at Dec 22 2008 9:03AM

Maybe you could explain what the likes of you have done for this country? I would love to engage you in debate if you are to it?

LennyHicks said at Dec 22 2008 7:30PM
How do you remedy the fact that in SA the electorate is largely uneducated, poor and ignorant of the plague that is the ANC leadership?
Civil society in SA is a scary minority compared to the masses most vulnerable to the propaganda of a populist regime.

Zuma knows this.

“Politics is the skillful use of blunt instruments…” as was once said.

So as much as we all scream bloody murder… it’s like throwing ice cubes at an oncoming tank. However I suppose hearing those who feel the same scream “F#*k off!!!!” at top of their voices does add some satisfaction.