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Denis Beckett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

To Czech Boytjie and His Fan Club: Here’s What’s Wrong With Your “Quote of the Century”

My latest column on Moneyweb:

My friend Shaun forwards “QUOTE OF THE CENTURY”. This is the fourth time that “QUOTE OF THE CENTURY” descends upon my Inbox, and the second that it is sent to a single recipient, looking for an opinion. The other two times it went to many recipients, looking for a sneer.

Shaun is fine. So is the first ou who sent a query, Ian. This is appropriate stuff to bounce off friends.

The other guys, who forward “QUOTE OF THE CENTURY” far and wide as a put-down of Africa and Africans, I worry about. My country faces deterioration and distortion. It needs help. These avid forwarders are people who make a mountain of how much help it needs. They are people who unhesitantly take themselves as capable, indeed superior. In distributing this “QUOTE“ they are responding to legitimate fears, legitimate (excessive) uncertainties, and a legitimate sense of the alienating of minorities, especially whites. Their response is pathetic racist bitchery that can have no effect but to inflame disgust at themselves.

“QUOTE OF THE CENTURY, MAYBE EVEN THE MILLENIUM” reads “ Some people have the vocabulary to sum up things in a way you can understand them. This quote came from the Czech Republic . Someone over there has it figured out. We have a lot of work to do.

” ‘The danger to South Africa is not Jacob Zuma but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of a Zuma presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Zuma, who is a mere symptom of what ails South Africa . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Jacob Zuma, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their President.’ ”

What is wrong with this “quote” is a few small things and one enormous thing. Problem 1 is the reinforced evidence — hard on the heels of “FW: Gareth Cliffs letter to Gov (this should be sent to all south Africans)” – that it’s more fun to belittle the people who you blame for your discontent than to remove the discontent.

Next (after wondering what’s so special about a vocabulary that gives us “fools”, “fools”, “fool” and “fools” within 40 words) we see that despite losing its author the quote has kept its Made in Czech stamp as it wafts through the ether. That, and the homely referring to South Africa as “The Republic”, might make a nasty mind suspect that a boytjie from Jozi has decided that a put-down of his compatriots sounds better coming from afar.

Then, the follies of a Zuma presidency. Which follies are these, again? The incapacity, the cock-up and the overstatement were worn in before Jacob arrived. The central folly of the Zuma presidency is the one inherited, via Thabo the Now Unmentionable, from Saint Nelson Himself; redividing the population into race hang-ups via the new job reservation called BEE and the new racism called demographics.

But there’s a law against “follies of a Mandela presidency”, isn’t it? It’s “follies of a Zuma presidency” that goes viral. They may mean pre-presidency. You can take offence that Shaik went down alone when Jake should have been with him. And rape or no rape, a guy who bangs his goddaughter is not a guy you want as best friend. The leopard skins and the proudly paraded boep embarrass people who want their president to reflect their traditions rather than his own. And how about all those wives and mistresses? Not often does he get a “not tonight, darling”. I guess people get jealous. Though they might credit his absolute open-heartedness; not a common feature among presidents.

Say what you like of the man, the presidency is less follied than many have been, including some based in the same Union Buildings.

Come now to the big issue: the dangerous depraved foolish electorate. This complaint combines insult — “look how clever I am, saying the blacks are stupid without using racist words” — with death-wish. When you glory in whining that your problem is not bad policies but bad compatriots, you’re declaring hopelessness.


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