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Denis Beckett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

We Have No Time for Random News from Heaven

My latest column on Moneyweb:

It’s a pity that Heaven vanished so fast. Heaven was seriously fascinating, not to mention depressing. But The Force was with Jake on this thing. For a start he was speaking in Zulu, or so it is reported. You’d think that for an Mthatha audience he’d Xhosafy things a bit. What he for sure was not speaking was English, which is just as well. Had there been a video clip in English, he’d be all around the world, rivalling Mubarak.

Who also did him a favour. We had no headspace, last week, for random news from Heaven. Our eye was on Tahrir Square, a place that this time last month had been heard of by nought point something percent of us. Now we could take exams on its layout and vista, and lighting scheme. Also on the perspective of “The Egyptian People” as displayed by those of them gathered in the square; the other eighty million apparently existing only in order to draw breath.

But that’s another story; for now the point is that President Zuma’s Heaven ran into air-time troubles unduly early. Then at the end of the week it was kicked out of sight by Jake himself re-entering, this time as a tailor’s model reciting an accounts dept memo interleaved with a Santa Claus wish-list. And he recited it so nicely, almost fluff-free and entirely without foot-in-mouth, that Heaven vanished while we sang hosannas to the job creation plan.

Before memory also fades I want to revisit Heaven, the issue. Heaven was telling, to me, right from when I first met it, by radio. Serried ranks of opposition spokespersons were speaking in Oppositionese, saying “outraged” and “appalled” etc, along with a less standard term, the quaint 19th-century leftover “blasphemy”. All because President Jake had said that if you wanted to go to heaven you should vote ANC.

A weird thing to say, to be true, but one could picture a politician tossing out a line like that, probably a throwaway response to some prompt, in a situation such as extricating from a public event. Ag, man, pleez, couldn’t they los the ou out?

I was double sensitive on this because Jake has already taken a bad rap from a loose word that grew overfar. In my view the shower comment — still dogging him four years on — was never meant to be “showering inoculates me against Aids”. It was meant to “I’d done it with a niece, who what is more has Aids, what’s wrong with wanting to feel clean?”

The dumpings flowing at Heaven seemed like a Round Two coming up, and I was indignant on Jacob’s behalf. You don’t have to like a guy’s politics to want him to get a square deal.

But then… alarms started ringing. First on SAfm, where smart morning-show Siki or Ntsiki read out the Zuma comment before seeking comment from someone called “Chaplain General” of the ANC. This wasn’t no throwaway line. This was a lecture. It went on, and on, several sentences. I was stunned. A preacher in a church would sound weird, thumping the ticket-to-heaven line so hard. A politician going this heavy on it was … well, “weird” is a small word.


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