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Denis Beckett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Race Card Still Trumps All

My latest column on Moneyweb:

On the way to Sci-Bono, the radio is race, race and race. UN economist Jeffrey Sachs is under fire for raising the thought of a three-child policy in Africa. A lengthy string of African persons come on to express extreme distaste for non-African persons telling Africa what to do.

I sukkel over what to make of this. An outside agency tells you to change a practice that has been unquestioned forever? This practice has given you a richly extended family that makes you as an African feel strong and fortunate compared to cultures by whom in other respects you feel daunted? Of course you’re cross.

Then again, is it compulsory to ascribe to Sachs a malicious secret anti-Africa agenda? And even if Sachs is to be crucified, is “the West” as a whole truly to blame? Of course “the West” is no longer in any sense an entity, as in Cold War days. It’s a way of saying “white people” obliquely so it can be said fiercely.

The airwaves flow with bile about villainous white people who are hell-bent on re-suppressing Africa by restricting its birth-rate. These are the same airwaves that yesterday flowed with bile about villainous white people having too much wealth. There are times a ou can wonder.


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Amos Masondo, the Hilarious One-Man Show

My latest column on Moneyweb:

The last time that I unpacked my cudgel-set to defend Africa from the slander of the Forward button, I got roundly klapped. That was only a couple of weeks ago. You’d think I’d learn. But whether due to hardening arteries or onset Alzheimers or what, to me there’s something big in coming to grips with what South Africans think of South Africans and how it impacts on getting to a South Africa that we’re contented with.

So here we go again, damn.

The Forward button has been hard at work, not least with “Amos Masondo”, the “Mayor of Johannesburg” making the dumbest most pathetic hilariously painful non-speech in history.

If you haven’t seen this one… well, you will laugh. You can’t help it. The guy on the screen spends 2.36 minutes being the ultimate puffed-up self-important politician behind a microphone, with a hell of a lot in his mouth and a crisp round zero in his head.

Where my sensitivities get a bit twitchy is that this is an African person, with the kind of African accent and the roll of the eyes and so forth that some non-African persons delight in mimicking, before suitable audiences.

If you look closely you will detect that it’s parody, a comedian ripping off hollow pomposity. But if you look lightly, or if you look with eyes that seek grounds for put-downs, you might actually think that this is an actual speech. And you might contemplate departure to one of those Omolandy places that decimated the indigenes.


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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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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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