Monthly Archives: February 2009

COPE, ANC and the public wranglings (2)

I went home to a little town called Fort Beaufort this past December. Yes, it is a weird Eastern Cape thing that most of us leave Jozi and made the long trip to that big mismanaged provice. But this is not a post about migrancy. It’s about COPE and the ANC and little developments in that small town, which I hear are being played out in many other towns.

Firstly, I was struck by how many people were wearing political t-shirts around Christmas time. There are always some people wearing political t-shirts at any given time. But the Festive Season usually has people either too dressed up or too hot to draw more heat to themselves.

Not this December. Standing in a queue for the FNB ATM for my mother who’d just has a back op, I count three political t-shirts out of 10 people in line. One says something along the lines of: MK, my ANC, my choice, my … (something else which now escapes me). Fair enough. One other person is wearing a bland ANC t-shirt from previous elections. The third person is wearing a read COPE t-shirt with that awful wheel like logo that always makes me a little nervous. Why? It reminds me of a windmill and then I end up in Holland. Don’t ask me about the strangeness of random associations.

This was repeated I went. Sometimes there were more COPE t-shirts than ANC t-shirts. Once or twice there was a yellow DA t-shirt.

To compound the strangeness was the fact that everytime a COPE lorry went around town with a loud speaker, a few minutes later an ANC lorry would go in the same direction. I know it is electioneering time, but what kind of madness was this in 36 degree heat at Christmas time?

Given that the ANC is the party in power, why is it following COPE? Over the last few months, COPE has been setting the agenda, and the ANC responding. This would worry me a more than a little as the ANC. Incidentally, there was a small DA gig in town at some point as well, but nobody really bothers with that except for the 50 people at the event.

I do hope that the exchanges between COPE and the ANC stay this side of the law, even if the bounds of civility were transgressed months ago. I know that people stayed away from each other’s parties, mcimbis and weddings because old friends and families were now on different sides of the COPE/ANC divide.

Interesting times lie ahead.

sex and the SA presidencies (1)

Last week, and the weekend before, headlines of first the Sunday Independent and then The Star screamed out information about the SA president’s multiple sexual partners. The Star article quoted his wife in a telephone conversation saying she did not know what the reporters were talking about when questions were posed to her about her husband’s alleged infidelities.

I have a quandary when it comes to SA and sex. It has nothing to do with the nonsense about people’s lives being private when they have a direct bearing on our society. No, it is that we need to question the deadly culture of promiscuity in SA. It also does not matter that journalists may or may not take some pleasure in embarassing person x or person y.

Anybody’s schadenfreude is their business, and this applies to journalists too. Politicians should understand this more than anybody else.

But back to promiscuity on the sly or openly. Public officials will have our eyes set on them. It is our duty to mind their business. They may be entitled to dignity like the rest of us, but sexual politics matter — whether you’re president or peasant. Pretending they don’t is exactly what keeps us in the quagmire that is SA’s gender politics.

Much more importantly, as Gail Smith reminds us, “privacy is a function of class”. [Since she moved to the City Press mainbody, my weekend reading is a lot more interesting – what with Rehana Rossouw’s column (and editorship) of The Weekender as well. Yes, the fabulous Ms Smith is a friend of mine. I was reading her work with relish long before we met. But you don’t have to believe me. Read her for yourself.]

In my book, promiscuity matters full stop. Now, before you rush off calling me a prude, I recognise that not everybody wants to be in a monogamous relationship. When relationships are open and flexibly walled (or completely unwalled), there is a different kind of challenge: safety from sharing a myriad of nasty infections.

That aside, isn’t it irresponsible to have multiple lovers in the age of AIDS? How do you keep track and control of “how many women you’ve put inside of me”, to borrow from a poem by Lebogang Mashile? Isn’t it dodgy to have secret unsafe sex “as a loyal cadre” of a party that claims to uphold gender equity as a priority? Should people in leadership positions not be open to scrutiny given that they have to uphold and “take leadership” on a whole range of politics, including health and safety? Or is that just the problem? Is the State president is simply following (or sharing in) his Party President’s promiscuity?

I was going to have a long post on this, but some other commentators have already said much of what bothered me. So, I’m going to quote from two, and suggest that after you finish reading me, you read their complete posts as well (in a separate window, or tab, please:)

Rossouw’s column had me in stitches this weekend. Called, “The custom of dangerous liaisons”, she wrote

And because our constitution says we shouldn’t discriminate on
the basis of sexual preference, we should extend the recognition
of customary liaisons to everyone.
[…]
It follows then that if polygamy is allowed, polyandry should be
too. Any South African woman wanting two, or 15, husbands
should be free to marry them.
[…]
The only problem with polygamy is that it clashes terribly with
our political leaders’ commitment to eradicating AIDS.
What do we expect from polygamous males? That they should not
court other women? That they should not impregnate them while
lobola is being negotiated?

And the best part:

Here’s an idea: there’s another age-old South African custom
called thigh sex. Our leaders could insist on their right to practise
that. Then we won’t have to read about them having yet another
baby with yet another woman. And we might listen to their
messages about AIDS and follow their example — and stop dying.

Indeed. The SA double standards on horrifying gender and sexual orientation are horrific. But read Rossouw’s full piece here:

On another platform, Anton Harber’s The Harbinger declared:

If the President is caught between three women in this way,
complicating his personal life and raising questions about the
position of First Lady, it seems to me that this does go to his
character and values. It is a fine line, but I thought the Indie
stayed within the line. It falls into that category of story that
public figures must live with: choose a life in the media eye, and
choose to mess about with multiple and apparently conflictual
relationships, and you better have a thick skin.

That’s all I am going to say on the matter. For the time being, that is. I want to see Smith’s piece in the paper this weekend. Check here the Monday after.