Dashiki Dialogues: A dirty language reflects bad politics

2013-11-20 10:00

The idea of a white president in South Africa works on the battered souls of the formerly oppressed like a return to apartheid. Cyril Ramaphosa and his bros at Luthuli House understand this.

As a fear, its Pavlovian ring lets loose a flood of nightmares from our past. Which is why recent statements by Ramaphosa to potential voters are met with such charged ­responses.

He said if people didn’t vote, the boers will return to rule us.

However ridiculous it seems to a certain logic, Ramaphosa surely knew the emotional currency of his words.

The terrible truth is the ­apparently weird race-mongering will define much of our political language as long as the legacy of our racist past is alive.

It’s for the same reason that the DA, with its mainly white male cabinet in the Western Cape, is seen as anti-black by many.

This of course notwithstanding the visibility of Lindiwe Mazibuko, Mmusi Maimane and Wilmot James who, we will do well to note, are often branded as coconuts or tea ladies.

Along with President Jacob ­Zuma’s gaffe about “some road in Malawi”, Ramaphosa’s latest points to an interesting facet of South Africa’s psychopolitical culture.

Ours is an untidy and recalcitrant world that fails to support dignified public discourse. Just a glance into our recent past confirms this.

Who remembers the colourful language of former police commissioner Bheki Cele, who hilariously called out Archbishop Desmond Tutu thus: “Bishop Tutu must go home and shut up. He must remember one thing: he must follow Jesus and ­Jesus advises all of us. He is not a vice-Jesus Christ, he is not a deputy Jesus Christ.”

And the president of police union Popcru, Zizamele Cebekhulu, told the Popcru gala dinner last week that police commissioner Riah Phiyega would not be fired because the country could not afford to change commissioners “like underpants”.

It was Juju who in his heyday at the helm of the youth league mastered this vitriol. Back then Juju would treat us to regular swipes against those he disagreed with, like Naledi Pandor who was dismissed as “a coconut with a fake accent”.

Then there was PAC leader Motsoko Pheko, who said the Constitution was being used as a condom to take political prostitutes to bed, adding it was “not a condom to be discarded once the moment of pleasure had passed”.

This sullied language is a symptom of a more sinister rot. Our politics is bereft of dignity. Liberals ­defend a dehumanising status quo, while the ruling party lacks the political will to do anything about the ­dying poor.

Our dialogues thus can only reflect the souls that partake in them, regardless of the flowers that decorate our dashikis.

» Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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