Dashiki Dialogues: An age-old discourse of power and sex

2013-08-27 10:00

Our politics and corporate culture have taken on a sexual tone.

Think here of the many cases of sexual harassment and reports of extortion related to sexual favours gone bad in our news bulletins.

Of course, the recent news headlines made by now suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi are an interesting entry point into this discussion, but nothing in his story is anything new.

It would be too obvious to tell you about the condition of women in a hypersexualised, patriarchal world.

Other scribes have even used the issue to delve into the scourge of HIV/Aids, which is related to the unhealthy adventures of our national philanderers and the likes.

I’m much more interested in locating what may be called epochal moments in our national libido.

This stabs at those historical sexualised moments that have come to shape what it means to be South African.

These are moments that extend from the historic gaze that met Saartjie Baartman’s arresting posterior, making it a special type of colonial encounter.

It was a type of gawk with attendant fox hunts and massages that have continued yielding epoch-marking scandals.

They simply say South Africa is only part of the world.

Remember the Native American maiden Pocahontas, who fell in love with English colonist John Smith, who would later be initiated into her tribe and she into Christianity? Pocahontas, like Saartjie, travelled to Europe, where she died in her 20s.

I suspect this is where the erotic reputation of the Khoisan and Native Americans irretrievably entered Western public life. I might even hazard that it launched the now controversial debate on multiracial coital relations.

And in post-apartheid SA, none have been as jaw-dropping as Eugène Terre’Blanche’s alleged final coital adventure.

The 69-year-old white supremacist apparently tried to sow his racist oats with the two black boys who killed him. The ramifications are staggering. How does a neo-Nazi preach that black people are less than human but then have a homoerotic appetite for them?

Apart from recent tales of Vavi’s curious libido, our public life wouldn’t be the same without President Jacob Zuma’s. Between late 2005 and mid-2006, he gave us a spectacular show after being accused and charged with raping a daughter of his belated friend.

Zuma was acquitted after an embarrassing trial in which he said he took a shower to prevent HIV infection. It was a notch above Bill Clinton’s fellatiory episode with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

A dialogue of libido and power will always colour our national dashikis.

» Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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