Growing Pains: The ‘honeytrap’ is a sticky place to get caught

2013-08-05 10:00

So?.?.?.?what were you doing the moment you heard of last week’s sex scandal?

I was on Twitter, and seeing murmurs about #Vavi, I remembered his recent admission that he had contemplated leaving his position.

Imagine it, a man leaving politics before he gets to the top of the totem pole, or gets too old.

It’s unheard of, mostly because there is always someone cheering them on like it’s a Comrades Marathon.

I was that chap last Saturday. I yelled “Xhamela, don’t let them push you out!”

Moments later, I discovered why Zwelinzima Vavi’s name was so in vogue on the social network that morning – my clan-mate had been doing the pushing. Well, “briefly”.

My first reaction was disbelief, not that I didn’t believe it was possible.

It’s just that it was happening right now.

There has to be a plot, I rationalised.

Having been raised on a steady diet of communist propaganda, stories of Cold War espionage and apartheid dirty tricks, I have long known of the “honeytrap”.

That’s the actual name for the practice of using sex to entrap, blackmail and extort the “subject of an operation” into doing something they wouldn’t normally do, like resigning from political office.

The disbelief deepened when it turned out that, unlike typical honey traps, the scenario involving Cosatu’s general secretary was set up by none other than himself.

The next thing I felt was anxiety.

The anxiety came from the dissonance between what I’ve been witnessing lately and what I came to learn about the men, women and the world growing up as a young South African boy.

You see, when I was just discovering girls, they were discovering older boys, the ones with cars and status.

They were also discovering heartache and being two-timed.

At the time, all knew was that every boy wanted to be the DJ with the gusheshe (box-shape BMW 325i) that drove fast and furiously for the school socials because all the girls wanted to be with him.

And he definitely wanted to be the gangster that everyone in town knew and lightly bowed to and whispered about when him and his entourage came into the night spot.

The only guy who got more looks and respect than him was?the political leader.

But back then, political leaders weren’t known to be Casanovas. Unlike the entertainers and gangsters, they didn’t have women draped all over them in public.

They were out marching, chanting and just generally liberating us so we too could chose to be entertainers, or gangsters.

You can imagine my shock then when that myth was eventually shattered. And since then, every story of a philandering leader is like a documentary scouring the North Pole for Santa’s house.

This revelation aside, growing up, my friends and I learnt quickly that the ability to attract the ladies one desired was algebraic.

Even dimwits got that.

The “X” was one’s power.

It was a factor of looks, for some their silver tongues, for many it was their willingness to part with money, and for the most successful their social standing and influence.

The most successful, though, did something different.

They took on hard and frankly crap tasks and came out revered “leaders”.

What a shock then to discover it was all for nothing.

The truth is many of the models of our upbringing are outdated.

In many ways, I have become white-monopoly capitalist, embracing BEE not because I really believe in it but because I fear I could get caught out.

And that’s what last weekend taught me – no matter how strong our primordial instincts, there could be few things worth a shameful front page on a Sunday morning.

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