The JZ?&?Ellen Show

2014-12-29 08:00

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Two figures towered way above the others when it came to this year’s news makers, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

One was the head of state; the other was the chairperson of the public broadcaster. Together they depressed us to death and entertained us to the skies. They made us shake our heads in disbelief and gasp with incredulity. But one thing’s for sure, they made our year very, very interesting.

This wonderful and endearing couple, dear reader, was none other than President Jacob Zuma and SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala.

President Jacob Zuma

Please note that the word ‘couple’ is used loosely here and is not meant to suggest any amorous relationship between these two.

I know the tabloids have alluded to the fact that they have a giggly relationship and Tshabalala likes to visit the president’s official residence while the First Ladies are busy looking after tuck shops and fighting diabetes.

These scurrilous tabloids, which are not to be believed, have suggested that she owes her rise and survival to something known in some ANC circles as the open legs deployment policy.

But we are not here to peddle idle gossip that has in any case been denied by Tshabalala and the presidency.

Responding to the Sunday Sun story that alleged this dalliance, Tshabalala expressed shock that people would make such claims.

“Do people realise when they do things like this that the people they talk about have families who are affected by what they say?” she asked.

President Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, was rather graphic in his denial: “Did they see them in the bedroom? Do those people have a dress or semen or condoms, like in the Monica Lewinsky saga? Have they seen them smooching?”

So you decide who to believe. Do you believe a muck-raking tabloid that has specialised in exposing the nocturnal peccadilloes of celebrities and politicians for more than a decade? Or do you believe two upstanding citizens, one who is the mouthpiece of the great Zuma and the other with a degree so advanced that no computer system can trace it?

But the purpose of this column is not to talk about the personal affairs or non-affairs of other people, especially after such firm and emphatic denials have been given. It is rather to salute a couple (I repeat, not in the amorous sense) who stood resolute this year.

Let us start with the president. In fact, let us start with where he ended the year, which is basically where he started it – mired in myriad scandals and controversies. But wait a minute, isn’t that the way he started and ended last year as well. And the previous year? And ... and...

This week, Zuma closed his scandal-ridden year with a glorious end-of-the-year SABC TV interview with a carefully selected journalist who asked carefully selected questions.

As with all sweetheart interviews, this one was disastrously embarrassing for both parties.

The highlight was Zuma telling his awestruck, nodding interviewer that people should stop whining about this Nkandla thing.

“The reality is that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. There is not a single one [report] that found anything wrong that the president has done.”

The “nothing wrong with Nkandla” mantra is one that President Zuma has mouthed in Parliament, on the election trail, in interviews and in speeches.

He has even said it is “very much unfair” to use the Nkandla matter to portray him as corrupt.

Judging by the tone of his voice, it is clear Zuma is not just spin-doctoring for himself when he mounts a defence of the Nkandla expenditure. He genuinely believes he sits on the right of the Angel Gabriel.

In his mind, he is being persecuted because he is a peasant and clever urbanites can’t bear being governed by rural folk. Such is his inability to tell right from wrong.

The other half of this couple (again, not in the amorous sense) has spent the year waging a war to prove she does not have to provide proof that she has her claimed qualifications.

Ellen Tshabalala’s saga gripped the nation this year – but in the end, she left the cast of SABC: The Legacy. Picture: Mary-Ann Palmer

After months of ducking and diving, and mounting futile court challenges, when she could have just produced the proof, she resigned from her position last week.

But not before alleging a conspiracy involving the Islamic State, Mossad, Ukrainian separatists, the Italian Mafia and North Korean hackers to discredit her name. She has vowed to fight to clear her good name as she has done nothing wrong.

The thing that seems to make our couple click so well is the shared inability to differentiate right from wrong.

Seeing that one does not always have to produce proof of one’s qualifications, I would like to venture into the neurological realm and suggest the two are missing the little button that tells them what is right and what is wrong.

Zuma probably cannot tell when he is behaving in a corrupt manner or benefiting from corrupt acts. Tshabalala believes she has the qualifications because she has convinced herself she has them and everyone who doubts her is mad.

So they have their truths. They have set their integrity bar (at a very low level) and they live their false lives without the tiniest pang of guilt. This is why, despite suffering what was potentially one of the worst years of their lives, they still giggled and stood by each other this year.

So here’s a toast to South Africa’s most remarkable couple of the year – and not in the amorous sense.

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