We have our own charlatans

2015-01-07 06:00

A classic cartoon by Zapiro is one from the early 2000s that depicts the carnage that takes place on our roads during the festive season.

In the cartoon, badly mangled figures arrive in heaven and the angels are checking them into the eternal resting place. A senior angel turns to a junior and says: “Those ones are the South Africans. They always arrive looking like this at this time of year.”

It is a macabre cartoon, but one that is totally accurate. This time of year is a time when we turn the season of festivity into a season of tears and mourning. We’ve accepted it as normal that every festive season, about 1?000 people will die on their way to or from a happy destination.

Some poor minister and road management top dog has to be on death duty, performing the unenviable task of counting the dead and injured and relaying the statistics to the public.

These poor souls must also repeat to a deaf and defiant public the need to respect their lives and the lives of others on the road.

But no matter how much we accept that this annual ritual of destruction is part of us, we cannot be numbed by it. The numbers are just extraordinary. These are human beings, loved by family and friends.

And apart from the reckless speedsters and those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are mostly innocent victims. So you just have to feel a deep pain when you hear those statistics. You feel anger at the senselessness of the loss of life.

But, at the risk of being lynched, I have to confess that I did not feel this pain or anger when news emerged of the tragedy at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria a few months ago.

I tried hard to find the pain and the anger, but nothing was forthcoming. I dug deep into my reserves of sympathy, but a terrible voice kept booming in my consciousness uttering the unforgivable words: “Kodwa bona bebeyofunani lapho?”(What were they doing there in the first place.)

As the days and weeks ticked by and South Africans vented anger at the church’s founder, Pastor TB Joshua, I still could not get myself worked up.

When the bodies took ages to be returned and the Nigeria-South Africa rivalry played itself out on this tragic stage, I shook my head as South Africans got worked up.

More recently, I have observed with some level of amusement as fellow countrymen foamed at the mouth upon hearing that Joshua had invited families of those affected by the tragedy to spend the Christmas period with him in Lagos.

“The man of God would like to spend quality time with those families and continuously support them,” Joshua’s South African representative Kirsten Nematandani was quoted as saying.

Forty families took up the offer and left their homes to go and spend Christmas with a man who was responsible for the death of their loved ones.

The reason I do not get worked up about the Lagos tragedy is not because I am a heartless sod – although I’m sure there are some who might argue otherwise – I just feel the same way about those “victims” as I do about people who lose money in pyramid schemes, 419 scams and those card games that tricksters play in the streets of big cities.

For that is exactly what Joshua’s operation is: a massive scam that any thinking adult should see through.

Instead of seeing it for what it is, South Africans save up money, take out bank loans and borrow from mashonisas and microlenders in order to make the trip.

They go there hoping to be healed of everything from persistent diarrhoea and migraines to blindness and the inability to conceive.

How anyone can expect some loud guy in a shiny suit to somehow fix you by putting his hands on your head beats me.

It is no different from expecting the returns on your investment to grow a thousand times overnight just because some sharp-talker convinced you it would.

What does anger me about the Joshua matter is the fact that those who head to Nigeria to be “healed” by this charlatan ignore our home-grown charlatans.

In this country, we have con-men pastors who claim to be able to heal you by making you eat grass, drink petrol, letting them touch your private parts in full view of an entire congregation or making you swim in a dirty stream.

They go by the fancy titles of pastor this or prophet that and they give their churches long, elaborate names – as if this will add to their authenticity.

Their healing abilities are as powerful as Joshua’s powers, which is zilch. But what they do have going for them is that they are a car ride or a bus trip away.

At most, you will spend a few hundred rand to travel across the country to your chosen charlatan, but if you are within the same province, it shouldn’t damage your pocket that much.

The point here is that if you are really into this thing of enriching charlatans, practice some patriotism and buy South African.

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