Marianne Thamm

Wake me when it's over

2007-08-16 08:51

Marianne Thamm

It all began with the pigs. You can't have missed it. It was such a spectacularly gruesome and outrageously sad story that it almost seemed staged. A bit like a wildlife documentary directed by Quentin Tarantino with a soundtrack by Leonard Cohen.

Last week, a truck transporting 211 live pigs overturned near Middledrift in the Eastern Cape, scattering the livestock - many of them injured - far and wide. In no time, word spread and people descended on the scene, slaughtering some of the animals on the spot.

It is understandable that hungry people who would come across such a scene would partake in the apparent frenzy that ensued.

Many were horrified to learn of the killing of those pigs but we dare not judge those who resorted to the butchering. Those of us who eat meat generally dissociate from the suffering all animals must endure so we can suck at their flesh and bones around weekend braais.

No, it wasn't the feeding frenzy that surprised and shocked but rather the behaviour of police who apparently arrived at the scene a while later. According to a local SPCA representative, Annette Rademeyer, the cops - who were allegedly drunk - instead of stopping the macabre free-for-all, removed number plates from their vans before joining in the sideshow, stuffing dead and dying animals inside the vehicle.

It was as if some sort of collective insanity occurred at the scene, one that seems to have set the pace for the rest of the week.

Another absurd sideshow

We had hardly digested the pigs incident when another absurd sideshow stole the headlines. President Thabo Mbeki fired the Deputy Minister of Health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. And this shortly after National Women's Day.

We all know about Madlala-Routledge's surprise visit to Frere hospital where she witnessed for herself the unacceptable conditions that have lead to the deaths of large numbers of babies. Correctly, she spoke out, reassuring voters in that sad province that matters were unacceptable.

Of course this is not something members of the Mbeki cabinet, who all seem to have taken a vow of silence, are supposed to do. So, absurdly, she just had to go. The firing of Madlala-Routledge marks a turning point in the ANC and will serve to galvanise democrats in the party. But more about that later... Stick around for 2009.

In the meantime the past of one Dr Nokuzola Ntshona, medical superintendent and deputy manager of the East London hospital network that includes Frere, has come back to bite her in the bum.

Ntshona, who lived in exile for 31 years, served a 30 month sentence in the US in 1996 for defrauding the American Health Department of R2.7m.

It was the plucky Daily Dispatch that sniffed out the ex-con. Acknowledging her past Ntshona said; "Everyone makes mistakes and I paid for mine. I have made a new beginning in South Africa".

Whatever that may mean.

True men

Then news in from that patriarchal paradise KwaZulu-Natal - home to presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma - added some much needed perspective to the rote speeches and platitudes that were regurgitated around National Women's Day

From there came a startling replay of some old tale from Malawi circa 1979 when Hastings Kamuzu Banda - the autocratic top-hat-and-tails-wearing leader of Malawi from 1961 to 1994 - banned women living in or visiting that country from wearing pants and men from having hair that touched their shirt collars.

Male residents of T-Section hostel in Umlazi have decided they don't want women, literally of course, to wear pants. So threatened is their masculinity that last month they publicly stripped Zandile Mpanza, forced her to parade through the streets before burning down her house, all because she was wearing jeans.

Defending their criminal actions, one Mkhonkothe Nzama, leader of the T-section told said that the men had spoken - nicely we presume - to women in the area and that they had said they did not like wearing pants.

"So it's just outsiders who want to impose their rules on us," said Nzama.

Spoken like a true man.

Missing money

Then there's the baffling tale of the missing R500 000 cash donation to the SACP that was supposedly meant to be handed over by Cosatu President Willie Madisha to General Secretary, Blade Nzimande.

There are many compelling parts to this story. The first is that a businessman - a capitalist we presume - would think it wise to support a party that essentially represents workers. But hey, it's all politics and anything's possible.

Relief all round later of course when we learned that the tycoon, one Charles Modise, is actually bankrupt. In that sense the donation is a victory of sorts as some other bourgeois capitalist will have to carry the deficit.

At the weekend the soap opera turned into a musical as news of the Minster of Health's alleged late night piss up (including her surgeon) in a private hospital knocked all other headlines off the front pages.

By the time news of the campaign by the Malamulela Social Movement of the Unemployed to destabilise business through blowing up ATMs filtered through, I longed for some sort of cosmic remote so I could turn it all off.

Let's hope things settle into routine murder and mayhem again this week.

Send your comments to Marianne.

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