Howard Feldman

An inexplicable spate of political 'poisonings' take South Africans for fools

2019-07-31 18:30
Sdumo Dlamini, deputy president of agriculture and land reform.

Sdumo Dlamini, deputy president of agriculture and land reform. (Matthew Middleton)

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What does the assassination failure rate say to the quality of South African assassins? In a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, how is it possible that so many of these plots have failed, asks Howard Feldman.

I have been meaning to create an Excel spreadsheet for some time. As with any document that demands that we take it seriously, it will have columns both across and down and we will be able to group them, alphabetise them and of course pivot them. Because that's what any self-respecting presentation will allow.

The document will contain a list of politicians on the down column, with the across column listing when an assassination "plot" was claimed. It will have columns for the preferred method of murder and will list the public and embarrassing incident that precipitated such a claim. Because, to be honest, the claims of such plots generally follow a revelation or allegation of some form of corruption.

I debated creating a separate tab for "poison" plots, but after some consideration, given the strange lack of detail around these claims and the huge failure rate of such attempts, decided that I would use one document to provide a quick glance option.

There are a number of concerns around the multiple claims that South African politicians continue to make around assassination attempts. In no order at all, the following are some of my apprehensions:

Is South Africa only capable of producing a sub-par quality of poison? From former president Jacob Zuma who claimed to have been poisoned by his wife (unsuccessfully), to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane, and now to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Land Reform Sdumo Dlamini, all have claimed that they have been poisoned. Dlamini is currently in hospital and the rationale for claiming that he is a victim of a poison plot was because he was healthy until recently and then developed a severe headache.

Whereas no doubt everyone wishes him a full and speedy recovery, the claim that it was poison that caused the damage for the reason stated is problematic, to say the least.

And why is Russia the only place that seems to have effective treatment for poisonings? Time and time again, these unfortunate victims seem to scuttle off to Russia for "treatment". I have watched Chernobyl, so I am aware that they are good at dealing with this stuff, but surely our medical system could treat the sufferers just as effectively?

What does the assassination failure rate say to the quality of South African assassins? In a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, how is it possible that so many of these plots have failed? To be brutal, if murder was an Olympic sport, South Africa would win gold; we would be in the murder hall of fame. And yet, time after time after time our politicians live to tell of the plots that they have thwarted. Surely a higher standard should be expected, nay, demanded from anyone claiming to be an expert in the field?

No one is ever arrested for these so-called plots and no names are ever provided. Like the classic urban legend, it speaks to fear, vagueness and conspiracy more than it ever seems to speak to actual fact.

The conspiracy claims coincidentally always seem to emerge when political embarrassment is imminent. Given the behaviour of so many in leadership, this is more common than it ought to be.

It's becoming tiresome. And a little insulting. I have no idea if all the politicians claiming to be a victim of a so-called plot or conspiracy (even of an international kind) consider South Africans particularly stupid, but they need to do better than they have been doing. I can't imagine that anyone considers these outrageous plots to be something of any substance, but I am pretty sure that they will be hard pressed to find anyone who does. The reaction to the claims speaks for itself – which is to say that there is hardly any reaction at all.

Imagine something like a poisoning or other plot being claimed in the press by a politician in Australia for example, and the point becomes clear. It would be considered a major incident and it would provide headlines for weeks.

It's time that South African leadership stops treating South Africans like they are fools. If there is a claim, then the claimer needs to prove it by providing names and details and by laying charges. In the interim, I will continue to update Excel.

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    busisiwe mkhwebane  |  sdumo dlamini  |  poisoning  |  assassination
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