Helen haters at Hysteria Lane

David Moseley

A new street name can be added to South Africa’s maps. To sit alongside Govan Mbeki Avenue, Nelson Mandela Boulevard and Chapman’s Peak drive we can now list Hysteria Lane.

In this quaint suburban road you’ll find all manner of shrill residents, able to discern the meaning and context of statements from politicians like Helen Zille, sometimes before Zille has even said anything.

Head of the Neighbourhood Watch, and local psychic, is Eusebius McKaiser, South Africa’s post-apartheid political-analyst savant. He’s style himself as a modern Max du Preez, fighting the injustices meted out by the country’s, er, political opposition.

So au fait with the inner workings of the DA is McKaiser that he’s able to make sweeping statements and pass judgement based solely on comments that were “reportedly” made by Zille.

Reportedlys and allegedlys

Yes, McKasier, the man who must be an intellectual because he talks a lot, in his grand take down of Zille earlier this week, started his “scathing” piece for once prominent rags at the Independent Group by using the word “reportedly” in two of his first three paragraphs. Come one, man. Do better.

This, along with the word “allegedly”, is a columnist’s bullet-proof vest. As long as he covers himself with enough reportedlys and allegedlys he can write any old bollocks without fear of reprisal. He must have learnt that one when studying law.

Being an intellectual powerhouse, I’m sure the irony doesn’t escape him that without Zille his bestselling book, Could I Vote DA? wouldn’t exist.

If the very likeable Tony Leon was still in charge McKaiser would have been forced to call his book “Could Tony Please Do Something Interesting That Allows Me To Nitpick His Policies”. Not as catchy, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Whatever Zille’s faults, and I’m sure there are many, she’s the reason the DA has made such a splash (the good and bad) in the last few years. Tony seems like a lekker oke, but there’s a reason he’s been holidaying in Argentina for five years while Zille’s been leading the opposition charge.

Ridiculous attacks

Hysteria Lane’s community newspaper is the Mail & Guardian, but residents will also look to the Business Day for their daily dose of wide-eyed and manic shrieking.

Gareth van Onselen’s inside scoops on the party were interesting at first, but it’s become so clear that he has an axe to grind with Zille that I suggest the police check his garage for an unregistered cache of medieval weapons.

I’m no Zille cheerleader. I live in Cape Town and enjoy the benefits of a slightly less egomaniacal political party in charge. But that’s it. I too find her a bit scary and power-hungry at times, but that’s no basis for these recent ridiculous attacks.

If you’re going to go for the jugular, then do it properly. Don’t whine and dine on a few leaks. I’m sure even McKaiser, when he reads his pathetic effort from earlier in the week, will feel slightly embarrassed. (I actually quite enjoy him, but that piece was rubbish).

Cry me a river

Although it was nowhere near as daft as the Mail & Guardian’s (online) effort. Their columnist, Verashni Pillay, went on a long and winding rant, though she ensured she used words in “quotation marks”, another useful columnist weapon that helps convey meaning that was never present in the first place, like this gem from the blurb in her column: “You do not "own" your black protégés just because you endorsed them.” Good grief, Charlie Brown, what the fuck is that all about?

I have no idea what the column was about, but this was my favourite part: “In this Zille reflects a larger problem in corporate South Africa” - oh boy. This should be good. I have a feeling everyone is about to get called racist. Those fucking corporate bastards.

“I’ve been tracking the discussion among my networks” – that is, my one friend on Facebook told me – “following the debacle and there seems to be a special kind of vitriol reserved for the black protégé who dares to 'throw away' the attention of a kind white senior, which their white colleagues are unlikely to feel.”

That’s it, white people! You uncaring pricks! Don’t you dare mentor those ungrateful blacks! They’ll just steal your sugar when you’re not looking anyway!

Oh gawd. Cry me a river. When did everyone get so soft in this fucking country? What does corporate South Africa have to do with Zille?

Anyone who’s ever mentored someone and then see their protégé leave for another job feels gutted. It’s natural. When you invest time and effort into someone’s career, and they move on, be it on good terms or bad, the mentor should feel a small twinge of betrayal. You’re dead inside if you don’t.

I’ve had four staff members up and leave after imparting all my wisdom on them (not much, I know. It only took six minutes) and every time I’ve been bummed. Not because I want my protégé to come and mow my lawn, but because I thought we’d do great things together. When that doesn’t happen, a small bout of sadness is acceptable.

I don't understand

Anyway, what a joke. I’m no supporter of the DA or politics in general. I don’t know if I’m leftwing, rightwing, centre or fullback. But thanks to a panicky mother I know a lot about hysteria, and that’s what criticisms of Zille are becoming, hysterical diatribes that have no context.

To me Zille does seem slightly despotic at times. By all means, take her down. But for goodness sakes, intellectual media types, do it in a way that doesn’t leave you looking desperate for attention.

Oh, and I know this will come in the comments: “But you’re a white male living in Cape Town, you don’t understand”.

So let me write it for you. I’m a white male living in Cape Town. And I don’t understand.  

Send your comments to David

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