An unrestrained, battle-scarred –and battle-ready – indefatigable Helen Zille would have caused more harm had she not returned to politics, writes Sy Makaringe
Every year around this time, outstanding achievers in various industries are acknowledged for their exemplary leadership and impressive contributions to their respective sectors.
There are, however, a few individuals who stand out, and someone who deserves a Bell’s is Professor Johann Maree for his ingenuity, sharp-mindedness and tactical ability to cleanly deflect harm – mental or physical – away from himself.
At his advanced age, the septuagenarian had hoped he and Helen Zille, his wife of 37 years, would quietly slip into retirement after she completed her term as the premier of the Western Cape earlier this year.
After immersing herself deep in DA and national politics for many years, during which she had spats with political heavyweights including Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema; fellow DA leaders Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba and Athol Trollip; and journalists such as Max du Preez and Richard Poplak, the good prof felt it was about time for Zille to call it quits so they could spend quality time in their twilight years with their granddaughter.
He was even at the Western Cape legislature to take her home after she delivered her swansong speech.
But he also knew he would be taking home an unstoppable Godzille, a political animal who, just like the mythical monstrous animal called Godzilla, destroys every opponent in her wake.
Godzille devours everything.
If she runs out of enemies, she creates them, or attacks anything or anyone in sight.
Ever since she rose to the position of DA leader in 2007, she has been fighting someone or something.
Fighting, especially with men, became part of her DNA. So the prof was torn between his deep love for her and her combustible temper and political tantrums.
So, in the run-up to the DA’s federal council chairpersonship elections, Zille whispered into the prof’s ear during a pillow talk that a colleague had suggested she avail herself for the position.
Maree’s immediate reaction was: “Have you lost your marbles?”
He wasn’t thinking. And he regretted it.
That’s why, the following morning, he whispered into his wife’s ear: “I’ve been thinking about it (that means he didn’t sleep at all that night), and I think you should at least throw your hat into the ring.”
That did it. That single stroke of genius sent Godzille straight back into the political battlefield and deep into the political wilds.
It also drew her away from the home front. Immediately after that, she took on three men who dared challenge her – and won.
But at the end of that swift, bruising brawl, five, not three, men lay sprawled on the bloodied canvass.
Sitting ringside, Maree, wearing a wry smile on his face, chuckled, happy with himself that he had succeeded in saving himself from Godzille’s wrath by directing it elsewhere.
He knew those blows, jabs, punches and left hooks would have landed on his fragile bones had he not applied shrewd tactics and diversionary machinations.
For at least the next four years or so, he will spend time alone – in peace and quiet – in their home in Cape Town while Zille slugs it out with her political opponents in faraway Bruma Lake in Johannesburg, where the DA’s headquarters have been relocated.
Peace and quiet cannot be mentioned in the same sentence as Zille.
You can imagine the extent of the damage that would be caused were an unrestrained, battle-scarred and battle-ready, indefatigable political animal like Godzille to be unleashed in that suburban house. Everything in sight – doors, pots, pans, TV sets, hairdryers, cats, dogs and even human beings – would be potential targets.
A big round of applause for Maree, an escape artist par excellence, for a job well done in staying alive one more time.
Now, having dispensed with that award, would Dr Quintin ... eh ... eh ... yes, the one in the red beret, yes, Dr Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi ... would he please step forward to receive the prestigious Ice Boy of the year award?
Unfortunately, his nemesis, the man he calls Jamnadas, is not here to witness the fruits of his labour.
Makaringe is an independent Johannesburg-based journalist
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