Hlaudi and the return to the Bantustan

Mondli Makhanya, editor-at-large at City Press
Mondli Makhanya, editor-at-large at City Press

In the bad old days when baases were baases and Bantoes were Bantoes, homeland leaders and puppet councillors were the source of much entertainment.

Tales abounded of their flaws and general stupidity.

Most were, after all, put in those positions because they were malleable and low on cerebral fuel.

To compensate for their feebleness, they spoke extravagant English and made wild promises.

Whether speaking at functions or addressing people living in rural areas, they consulted a thesaurus for the most bombastic words and concepts.

Their assurances about what they would do with their nonexistent power were the stuff of legend.

For instance, there was this guy who went on a “state visit” to Taiwan, one of a handful of countries which recognised the Bantustans as real states.

Upon his return from this trip – which took place during Africa’s devastating drought in the early 1980s – he made a triumphant announcement.

While in Taiwan, he had bought a rain-making machine from “amaChina”.

There was much joy in the homeland as the people prepared to wave the drought goodbye. Imagine their disappointment when this machine turned out to be a gigantic crop-sprayer that would need water to work.

There were also some vicious homeland leaders, who took their role as the extensions of the apartheid government’s repressive machinery very seriously.

To carry out the state’s misdeeds, they used their police and defence forces – all trained by the apartheid security apparatus – and took sadistic pleasure in suppressing dissent.

So enthusiastically did they sometimes conduct their assignments, they even embarrassed the master.

Oh, and another thing: they loved broadcasting “national” addresses on the indigenous-language stations. At the drop of a hat, they would take to the airwaves to make stupid announcements or denounce their enemies.

Watching the goings-on at the public broadcaster, it is hard not to see the similarities between those buffoonish tinpot dictators and the autocratic dolt who reigns supreme there.

The man with the Napoleon complex and bloodshot eyes, who sits at the helm of the SABC, is a perfect example of the perils of giving power to the feeble-minded.

What usually happens is, when dim-witted individuals are given a shot at power, they grab it with both hands and use it destructively.

Firstly, they have little idea of what the power is for – and so go about wielding it for its own sake. Having been looked down upon by those around them, they see power as an opportunity to avenge all the perceived wrongs that the universe has visited upon them.

They also see power as an opportunity for grand schemes. They will wake up in the morning believing that they can build a bridge across the Atlantic – and will then set about giving orders for this to be done.

When he got his hands on the broadcasting levers, the iron-fisted boss-man wasted no time in applying his power to the fullest.

He managed upwards, downwards and sideways.

He made it patently clear, through his actions, that he was more powerful than the chief executive officer (CEO), the board and his peers. Those who stood in his way felt the wrath of the moronic one.

Single-handedly – and single-mindedly – he succeeded in collapsing two boards, oversaw the exit of CEOs and other high-level management, drove out dozens of superb journalists and created a climate of fear from the top down.

Even his communications minister danced to his tune and would not dare contradict the man said to have had a hand in her elevation to blue-light status.

In the process, he sowed destruction – of human potential, of reputation and of value. And if he has his way, a lot more of that is to come.

Like the Bantustan leaders of yesteryear, the doltish one loves taking to the airwaves to tell the world that he is the alpha and omega.

Quick as a wink, he commandeers SABC infrastructure to make grandiose addresses and shout down his critics.

And, while brutally torturing the Queen’s tongue, he makes big promises that he should know he cannot fulfil, given the dwindling resources at his disposal.

Like the homeland leader who acquired a rain-making machine, he gets people excited by his empty promises.

During his tenure, the man has gone overboard in trying to please those people he takes to be his bosses. He has carried out instructions he had not been asked to carry out, in the hope of getting a pat on the back.

And, when cornered, he has proved as vicious as any Bantustan leader wildly waving his knobkerrie and knocking over whatever he sees before him.

In the old days, we would soothe our souls by poking fun and laughing at the homeland leaders. A big part of our taking vengeance on them for selling out was to ridicule them and let them know we thought they were stupid.

It is tragic that we find ourselves in the same position in 2016, when this Bantustan leader incarnate seems invincible and all that society can do is despair – or laugh – at his buffoonery.

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