Jelly Tsotsi goes for the name game
IT’S SUMMER, and there’s a rustle in the trees as the south-easters pick up speed.
The gulls shriek when the fishing boats return. There’s the odd, tortured scream from the recently-arrived upcountry holidaymaker who has discovered that the baboons in these parts know how to open car doors.
At Mahogany Ridge an office Christmas party is taking a turn for the worse as the silly hats are produced and the ladies from the typing pool crash tackle the wine steward.
In other words, this is about as peaceful and quiet as it gets in the village at this time of the year.
Suddenly, though, a cacophony from the north. Discordant. Ugly. Like a piano played by a drunk octopus.
It is our old friend, Jelly Tsotsi. Like a phoenix, he rises. Granted, it is a very fat phoenix, one that looks, fittingly, like a large basted turkey. But a phoenix none the less, in the ascendancy.
But not, as we were so recently led to believe, as a cattle farmer, a man of the soil now done with politics having been suspended from the ruling party and resigned to relative obscurity as he counts his beeves before driving them to the abattoir.
No. It is still the same old Jelly, and the familiar dull racket of a stick banging away at an empty bucket is as grating as ever. This time it was at a rally at Ga-phaahla village in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, a place of dust and despair, and he was encouraging his audience to stand up and “claim their Struggle inheritance”, as the Star’s correspondent boldly put it, as he accused the ruling party of not recognising local freedom fighters.
The problem, it would seem, was that the streets were not being renamed after the right people.
Jelly went on to suggest that such luminaries as Flag Boshielo, a founding member of Umkhonto wesizwe, former Robben Island prisoner Lawrence Phokanoka and former ANC Youth League leader Peter Mokaba – a man often described as a “firebrand” and a “hothead” when what they actually meant was “stupid” – were sadly neglected when it came such occasions.
Instead, the streets were named after the usual whosits, whatsits and thingamijigs – Mandela, Mandela, Mandela and, just for a change, Mandela.
“Why would they respect us,” he asked, “if they disrespect our leaders who are no longer with us?”
It was an intriguing question. Difficult, even. And perhaps he was asking the wrong people. As he told his audience: “They think you are stupid when you say you come from Limpopo.”
This could well have been a complaint that it will be some time yet before Jelly has streets named after him.
Or it could be a response to the Cabinet’s decision to place Limpopo’s government, a shambles led by premier Cassel Mathale, one of Jelly’s chums, under national administration. The Cabinet had also stripped five Limpopo government departments of their powers, charging that the province had failed to run its finances effectively.
To be fair, though, the brain-freeze business is not only prevalent in Limpopo. You could see it in President Jacob Zuma’s face as he watched the chaos unfold before him in the Durban City Hall on Thursday, as his goons and ANC Youth League members laid into environmental activists who confronted him about his spinelessness when it came to standing up for Africa’s interests at the climate change talks.
As his fascist “green bombers” – socalled because of their paramilitary uniforms – tore posters and placards from the hands of activists, and then formed a circle around one of them, Rehad Desai, and kicked the hell out of him as they sang his praises, our president stared on impassively, indecisive, like some anti-buddha. He did not intervene. He did nothing. He said nothing.
Watching videos of this debacle, I tried to make sense of his behaviour. Then it dawned on me.
Zuma was on the horns of a Malema: should he say something stupid now, or maybe later? He chose the latter. After Desai and other activists were unceremoniously bundled out of the hall, Zuma denounced the chaos as “uncalled-for”, adding, “I don’t agree with people who disrupt and loot in the name of democracy. We must tolerate other people’s views.”
Yeah. Right. After they’ve been slapped upside the head and kicked out of the room.
It was the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead who once observed, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
We have to find this small group of people. Soon.