Jelly Tsotsi goes for the name game

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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