Monday, December 20, 2010

A Famous Grouse: December 18, 2010

(Latest Weekend Argus column, as submitted. -- AD)

CALL it progress, but there’s now a car guard outside the Mahogany Ridge,  a sign that even here, in our isolated village, we cannot escape the developments and social change that is sweeping across the broader South Africa.

The locals grumble, of course, and mutter on about the inevitability of the spike in thefts from motor vehicles that is bound to come.

The more progressive among us, however, have accepted his presence and have even gone so far as to adopt a pro-active role in the young man’s affairs and we test his vigilance and devotion to the self-appointed task of watching over our rusting hulks by throwing stones at him, usually when he asks us for money.

It does rather keep him on his toes, inasmuch as a person in a wheelchair can said to be on his toes.

But, even so, he’s pretty agile, and he makes a difficult target to hit.

It could be worse, of course. He could be a delegate at the World Youth and Student Festival in Pretoria which, at the time of writing, presumably still had some way to go towards attaining its avowed aim of defeating imperialism.

Reports from Pretoria have not been all that encouraging, but perhaps we should accept National Youth Development Agency chairman Andile Lungisa’s excuse that the bad weather was to blame for the hasty programme changes and the no-shows by high-profile politicians.

Certainly he was very quick to dismiss reports that some of the 30 000 delegates were going hungry by pointing out that even though they weren’t attending a “wine and dine festival”, no-one would be starving as they strove to build a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation.

In this regard, it should be made clear that when students went at each others’ tonsils with their tongues earlier in the week they were not foraging for half-masticated scraps of food but in fact kissing -- an activity that Lungisa has endorsed with some good nature.  “They are not prisoners... This is not a prisoners’ festival but a youth festival,” he said. “They will continue kissing each other.”

Not everyone was being so friendly, though. The Israelis have been made to feel a little unwelcome, and a fistfight apparently broke out between the Moroccan and Western Sahara delegations.

Earlier, ANCYL president Julius Malema had touched on the hostility between these two regions when he explained to delegates how “fearless” President Zuma, in exchange for writing off R1.1-billion in Cuban debt, had been awarded the José Martí medal, the highest honour Cuba can bestow on a foreign head of state and, at that price, certainly one of the world’s most expensive.

“Apartheid Morocco”, he said, must decolonise Western Sahara. Failing which, he would then urge the president to remove Morocco’s embassies here. As the chump put it, “We cannot house [an] apartheid regime in South Africa.”

The Moroccan delegation were so terrified at this that they immediately stopped beating up the Western Saharans and, donning what appeared to be Santa suits, sang and danced for a bit before setting up a stand in a corner of Atteridgeville’s Lucas Moripe Stadium to sell rugs, funny slippers, fake leather purses and hookahs made in China. When the festival ends on Tuesday, they will -- for a small fee -- helpfully load other delegates’ luggage onto the buses. If the buses come, that is.

Elsewhere, the country’s youths were also getting on with the business of attaining manhood. At this time of the year, the thickets of Port Jackson on the Cape Flats are choked with the plastic-sheeted hovels used by clay-daubed initiates as they learn to respect others and practise ubuntu.

So far, at least eight initiates, including a 14-year-old boy, have died in the Eastern Cape after being circumcised by apparently unskilled iingcibi and amakhankatha, or traditional “surgeons” and “nurses”. Apparently, the local initiation schools have taken adequate steps to prevent such fatalities in the Western Cape. Let’s hope so.

Which brings us to that act of barbarism in KwaZulu-Natal this afternoon, the ukwesha, in which a fully conscious bull is to be ritually slaughtered in the name of culture by young men who will force it to the ground, rip out its tongue, force earth into its mouth, gouge out its eyes and mutilate its genitals.

It’s outrageous that, in a bid to suppress outrage, the general public is barred from this atrocious and primitive exhibition -- and yet it is funded by taxpayers, as entertainment for the lazy and irrelevant Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini.

There’s a lot of growing up needed out there. Even our car guard can tell you that.

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