Monday, March 14, 2011

A Famous Grouse: March 12

Saturday's Weekend Argus column, as submitted. -- AD

I READ the following in one of the newspapers this week: “If you spot one rider zipping past in a colourful Pedal Power Association (PPA) cycling shirt, then another and then 10 more, you will not be hallucinating.”

And more’s the pity, I suppose, for here at the Mahogany Ridge, there are a few regulars who fondly recall when the bicycle menace used to pass through the village.
In those days, the cyclists came barreling down Slangkop, hit the rough patches on the approach to the village, left the road altogether and plummeted down the mountain to come to a sticky end in the prickly vegetation specially grown for this purpose. As one old-timer put it, “Shame, but they don’t do fun like that anymore.”

Wisely, the race now avoids us altogether. But even though they don’t race here, the cyclists still practice here. In the last few months, the roads around the village have been thick with them, particularly on Sunday mornings. After doing their best to fall under the wheels of the boat trailers, they’d stop off at the local superette and, leaning against their cycles like cowboys, guzzle power drinks. They’d stare at us through mirrorshade wraparounds and we’d have to explain to our womenfolk that the bulges in the lycra shorts were really padding, a safeguard of sorts against saddle sores. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Sometimes, a few of the cyclists would actually wheel their racers into the superette and, cluttering up the aisle at the energy bars and chocolates section, have a loud debate about sell-by dates. Obviously these people were from Johannesburg and were worried that their ultra-lightweight, titanium-framed jobs would be pinched if they left them outside, and we’d have to tell them that it was okay, we’re all poachers here, we don’t steal bicycles, only fish.

Which is a bit of a porkie, of course. Although we say that’s we do here, just to freak out the visitors, we don’t actually poach fish. In fact, we are rather concerned about such activities, and the danger they pose to the planet’s dwindling fish stocks.

Think of it like this:

In 1968, the population of the planet was two billion. In July this year it will reach seven billion. It is, of course, not a question of space, but whether we can sustain such a population. Right now, potable water tables are falling, soil erosion is rampant, fish stocks are dwindling, and glaciers are melting. About a billion people go hungry every day. By 2025 that figure will have doubled.

Put another way, the world’s population increases by 180 people every minute, and the vast majority of those people -- some 97% of them, in fact -- are born in what is now referred to as the “developing” world, and that’s us, I’m afraid.

Which brings me to the point: can we afford to tolerate ANC Youth League president Julius Malema any longer?

Last weekend, he told followers that, in order to prevent “the revolution” from losing steam, they must have as many babies as possible. “Having babies is a revolutionary thing,” he was quoted as saying, “You must reproduce!”

A week later, and we’re still waiting for the youth league’s spokesman, Floyd Shivambu, to explain to us the “correct context” of Malema’s extraordinary call. But, in the meantime, we may choose to dwell on the news that some 17 260 pregnancies were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal schools last year, according to provincial education MEC Senzo Mchunu. That, by any measure, is a lot of revolutionary things.

However, and this may or may not signal relief for the planet and its dwindling stocks of fish or, indeed, expensive whiskies, but the unhappiness with Malema’s unhinged behaviour is growing within the ruling party.

Thabo Masombika, a former youth league leader who is now a senior empowerment manager with the Department of Trade and Industries, has done a bit of a Trevor Manuel on Malema, and penned an appeal to ANCYL members to vote their foolish president out of office at the league’s elective conference in June.

Although not as harsh as Manuel was in his open letter to government spokesman Jimmy Manyi, Masombika nevertheless makes the point that Malema’s growing arrogance and fascist behaviour, not to mention his utter vapidity and boorish drunkenness, have done the league and the party no favours.

The league, naturally, will draw ranks around Malema in much the same way as the ruling party has done around Manyi, and Masombika may find himself out in the cold for speaking his mind.

But he is correct. It is time we saw Julius off on his bicycle.

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