Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Famous Grouse: April 16

Latest Weekend Argus column. As submitted. In other words, you'll see "shits" here and not "s***ts" as printed in the newspaper. -- AD

IT was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, unabashed hedonist and daughter of US president Theodore Roosevelt, who once famously remarked: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

For some bizarre reason, I was reminded of that quote, which the redoubtable Ms Longworth had embroidered on the cushions on her settee, by the images of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the nation’s gogo, and Julius Malema, the nation’s gogga, seemingly inseparable at the latter’s hate speech hearing in Johannesburg.

I mean, you can’t stop him from shooting his mouth off at the best of times, and it’s never very nice, is it? And she . . . well, let’s just say there were jokes about revolutionary cougars on Twitter and Facebook.

But, really, sitting here at the Mahogany Ridge, staring blankly at the pile of newspapers near the door, it’s hard to get excited about any of this simply because we have grown tired of this dreadful saga.

It’s not just Malema fatigue either. There are a growing number of people out there for whom Malema and his vapid rhetoric are anathema but who nevertheless feel that the civil rights group Afriforum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union have done themselves no favours in pursuing this matter of Dubul’ iBhunu (Shoot the Boer).

Far from shutting him up, it’s made Jelly Tsotsi louder than ever. Look at the grandstanding, all the blather about Mickey Mouses, of the struggle and the revolution on trial, and, perhaps most annoying of all, the continued singing of that stupid chant, now belted out with all the belligerent gusto that the young, dumb and violent could muster. That is, when they’re done urinating on lawyers’ cars.

The courts may well rule that the singing of Dubul’ iBhunu is hate speech. But that won’t stop the youth league from singing it. They will continue to do so, because they know it upsets the like of Afriforum and the TAU. It’s that simple. They’ll do so because they’re spiteful little shits. Get used to it.

Your only recourse is to ignore them. Do not, under any circumstances, pick up the telephone and call the nearest talk radio station to mouth off about Jelly and his little potty-mouthed Pecksniff, Floyd Shivambu. Do not join that chorus of whining, braying half-wits. If you do that, the youth league has won. Have a little dignity, and if you really feel you need to talk to a moron talk show host, moan instead about fracking in the Karoo.

Still on matters of freedom of expression -- and, yes, that includes the singing of stupid songs about killing the Boers as sure as it does remarks about people who dance like monkeys -- we now turn to retired Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs, who was apparently on the receiving end of some flak from the cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro and the Treatment Action Campaign’s Zackie Achmat at UCT last week.

Sachs had presented a talk on addressing moral tensions around freedom of expression. It was the same talk he’s given a month before, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Time of the Writer festival -- except for one small difference.

In Durban, Sachs had sharply criticised Zapiro’s controversial “rape” of Lady Justice cartoon.

As he put it then -- but not, tellingly, in an abridged version at UCT:

“Can we laugh . . . at a cartoon that might be deeply wounding to millions and millions of other people out there, decent ordinary people who feel we might criticize President Zuma, poke fun at lots of things that he does, but still recognize that he is our President. In their view, you don’t depict the President of the country about to open his fly, with Ministers at his side urging him on, with a woman lying prone and helpless in front of him. For millions of our people that kind of scene is reminiscent of the stereotype of the black male rapist. It ravages the soul, the issue is deep, it’s hard, it’s sharp.”

But then the cartoon was not meant to be a cheery chuckle, a bit of a titter and a snort before we move on to the sports pages. Zapiro had wanted to make a point. “My thoughts were, here is someone who is bullying the judiciary,” he explained. “I knew there were aspects that would offend people, but I thought it was an incredibly important moment. I think it pushed Zuma to say that he actually respected the judiciary.”

And how churlish would it be to point out that the cartoon first appeared in September 2008 -- a full eight months before Zuma became president?

It makes a small difference, I think, getting things right.

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