Monday, August 1, 2011

A Famous Grouse: July 22

Weekend Argus column. As submitted. -- AD

NEWS of a fascinating study into predator behaviour has reached us here at the Mahogany Ridge.

Lions, apparently, are more likely to attack and devour people in the period just after a full moon. This is according to researchers with the University of Minnesota College of Biological Science who’ve studied the records of nearly 500 lion attacks on Tanzanian villagers between 1988 and 2009.

In more than two-thirds of the attacks, the victims were eaten. Most attacks took place in evenings when the moon was waning and provided very little light -- proving that lions hunt most successfully when they can use the darkness to surprise their prey. The attacks dropped off as full moon approached, when the moonlight got brighter. After full moon, the animals were ravenous and, with the nights growing darker once more, it was pretty much open season on stray villagers.

These findings, it’s claimed, could well explain the full moon’s frequent appearance in folklore and tales of the supernatural as a harbinger of doom and disaster.

Which brings us neatly to Floyd Shivambu, the spokesman for the ANC Youth League. Is he by any chance a werewolf?

Come now, the question is serious. Even the most casual observer would have noticed a pattern here -- full moon: barking mad -- and my own inquiries suggest that Shivambu does indeed suffer from a form of lycanthropy.

Once a month, this unfortunate and deeply sensitive young man is apparently transformed into some brutish beast, and his associates in the league are compelled to chain him to a post in the basement of Luthuli House and keep him there until the moon begins to wane.

Consider the events that took place immediately before the last full moon, some ten days ago. A hapless Media24 journalist rang up Shivambu with a  request for a telephone number for Jelly Tsotsi, the youth league’s president -- and was bluntly told: “Fuck you. Fuck off, okay?”

This was not the gentle Shivambu that we’ve come to love.

I’ve listened to a recording of that conversation several times now -- it’s online if you can stomach it -- and it’s heartbreaking to hear the rabid, intemperate growling that had replaced the man’s normally mellifluous tones and considered wit.

The transformation was astonishing -- and terrifying. Once he held us transfixed in the spell of his oratory. But now it seemed he was more likely to gnaw on our bones with his filed canines.

But then, just like that, after the full moon the monster was gone and, miraculously, in its place the familiar pussycat.

He was a little contrite about the naughty words, admitting that his language was inappropriate and unfortunate, and he promised that it will never happen again -- although he did suggest he had somehow been provoked into the outburst by what he termed the “disgustingly provocative methods” of the “right-wing, Afrikaans” media.

This week, Shivambu had to field similarly provocative methods as reporters bothered him with all sorts of questions about the R16-million house that Jelly is building for himself but to no avail. Perhaps the snarling and interesting facial hair thing would have to wait until the next full moon?

Shivambu also put in a suitably toadying performance in congratulating the deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, on his birthday on Tuesday.

“As a progressive internationalist, Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe has never agreed to make unsustainable and unnecessary assurances to imperialist Masters, even when he addresses them in their countries,” Shivambu wrote in a statement.

“Recurrently, the contributions of Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe reflect a deeper understanding of ANC traditions, policy positions and various conjectures of the National Democratic Revolution . . .  Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe represents a brighter future of the ANC and the country and will always be celebrated as one of the best leaders of his generation of ANC leadership. Happy Birthday Comrade President!”

In the meantime, Jelly, the ANC’s not-so-bright future, declared at a press conference on Wednesday that, regarding the finances for his new home, it really was nobody’s business but his own as to where he got the money.

Interestingly -- only because it is indicative of the depths to which our politics has sunk -- Jelly compared this sort of inquiry with questions about ablutions. To wit: “You are going to be patient about everything else, including when you are going to the loo. You must be asked how many minutes did you spend in there?”

For one who is continually spouting so much of the brown stuff, the idea that Jelly even needs to visit the little room is, well . . . perhaps we shouldn’t even go there.

But let me just say there are people that even lions won’t eat.

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