Manto Tshabalala-Msimang doesn’t answer

#170. Wonder what made Manto do it. What made her unravel on HIV/AIDS? I started thinking about this yesterday after I saw the news of her death on twitter and watched as a “robust debate” [early term Manto terminology] was stoked up between the RIP crew and the “Ding Dong the witch is dead” brigade. So far I haven’t joined either.

I interviewed her as she took office as Health Minister in Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet. As the Sunday Times health correspondent then I also accompanied her and her health department delegation to Uganda to look at how that country was dealing with HIV/AIDS. I was impressed. She seemed compassionate, warm even [when she took office she was the equivalent (in Lord of the Rings speak at any rate) of Bilbo Baggins to her steely-eyed predecessor Nkosazana Zuma’s Sauron] and in Uganda, utterly committed to facing the challenges head on. And then … Continue reading

Voting day

#103. Vote. And I did, and most of us did in cheerful queues around around the country, making small talk, and savouring the freedom to choose something. Election number four seems to have been mostly a relaxed affair. In 1994 I made my crosses in Yeoville, then home, and that night we threw a party that lasted into the small hours. The denizens of Rockey Street took to Minors Steet as Willie in the cowboy hat proclaimed that it was the place to be. The building swelled with people, friends, neighbours, neighbour’s friends, friend’s neighbours, barflies and failed poets, drunks and small time dope dealers,  and even some very friendly and pretty hookers who kept asking me where the telephone was. It was a night worth remembering (haven’t had an open house since).

A few days later I stood with thousands of others at the Union Buildings on a beautiful day and watched with awe as Nelson Mandela took his oath and aeroplanes with wings dressed up in the colours of the South African flag roared overhead.

Five years on from that I was in what is now Polokwane, and then Pietersburg, reporting on the elections for the Sunday Times. When the votes were counted I was at the IEC and shook the new President’s hand. I had heard Thabo Mbeki speak to an audience of thousands on Wits campus soon after the ANC was unbanned and he had been impressive then. The next election was less memorable though. By  then the Mbeki presidency had started to unravel. In place of humaneness, forgiveness and compassion came political expediency, hard-heartedness and a shattering of that sense of being, can i say, special, that Mandela allowed South Africans to believe in. Mbeki told us we were divided. Five years later we don’t think of ourselves as special any more.

But today, standing in that queue, I felt a sense of pride because it was not so long ago that people fought a fight worth fighting to let us stand in queues together. And while I don’t relish the idea of a Zuma presidency (too cloudy), I am ready to be happily wrong about my misgivings (a phrase uttered by a clever friend and one that is worth repeating).

So Jacob Zuma , if you can hear me, and if you do become president I ask of you that you wear your underpants on the outside of your clothes and put your country and the people who live in it above yourself as you did so many years ago, that you use your power for good, not evil, that you spend your days thinking of ways to outwit poverty and unemployment and defend the defenceless rather than trying to outfox your political opponents or please people by telling them what you think they want to hear.

Our crosses will be yours to bear.

Politics and SA Fashion Week

#99. Give fashion a chance. The political intrigue that has dominated the week with the Mbeki plotters being out- manouevred by the Zuma plotters and the now not-so-secret tapes made public has left me seeking refuge from big news about big men with big plots, and machinations worthy of a Shakespeare production. It is apparent that as a country we have been used as the setting for an enormous battle between political ambitions and … political ambitions, making it all but impossible to choose sides.

And so I can’t help savouring the memory of Friday night — before the latest political storm broke — at  the Turbine Hall in Newtown where two very different fashion constitutiencies were brought together by a shared love of detail, stripes, and … dressing up. Continue reading

Z news not brought to you by the SABC

#73. Get hooked on Z News (pronounced ze news). With the Nicholson ruling having been overturned the T-Boss and JZ show is back in the headlines. Z News is the brainchild of political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro aka Zapiro — the man Jacob Zuma’s legal team (and he needs one) might as well create templated lawyers letters for.  Only the dates and details need changing (shower head, having his way with the figure of Justice, blah blah blah etc.)The story doing the rounds is that the SABC – the public broadcaster whose last known act of imagination and daring was changing the screening times of The Bold and The Beautiful –  “commissioned” Zapiro to write a satirical news show based on his cartooning skills. Continue reading

Junot Diaz gets my vote

#47. At the risk of cementing my status as one of the seven dwarves I am venturing back into an argument I started a few weeks ago. Continue reading

Health minister Manto is here to stay. Be reassured fellow South Africans.

#45. Wonder how Dr Potatohead can justify staying in Parliament when more able Cabinet ministers are taking a principled decision to step down. There’s nothing to do but join fellow bloggers on Minor Matters, The Hunter Gatherer and Pattern Recognition in marvelling over how – while the country is left reeling from today’s announcement that 11 members of former President Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet have resigned – Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (in her signature style) has decided to not do anything to improve the situation. Continue reading

John McCain's economic recovery plan

#44. Seek some light relief from the country’s leadership crisis, Thabo Mbeki’s urgent appeal in the Constitutional Court to clear his name, and that other small matter, the world economic crisis.

My favourite news source The Onion is reporting that Republican candidate John McCain has a plan, based on his personal experience,  to halt the economic decline of the United States of America. It’s called: “Everyone Marry a Beer Heiress”. See it for yourself.


McCain’s Economic Plan For Nation: “Everyone Marry A Beer Heiress”

The ANC’s Big Bang. Thabo Mbeki is out. Kgalema Motlanthe is in

#44. Wonder whether money spent on the Hadron Collider should have instead gone to the ANC who, on a much smaller budget, have managed to simulate the Big Bang. The firing and then resignation of President Thabo Mbeki and his replacement by Kgalema Motlanthe has everybody talking. Continue reading