The great mysteries that shake South Africa today

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the new speaker of the National Assembly. (Photo: Zwelethemba Kostile)

From Jacob Zuma’s illness to the reshuffle of the cabinet to the actions of the police, the South Africans are at a loss.

First published in the weekly Daily Maverick 168.

South Africans live in a state of mystery and wonder. We are constantly amazed at the secrets our political body presents. So here at DM168 we’ve put together a list of SA’s key secrets – maybe our readers can help us solve them?

JZ’s disease

The number one mystery in SA today is undoubtedly the secret illness that ex-President Jacob Zuma met while appearing on trial for one of his crimes. How he gets sick with timing so well is a mystery, and the actual disease is a mystery to Defense Forces doctors who oversee the former president’s pancreas and other organs.

You can’t tell exactly what the disease is, but you can say that it has been going on for 18 months (weird, he looked at Nkandla so vividly in early July) and that he needs serious surgery to deal with it. They also say it will take him six months to recover. A mystery within a mystery is why they didn’t just say that it takes him to die to recover.

Perhaps this illness, which has gone undetected for so long (men just don’t want to see a doctor, do they?), Is something similar to the mysterious ailment Msholozi suffered when he tried to appear in court. Oh wait – they couldn’t properly diagnose that either.

What about the operation? Will they keep the nation informed of the progress? Given JZ’s health sensitivities and the possibility of half of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) going up in flames if he even coughs, it makes sense that SA be kept informed of the operation. Maybe we could have a live TV broadcast of it?

That would surely boost the ratings of the SABC, and heaven knows the SABC needs the money. Billions in advertisements can be seen of all medical supplies. Broadcasting it live would also help the nation stop new conspiracy theories about Msholozi if he died on the operating table, God forbid.

Let us be very transparent on this. The nation does not want to see Zuma’s internal organs any more than its external organs, but we should all, so to speak, take the bull by the horns and raise man up. Sometimes the facts are inconvenient, but we cannot ignore this national crisis – and this mystery -.

The reshuffle

The second most important puzzle preoccupying the nation’s minds is what exactly was behind President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle last month.

Yes, large chunks of KZN and bags from Gauteng have just been looted and burned, and a bit of looting and burning is always a good reason to pretend you’re doing something, we understand, but we’re still confused by some of the decisions of the President.

Ministers who have proven to be completely useless in one department must now return to first place in a new ministry. It will be months, even years, before they demonstrate their uselessness again.

The headgear may provide a partial explanation. It seems irrelevant, but if you look closely at the list of ministers old and new, this theory seems to be borne out and we can make some preliminary conclusions.

Police Minister Bheki Cele is keeping his position on the reshuffle because he has a really good hat. Plus, he’s really worked on this hat over the years. It’s an established hat. Cele is perhaps South Africa’s leading hat wearer – outside of showbiz, of course. Oh wait – Cele is in showbiz.

Think of the new finance minister, Enoch Godongwana. He wears a good hat. And he’s wore a lot of hats – ANC economic tsar, finance broker in a deal to invest union pension funds … Okay, the money went down the drain, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Godongwana’s financial knowledge, but he’s good at hats.

And then there is Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who also stayed in position. She is the Minister for Traditional Affairs and some believe that she holds a leading position in government only because she had a traditional affair with former President Zuma, but that would mean ignoring her accomplishments with the African Union (AU).

When she was the head of this exalted body, she did the women of Africa an immeasurable service by introducing a thin line into turbans. Here in South Africa, as narrow-minded as we are, we traditionally call these turbans “Doeks”, and we stick to our traditions, but that should not humiliate the wonderful turban that was introduced by NDZ as AU chief and now the minister responsible Prohibit cigarettes.

There is also the case of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was transferred to Parliament by the Ministry of Defense (the one who cannot diagnose JZ’s illness), where she becomes spokeswoman. We didn’t hear her speak so we can’t say what it is about, but we can say she is a Queen of the Doek – and that’s what Parliament is asking for. Leadership in the Doek stakes is a vital necessity in our democracy.

Since Baleka Mbete was speaker, South Africa will not have had such a significant doek on that hot seat. Mbete set very high standards in the Doek / Turban arena, standards that were certainly as high as those she upheld in the business of getting free millions of rand’s worth of free stock in a large company.

She will be able to wear only the finest doeks in retirement, and Mapisa-Nqakula will carry on this great South African tradition in the Spokesman’s Presidency.

Police action

The actions of the police are one of South Africa’s great secrets and we may have stopped asking questions about this secret because it has been going on for so long and breaking any barriers that history or civil society has put up.

During apartheid, the SA police officers were widely known for their brutality towards the population, especially when these citizens protested something. Today, almost three decades in our rainbow democracy, we can say that the SA police officers are widely known for their brutality towards the population, especially when these citizens are protesting something.

In the dark days of apartheid, only a handful of demonstrators were shot or killed in police custody each year. The SA police were notorious all over the world.

Now, in the bright days of democracy, the SA police have managed to break all these records. Every year around 500 people die at the hands of the police or in police custody. A mystery is how they managed to break these apartheid records – all without training in breaking communist cells or torturing activists.

Today’s South Africa Police Corps is mysteriously sidelined when shopping malls are looted and burned down, but when it comes to checking receipts from alleged looters, these are all ruthless, unstoppable acts.

You can sweep through a cottage settlement like an army of occupation, confiscating bags of Mielie meal and half-full buckets of margarine with the fine-grained accuracy of an American drone killing a teenage Afghan goatherd.

How do you do that? This is a police force that cannot solve a crime committed in public with multiple witnesses, but they can continue to suppress the poor. It’s a mystery. DM168

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper, Daily Maverick 168, which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest specialist dealer, please click here.


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