Knowledge is the new black.
26 September 2016 03:54 (South Africa)
South Africa

Ode to Zumanation: So long, Mangaung

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa
C:\fakepath\Ode to Zumanation

Following the last several American election campaigns, the award-winning journalist, novelist and doggerelist Calvin Trillin composes a long comic poem summing up the proceedings. The poems are lengthy affairs – Dogfight, on the battle between Obama and Romney, was recently published as a book – but Mangaung barely makes a decent dirty limerick. Nonetheless, we gave it a try. By RICHARD POPLAK.

Allow us to indulge you with this lengthy song

Which details the shenanigans in nearby Mangaung,

Where our ruling party gathered to vote for a king

And bequeathed upon the nation the same ding-a-ling.

It was billed as a contest that would end in a death knell,

Instead, it barely lasted ‘til the opening bell.

The incumbent, The Chief, landed no killing blow,

For the contender arrived in a coma and left a no-show.

But now that we’ve dumped a whole bunch of spoilers—

Perhaps a précis of what led to the toilers

Who sweat away as they run into the ground

The Rainbow Nation that Madiba found;

To set upon each other like hogs at a trough

In a hurry to make sure they eat more than enough.

Every five years, like Commies of yore,

The ANC gathers to chart a course to shore.

While they table great ideas, like jailing journos

And eat fine grub—and we ain’t talking Fournos,

Delegates come from across this great land

To pick the Top Six, to whom they will hand

The largest economy for ten thousand leagues,

Which comes with a fleet of gleaming Merc AMGs.

Last time this happened, it was rather unpleasant—

The incumbent was plucked and roasted like pheasant.

His tenure at the top was clearly done, 

And The Chief, the challenger, would at last have his fun.

He and his posse set upon the Pres with bad intent

Finishing him off, regardless of how bent

Was The Chief, who faced at that time

Corruption and rape charges, and was covered in slime.

No matter, because this is democracy, and the delegates spoke,

While the rest of us medicinal marijuana did toke.

It seemed unbelievable, but there it was in the papers:

We were ruled by a posse of arms traders and rapers.

Alleged, I should add, because the highest office has privileges, 

The law glances off ‘em, while it is less sanguine with us villagers.

The new Pres was left alone to rule as he saw fit,

A clear mandate, he explained to delegate after delegate,

To deliver services, increase employment, and build a big house,

To ensure that his friends had no reason to grouse.

He’d need ‘em, you see, come the end of his run,

Because a king without friends is like a beach without sun.

So what has our leader done with his power?

Nothing. Bupkes. Zero.

No, we swear it, it’s true –

The country stumbles around like a street kid on glue.

In the last five years, you wouldn’t believe!

From scandals and dirt there’s been barely a reprieve.

The New Pres’s friends have got fat on the take –

He can’t Shaik them off, he can’t Gupta break.

They helped him out first, it was quid pro quo

Don’t worry, though—they’re as pure as the driven snow.

(Even our Madiba was in on this thing

To keep the New Pres in compounds and bling)

The optimistic among us thought, “Hey, he’s done!”

They’ll finish him off in the fields of Mangaung.

Surely his record speaks ill of his reign,

In that it says “nada!” and that he’s to blame.

But would a challenger run? We were never certain—

The ANC operates behind a Louis Vuitton curtain.

By the time the challenger said “Aye!” it was far too late

He was put on a hook and dangled as bait.

The press called it “tense” and “epic” and “fraught”

But in the end, their hyperbole amounted to naught.

The New Pres became the Old Pres by a vote of 4 to 1

And brought with him some pals to share in the fun.

Of note is a fellow of riches galore

A one-time man of the people, now a magnate and corporate, um, bore.

He is the Deputy Pres now, next in line for the throne,

His long knives he sharpens upon a whetstone.

A month or so back he sent out an email,

Suggesting some discipline tips for miners—epic fail!

Thirty-four dead, but no matter, who’s counting?

He’s back to drinking from his champagne fountain.

Now, the 53rdNational Conference is all but over, 

A storm blows in and delegates run for cover.

Their work is done, the New Pres is Old,

On his fine work of late the delegates were sold.

This may make you tear the hair from your head, 

And spend the next seven years in a bed.

But don’t fear, there’s a cure, listen close to our words

It’s a prescription even the poorest can afford:

Smile, think good things, don’t mope or glower,

Just do as Old Pres does, and go have a shower. DM

Photo: Zuma supporters were showing their support outside the entrance to the UFS campus. On the pile in front of them, they have put bags, suitcases, food, money and other travelling paraphernalia indicating that Kgalema Mothlanthe must take the bus to go home. 17 December 2012, Mangaung, South Africa. 53rd ANC Conference. (Greg Nicolson/NewsFire)

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa

Get overnight news and latest Daily Maverick articles

Do Not Miss

Daily Maverick has temporarily suspended comments on the site. Until the interwebs figures out a better way to deal with the naughty kids in the class, the space for your comments is on our Facebook page and the Twitterverse.

Alternatively, you are welcome to send a letter to the editor.