Julius Malema did something really nasty on Tuesday. It wasn’t that it was just aggressive or bolshy. No, it was spiteful, mean and ugly. And, strangely enough, he was just the one saying it loudly.
As always, he was having the usual go at people who’ve vaguely crossed him. And with his little tax troubles now making headlines, he wasn’t going to leave anyone out. Patricia de Lille was his target. “No ordinary husband could marry Patricia,” he said. “If a normal husband has married her, he should leave her and come and meet a well-mannered beautiful woman in the ANC.” Malema, as always has put his finger on something. Sex and politics in this country is a cock-up.
Malema wasn’t really talking about De Lille at all. And we don’t know, and don’t care, about her private life, except to note that she has a son and a daughter. But what really gets our goat is that Malema is trying to make her a target, because of something he dreamed up about her private life. The problem is that that kind of thing could well have repercussions for anyone not deemed to be someone “a proper husband” would marry.
Looking back, it is easy to see the ANC is full of this stuff. Remember President Jacob Zuma’s statement that same-sex marriages are “a disgrace to the nation and to God”. What was that? Was it a Machiavellian way of telling voters he agreed with them while using his later, ANC-forced apology to appease a storm he knew would inevitably descend upon his head?
Then there’s last week’s little travails with our arts and culture minister. Lulu Xingwana (she of land affairs fame) stormed out of an arts exhibition. Its deadly sin? Showing images of women who don’t particularly care for “proper husbands”. When the news broke, her response was laughable. If she’d been prepared, and brave enough, to come out and give her own interviews, and say into a microphone that she had “left because it was inappropriate for children”, she would have been laughed out of the court of public opinion.
This whole issue, the confusion around sex and the inability to talk about it maturely, led to one of the biggest stories of last year. One of the reasons Caster Semenya was hung out to dry in such a public fashion, was that Malema and the League he heads, simply don’t accept that people who are not a 100% male or female can actually exist.
Okay, you say, so that’s just Malema. But when this reporter asked the ANC’s Jackson Mthembu (you know, the spokesman for the ruling party, the NEC, the national working committee member etc.) whether the ANC agreed with the “Youth League that transsexual people do not exist?”, he seemed to be about to say yes. He had to be guided down an acceptable path along the lines of “the ANC respects the Constitution”. And this only after it was pointed out to him that Albert Luthuli House hadn’t had a protest outside its premises for some time and the local police could do with the exercise.
When it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the ANC is in a bit of a tangle. While the party may like to laud the passing of civil unions now, in reality it was forced to do so by the Constitutional Court. And the judges there, having had some experience with politicians before, artfully created a situation from whence there was really only one escape. It gave Parliament 12 months to change the law, otherwise the same marriage act would apply to everyone. This was just too horrific to contemplate, and so a different one was created. And thus my marriage to my wife, and her friend’s marriage to her wife, are governed under different laws. They are both exactly the same, but to satisfy some primeval urge within MPs, they’re called different things.
Homosexuality brings up another interesting issue. Think of what it would take to bring down a popular, but corrupt male leader in Africa. Getting bust? No ways. The discovery of a love child? We know that doesn’t work. How about eating your Archbishop? Didn’t work in Uganda. But being found in a clinch with a chap. It’d be tickets my friend, tickets. You’d be outta there so fast you wouldn’t have time to pull your trousers up.
Think of it all another way. There are 400 MPs in the national assembly. Can you think of any politician in South Africa who is out of the closet, although it is statistically impossible that they are all straight. We can’t. That’s perhaps due to the chilling affect their coming out would have on their careers here.
Of course, the ANC is led by someone who knows a thing or two about sex. Maybe that’s why the party finds it so difficult to have a conversation about this.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)
Photo: Former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma at a news conference in Johannesburg on 9 May 2006. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko