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Dearest Ma’am Bathabile Dlamini – Stay strong, you are not alone, ThugLife chose you

Dearest Ma’am Bathabile Dlamini – Stay strong, you are not alone, ThugLife chose you
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini during an interview regarding the Sassa crisis and Constitutional Court outcome on 18 March 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki)

I urge all South Africans to join me and reach into our bottomless well of ubuntu, and let former minister Bathabile Dlamini know that she is not alone during these testing times.

Dearest Honourable Bathabile Olive Dlamini,

I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to write to you. Although you and I may not be personally acquainted, the spirit of ubuntu that burns in my heart and in all our resilient South African hearts, demands of us that we check in on each other. Even those of us who seem strong might just need a shoulder to cry on, and perhaps the occasional e-wallet.

I should have written to you sooner Ma’am. It has been almost two weeks since Magistrate Betty Khumalo found you guilty of perjury on 9 March. All because of that one time in 2017 when you lied under oath during a Constitutional Court inquiry into the social grants debacle that took place under your watch at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa); the whole thing that saw millions of South Africans unsure if they would receive their grants.

My heart broke into tiny little pieces at your lawyer’s heartfelt plea to the magistrate for leniency on your behalf, reminding us that like so many South Africans, you’re but a single mother strapped for cash, getting by on a measly R110 000 monthly salary – scrounging together the R40,000 monthly pension from Parliament as a former MP and the R70,000 you receive monthly from the ANC Women’s League as its president and spiritual leader. Sending you #ThoughtsAndPrayers. This too shall pass.

I can only imagine how triggering being back in front of a judge must have been for you. After all, it’s only been 15 years and five months since October 2006, when, as Member of Parliament, you were convicted of fraud, fined R120,000 and sentenced to a suspended five-year jail term. In tough times, I often look to the poetry in hip-hop for comfort. Perhaps you too can find solace in this moving quote from one of my favourite rappers, the late great Tupac, who famously said: “I didn’t choose the ThugLife®, the ThugLife® chose me.”

Still, on the matter of your lawyer’s concern about your low income, some bitter Bettys might point back to 2016, when, as Minister of Social Development, you implied that social grant beneficiaries should be able to live on R753 a month, which is less than 0.7% of your current income. Pay them no mind Ma’am. It’s not your fault that ThugLife® chose you and not the grant beneficiaries. And honestly, the GrantLife® crowd should be grateful that they do not have to carry the burden of the ThugLife®. It would probably be far too expensive for them anyway.

I know you might be feeling a bit stressed ahead of your April Fools’ Day sentencing, but may I remind you that the last time the courts convicted you in 2006, things didn’t turn out so bad. Remember Ma’am? Just a little more than a year later, after you yourself pleaded guilty and the courts agreed that, indeed, you were a thieving fraudster who lived the high life on public funds, the ANC decided that you were ready and qualified to be elected into its top governing body, the NEC, on that fateful 2007 December in Polokwane, where many others like yourself, who had been chosen by the ThugLife®, rose to power proper.

The rewards for you, a supposedly rehabilitated fraudster, did not stop there. Even as the cloud of a five-year suspended sentence for literal fraud still hung over you, you were named Minister of Social Development in 2010, giving you influence over a much greater amount of public funds. I cannot wait for your masterclass on how to fail upwards!!! Your career journey has just been so heartwarming. Even as you incompetently fumbled your way through that ministerial portfolio and wreaked havoc on the lives of poor South Africans, once again you were rewarded with a top position as the president of the ANC Women’s League. When the ThugLife® chose you, it obviously chose you for life. I bow before you Madam Konvict Kween!!!

While some continue to criticise you, allow me to use your very own words to remind them for the umpteenth time, Ma’am, that you didn’t choose this life. As you humbly told those pesky opposition MPs back in 2017: “As the members before me can say when you join the party (ANC) you don’t join an organisation to be a minister. Ministers are appointed by the president.” When they continued to harass you, mistaking you for an expert in matters involving grants for the poor, you know, stuff that sat within your portfolio as Minister of Social Development, you modestly told them: “I’m not an expert on some of the things and they are not going to force me to say things that are not accurate and then they come back later and call me a liar.” Yass, Ma’am Konvict Kween! Lead us!

While I do appreciate your recent bout of stoicism, I do miss your usual …spirited manner … that you displayed in the past as you told off journalists and detractors. Looking at you in court recently, calm for most of the proceedings, a bit dejected, and seemingly surprised at being found guilty, I missed that indomitable spirit. I missed my beloved Bathabile the Unfuckwithable. This whole frozen-in-nonchalance vibe is not a good look on you; it’s giving early-onset rigor mortis vibes. Are you okay, Ma’am? If you’re not, please do reach out and get yourself the medical care you need. You won’t have to depend on our crumbling healthcare system like some GrantLifer. As you know, President Cyril is keeping his ubuntu under control; he’s staying neutral and letting the white tribes of the North fight it out, so that the Russian healthcare scheme favoured by members of the NEC is still available to you and the gang, Ma’am.

If indeed I am mistaken, and you’re as right as rain, then I do hope my words bring a bit of sunshine to your day. You’re not alone, as evidenced by the ThugLife® entourage that attended your court ruling, among whom were Ace Magashule and Tony Yengeni. Take comfort in the latter’s inspiring journey. He too was convicted of fraud in the early 2000s, and he actually had to don the orange overalls and serve jail time. Little did we suspect in those days that an actual ex-con, a legitimately convicted one from the post-apartheid era, would be named Chairperson of the ANC’s Crime and Corruption Committee, as Mr Yengeni was eventually named in 2018. The ANC really does not get enough credit for its spirit of ubuntu.

So, keep calm and play the long game, Ma’am. As long as the ANC leads, this is but a minor bump in the road. Great fortunes may lie ahead for you yet. South Africans are obviously totally cool with ex-cons in Parliament, in ministerial portfolios and on the NEC. Perhaps it’ll soon be your turn to pick up where the previous guy left off and take ThugLife® back to the top spot. At least you’ll have two bona fide post-apartheid criminal convictions on your CV, and that’s more than all other previous occupants of the big office. And yet they say South Africa isn’t a meritocracy. Godspeed. DM/ ML

Please note this article uses satire.

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