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Dead men talking — the politicians digging for votes from the graves of long-dead heroes

Dead men talking — the politicians digging for votes from the graves of long-dead heroes
President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the grave of Albert Mvumbi Luthuli in Groutville, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2017. (Photo: GCIS)

Publicity ploys centred on visiting dead heroes’ gravesites stink, to say the least. But it’s election time and all kinds of characters are coming out of their crypts to woo the gullible voters among us.

Jacob Zuma is the only man – dead, alive, unborn – to be barred from setting foot near the graves of not one, not two, but three of his former comrades in a matter of a few days.

Thus he has added to his dubious record of being the first and only former South African president to be jailed for defying a commission of inquiry, which he instituted to investigate allegations of State Capture.

It is unlikely any soul would break this record in the foreseeable future, seeing that Zuma is a man who, although he lives among us, operates entirely according to otherworldly rules, terms and logic.

A few weeks ago, the families of Zuma’s former comrades threw a collective tantrum over his planned visit to the graves of their kin. It makes one wonder why a man would be held in so much contempt that these relatives would express such ire at learning of his planned visits.

But then, also, what’s with politicians and visiting graves? In those moments when they are preparing to lay wreaths at the gravesites, with cameras clicking away and the eyes of the world focused on their slow, calculated moves to depict humility, they look like the most humble and honest of souls under the sky.

This is especially the case around election time when, in a quest to garner votes, politicians go in search of the graves of people so long dead they may even have died again in the afterlife.

In another grave matter, did you read that scores of valuable items that once belonged to Nelson Mandela, including an identity document, were destined to go on auction?

Makaziwe Mandela, Madiba’s eldest daughter, apparently wanted to put these items up for auction to raise funds for the creation of a memorial garden at the late statesman’s final resting place in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

It’s a miracle that none of these entrepreneurs has sold us bags of air branded The Air Mandela Breathed.

Though this may have come as a shock to some, I wasn’t rattled at all because almost everyone has made a buck from selling anything related to Madiba. Some have sold prints made from his hands, and others have wasted reams of paper writing books that carry the name Mandela but in fact have very little to do with the man.

Sometime back in the early 1990s, his then wife Winnie Mandela saw a gap in the market and filled bottles containing soil allegedly dug from their marital home in Soweto and sold it to tourists.

As I sit here in an unstylish, candle-lit bar writing this, I’m dead sure there’s a bottle of dirt occupying pride of place in some Brit’s cupboard in faraway cold and wet London. It’s a miracle that none of these entrepreneurs has sold us bags of air branded The Air Mandela Breathed.

Well, seeing that times are getting really tough, I’m working on a plan to find the pick and shovel Madiba used during his stint working as a zama-zama on Robben Island back during the bad ol’ days. Now that would fetch a handsome price at the auctions, probably much higher than the ID Madiba’s daughter wanted to sell.

But truly, this obsession with graves among politicians, or rather this grave politics, should come to an end. Surely their focus should be on the living, who continue to face a complexity of challenges, many of them created by these very politicians?

We cannot be entirely sure about this, but methinks the dearly departed would wish to be left alone because they have played their part and exited.

This clearly won’t make sense to Zuma and his band of toyi-toying uMkhonto Wesizwe party disciples. In case you are wondering what this grave matter is all about, it all started sometime in January when word got out that Zuma and his newly formed MK Party were to go on a charm offensive in Limpopo.

As part of his planned programme in the far north, the country’s ex-number one citizen wanted to do a stopover at the graves of Collins Chabane and Peter “Dambuza” Malada. But upon learning of Zuma’s plan, their families lost it completely, making it clear that he was not welcome. His plan was labelled “un-African”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Family of late Umkhonto weSizwe commander bans Zuma’s MK party from visiting gravesite

The family of his late former comrade Chris Hani also went ballistic upon getting wind of his plans to set foot at the slain SACP leader’s grave in Boksburg. In the end, Zuma seemed to accept defeat in this round and stayed away.

It will remain one of the greatest mysteries of our times – a man seeking votes based on the failings of his atrocious performance while in office.

The man has been on a roll recently, full of energy while doing the rounds in informal settlements, addressing gathering upon packed gathering of his followers, singing and poking fun at his political rivals.

It’s unbelievable that this is the same madala who, not so long ago, was in such poor health that he couldn’t bear serving an extra hour of a lousy 15-month jail sentence.

However, what I fail to understand about his band of followers, who greet his every word with loud cheers of approval, is whether they are charmed by his criticism of his own two terms as state president and president of the party he led.

It will remain one of the greatest mysteries of our times – a man seeking votes based on the failings of his atrocious performance while in office. His message seems to be: “Look, I failed terribly the last time, but you can trust me now.”

I guess that’s what election fever visits upon the electorate. It brings out all kinds of characters like retired Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who wants us to believe there are attempts to remove him permanently from society.

In a Newzroom Afrika interview clip that looks like it was shot by candlelight, he says there was a plan to take his life before the end of last month. The man who swears by the Scriptures and believes Israel is some place in heaven says this alleged attempt on his life failed. By the grace of God, he adds.

The man who still believes God wants him to occupy the hot seat at the Union Buildings thinks he’s such an influential figure that political players and formations are desperate to get rid of him. Methinks Mogoeng should just quietly stay home, read the Scriptures, leave politics to politicians and stop behaving like a moegoe-moegoe. DM

Mr Styles is the former president of the Organisation for Stylish People of South Africa (Osposa). He is against anything and anyone unstylish.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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