Informed people live longer
17 November 2017 21:28 (South Africa)
Opinionista Professor Balthazar

Never-Neverland don't seem so Never no more

  • Professor Balthazar
    balthazar
    Professor Balthazar

    After much persuasion and a case of Tullamore Dew, the Daily Maverick is proud to welcome renowned academic and all-round intellectual good guy, Professor Balthazar, whose erudite insights will take us past headlines, deadlines and old pick-up lines.

Zuma paints himself into a tight corner, Manyi continues to suffer from big-foot-in-mouth disease & other assorted government troubles.

Where the hell is Jacob Zuma? I imagine he’s still lying under his desk in a foetal position after the right royal drubbing he got from that delightful baby tyrant Julius Malema at the weekend.

Boy, did Zuma play his cards wrong with young Julius? Remember when Zuma brushed off calls to discipline and call the little rabble-rouser to order, saying he was “just a child” and should be left alone? And remember when all Zuma had to do was drop a hint of some or other minor irritation – such as the South African judicial system – and Julius would spring into action, attacking and vowing to spill blood on the president’s behalf.

Those were the days when Zuma could grin smugly and pat Julius on the head. Well, did his Frankenstein come back to bite him in the ass or what?

Zuma prides himself on “knowing the ANC” and “letting the organisation decide”. Well sir, while you were sowing you wild oats, young Mr Malema captured the imagination of the future membership of the ANC and changed the rules of the game as far as policy making and leadership of your organisation are concerned.

So good luck trying to cut him down to size now. The monster you created now has a united membership of very militant ANC Youth League members behind him, has mowed down every possible contender and has some very powerful backers egging him on. You on the other hand have a motley crew of a red-wine soaked semi-communist (he himself fighting for his political life), a few wealthy, over-inflated, crusading Indian bullies and Khulubuse – who may someday boost your diminishing camp by mutating into two people.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk to Zuma about Julius as I get the feeling he and Gwede Mantashe have spent enough time blaming each other for allowing Baby J to elope with the 100-year-old granny that is the ANC.

I would, however, like to find out how Zuma goes about choosing spokesmen.

Take Jimmy Manyi for instance (seriously, someone take him, please). He is so full of conspiracies and so divorced from reality he makes Comical Ali sound like Kofi Annan. Hell, he is so far off the rails, he even makes Mugabe’s hatchet man Jonathan Moyo sound like a champion for press freedom.

Manyi distinguished himself on talk radio on Tuesday by ranting like a lunatic about “media tendencies” and “cartel-like tendencies” by the editors. Apart from mutilating the English language and making “tendency” some sort of swear word, he clearly has no concept whatsoever of the role of a government spokesman. For some reason, he believes his job is to pound the media into submission and prevent information (and government adspend) from getting into the hands of marauding barbarians parading as journalists.

So what special qualities did Zuma see that convinced him Manyi just had to be the face of his government? Or did the president specifically seek out the most inappropriate, boorish, arrogant, pig-headed character he could find to thrust on the hated media fraternity? Maybe Zuma wanted his very own Essop Pahad, that prototype of distinguished government communicators.

Billy Masetlha, the brain behind the hoax email saga, would have been the ideal candidate, able to conjure up ridiculous conspiracies out of thin air. But then they would need someone to constantly wrestle the bottle away from him before media briefings and Jackson Mthembu is testimony to how difficult that can be. Schabir Shaik also had some exceptional methods of dealing with journalists, including throttling them behind trees. Of course, the danger with letting Schabir close is that he may very well throttle Zuma over that pesky presidential pardon issue. 

So Manyi was the only real contender, having such an illustrious track record trying to solicit kick-backs from diplomats and managing to get suspended as a director-general in government in record time. How proud Zuma must be watching the post-Cabinet media briefings, knowing that under Manyi’s control, every single one of them has turned into a shouting match, completely smothering any semblance of news from the meetings.

In that way, Zuma’s government can get away with doing sweet nothing week after week, and Manyi is able to camouflage it all with his bluster. 

How content Zuma must be, looking around his fiefdom. There’s Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Bheki Cele beavering away at the mission to redistribute wealth to his friends; there’s the Hawks managing to pretend SAAB’s admission that a R24 million bribe was paid to Fana Hlongwana is really not such a big deal; and then there’s the ANC caucus in Parliament ramming through the Protection of Information Bill.

Our president will have so much to brag about next time he traipses off to Tripoli to lure Brother Leader to our shores. Zuma will be able to show that one need not be a despot to have your country resemble an organised kleptocracy and that Muammar Gadaffi would feel right at home here. The clincher, however, would be a recording of Manyi’s interview on Radio 702. Hell, if you dress Manyi in a robe and turban, and give him a few South African sniper rifles, it would be difficult to tell him and Gadaffi apart. DM

  • Professor Balthazar
    balthazar
    Professor Balthazar

    After much persuasion and a case of Tullamore Dew, the Daily Maverick is proud to welcome renowned academic and all-round intellectual good guy, Professor Balthazar, whose erudite insights will take us past headlines, deadlines and old pick-up lines.

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