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15 December 2017 20:08 (South Africa)
Opinionista Brij Maharaj

Poo-throwing … the new South African national pastime?

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

South African media (especially those funded by the CIA) have been obsessed with Zuma, his wives, his apartments in Nkandla and Dubai, his friends the Guptas and their extraordinary wealth, power and influence, the competition to succeed him, and whether he will get an opportunity to don the latest design in orange overalls.

The president himself is pondering his legacy (perhaps too late in the day, and which educated folk of all hues have argued would be all about looting, corruption and State Capture). Without a hint of irony, his sycophants promote him as the unifier in a highly fragmented political party, and argue that his chosen successor (and ex) will complete the task of social cohesion, nation building and radical economic transformation (and also offer him amnesty from any form of prosecution, and with benefits, very much like the Mugabe exit strategy).

A more unbiased assessment will reveal that President Zuma’s two-term reign has been characterised by some innovative trends. Perhaps the most pioneering and path breaking would be poo-throwing contests, rapidly emerging as the national pastime.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that there are plans to lobby the revamped Zimbabwean regime to introduce this new sport at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The item could feature between the shot-putt and javelin slots. Off course, the final product will have to undergo extensive chemical and DNA analysis to ensure that the sample reflected South Africa’s non-racial, multicultural diversity. If successful, South Africa will be guaranteed at least one gold medal. In preparation, poo-throwing was also extended to Cape Town International Airport to induct foreign tourists into South Africa’s unique cultural pursuit.

Poo-throwing got greater acceptance and credibility because of its initial association with a centre of higher learning, widely reputed to be the best in Africa, in the Mother City. The first recorded poo-incident in June 2013 was led by former ANC councilor Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla (who were expelled from the party), and the primary target was one Helen Zille. (The DA has scotched rumours that it is encouraging poo-collection as a drought mitigation strategy in Cape Town, although there is an intention to make every flush count).

Next in line for the poo-treatment was the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. Student protest leader Chumani Maxwele argued: “The issue of poo is very metaphoric for us. We’re using metaphor for us to explain our collective black pain. We show our collective disgust.”

According to Indian social activist, Abhay Xaxa, “Throughout history, whenever oppressed masses have dropped their shit as arsenal, rulers have been shaken because it often marks the beginning of a social uprising.”

More recently, poo-throwing (or, as writer Mark Hay calls it, “rectal warfare” or “diarrheic dissidence”) has been used as a weapon of mass destruction in South Africa to attack those perceived to be enemies of President Jacob Zuma, the Guptas, State Capture, and corruption. The latest target is Pravin Gordhan, widely respected as an astute anti-corruption campaigner who is committed to honesty, non-racialism, democracy, equality and justice.

Gordhan was scheduled to speak at a fund-raising event in KwaDukuza (Stanger) on the KZN north coast, arranged by the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG), a civil society organisation on 26 November 2017. As part of its radical economic transformation strategy, a local branch of the ANC Youth League decided to arrange a special reception for Comrade Gordhan, which took the form of dumping two buckets of poo at the entrance of the Stanger Siva Sungam hall, the venue for the event.

As freelance writer Arushan Naidoo has emphasised, the Siva Sungam is a sacred venue and its desecration was “a vicious act of religious intolerance perpetrated by people who want to undermine social cohesion in our province and in our country. We must treat it as a crime against our common humanity … From within our society, across race, class, faith and ideology must come a mobilisation that unequivocally says to the bucket carriers that their behaviour will not be tolerated and will be punished.”

The secretary of the local ANCYL branch, Lucky Mbokazi, said that “they had organised 10 minibus taxis to bring supporters to disrupt the event [and] their members had dumped the faeces as a sign of protest against business people who are blocking the building of a mall in KwaDukuza and not specifically aimed at the former finance minister”.

This is a ruse, as in April 2017 the Durban High Court ruled that the mall developer and ANC benefactor, Vivian Reddy and his Double Ring Trading company, could proceed with the project. The CCG had unsuccessfully sought a court order to halt the mall development because of alleged procedural irregularities.

Notwithstanding such sophisticated organising ability and funding, all ANC structures in KZN denied responsibility and liability, and condemned the dumping incident. This sounded hollow as to date none of those implicated has been suspended or charged for bringing the ANC into disrepute. This is understandable because if this charge were enforced consistently, then No 1 would head the list.

The poo brigade, and indeed the ANC, appear to be unaware that Pravin Gordhan was honoured by the Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) with the Order of the Baobab (“a quintessential African symbol of wisdom, community and peace”), because he was “a true ethical leader, striving to do the right thing even when others choose a less ethical path … Gordhan actively fought in the struggle against apartheid, today he fights the struggle against unethical leadership and unethical business conduct. He has done so at great cost to himself and, one would venture to say, also to his loved ones. He has inspired civil society to emulate his resilience, and his continued striving for justice. It is time to celebrate excellence and to counter the increasingly toxic narrative of corruption in South Africa. We must remember what kind of public officials our Constitution promises us – public officials like Pravin Gordhan – who never give up the fight for our country’s integrity.” Previous recipients of the award included Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

The poo brigade and those who support, and benefit from, corruption view Gordhan as an opponent of radical economic transformation, which for many is just a veil to mask the looting of state coffers. For all intents and purposes, the Zuma regime has been characterised by a low-intensity warfare – between those who support, endorse and actively promote corruption and flaunt its spoils, on the one hand, and those who uphold honesty and righteousness (Hindus call it Dharma) on the other.

Hence, social activist Siki Dlanga has argued that it is “time for South Africans to rise up against corruption and poverty. But we will need new songs and new methods of protest, far away from poo or blood”. South Africa’s hopes for innovation and gold in Tokyo 2020 may well be deferred. DM

  • Brij Maharaj
    Brij-Maharaj.jpg
    Brij Maharaj

    Brij Maharaj is a professor of geography at UKZN who believes (perhaps naively!) that a fair, just, non-racial and non-sexist society is still possible in South Africa.

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