Everyone knows that when in polite society one should avoid talking about religion and politics. Polite Society, I’ve always thought of as strangers with polished etiquette. Not so. Some friends with their own versions of etiquette count as polite society too. I was recently reminded of why one shouldn’t talk politics in polite society. Polite society is irrepressible in returning political opinion. I wonder if the ‘Polite Society’ rule isn’t there to protect us from the irrepressible ones?
My Polite Society friend is nervous about what’s going to happen after the coming elections. She hasn’t felt so nervous since 1994. My polite society friend, who is South African because she emigrated from Europe in 1975, during the dark days of apartheid, has predicted civil war. Among her indicators are the current troubles in the mines coupled with the memory of Marikana, e- tolls, Nkandla, and the too many lack of service delivery protests. She is convinced the strikes and protests will end in all of our tears.
“I’m telling you, Tselane, there will be a civil war in this country very soon”.
“Well I hope you’re wrong.” I said. I wasn’t taking her seriously because I’m not ready to contemplate civil war. Civil war is so unnecessary.
“Julius Malema will cause war because those farmers won’t just give up their land”. She said. “He’s going to kill all the white people. Look at Zimbabwe.”
“I don’t believe he will,” I responded. I hoped my tone was placatory. I didn’t want to talk about Zimbabwe. Talking about Zimbabwe is how people fuel their agitation. My polite society friend was already agitated. I didn’t want to exacerbate her. I was quite amused. I laughed at the idea of Mr Malema and his colleagues actually killing a farmer and a Boer. I’d watched the first white member of EFF on the news a few days earlier. He’s the first, but I’m sure not the last. I’d read a prominent white playwright’s account of why he’ll vote EFF in April, or whenever we can manage an election. Obviously these two ‘white’ gentlemen have no expectation of being killed by Mr Malema & co. They’re voting EFF because they’re fed up with our current president and his crew. Who isn’t?
I went on to explore the possibility that Mr Malema’s ideas may not be entirely without merit. He makes some valid points. Though it could be considered a little concerning that his Economic Freedom Fighters call themselves ‘fighters’, and that they have a war council; one should consider the probability that it’s deliberate brand reputation building meant to provoke a frisson of worry. The Fighters are not to be trifled with; they’re certainly not to be dismissed as impotent boy scouts! “Economic freedom in their lifetime.” Yes.
And is this EFF not drawing everyone in on some level? Politics aside, when they wear those zooty Che Guevara berets in that divine shade of revolutionary red, is it not a total style coup? Everyone wants one of those berets. Those berets are the must have fashion accessory du jour. Even people who won’t wear one in public want to own one. Some have gone as far as to change the logo on the red beret to suit their personal political affiliation. And love or hate Mr Malema you have to admit, he does make the red beret look good. Some people will say that the simple wearing of a red beret can’t be considered a political coup. Until a couple of weeks ago I’d have agreed.
My friend was on her own thought trajectory. “Why can’t the whole country be like Cape Town?” She said. “Cape Town is perfect.”
“Cape Town is far from perfect.” I pointed out. “Cape Town’s great if you’re white. Black people aren’t having such a fun time there, and we don’t want Mrs Zille as president do we?”
“You’re a racist, Tselane,” she exploded at me.
‘What? What makes me a racist? People aren’t throwing human faeces on the streets and airports of Cape Town because they’re happy. Something is rotten in Cape Town. We need to take notice.”
“You are a racist. Helen Zille is great. She’s better than the ANC who go around burning children.”
Well, if you want to shut my mouth, that’s the way to do it. I was aghast.
“Burning Children? What are you talking about? Which children?”
But, she had moved on from the burning of children. “And they rape!” She said.
“What do you mean they rape? And what children do we burn?” I thought perhaps she was referring to our president’s rape case. Oh please, move on from thence. Our President did not rape that woman.
I tried to inquire if she was talking about that case, but it was difficult to be heard because she was now shouting at me about the glory of The Zille, and alleging a litany of evils committed by the ANC upon innocent children and women. I had never realised before that, to her, we in the ANC were the devil’s spawn, the axis of evil. I say ‘we’, but naturally she meant the other ANC members, not me. ‘Present company excepted!’ I’m her friend. I’m different, I think.
Where does she get this stuff, I wondered. Did she think it up alone, or was it misinformation fed to her by other paranoid immigrants? I couldn’t ask her because she hadn’t yet stopped yelling about how we rape, and burn children and we’re corrupt and we don’t’ care about our people. I wanted to defend us, but I didn’t think there was any point in trying to yell over her. There was clearly going to be no discussion on any of these points today. I ventured, as she paused to take a breathe, to ask her again what children the ANC had burnt, but I was shouted down, irrepressibly,
“Just shut up. You always want to speak. You never want to listen. Listen! Listen to me.” She was hysterical.
“Wow! This is fear”. I thought to myself. I sat back, sipped my tea and allowed her to rant. I listened.