Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On Julius Malema, Bow-wow Boustred, Justice Malala and public editors

by Jeremy Gordin

Until about a week or so ago, we Seffricans had only Peter de Villiers, the national rugby coach, to brighten up our days and ways.

Even the Sunday Times seemed bereft of news. All I learned from its mighty front page was that the rich are rich and the poor are poor.

Even a dodo such as I doesn't need an investigation team to unearth that startling revelation for me. I just peer into my empty wallet.

But that was then. The last 10 days, au contraire, have been truly exciting and invigorating, politically and newspaper-wise, don't you think?

First of all, just when one thought it was safe to feel youthful, Julius "Little Julie" Malema, head of the youth brigades, was back in the news.

He was hauled before the Equality Court by the Sonke Gender Justice Network for comments he made about the woman who in 2006 accused Jacob Zuma, now our Leader, of raping her. (Zuma was acquitted, by the way.)

The Network laid a complaint with the Equality Court - presumably on the basis that Malema had uttered hate speech against women - and has demanded a public apology, a retraction, a promise that Malema will not do it again, and a damages award of R50 000 to a shelter for abused women.

Unfortunately for us, Little Julie said nothing in court.

Instead, his lawyer, Tumi Mokwena, asked the magistrate for a postponement so that he could review the evidence and consider whether to apply for so-called absolution, and the case was postponed to August 31.

However, in the view of many, one person who clearly should be taken to the Equality Court is Graham "Bow-wow" Boustred, a former head honcho at the Anglo American Corporation, a man with a bark that is every bit as bad as his bite. (Try saying that after a whiskey or three.)

Or, at any rate, as bad as his bite used to be. According to the article about him, he has had to undergo implants, his original set of chompers having gone the way of all flesh and many white chief executives.

For some unknown reason, Bow-wow invited Business Day to hear his views on Anglo and its management. He is 84 years' old, suffering from arthritis and, possibly, the onset of senile dementia. He ought to be resting.

Actually, the reason for Bow-wow's invitation to the esteemed business daily - which apparently sent a crack team of three journalists to see him - is not "unknown".

There's a lot happening, both in front of and behind the scenes, regarding Xstrata's proposed bid for Anglo American. All sorts of people - including some heavy-weight journalists (no names, no pack drill) - are taking "positions". And presumably Bow-wow was nudged by someone into making his views on Cynthia Carroll, the present Anglo boss, public.

Or maybe he simply wanted to add his sixpence (or rather his R90-million's) worth. Or perhaps he was merely tired of having not much to do other than to sit in his pretty Sandhurst garden, count his money, run his tongue over his sharp and shiny new teeth, and think about erectile dysfunction.

I've often thought about it myself and, well, after a while one gets pretty limp with boredom.

This reminds me. The two comments made by Bow-wow that have caused such a fuss are:

(1) "This [Cynthia Carroll]'s hopeless. There's no morale," [Boustred] says. "Do you know why it's difficult to find a female CEO? It's because most women are sexually frustrated. Men are not, because they can fall back on call girls, go to erectile dysfunction clinics. If you have a CEO who's sexually frustrated she can't act properly."

(2) "The Isle of Man. There are no Muslims, no blacks. It's got a good healthcare system. It rains a lot, but so what? I'll get under-floor heating and I'll get a good mackintosh.... I'm going to the Isle of Man, for Christ's sake."

Bow-wow's certainly more cogent than Malema and, come on, you have to admit it, he's pretty funny - he's straight out of a Kingsley Amis novel. He should write a column. Who needs one? The Mail & Guardian is pretty dour these days. Mind you, so are the Sunday Times and The Star. Why is no one laughing?

We ought to be, especially when we have Malema, Boustred, and others in our midst.

But most people don't think Boustred's funny at all and I suspect he could have saved many people a great deal of indignation if he had simply admitted (a) that he has the hots for Cynthia and (b) that he is anxious, should he ever make it to the home plate with her, that he might not be able to perform adequately. (You see, there is some worth in getting a tertiary education: we know how to deconstruct stuff. Go, Dr Nzimande, go!)

As for Boustred's desire to escape the brothers and the weekly wail of the muezzin and not to spend his own millions but someone else's on health care, well, what can I say?

Chacun a son gout, to each his own, I suppose.Though I do feel sorry for the folks on the Isle of Man. They used to be able to boast about the great literary critic Sir Frank Kermode having been born there. Now they'll also have to tell tourists that Boustred lives there - "There, that guy there, in the sodden mackintosh, the one slipping into our local erectile dysfunction clinic."

But, listen, it's unfair to make fun of wrinklies. This reminds me. Wasn't running Bow-wow's comments verbatim a bit unfair? You think not?

Let me tell you that when Bow-wow was at Anglo, there's no way a Johannesburg business daily, or any other newspaper or financial magazine, would have dared to do so.

When a telephone call came from 44 Main Street, the various managements and editors used to shit themselves. Trust me; I was there. No, not at 44 Main Street - they weren't so keen on nice Jewish boys - but at the various newspaper companies. I once even interviewed Bow-wow, but I'll be damned if I can remember what he said.

Anyway, much more interesting than Bow-bow's maunderings, in my humble opinion, was the reaction to the Business Day story from columnist Justice Malala, in his Monday column in The Times (the daily, not the weekly, fish wrap).

Malala explained that he "looked at this great country and marvelled at how far we had come." He felt "jubilant". Then he marvelled again - "at the progress we are making to empower women and end the destructive sexism that has held them back for centuries".

By the way, Justice, after you've passed me the sick bag, you might want to check on the quantum of that "progress" with Colleen Lowe Morna, Lisa Vetten, the Sonke Gender Justice Network, and various others.

The reason for Malala's euphoria?

"I am happy that today we live in a country where we know that we have triumphed over such backwardness" and "evil" and "darkness".

And the backwardness, evil and darkness to which Malala was referring? The raison d'etre for his anguish?

Answer: the mutterings of Bow-wow, as reproduced in Business Day.

Now, if Malala truly thinks that Boustred's comments are in any way an accurate representation of the "horror" or "backwardness" of pre-1994 South Africa, he needs to take some time off and do a bit of reading.

I think being dropped out of a high window during police interrogation, being thrown out of your home and dumped in the veld somewhere, being hungry every day of your first seven years, or being locked up for 27 years, are a tad more serious than being called names.

And if Malala thinks that the disavowal of some old geezer's locker-room chat equals a meaningful grappling with, or a possible solution to, the present horrors with which the majority of this country's people have to deal every day - or if he thinks that the hungry and destitute majority gives a damn (or even knows) about those natterings, or about Malala's righteousness and "jubilation" - well, he needs to get out more, preferably beyond Johannesburg's northern suburbs. Actually, Diepsloot's hopping and bopping just now.

This was politically-correct and squeaky-clean posturing; this was playing shamelessly to the feminist lobby; all at the expense of some silly old codger.

I agree that it's not so pleasant to reflect that Bow-wow once was a very powerful man at an extremely powerful organisation.

But, hey, if anyone thinks that any of the rest of them, from Cecil John Rhodes onwards, or downwards, was a sweetie-pie, or that any top capitalists are plum puddings or even peppermint ice creams, well then, as I said, one needs to get out more. (Go, Dr Nzimande, go!)

And then the government - well, the presidency anyway - also joined in the fun during the last week or so. It announced that the acting communications head of the presidency is one Vusi Mona.

What are they thinking in the presidency?

Are they thinking in the presidency?

Does our Leader know what happens when he leaves town for a week to visit Il Papa and to hobnob with his brother leaders in Italy? One wonders.As some readers might know, and as the Mail & Guardian investigative team reminded us, after a doubtless exhaustive investigation, Mona is controversial for having published, while editor of City Press (which has boasted a long line of impressive editors), spying allegations against Bulelani Ngcuka, former national director of public prosecutions.

These were in a story, written by and brought to Mona by Ranjeni "the black widow" Munusamy, now chief of communications at the ministry of higher education. (Go, Dr Nzimande, go!)

Mona was later skewered for having done this, at the Hefer commission of inquiry into whether Ngcuka was indeed an apartheid spy.

Mona partially deserved his public roasting. But I have to say in retrospect (and I was there and was one of those who helped make him look a fool), he was partially a fall guy.

Neither the presiding commissioner (Judge Josephus Hefer) nor all the other advocates wanted to be too tough on Mac Maharaj or Moe Shaik. Maharaj and Shaik were struggle heroes after all, and everyone knew too that the commission was, to a large extent, a set-up engineered by our former president, Thabo Mbeki.

So it was Mona on whom they mercilessly ganged up.

But, having said all that, I must all say that Mona does not strike me as the best communications head around. What's wrong, for example, with Dr Zuki Snikalala, as my niece calls him? Or Justice Malala?

Besides, Mona is implicated in a trial relating to the payment of illegal kick-backs in Mpumalanga, and my nerves really wouldn't stand for another set of Carl Niehaus-type revelations and apologies.Talking of which, our Carl also joined in this week's fun, calling a press conference to say sorry and to ask for a job.

But, look, at some point the kissing does really have to stop and I must go now and work on some affidavits.

There was, though, one last matter on which I wanted to touch. I see that the Sunday Times has appointed a public editor, Thabo Leshilo. He's a former colleague of mine and a good fellow and I wish him well.

But I am little nonplussed about the whole matter. I don't want a representative at the Times. I just want the Times to get its journalism right - you know, the basics, who, where, why, what and how. That would be a start.

It's all a bit - as De Villiers, the Bok coach, might have said - like taking your car to a garage to be fixed, only to be told that, if you have any complaints, you must take them up with the garage's "public mechanic". He (or let's say she's a she because we have put sexism behind us), she will not have done the work on your car, in fact she has little to do with fixing cars, but no matter, she's your woman.

Oh well, I suppose Mike Robertson, the Avusa MD, a serious young fellow with a good pout and a bad attitude, knows what he's doing. He's the head honcho, isn't he? Just as Bow-wow was.

2 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

Excellent lol post, OH boy, all we can do is read and fucking weep, the people have gone mad!!!!Mwaha-ha! Great job with the pics DACH, luv it.

Dachshund said...

@Exzanian: glad you enjoyed it. Jeremy Gordin is hilarious. Watch out for more of his stuff in future, with pics.