I do try so hard not to be a ‘cultural relativist.’ I try so hard to be tolerant of others, of the customs and practices of other peoples and other nations. But, alas, the demon of prejudice snaps even at my tolerant heels. Where I fall down and fall down badly is over the marriage customs of South Africa’s Zulus.
Actually I could not care less about the Zulus or how many wives they are allowed to take by tribal custom. My problem is with Jacob Zuma, the country’s grinningly inane Zulu president, the butt of repeated jokes when he came on a state visit to London two years ago. More than a few made me laugh.
There he was with one of his four spouses, a more ridiculous sight is difficult to imagine. Apparently they take turns deciding who is to travel with the polygamist president. How do they do it, I wonder? Is it a case of eeny, meeny, miny, moe; one wife, two wife, three wife, four? Just imagine the arguments over exactly who is the country’s first, second, third or fourth lady!
Yes, I find him ridiculous but I’m not alone here: a lot of South Africans also think that he is ridiculous, even within the African National Congress, the corrupt ruling party. Objections have been raised over the tax-funded support Zuma receives for his wifely quartet. This is hardly surprising considering what’s officially referred to as ‘spousal support’ amounts to $1.6million. Enough is enough, the cry has gone up; we are not funding this man’s sex life!
His sexuality is rather the topic at the moment, raising other issues of concern in the tawdry ‘rainbow nation.’ The thing is, you see, South African’s have recently been regaled with something only Mrs Zuma One, Two, Three and Four normally see – the presidential penis! Yes, they have, in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, where a painting called The Spear was recently on display. There is, Mr President, in a Lenin-like pose with the, ahem, spear in question on prominent display.
Poor man; he is not best pleased by this insult to his dignity. He’s applied to the courts to have it removed, a challenge to the country’s liberal constitution which guarantees freedom of expression. ANC thugs have already tried to force the gallery to close. Though Brett Murray, the artist, has impeccable credentials as an anti-apartheid activist his work has been denounced as ‘racist’ on the grounds that he is white. Some, though, have the wit to understand what it’s really about, including Mondi Makhanya of the South African Sunday Times. Of Zuma he wrote;
It will be his sexual legacy that we will remember more than anything else. His sexual endeavours are therefore fair game for artists, cartoonists, comedians, radio DJs and tavern jokers.
I personally think he will be remembered for more than his spear; I think he will be remembered for presiding over the final degeneracy of the Mandela legacy. My, oh, my, how far this nation has sunk in a bog of corruption, how far the ANC has embraced a culture of ‘bling’ in the most vulgar and rapacious forms imaginable.
It’s gone beyond satire when they can’t even recognise it themselves. Let me give you one tiny illustration. At the end of a jamboree in January, called to mark the ANC’s hundredth birthday, Kgalema Motlanthe, Zuma’s deputy, proposed a toast to the plebs in the stadium below – “The leaders will now enjoy the champagne, and of course they do so on your behalf through their lips.”
Vicarious luxury wine joins vicarious jobs, vicarious opportunities and vicarious homes is the reality of the Rainbow Nation. People of all colours unite; you have the sight of the nomenclature going past in luxury cars to witness. The simple truth is that politics in South Africa is a racket, with the pigs of the ANC vying with one another to get their snouts in the trough. I do not believe that this country has a happy future. All the gold has gone from the end of the rainbow into the coffers of Zuma and his kindred. Ah, never mind that. South Africans can at least, for the time being, smile at The Spear, another vicarious pleasure.