Limbo Dancing with South African Journalists.

Limbo dancing is like pole dancing in that it requires flexible, lissom figures, but differs in that the pole is horizontal, and as close to the ground as possible. How low can you go? The handicap is that vertebrates have difficulty getting through narrow horizontal slits. Invertebrates, especially those without exoskeletons, make the best limbo dancers. Flatworms are very good indeed; tapeworms, apart from a certain lack of muscular coordination, are the best.

Going as low as possible is clearly the objective of South African journalists (who didn’t cheer when a corrupt ANC Youth League member hit one with a brick in Polokwane recently?) and none is lower than the Mail and Guardian. Their end of year issue truly represents some kind of nadir, though doubtless there are teams of men with shovels working to get still lower than that. Journalists bear a certain resemblance to tapeworms (living on shit while being rather loathsome and irritating) but the comparison may be a little unfair to the segmentata.

The issue kicks off with an attack on Julius Malema. This is particularly interesting because the previous issue featured the newspaper’s first real scoop in many years – that the Ministry of Finance was being criminally used in an unsuccessful campaign to discredit the Premier of Limpopo, who has Malema as one of his allies. Evidently the newspaper was ordered to bury this story and, instead, claim that an unnamed organization, according to an anonymous source, was opposed to Jacob Zuma and did not seek the support of Malema. This non-story went on the front page of the paper and was included in its advertising posters.

OK, having established that the newspaper is corrupt, is it worth saying anything more? Oh, indeed, for the newspaper includes a “Report Card” on the Cabinet. Since the Creator has already established long-syne that only the most select members of the Cabinet are competent enough to be awarded an F grade – the rest deserving a one-way trip to theKolymagold mines in theArctic– let us see how it is that anyone can be given a positive award.

The first A is given to Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, for his stellar performance in being supported by “civil society”, which according to the Mail and Guardian entails “key private health-industry figures”, and his “realistic approach”, which includes the National Health Insurance programme of handing the national healthcare system over to, er, private health-industry figures. He is also praised for his bold stance in providing enormous amounts of antiretrovirals to people with HIV – a stance which, apart from the fact that it was inherited from the Mbeki government and is thus hardly new, has not reduced the number of HIV-infected children, nor reduced the number of deaths due to HIV, nor slowed the fall in South African life expectancy. In other words, he is being praised for buying loads of drugs, not for treating AIDS. And, as even the Mail and Guardian knows, the quality of public healthcare is abysmal, and Motsoaledi’s stewardship has failed to alter this. So, in essence, he is getting an A for privatization, for enriching corporations, and for killing off surplus black people. Thanks for the clarification, brother journalist.

A B is awarded to Trevor Manuel for injecting much-needed radical right-wing propaganda into the Zuma administration, like as if the Zuma administration had any other perspective whatsoever – the journalist says “We really, really liked” the extreme neoliberalism under which Manuel proposes that we should, er, focus our attention on exports (ideally, petrochemicals, of which Manuel is especially fond) and slashing social welfare. However, the journalist adds with regret, Manuel’s deregulation fetish is unlikely to be supported by anyone. Basically, he’s getting a B for developing a stupid plan to wreck the economy by following every bad idea which every Ayn Rand-reading yahoo has thought up in the last thirty years, but supporting the Protection of State Information Bill – if he’d opposed it, he would get an A (and best of all would be immediately sacked).

Naledi Pandor, Minister for Doing Nothing About Science and Technology, also gets a B. Not even the gushing journalist can discover a reason for doing so. One must assume that she’s getting it for being a coconut with a fake British accent and for being criticized by Julius Malema.

Pravin Gordhan, Minister for Finance Capital, gets a B+, quite remarkable considering the catastrophic state of the national economy and fiscus even if one ignores his links with the criminal cabal around the Shaiks and Maharaj and the Mail and Guardian’s hastily-hidden exposure of his criminal manipulation of theLimpopo provincial administration. They say he has been “balancing growth and job-creation goals”, which is probably true, since there has been neither. They also say he has pursued “sound fiscal management . . . while revenue has been falling” – that is, he has run up unprecedented deficits because he has not increased taxes, which is all that matters to rich journalistic lapdogs of the plutocracy.  In fact, of course, falling revenue is a sign that the Minister of Finance should be sacked. In fact there are hints in the puff-piece that Gordhan is both incompetent and corrupt – but what rich journalist cares, when Gordhan has relaxed exchange controls, thus making capital flight, the economic disembowelment of the nation, even easier than before. It is obvious that Gordhan is being praised for doing whatever the rich want when they want it, and then he is told to stand up to Zuma and not do what Zuma tells him – after all, Zuma is the elected President of the country, and therefore should count for nothing in comparison with the bankers who count for everything. Well, again, thanks for clearing up your stance on democracy, dear journalists.

Another mystery B is the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant. Mildred who? Yeah, right. Who has done what? Well, her Ministry and some of its satraps have got unqualified audits from the auditor-general, and has been praised by theInstituteofGovernment Auditors. So the accountants like her, and what else could count? Who cares what her Ministry has actually done? (According to the blurb, nothing at all.) So, a do-nothing Labour Minister scoops the pool, since an activist Minister might actually help workers, and that wouldn’t please South African journalism at all.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gets an A for her running of Home Affairs, presumably for her brilliant work in protectingSouth Africafrom the Tibetan menace. They do point out that she faced down the sleazy foreign front-group “PASSOP”, which handles propaganda around Zimbabwean migrants, and then sorted out the Zimbabwean migrant crisis fairly well – which makes her one of the few Cabinet members with both courage and competence. And the Ministry got an unqualified audit. Maybe this is a fair A, although frankly, giving someone an A for doing their job seems like lowering the bar a bit – though not as low as journalists would need.

Fikile Mbalula also gets a B for standing around and doing nothing in the Ministry of Sport. Perhaps this is a hope that he can be weaned away from the ANC Youth League.

Edna Molewa, Minister for Fracking, also gets a B. Obviously, not standing in the way of the petrochemical pollution lobby is the real reason why she gets this. However, just by way of a joke, the journalist pretends that her triumph was in COP17 (which wasn’t actually her baby) and in her magnificent role in regard to rhinos (who are being poached at an immensely more rapid rate now, probably because the Zuma administration finds bloated lumbering dull-witted horny creatures too much competition). One presumes that the journalists are just pissing on the conservationists here, in line with the newspaper’s worship of corporate social responsibility (viz. greenwashing).

It would be too tedious to go through the lesser figures, but in essence, what we see here is that some of the sleaziest crooks in the Cabinet, together with some of the most useless figures, are getting praised. It’s hard to see what Dlamini-Zuma is doing in this company, but in general, the argument seems to be that the worse, the better. And meanwhile, there will always be enough sleazebags to poke fun at and give low ratings to, so white racists reading the list will not feel upset. (Note that there are two indians and two coloureds on the list, reassuring the audience that paler-skinned peoples are better for the health of neoliberal corruption.) It’s not as if there is any shortage of corporate cronies in the Cabinet.

The climax of the newspaper occurs where neoliberal stooge Niren Tolsi is funded by his newspaper to be tied up and spanked by a prostitute. “You’ve been a naughty journalist”, she says, as she caresses his protruding bottom with a little toy dog-whip. No doubt his erection shrank in horror at hearing the truth appearing for a moment in one of his columns. Also no doubt, tens of millions of South Africans would have liked to be there to assist her – but using, courtesy of Edna’s animal rights activities, a freshly-liberated rhino-hide sjambok.


One Response to Limbo Dancing with South African Journalists.

  1. vuyo says:

    As always, spot on. Your blog should be obligatory reading for all journos, pundits and activists. We await publication of the volumous book!

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