Press "Enter" to skip to content

Say it loud and proud — I want a society free from the Polokwane Syndrome

The Polokwane Gang of Four, and their trailing Average Student, have had a far greater impact than even they realise. Zuma, Vavi, Mantashe, Nzimande and Malema have influenced the manner in which South Africans deal with conflict. Gone are the years of consultation, consensus and dialogue, and political dignity. The very stuff which made us so appealing to the world during the halcyon days of the Nineties. So appealing that we were called upon to give advice to Palestinians and moderate Israelis on negotiated settlements while the wars of the continent demanded our time and wisdom — even JZ had a chance to be presidential when he added his skills to the DRC peace process (how distant that seems today as that country burns). We knew from experience that nothing could be won without dialogue and consensus. All the while the fuse to the South African powder keg was smoldering, waiting for the flame, the spark, the ignition to swing. In my mind that swing is poverty — obscene levels of wealth rubbing against the indignity of poverty will light the fuse of civil war every time. And amidst all of this is the Polokwane Gang of Four + One. Their political legacy will leave an indelible imprint of behaviour unbecoming of a national leader, gross political and tactical blunders, and worse, they take us back to a Peter Mokaba brand of populism which, while it won votes, could never govern a nation.

The Polokwane Syndrome sufferer is rude, intimidatory, and blusterous and sadly, the ability to construct a tactical response to the local and global environment is weakened as the grip on power waxes and wanes. It is a virus of silent proportions and, before you can say Taxi-drivers-in-shoot-out-with-Cape-police, it attacks seemingly random groups of disgruntled citizens. Their symptoms often mimic the behavioural problems first displayed at the ANC Conference at Polokwane. The syndrome moves stealthily to other connected sites of infections such as the Cape High Court. A high profile sufferer may well be Western Cape Premier Lynn Brown. Her brand of Polokwane Syndrome alerted the public to her infection when she was caught doing the Washimiwam with Zuma supporters outside a Cape court earlier this year. Jeff Radebe is another sufferer to whom the Polokwane Syndrome has been particularly ruthless and attacking him at the hip, forcing him to utter nonsensicalities. Radebe, like so many of these sufferers, displays a fixation with animal analogies such as describing the complaints of political opposition as “the last kick of a dying horse”. But let us look more closely at two case studies of the Polokwane Syndrome.

1) Vavianism — sufferers express themselves in a monotonous drone while the voice box is constricted allowing for a hysterically pitched response to ideas or comments, which are not popular with the sufferer. Responses to unpopular ideas which act against the tactical political approaches of the sufferer may be expressed in a highly emotive state, thus blocking any clear headed thought held by the sufferer of Vavianism. Sufferers hold strong views of those they deem to be intellectuals, or “lording” their intellect over them. Vavianism sufferers are not averse to using the class card to achieve a worthy, but ill-conceived aim and using empty rhetoric in public spaces. In fact this is often the highpoint of unusually violent attacks of Vavianism. Particular phrases, which may be repeated at opportune moments are, “the working classes, national democratic revolution, kill, out-of-context, freedom of our people, lay down our lives, love one another dearly”. In the final stages of the disease sufferers may suffer a persecution complex and declare that public utterances are taken out of context by print and electronic media. The object of the sufferers’ venom is usually a public figure whose every move is analysed; every word mauled and mulled over. For the sufferer the public figure is a red flag to a bull. At this final stage of Vavianism loved ones and friends are often taken aside by skilled practioners and gently reminded of the damage such a sufferer could do to the cause of the working classes, that his actions will contribute to a long chain of events which may be unstoppable, that his actions and utterances will destroy the legacy of the largest labour federation on the continent, and that he may well earn a footnote in this country’s history as just another African war monger, that war mongering and genocide is a disease rife on the continent of Africa, and that he should step out of public life and perhaps take up a non-executive directorship in a uranium mining company. We recommend that Nomaindia Mfeketo, a long time suffer of the Polokwane Syndrome, may be approached for a directorship at her uranium company, Summer Days.

Zumazopanic Disorder — at the height of this disorder the sufferer displays an ability to utter sublimely congenial utterances which has a dual effect: 1) dulls the listener into the belief that the sufferer can be of assistance or shares the same belief system, or 2) causes panic in the hearts of other listeners whose hearing picks up the phrases “give me my machine gun, pregnant mothers should be removed from their infants, same-sex marriages are taboo”. The sufferer also displays a fixation with animal analogies and must be forgiven for not always remembering the correct order of the analogy. These include referring to opposing forces as snakes. Those close to him may also develop sympathy disorders.

Sympathy disorders are identified when supporters attempt to mirror the chronic sufferer through a strange dance movement in which holding a machine gun is mimicked, make wild statements such as comparing the pain of the sufferer to Jesus Christ, or worse yet, use the symptoms of the chronic sufferer for their own ends. These “ends” may include planning grandiose palace coups in order to take over the ruling party of a rather large African country, without a clear communications strategy in place. Every time these poor sufferers appear on national television the syndrome is boosted and they puff out their chests like mating pigeons. It is painful to watch, but must be endured if treatment is to be offered. The “sympathizers” or “zopanic-porters” may also begin to refer to opposing forces (both real and imagined) as baboons, cockroaches and donkeys.

There is a range of curative solutions, which may be applied. Again this requires the commitment of loved ones and may be painful, considering the stakes (all that has been promised to the chronic sufferer). These solutions are 1) for the chronic sufferer to be locked in a sound proof environment where the speeches of the last two presidents are piped into the room, 2) the extract from a speech delivered by Nelson Mandela in the dock of the Rivonia Trial should be played on a quarter-hourly basis. The extract should be, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”. Iconic presidential images of presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe should be played on a loop for the sufferer. The aim of this curative method is to begin to show images of statesmanship and leadership. Hopefully the sufferer will imbibe the images. A second curative method is for family, friends, bosses and supporters to assist in permanently removing the sufferer from public life. This may not be easy given the media’s fixation with the highs and lows of the sufferer, but this must be done if the environment in which the sufferer operates has a chance to develop into the next democratic phase.

It would seem that other sufferers are dealing with the Polokwane Syndrome in private, preferring to remove themselves from the lights, camera and print of the public eye. Jesse Duarte, it would seem, appears less in public. We must conclude that she is in lock-down as she deals with her bouts of Fleishism — named for the US White House Presidential Spokesperson Ari Fleishman who removed himself from public lying after GW was re-elected for a second term. If only others in the ANC communications and political echelons would do the same, perhaps we have a chance of living in a Polokwane Syndrome-free society.