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Sona: Did you hear Zuma chuckle?

By Michelle October

Last night, did anybody else hear that laugh? It was a long, satisfied, deep-throated chuckle.

Just moments before, half of the parliamentarians elected to govern the country alongside Jacob Zuma and his party had rose up against him, in a last resounding, powerless attempt to make him see reason. The renegades in red, rose up to ask, “When will you pay back the money you stole from us?” Zuma gazed down at them in a bored expression. One of his minions would handle that. Sure enough, Baleka Mbete spun together a few words, re-ordered each time to sound different, the gist of which was “I insist and appeal to members to allow this house to continue with business of the day”, which roughly translated, is a phrase which here means “I don’t have time for this shit; please stop making my really easy job so difficult”.

But the red renegades would not listen. One by one, they all stood up and asked the same questions. Mbete continued to deliver a nonsensical concoction of words that sounded vaguely forceful. A scuffle ensued. Armed men — men thought to be state police, marched into the sitting. The cameras zoomed out of focus and fell upon Mbete’s passive face, while shrilling, shrieking, and violent movements were heard being acted out in front of her that we could not see. She seemed wholly unbothered by the events. A moment later, and the shrieking muted down. The camera magicked itself back into the room at large — a sizeable hole was left where the red renegades were seated before.

David Harrison (M&G)
David Harrison (M&G)

This time, it was the respectable rebels in black that wanted answers. Answers to questions like, “Were those policemen? Because that’s illegal.” Mbete waffled on a bit here, and the DA, unsatisfied with her answer, gathered briefly to figure out their next move. Should they sit this one out? Should they make some more noise? What would the people in Bishopscourt want? Up at the gallery, Zuma looked on, apparently bemused by the lengths to which his fellow countrymen would go to call him out as a thief. Finally, the patron saint for liberal white democracy, Helen Zille herself, stood up with her fellow rebels, and together they marched out of Parliament.

Of course, you all know this story. You saw it happen live, or you read the live tweets, or you were in the room yourself. But did you catch that little moment after? When Zuma stood up, made a joke and … laughed? Did you hear it? Did you feel him slapping you in the face with it, as though you were a poor school kid with just this one sandwich for lunch, and he had taken it, crushed it with his shoe, and flushed it down the toilet? Did you see the way he glanced around the empty room, looked duly pleased as punch, and continued as though he had just swatted a really annoying fly?

Are you aware that you are the fly?

When Michelle October isn’t furiously typing responses to Sona addresses, she can be found tweeting about it and other social injustices, like the rest of you, on @themiggle101