To mark the passage of 2013, some annual awards to the men and women who make South Africa great. Or at least jaw-droppingly memorable.

The Xenophobia Award goes to the SA Police Service for reminding us that it is still possible to be too black. The son of former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was this week hauled from a minibus taxi, body searched for his passport, arrested, and threatened with deportation, because he was apparently too darkly hued to be a South African.

The Chutzpah Award goes to the dozens of sleazy politicians who now vie to claim, hand on heart, to uphold the values of deceased former president Nelson Mandela, while in reality trampling them. As an antidote to such hypocrisy, there is the Nelson Mandela Award to any local public figure who actually does behave with consistent morality. It goes to Desmond Tutu, who last year said he would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. “No, sorry … I would much rather go to the other place.”

The Galileo Award for Ignorance goes to the ANC Youth League, which has declared its pride at the “first black South African to go to the moon”. He is actually going into space orbit, but what the hell – “liberation before education” was a potent rallying call.

The Heartlessness Award goes to home affairs for appealing an order instructing it to review its persistent refusal to grant permanent residence to Thijs van Hillegondsberg and his wife, despite rulings in his favour by two courts, as well as the public protector. The Van Hillegondsbergs have two adopted, black South African children and have lived here for 17 years. Clearly, home affairs is not much exercised about preserving the Mandela legacy, Van Hillegondsberg notes in a Christmas open letter to minister Naledi Pandor, in which he pleads for a face-to-face meeting to resolve the impasse.

The It Ain’t My Fault Award to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga for her refusal to accept any responsibility for the failures of the school education system. Her refrain is that things are really not that bad and that the real problem is pesky white activists stirring up trouble. Angie believes nothing, however, can defeat prayer and has urged parents to pray for their children to be delivered from the evil spirits that cause poor academic performance. And if perchance God doesn’t respond, there’s always Godzille to ride to the rescue.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille gets The No, It Sure Ain’t Her Fault Award for her defence of Motshekga against nasty journalists “hunting in packs”. Poor Angie, insists the leader of the supposed opposition, is stymied by self-serving trade unions.

The same, of course, could be said of the similarly dysfunctional police, health, and public service departments. The difference, however, is that none of those ministers has been willing to give free rein in their areas of competency to Zille’s Western Cape government, something that the pliable Motshekga has done, to the admitted benefit of learners in Zille’s bailiwick.

The Teflon Award goes to President Jacob Zuma, to whom nothing nasty sticks, for his skill at delaying the release of any information that might be damaging to his political survival. This is fire fighting on an impressive scale and is testament to his considerable survival skills.

Take, for example, the public protector’s investigation into inappropriate state spending on Zuma’s rural homestead at Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal. It was originally due to be released in March of 2013.

When the damaging report — finding that Zuma benefited substantially in his private capacity from the R246m upgrade — was leaked to the Mail & Guardian at the end of November it was still incomplete and provisional, as the state security cluster of ministers tried their best to intimidate the protector and massage the findings to best effect.

The Zuma Woema Award this year goes to the president’s close friends and benefactors, the Gupta clan. Not only did they manage to commandeer an entire air base but also they did so without any of the officers involved, including the nation’s commander-in-chief, objecting.

* Folllow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye


  • This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day. Follow @TheJaundicedEye.


William Saunderson-Meyer

This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day....

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