I have recently found my exchange-family siblings on Facebook. That was very exciting – like this I discovered that even Miet, my Italian mother, can now be reached on email, which is great. These days, considering the hullabaloo that surrounds an actual letter (envelope, stamps, trip to the post office) one has the notion that such a document must be long, well-composed, immaculate in terms of grammar, spelling and of course, wit. Even before starting, one feels the gravity of the task, and that does not make it any easier to embrace. In fact, letter writing in that format becomes a pain in the ass, and for a very busy girl like me, something to avoid. As a result, communication suffers. But now Miet has an email address, so I will compose a missive to her maybe tomorrow.
So what does my Italian family have to do with our Playboy President? (Ha! I think I just gave it away! My first novel, I suspect, should not be a crime thriller.)
Well, being armed with a new email address, I thought about the letter that I would write. And really, today of all days, it was impossible to not even imagine writing about Thandekile Matina Zuma, JZ’s illegitimate 20th child, with Sonono Khoza.
Shame of the Nation! the Sowetan declared, and Redi’s phone rang off the hook with calls from indignant grandmothers, construction workers, members of the opposition and other whites and blacks.
Everything I thought was said: he sends worse AIDS-messages than Mbeki, he is an embarrassment as a statesman and a president, he is a complete fucking idiot. And I felt real shame, and wished that I was living in Spain (on the plain in the rain etc.) where I would obviously not care anymore. Until I mind-composed my letter to Miet. It occurred to me that as clueless politician who just cannot keep his dick in his pants without it making a little dark spot on the wool, JZ differs not that much from Silvio Berlusconi. Other than, of course, that none of JZ’s wives are suing for divorce as a result of the headlines.
This compunction that causes rampantly undignified and indiscreet sexual behaviour has afflicted many kings and presidents through the ages. Solomon was reportedly “loved by many strange women” and had, according the Book of Ultimate Truths, 700 wives AND 300 concubines. JZ has some way to go.
If you take a funny little quiz called “Philandering Presidents” on funtrivia.com, you will find that the shenanigans of JFK and the lovely Bill Clinton were not really all that unusual.
Thomas Jefferson lusted after his neighbour’s wife, one Betsy Walker, and Lyndon Johnson was famous for selecting the White House secretaries according to their looks. “I can’t stand an ugly woman around,” he apparently said. The most awkward was perhaps Franklin Roosevelt, whose mother cut off his allowance when his wife complained to her that Lucy Mercer, Eleanor’s social secretary, was writing Frank the most inappropriately intimate letters.
On 702, both Redi in the morning, and David O’ Sullivan in the afternoon harped on about JZ’s responsibilities as president. The issues that they and their callers identified were: 1) the moral high ground; 2) the Mbeki comparison; and 3) the fact that taxpayers are supporting his mushrooming household (there are rumours that Mr Lovepants (Andrew, did I get that right?) will make an honest woman out of Sonono soon). David seemed particularly adamant that as a public figure, the president had no right to a private life, especially when it dented the national budget.
We should call this the American Model of Radio Reporting when Confronted with Possible Moral Ambiguity. Nobody can forget how the Bible belt feasted on the Monica Lewinsky story. And who can blame them? If you run on a family-values ticket, then you better honour and obey.
Unlike the French, who clearly don’t give a toss. During the ML saga, enlightened bloggers relished the discretion with which the French press treated Jacques Chirac’s alleged affair with Claudia Cardinale (unlike the Brits and the Italians) and Francois Mitterand’s protracted extra-marital sex life that also apparently produced offspring. When Paris Match published photographs of his daughter with his long-time mistress Anne Pingeot, he was unashamed. “I have a natural daughter,” he said, “Et alors?”
Here at home JZ, our “100% Zulu Boy” clearly bangs to a different drum when it comes to… er… traditional morality. (I would so love to know how – and if – Ray McCauley is going to address the issue on Sunday.) So I think David O’ S should take his moral outrage and find something imaginative to do with it, even though that is not his job.
The point is that our Zulu boy has been caught with his appendage in the cookie jar not so long ago, and that almost turned out badly for him. This repeat offence makes one think that our president is an idiot savant of sorts, with some mysterious use for True Powers in the Party, who completely underestimated the determination of his Richard to poke its nose into matters quite beyond decency and state, and as a result, are now finding themselves (post-Polokwane) reeling from pillar to post with damage control. Talk about just desserts.
The whole thing would be funny if it wasn’t so horrifying. It’s really (from my point of view) not about the fact that he is president. It’s about the fact that he is the president of the country with the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the world, and that he keeps on fucking around without a condom, and getting bust. As an example of the infinity of human stupidity, he is barely ahead of Julius Malema. And considering his reportedly endless charisma (they LOVED him at Davos, it was said) just imagine the change he could make, if he really cared.
And that, I think, is the real shame.