Pipes and politicians
As the urbane pipe-smoking Thabo Mbeki nears the end of his second term as President, people’s thoughts are turning to possible successors. And many people are becoming increasingly nervous about the suitability of Jacob Zuma, the heir-apparent.
There’s a whiff of scandal about Zuma, after his well-publicised connections with crooked businessman Shabir Shaik, and the play-within-a-play rape trial, which looked like a rather clumsy put-up job by people who were also nervous about the prospect of JZ as president.
And one can’t blame them for being nervous.
Whether any of the mud slung at him sticks or not, let’s face it, the man is thick. He’s even thicker than George Bush. I have a growing fear that he might do to South Africa what George Bush has done to the USA.
And some are suggesting that the constitution should be amended to allow Thabo Mbeki to serve a third term. That also makes me a bit nervous. Not that I think a third term of Thabo Mbeki would be a bad thing, but it only puts off the day when a successor needs to be found. And if the successor is someone like Jacob Zuma, or Mad Bob Mugabe, a third term would be horrible.
People are talking about roping in Tokyo Sexwale. Well, he didn’t destroy Gauteng when he was premier, so I rather hope he makes it. Any alternative to JZ seems a good idea. The more I think about the prospect of a JZ presidency, the more I appreciate Thabo Mbeki. When I look around at the political leaders of other countries, or at least the ones I know about, I think how lucky we are to have Mbeki. I’d much rather have him than someone like Bush, Blair, Putin or Mugabe.
And then I realise that I can’t actually name any others. When I was younger I used to take more interest in practical politics and could name the Presidents or Prime Ministers of a couple of dozen countries, and suddenly I realise that I no longer know most of them. Who ruled Zambia after Kaunda, or Tanzania after Nyerere? The only recent ones I remember are the ones who made wars, like Bush, Blair, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Olmert. The names of the present rulers of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia escape me. As Shakespeare said, the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. That’s rather sad.
But back to Thabo Mbeki… In spite of his making some questionable decisions, I’d still rather have him than most of the others. But come to think of it, his pipe hasn’t been much in evidence lately. Has the anti-spoking lobby got to him? Has he given up smoking it? Or has he just given it up in public, as bad for his public image? Does he go out into the garden and only smke it when x metres away from a building, and preferably downwind of it?
How long will it be before the anti-smoking lobby excise all references to “pipe-weed” from Lord of the Rings, I wonder? And what would the Inklings make of the anti-smoking lobby?
The other pipe-smoking politician I remember is Harold Wilson, and I sometimes wonder if Thabo Mbeki hasn’t modelled himself on Wilson, at least to some extent. He’s probably a bit brighter than Wislon (as the Grauniad might have referred to him), but they have one thing in common. Wilson had great problems with Rhodesia and Smith, and Mbeki has great problems with Zimbabwe and Mugabe. Mbeki’s problems are a bit more serious, though. I don’t think 3 million Rhodesian refugees went to Britain.