The heading is a line from Jeremy Taylor’s song Confession
Well one fine day I’ll make my way
to 10 Downing Street
Good day, I’ll say, I’ve come a long way
excuse my naked feet
But I lack, you see, the energy
to buy a pair of shoes
I lose my zest to look my best
when I read the daily news
’cause it appears you’ve got an atom bomb
that’ll blow us all to hell and gone
If I’ve gotta die then why should I
give a damn if my boots aren’t on?
If the daily news was depressing fifty years ago when Taylor composed his song, it’s just as depressing today, though for a somewhat different reason.
Back then it was depressing over things that mattered, like atom bombs.
Now it is depressing over things that don’t matter so much.
Back then there were important issues at stake, life and death issues, one could say.
Now it’s just about the personalities of politicians jockeying for position.
Three years ago Julius Malema was saying he would kill for Jacob Zuma. Now it seems there’s nothing he’d like better than to step over Zuma’s dead body and into his shoes.
The two big stories for the last fortnight have been Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing for bringing the ANC into disrepute, and Zuma’s appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief Justice.
But what are they about really? are there any really important issues at stake?
I don’t think so.
I think that the central issue in both is Jacob Zuma’s attempt to curb ambitious or potential rivals, to surround himself with yes-men and distance himself from potential no-men. Thabo Mbeki was accused of doing the same thing when he tried to slap down and discredit Zuma. Zuma bounced back, and perhaps Malema will too.
About the appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice, I think veteran journalist Allister Sparks put his finger on it when he wrote BusinessDay – ALLISTER SPARKS: At home and abroad:
Zuma has bypassed Judge Dikgang Moseneke, the deputy president of the court, whom the legal profession is almost unanimous in regarding as the obvious choice, and named a highly controversial figure instead.
Why? It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the president has a personal prejudice against Moseneke. This is the second time he has bypassed the most respected legal mind on the court, who also happens to be in pole position for the senior job.
Moreover, it is believed Zuma approached three other judges before turning to Mogoeng, and that all declined the job. Could it be they, too, recognised Moseneke as the obvious candidate and were uncomfortable about accepting it ahead of him? If that is the case, it means Moseneke didn’t even figure among the top four potential candidates in the president’s mind. In fact it means Zuma has blackballed him.
One is left to assume this is probably because Moseneke is not a member of the African National Congress (ANC), but was once a protege of the ANC’s great rival, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
If Moseneke were Chief Justice, there might be the danger that he would exercise an independent judicial mind, and not be swayed too much by the interests of the ruling clique of the ruling party. It wasn’t so much that Zuma was desperate to have Mogoeng, but rather he was desperate not to have Moseneke.
That’s what’s so depressing about the daily news nowadays. It’s not about big issues any more, but only about the ambitions of politicians to retain or grab power, and the shifting alliances as they do so. Oh yes, Julius Malema talks of nationalising the mines and the spirit of the Freedom Charter. But it might be more in the spirit of the Freedom Charter if the RDP were to be revived. Nationalising the mines might have been a viable option in 1955. All it would achieve now would be to saddle the taxpayers with nearly fully amortised assets, and the liabilities of solving the problems of acid water. So I suspect that is just empty rhetoric to try to gain support.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Steve Biko. Would it have made a difference if he had lived? Or would have have immersed himself in a medical career, as Dikgamg Moseneke has immersed himself in his legal one?
Are todays politicians like children dressing up in their mothers’ clothes, going around saying “I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal”? Trying to walk around in shoes several sizes too big for them, shoes once worn by people like Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu?
When I read the daily news it certainly looks like it, but are the media telling us the truth?
Perhaps we should follow Bishop Nick Baines when he says, “And most of us have a life to live and work to do and will leave this media game (for, entertaining though it obviously is, that is all it is) to the media.”
Is it just a media game, part of the entertainment that the media provide for the masses?
Bishop Nick writes (Game off | Nick Baines’s Blog) about a different setting, a different group of newspapers, and a different group of people, but perhaps what he writes is true of the media here too.
And, as he says, “Despite the accurately vague language that is used in these reports, it is sadly inevitable that many people will think them credible. I don’t blame the writers for amusing themselves in this way, but the readers need to ask themselves a few questions.”