Lindiwe and me, sitting in a tree…

How about that Lindiwe Sisulu, eh? Phwoaar. I’d give her one. Wouldn’t you?

If our minister of tourism rocked up at your front door wearing a La Perla negligee and seductively fanning herself with a wad of tenders for the taking, would you turn her away? Liar. If it were the good old days, you’d have had your way with her and then called the cops because, as a law-abiding Christian, you would have known that darkies weren’t allowed to be in your bedroom unless they were cleaning it. But then you would have been arrested for contravening the Immorality Act. Tough call. It wasn’t easy being a whitey in those days.

Speaking of which, other delightful laws the previous mob passed in parliament included the Group Areas Act, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act. You’d think the 1950s might have been a more appropriate time to torch the building.

So, yes. I am in love with Lindiwe Sisulu. Okay, love might be too strong a word. This brave woman has spent many years suffering in a multitude of senior government positions, forced to accept a humiliatingly large salary while being muzzled from speaking out against a proto-fascist, neo-colonialist, post-imperialist document the monopoly capitalists and their running lapdogs in the judiciary call the “constitution”. This has been her personal Robben Island and if her Zumanista comrades ever RETurn to power, she should be first in line for a medal.

Cynics will say the only reason I am enamoured of the warrior princess is that, when she was the supreme overlord of housing in 2005 – doing her utmost to ensure that if every poor person couldn’t get a house, then no poor people would get a house (she is nothing if not a true egalitarian) – she mentioned my name while giving the keynote address at a graduation ceremony at the Centurion Lake Hotel. The event was for a group called Women for Housing Contractors. Presumably they’re all driving Lamborghinis today.

Yes, I know it sounds like I’ve gone mad and am making this up, but I haven’t and I’m not. Lindiwe quoted extensively from a column of mine, giving appropriate credit since this was long before she crossed over to the dark side and began dabbling in plagiarism. The column satirised a particular aspect of the relationship between men and women. Looking back, I hope it was satire. It strikes me now as having been deeply and inappropriately sexist. But whatever it was, she liked it. She ended off by saying, “My guess is that all of us here will agree with him.” The idea of a hall full of women agreeing with me on anything was simultaneously troubling and intoxicating.

As if that wasn’t wild enough, two months later, addressing the Black Management Forum at Nedbank’s head office in Sandton (before we were all brainwashed into a dot-connecting trance), she quoted extensively from a column I wrote about a Klipdrift advert featuring a black couple in a car who break down and are rescued by a white farmer. In her speech, Lindiwe referred to me as “our Ben Trovato”. She is the only person in power who has ever acknowledged that I am a national treasure. For that alone, she has my undying support. Then again, nobody from the Black Management Forum has ever called with an offer I couldn’t refuse. Is it because I’m white?

Were Lindiwe to publicly call me “our Ben Trovato” tomorrow, I would have to go into hiding. Damned with faint praise doesn’t come close. I’d be in the Scared Witless Protection Programme in no time at all. It’s blindingly obvious that lines are being drawn and positions staked – fairly informally, because there are those who prefer to watch the wind rather than start it. For now. But tornados are coming and bad moons are rising and your best bet is to batten the hatches and lie low until it all blows over. Or up. Whatever.

The right honorable mentions the downright dishonorable

My vote in this weekend’s ANC elective conference – not that I have one – goes to the Cyril Ramaphosa/Lindiwe Sisulu tag team. Not just because she’s a political thoroughbred with looks to match, but also because she’s the only politician who has ever mentioned my name in a public forum. Not once, but twice. Okay, so it was almost 13 years ago. But I like to imagine she still thinks of me from time to time. I thought I’d share the honorable mentions.
 
Speech by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu at the Women for Housing Contractors Graduation Ceremony
Centurion Lake Hotel
14 March 2005
The satirical Ben Trovato, writes in one of his recent pieces that:
‘Men are genetically designed to leave a mess in their wake. Luckily, one of the spin-offs of evolution is that women are programmed to clean. This is why I know without a shadow of doubt that George Bush is a real man.
Just look at the mess he is making. And when it comes to the final mopping up operation, I would not be all surprised to see half a million Washington wives flying into Baghdad with industrial vacuum cleaners, heavy-duty pot scourers and a stern warning to suicide bombers that they will be expected to clean up after themselves’.
Even though Trovato expresses the value of women to the rest of human society in as mocking a manner as I quote here, and perhaps more seriously in as less an illuminating way about the true nature of the relationship between men and women – a relationship founded more on social conditions than on biological traits – my guess is that all of us here will agree with him.
 
Speech by Lindiwe Sisulu: Minister of Housing at the Black Management Forum
26 May 2005
Nedbank Head Office, Sandton
In 1776, the famous Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations, drew our attention to those kinds of deprivations that he described as causing ‘an inability to appear in public without shame’. He made reference in this regard to the English custom that rendered leather shoes a necessity of life in the eighteenth century. Until recently, our Ben Trovato thought that he had discovered the custom that enabled South Africans to set out in public with perhaps the same attachment to the custom as the English. He therefore writes that:
“I used to drink Klipdrift by the barrel until they started screening their latest advertisement on television. You know the one – black yuppie couple stop on a dirt road to admire the view or whatever it is that black yuppie couples get up to on the rare occasion they are out of cellphone range.
Next, a dangerous-looking white farmer pulls up in his bakkie. But instead of slamming the black guy over the bonnet of his shiny new 4×4 and loudly denouncing him as a bastard son of a dead hijacker, as one might expect, he hooks up the guy’s car and tows it away at one hell of a speed. Not to the nearest police station, but back to his place.
We assume that, once there, he will strip them both naked and bring out the horsewhip. But, no. Friendly Frikkie brings out a bottle of Klipdrift instead. By the end of the advert the black man clearly wishes it had been the horsewhip.
For the rest of the evening the two couples do little else but drink enormous quantities of brandy and consistently misunderstand each other. This, at least, is an accurate reflection of the new South Africa, even if it does stop short of the black couple lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, or at the very least coming back a week later with on outraged Debora Patta in tow.
Now, if the advert had featured a couple of fresh-faced white yuppies being accosted by a big black brute of a goat farmer who dragged them back to his place against their will, fed them piles of steaming offal and forced then to drink buckets of skokiaan, they would have kept me as a customer.’
I think that in having given up on the Klipdrift advertisement I can through yourselves here, offer Ben Trovato a dependable and reliable custom. I think that together we can ensure that together with millions of other South Africans I am attracted to this story of the Klipdrift because this is indeed such an accurate reflection of the competing interests of various sectors of any society in transformation. We as the state have the responsibility to mediate to ensure that we can arrive at the position where we can all share in the stability that has been created. And our, tonic, in this regard, is not the notorious Klipdrift that sets people talking past each but the Comprehensive Plan on Sustainable Human Settlements.