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Opinion: Time for a happy ending

Ho ho ho, it is the season of goodwill, joy and Christmas lunches and I want to say something nice. I really do. But I also don’t want to lie. And that would mean writing an entire column without once mentioning the ANC.

Hoo boy.

Look at poor old, dear old Jacob Zuma, His Excellency, our president. Not excellent at all. The old guy is obviously not well, needing recuperative rest periods and holidays in Russia to recover from partying in Zimbabwe. So deep are the concerns for his health among his loyal ANC followers that they have formed a mothering zone around him, keeping him safe from booing and chanting malcontents. Even members of the well-behaved Press were refused entry when the poor man was forced to address the Council of Provinces.

Transparent government? Forget about it. Protect Zuma! And as we have seen in the matter of Nkandla, they will connive, lie and bray to get their way. Let there be no doubt about the intentions of the political gangsters who have become our masters.

How long can Zuma last? He is incapable of leading the country, the British prime minister prefers not to meet with him, new charges have been laid against him, the police are pretending to investigate and his famous virility is all used up. Some commentators are speculating that he has become such a liability not only to South Africa but also to the ANC, that the party may “recall” him, as it did with Thabo Mbeki.

I cannot see it happening. The political mood does not convey such an outcome. While Mbeki’s demise was predictable, none of the violent yet uniting currents and undercurrents of those days are in evidence now. On the contrary. Cosatu is embroiled in an uncivil war, the Economic Freedom Fighters are caught up in focus-shifting street-fighting of their own making, the rank-and-file ANC takes pride in loyalty above democracy and justice, and the SA Communist Party does not have a replacement candidate ready.

Not that I believe Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa will have to stand in for the president for the duration of Zuma’s second term. The health issue may clinch it. Already the frail old fellow goes to Nkandla to relax and recover as often as possible. He cannot be too unwilling to go and do that on a permanent basis. And, with a little help from his friends, all real and imagined misdeeds will be officially pardoned, presenting him with the well-deserved opportunity to spend his twilight years in comfort and without a care in the world.

Life will go on and soon the Democratic Alliance will say that dear old Zuma was a much better guy than his reprehensible successor.

A happy ending, somehow.

  • Last month we had a look at farm murders and the ANC’s despicable response to these crimes against large numbers of our fellow South Africans. From the early targeting of farm people by means of landmines, through the scrapping of the successful commando system, to the censorship of statistics about rural attacks, the conclusion was that farm murders leave the ANC cold. In the same way that the death of Steve Biko in police custody left Jimmy Kruger cold − the apartheid minister of justice at the time.

Not that there is an official, covert campaign to kill off farmers. The ANC apparatchiks simply cannot give a damn that their actions or inaction create circumstances conducive to farm murders.

Some readers suggested that the cause could also be the general ineptness of the ANC and the incompetence of its deployed cadres. That may be so; the result is the same. And it leaves the ANC cold.

But I was happy to discover that not all farm attacks are stories only of horror, torture and death, by reading my colleague Carla van der Spuy’s recently published book on the subject (it is available in Afrikaans and English.)

In addition to providing the statistics until the date of publication (2014,) the author has personally visited the survivors of ten attacks, spent time with them and told their stories. One of those is the story of Helen Mc Ginn of the farm Kwaggasfontein outside Carolina. It ends with a death notice in the local newspaper, dated 10 May 2008:

“In Memoriam: Thulani John Mthimunye 12-02-81 to 07-05-08. In loving memory of Thulani; employee and friend. Thulani, we will really miss you. God be with your family in this sad time. Love, Harold, Helen, Katherine, Heather and Nicholas.”

On 7 May 2008 three strange men arrived on Kwaggasfontein with a gun. They found Thulani and Helen at the cattle kraal and shot Thulani in cold blood. He died where he fell.

“Money, money – we want money,” they demanded. Then they forced Helen into the back of her vehicle, after she had to help them start it. As they were driving away, one of the attackers tried to force himself on her. The driver turned onto a dirt road towards some bushes and she realised she had to fight for her life.

By now she had been pressed down on her back and she could only see the head of the driver above the front seat. “I was wearing my boots. I bent my leg and kicked the driver against the head, as hard as I could.”

The driver, who was racing as fast as the road allowed, lost control of the vehicle and rolled it. Helen was thrown out and hid in the bushes. “I took a chance. I knew I could survive,” she says. The attackers ran away without looking for her.

She was rescued by workers from a neighbouring farm, who were driving by. They took her back home, where one of her workers had already telephoned the neighbours, who, in turn, broadcast the attack on the farm radios. Neighbours and the police arrived within minutes.

The murder weapon, a .357 Magnum revolver, was found near the vehicle. It had been stolen a few weeks previously during a farm attack on an elderly couple near Machadodorp. The police managed to arrest a suspect, but he escaped a week later. The gun’s owner died.

When the revolver was found, it had no more bullets. They had used their last bullet to shoot Thulani.

  • And then there is the amazing story of Lappies Labuschagne, who survived four shots to the head.

He had a prosperous chicken farm near Tzaneen when, on 12 June 2012, a worker running the farm store called to report an attack. Lappies was on his way to town and unarmed, but raced to the scene. There was no sign of his worker or the attackers. Then he was shot in the arm from inside the building and several more shots rang out. He tried to escape, but collapsed. One attacker held him down, soon joined by two others. Lappies tried to get up, but couldn’t.

He heard a shot and felt as if he had received a hammer blow to the back of the head. Three more shots followed. Then they dragged him to the rubbish heap and dumped him.

A woman who had witnessed the attack phoned his house, where his daughter was visiting. She called the police and their neighbours, who rushed to the store and took him to hospital. Although he has permanently lost some use of his right arm, X-rays showed that the head wounds were superficial. No brain damage.

So, I have managed to say something nice after all. As “nice” as it gets. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and may your new year be prosperous!

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