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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Van Rooyen suddenly withdraws his interdict

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Remarkable exceptions to the rule

By unknown | Aug 27, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SOMETIMES I think white South Africans have only themselves to blame when black folks start making snide remarks about them without their understanding one word.

SOMETIMES I think white South Africans have only themselves to blame when black folks start making snide remarks about them without their understanding one word.

Damn it, apartheid aside, had they begun to learn an African language when uhuru dawned they would, at worst, be speaking with the fluency of a 15-year-old African child.

And, truth be told, black folks do say things about "these people" right under their noses.

Years back a well-known (white) political analyst visited my place of work. While he waited in the reception area for his host to come and sign him in, the receptionist remarked in Zulu: "Shu, mubi lomlungu, nkosi yami!" (My God, this white man is ugly!).

Female staffers hanging around concurred and added their bit, ridiculing the poor white fella, who stared blankly into space as they giggled.

He was eventually signed in, did his business, and as he left the building, sidled up to the receptionist and, in the tone of one who could have lived all his life in the sticks of KwaZulu-Natal, remarked: "Sengiyahamba ke, ntombi enhle. Usale kahle." (I am going, pretty lady, goodbye).

He got into the lift and vanished, leaving the receptionist wordless with shame.

The other day, listening to the radio, someone mentioned the name of a famous (now departed) liberal politician who was in the same stable as the Helen Suzmans of this world. When some famous, now defunct, political party was formed I was invited to the launch, which was held at his awesome mansion in Houghton.

As my luck turned out, except for the barman, I was the only black person in the crowd.

Now, every black person who has found himself in such a situation will attest to the irritation of fawning, well-meaning white folks wanting to know if you won't have another glass of wine.

The worst - an apparent favourite - is: "What do you think of Winnie Mandela?"

Lately, I am told, she has been replaced by Julius Malema.

Back to that launch party.

I engaged the barman in small talk and before I knew it I was ranting on about politics. Race politics, to be specific.

His boss, the famous politician and host, was standing right next to him as I blabbered on in Sesotho.

I remarked about the obscene splendour of the residence, while he was "obviously" paid peanuts - as if I knew.

I don't remember if I equated his boss with the devil, but I might have.

The single-malt whisky had now taken over and, as they say, in vino veritas (in wine there is truth).

As I warmed to my subject, conscientising a brother, he ignored me, looking the other way, which only served to make me much louder and more animated.

I was reaching a crescendo when the famous politician tapped me on the shoulder and, pointing at the barman, spoke gently into my ear: "Sir, this man has been with me for very many years."

He then walked away.

When he was out of sight, the barman looked at me pitifully, shook his head and said: "That man speaks Sesotho very well."

I don't remember walking towards the door, but in seconds I was out of there . shamed, and sober.


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