Ntshebe's barbershop mirrors the mood in SA politics

Ntshebe's barber in Orlando East.
Ntshebe's barber in Orlando East.

There is a place on the corner of my street where I cut my hair. It's been there for as long as I can remember.

Every day without fail "Ntshebe" - the Bearded One - places two plastic chairs under a makeshift tent, hangs a cracked truck side mirror on the wall, and places a tired looking stool on the dirty, sun-dried mat on the side for those waiting their turn. This is the classic barber in Soweto.

It's a lively place, especially on weekends. Ntshebe draws customers from all over who not only come for his grooming skills but also for his quirky behaviour.

Ntshebe is from Zimbabwe but knows more about South Africa than most people and I know the reason why, he is a great conversationalist with a keen interest in current affairs.

One of his favourite subjects of late is the government and local soccer; he is a staunch supporter of Mamelodi Sundowns and a serial critic of the ANC. This combination makes for very lively arguments.

On a typical Saturday, 100-plus people will come to get their hair cut by him. He uses faded but sharp Wahl clippers; he wears only blue overalls and for a barber, he is incredibly unkempt.

As far as I'm concerned, Ntshebe's barbershop resembles the general mood and events in our country's politics; there is never agreement on anything, no one wants to take responsibility, and you leave there reeking of methylated spirits.

No argument has an end. "I'm right and you're wrong" is the holy mantra governing all discussions.

The loudest person is normally the one who knows the least and the voice of reason waits till others are gone before saying something.

I thought I knew what our government does but clearly I have been off the mark. I was made to believe that those elected to power must be of high quality - not only in their personal lives but, most importantly, in the way they run the business of the country.

But if one looks at the many commissions of inquiry taking place and what our leaders get up to, it would be suspect not to wonder if they really understand what they do.

Take Malusi Gigaba. Chaos seems to follow him wherever he goes. One can reason that it's bad luck and circumstance, but at some point he has to accept it's his own doing; the cat is out of the bag.

Not only is he the face of state capture, his personal life is also in question. Between the supposed infidelity and now blackmail through videos, I wonder what the future has in store for him. Even though Gigaba has stepped out of the public eye, his position in the ANC's national executive committee, the party's chief decision-making body, keeps him firmly in the thick of the country's governance.

Tom Moyane, who is fighting tooth and nail for a job he no longer has, is also an interesting character with questionable dealings. If the Sars head of IT is anything to go by, e-filing is not the only area we need to be concerned about.

Siyabonga Gama, who last month was derailed as Transnet CEO, has more to worry about now than he did some weeks ago. It seems, through the testimony by Barbara Hogan at the Zondo commission, Gama was not only greasing the railways of the country, he was also greasing the palms of the corrupt.

The current leadership leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many in SA. At least, at Ntshebe's corner, one leaves more handsome for a small fee of R10 a cut.

LEBOGANG MOKOENA Web Producer at BusinessLIVE

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