Gordhan: I was fired on TV | Batohi tops NDPP shortlist | Siya warned for using his head | The Daily Menace

19 November 2018

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Gordhan: I was fired on TV

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s much anticipated evidence to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture began this morning and at the time of writing he was recounting then president Jacob Zuma’s unusually intense interest in the R1-trillion Russian nuclear deal. It has been widely speculated that it was Gordhan’s resistance to this deal that cost him his job as finance minister in March last year. Gordhan told the commission Zuma had not given him the courtesy of telling him in person he had been fired and he found out on national television along with the rest of South Africa. He said the first signs of state capture were becoming evident early in Zuma’s presidency: ‘Closer to 2014 and to the current period, a new phenomenon began to arise … many of these strange things were at their peak in 2015 in many institutions all at the same time,’ he said. You can see News24’s live feed here.

Patricia’s party: what’s the point?

Patricia de Lille announced at the weekend that she would be forming a new party but didn’t add much detail – not even a name. Given the modest support she is likely to get – her Independent Democrats secured between 5% and 10% of the vote in Western Cape polls and very little elsewhere – it seems her primary objective is to draw away support from the DA. Perhaps she hopes to get it below 50% in the Western Cape, at which point she would be wonderfully placed to facilitate a coalition provincial government. Maybe she’ll call her new venture the Revenge Party.

Batohi heads NDPP shortlist

Advocate Shamila Batohi is being widely tipped to be President Cyril Ramaphosa’s choice for the key National Director of Public Prosecutions job. She became familiar to the South African public in 2000 as a prosecutor for the King Commission, where she grilled disgraced South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje. For the past decade she has worked as a legal adviser at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The other candidates shortlisted after last week’s interviews in parliament are Siyabulela Mapoma, Simphiwe Mlotshwa, Rodney de Kock and Andrea Johnson. Ramaphosa has until December 19 to make the decision.

California fire: 1,000 missing

The death toll in the California fires has reached 79 with 1,000 people unaccounted for. President Donald Trump visited the scene and suggested the US should take a leaf out of the Finnish book and rake its forest floors. This bewildered the Finns, who said they don’t. Trump also took time out from his schedule to call Democratic congressman Adam Schiff ‘little Adam Schitt’ in a tweet responding to criticism of the president’s appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.


THE DAILY MENACE

Losing Momentum

Nathan Ganas died in a hail of bullets during a hijacking in the driveway of his Durban home last year. He had taken out life insurance with Momentum, but when it came time to pay out to Ganas’ widow the insurer declined. It rejected a R2.4-million life insurance payout because it had found out that the 42-year-old victim hadn’t disclosed a health condition – raised blood sugar levels. Of course, Ganas’ death had nothing to do with diabetes. Despite an outpouring of public anger Momentum is adamant it won’t change its mind. ‘Once we have evidence that a client has not acted in good faith, we rectify the matter in an objective manner, and in the interest of fairness to all our clients … this would ultimately increase the premiums for all our clients.’ Perhaps Momentum has won its case in the fine print, but this menace has lost where it counts – the court of public opinion; its reputation is in shreds.


WHAT’S THE BUSINESS?

Bank on it

White Twitter worked itself up into a frenzy at the weekend over Discovery’s new bank and its announcement that black depositors would receive a 10% share in the company. AfriForum turned its attention from taking the EFF to court for long enough to accuse Discovery of racial discrimination against minorities. Discovery responded to a wave of Twitter criticism by pointing out that it was legally obliged to redress past racial discrimination.

Power problems

Parts of the country were hit by power cuts from soon after midday to 10pm yesterday as Eskom’s generators battled to keep up with demand. But the power utility said today there was no immediate plan to introduce load shedding, despite 11 power stations having been taken offline. Spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said some of Eskom’s aging coal-fired power stations were ‘not operating optimally’.


IN THE SPORTS CORNER

Siya warned for using his head

Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi received a warning from Citing Commissioner David Pelton ‘for striking with the head’ after he head-butted Scotland’s Peter Horne in the rugby Test on Saturday. The incident took place in the 31st minute of South Africa’s 26-20 win over Scotland at Murrayfield. Having reviewed the video, Pelton last night ruled there were mitigating factors which meant that the action did not meet the red card threshold, ‘including the player being illegally prevented from re-joining the play’. The warning means Kolisi is free to play against Wales this weekend, but the decision will go down on his disciplinary record.

Three contenders for Bulls job

The race for the Super Rugby head coach for the Bulls rugby franchise has been narrowed down to three candidates. According to Sport 24, the three are Deon Davids, the head coach of the Southern Kings; Pote Human, the Bulls Super Rugby forwards coach and Currie Cup head coach; and Victor Matfield, a huge favourite with the Pretoria fans and former Bulls captain and Springbok lock. The final round of interviews will be held shortly.

Four days, four-run win

Who said Test cricket is boring? New Zealand grabbed an unlikely four-run win on the fourth day of the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi this morning. Chasing 176 for victory, Pakistan lost three wickets in the space of just eight runs, but recovered until they needed just 29 with six wickets in hand. A second collapse left the final partnership of Azhar Ali and Mohammad Abbas needing 12 for the win. Ali did a remarkable job of farming the strike but was trapped leg before to give New Zealand their narrowest victory ever.


SAY WHAT?

Getting to the bottom of fartgate

A strong whiff of controversy has wafted over the Grand Slam of Darts championships in Wolverhampton. Two-time world champion Gary Anderson won Thursday’s match 10-2 to progress to the quarterfinals, but Dutchman Wesley Harms cried foul and explained his poor performance by accusing Anderson of leaving a ‘fragrant smell’. ‘It’ll take me two nights to lose this smell from my nose,’ he told Dutch TV.  Anderson trotted out the ‘whoever smelt it dealt it’ defence (or in this case, ‘whoever threw the dart did the fart’). ‘If the boy thinks I’ve farted he’s 1,010% wrong,’ he responded. ‘I had a bad stomach once on stage before and admitted it. So I’m not going to lie about farting on stage.’ The British press has dubbed the stink over the championship Fartgate and Mick Twister (@twitmericks) summed up the colonic controversy rather eloquently:
A Dutch player losing at darts
Declared he’d been put off by farts;
The Scot said ‘Who smelt it,
We tend to find, dealt it –
Try sniffing your own nether parts!’


TWEET OF THE DAY

If, like us, you are battling to get your head around what is happening with Brexit, this tweet from the UK’s Newton Emerson (@NewtonEmerson) might make you feel a bit better:

My wife’s just switched the news off exclaiming ‘this is too complicated’ and resumed writing her aeronautical engineering thesis on ‘Improving the Performance of Thermoplastic Composite Structural Joints’.


CRYPTIC CLUE OF THE DAY

Today’s clue, compiled by @7upislemonade, is Disturbing Hugh in a lift is pretentious (11)

The solution to Friday’s clue, Brexit starts with Conservatives getting optimistic (6) is BRIGHT – B (‘Brexit starts’) + Right (‘Conservatives’) gives a synonym for ‘optimistic’


THE BIG READ

Kevin Alexander ate 330 burgers in his quest to find America’s best burger – and when he ate a burger from Stanich in Portland, Oregon, he fell in love with it. ‘It had every element I craved: the griddled thin patty, the caramelised onions, the oozy American cheese. And the way it was built – the thoughtfulness of red relish and mayo on one side and the mustard mixture on the other – helped turn it into something greater than the sum of its parts.’ He declared it the winner and, by doing so, he broke it. This is not only about burgers it’s a story about doing journalism in the age of lists.


WHAT WE SAY

The presence of both the EFF and the BLF outside the Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture to protest against Pravin Gordhan appears to be a telling metaphor for what the red-beret brigade has become. A few months ago the EFF was rampant, bringing considerable pressure on then president Jacob Zuma for his role in state capture. At the same time the BLF – all two members and a Gupta-funded smartphone – was busily defending Zuma. And then Zuma was gone and President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped in with a pledge to fight corruption. This undermined the moral rationale which the EFF had mustered in its fight against Zuma and it has since been opportunistically searching for new ways to excite its base (whites, Indians and journalists have all become targets). Today that search led it to the doors of the building hosting the commission, as it did the BLF. The overwhelming impression that this apparently nonsensical protest creates is that Gordhan knows something about the EFF leadership that it would rather keep hidden. And that it has lost its way.


Dear Reader,

As you know, this is a free newsletter (don’t stop reading – we are not about to ask you for money). The three of us started out putting it together as an experiment of sorts after being repeatedly asked by people where they can go for a sensible summary of the day’s news. We didn’t have a simple answer so thought we’d have a go at providing one ourselves. We now have many more subscribers than we anticipated and are beginning to think that, maybe, this could be a thing. Among your number are quite a few who have offered to pay for our offering, but we don’t want to go down that route. Instead we have a request for you – please share this with like-minded friends, family and associates and encourage them to subscribe. If we can grow our subscription base we just might be able to attract some advertising, which would give us some income and the freedom to dedicate more time and energy to the.news.letter. As things stand we are doing this between other commitments and largely as a labour of love. We would dearly like to be able to dedicate more time and energy to it.

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Gus Silber on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

By Gus Silber

A few years ago, out of a sense of neighbourly obligation and morbid curiosity, I attended an amateur talent evening at a local church hall.

There was a piano recital, played with an air of studious grace; there was a standup comedian, with some wry and cutting observations on race and suburbia; there was a dancer doing a Jazz routine, with a smile on her face and her feet all over the place.

Then it was the turn of a rock band, a three-piece in the classic format of drums, bass, and guitar. They looked shy and earnest – it must have been their first gig – and as the guitarist leaned back and strummed the opening power chord, there was a squeal and a fritz as the amp cut out, leaving just a shiver of steel strings scratching at the air.

The band convened to analyse the problem, fiddling with the dials and trouble-checking the connections, and the MC rushed on stage and said, this won’t take a minute, and she was right.

She stood there for a while, looking on and smiling as the minutes ticked by, and then, out of nowhere, as if thinking aloud, she opened her mouth and sang: “Is this the real life…”
On the other end of the stage, another member of the church’s youth group answered the call, singing: “Is this just fantasy?”

And someone in the audience, without any prompting, sang, “Caught in a landslide”, and someone else sang “No escape from reality”.

And on and on, the thread of the a cappella rising in surge and volume, until we were all singing, all of us, the kids and the teens and the adults, all the way through the Scaramouch and the Fandango and the Galileo and the Mama Mia to the wistful ache of the fadeout – “Any way the wind blows” – and the rapturous burst of self-applause that followed.

It was further proof, if any were needed, that everyone knows Bohemian Rhapsody, which was recorded by Queen in 1975, and which has since, thanks to its ubiquitous use in movies and ads and football stadium singalongs, become a bridge between the generations, a shared gene implanted in our collective cultural memory.

We all know the words of the song by heart, and yet their meaning remains mysterious, elusive, open to interpretation. But that is part of the beauty of art. Once the artist sets it free, it belongs to us all, and we can weigh it up and peel away its secrets in any way we choose.

So the way I hear it, and I’m hearing it a lot these days, in the hype-up to the release of the biopic of the same name, Bohemian Rhapsody is about, well, six minutes long, during the course of which Freddie Mercury contemplates the most cosmic question of them all, on the mercurial nature of existence itself, the state of being or not being in the everyday world.

It’s about the ancient, perpetual battle between the fates and the furies, between the tempests that rage all around us, and our innate drive to rise up and rage back against them.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the song can be heard as a modern riff on the most famous meditation on mortality in the English language: the fourth soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

When the Prince of Denmark ponders whether to be or not to be, he is foreshadowing the anguish of Mercury’s schizophrenic couplet, “I don’t wanna die”, followed immediately by “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all”.

And when Mercury moans “Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time”, he brings to mind Hamlet’s meanderings on the “heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”.

Hamlet, troubled out of his mind by his mom and dad, the latter who is a ghost, the former who married his murderer with unseemly haste, is a tragic figure, bent on revenge and wallowing in self-pity, just as Freddie does when he cries: “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me”.

Over the centuries, Hamlet’s mental state has provided rich pickings for professional and amateur analysts alike: at the very least, he is a melancholic, delusional and paranoid, with moments of crystal clarity and insight: “When the wind is southerly,” he insists, “I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

But it is worth remembering that Hamlet, too, must admit to his Mama at one point that he killed a man, albeit the wrong man, and albeit with a sword thrust through a curtain, rather than a gun against the head.

Alas, poor Polonius, and alas all the others of royal ilk who – spoiler alert – are led to their untimely demise by the time the curtain falls.

Bohemian Rhapsody may have less drama to its plotting, but it has no less melodrama, and Freddie too veers from existential despair – “nothing really matters anymore” – to the mania of the middle section, where he sees a little silhouetto of a man and gets very very frightened by the thunder and lightning.

Then he rages: “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye, so you think you can love me and leave me to die”, perhaps against a treacherous lover, perhaps against the universe, it’s hard to tell and it’s better that we don’t know for sure.

It’s enough that this song, this radical, audacious, format-defying work of pop genius, delves so deeply into a sea of troubles, and then takes arms against them with slings and arrows and drums and guitars, until the music itself becomes reason enough for being.
The lesson that lingers, as the final harmony fades into the ether, is this: in the battle between the fates and the furies, choose the furies.

Choose art, choose beauty, choose truth, choose life, choose to sing along to the words you know by heart, any way the wind blows.

*This first appeared on Gus Silber’s Facebook page.

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