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A friend who once edited a South African hip hop magazine often tells a story of a radio DJ who, for the love of the US, invented stories about his connections to some of that country’s biggest stars. He would never finish a conversation without using the old, tired “when I was in the US” line.
He “travelled” to the US at the rate at which our national carrier, SAA, flies to New York, and “attended” every major party and album launch by the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Akon, Beyonce, Rihanna and 50 Cent. He wrote about his “experiences” in the magazine and the unsuspecting editor ran them without blinking.
Often, the DJ would be “out of the country”, in “the US”, cutting a deal or partying with these stars. The SA radio station where he freelanced would “cross over” to this DJ in “the US” by phone during a hip hop show. But the DJ would, in real life, be meaning it literally when he announced that he was “in the building” during the “crossing over” .
One day a DJ at a sister station, also in the same SABC building in Auckland Park, bumped into this DJ in the parking lot when he was supposedly on the phone “live and direct from the US”. The US was, in fact, the SABC basement parking at Auckland Park, Joburg.
The DJ, then dating an actress, also told the magazine he was off to the US for some star’s birthday bash in Miami and would send a story and pictures from there, exclusively. He had called from OR Tambo International Airport’s “departure lounge” the night before he “left” for the US and the following morning he had called, in his fake American accent, to say he had “safely arrived” in America – jetlag and all.
But then he surprisingly turned up to drop off his girlfriend at a fashion shoot for the magazine the next morning, unaware the editor fellow would be there. Their eyes were locked for a good five minutes, and neither said a word. They were paralysed by shock.
Back at the office, when he checked the articles the DJ had submitted to the magazine’s past editions, the editor was horrified to discover that a few had been plagiarised from US magazines.
Armed with evidence of the plagiarism, the editor summoned the DJ to the magazine’s Joburg offices upon his “return” from the US and demanded to see his passport so that the immigration stamps on it could confirm the trips to the US over the last year.
The editor showed him the door and canned his column because it had all been a fraud.
I tell this story today to illustrate how easy it can be to fool a whole country. South Africans are especially gullible. They can believe anything – especially someone who looks clever, speaks with a twang and claims to have a degree from a US university.
When I heard Fikile Mbalula was courting Beyonce to be the main act at the annual SA Sports Awards, I knew exactly where it was all coming from-– the very same DJ, who is Mbalula’s “connection” with these US stars.
It is the DJ’s continued infatuation with the US, now finding fertile grounds to breed in Mbalula’s mind, satisfying the minister’s own teenage fantasies with American artists, and bankrolled by the public purse.
Both men’s obsession with the US and its artists at the expense of our own local talent is beyond comprehension. It’s a sickness.
It is worsened by the fact that in Mbalula already exists an izikhothane culture prevalent among some young ANC leaders. And If Mbalula and his ilk can be allowed to propagate their izikhothane ways in the top echelons of the ruling party, all we will ever do is party, drink and use the US as a barometer to measure our success as a people.
Izikhothane, for the uninitiated, is a township craze in which poor black kids hound their parents to buy top fashion brands and, while high on booze and other substances, burn it all up in a day during a street party, just to brag among themselves as to who the boss is.
It is a fantasy world these kids have created in their minds, a crazy binge that costs their parents money they don’t have. Some of them, if they don’t get their way, commit suicide just because they cannot stand the taunts from rivals.
For a man older than 40, Mbalula is too old to be an isikhothane. Or want to be like the DJ. He has created his own fantasy world where he needs the US to look smart and upwardly mobile.
That Mbalula even toyed with the idea of bringing Beyonce to an SA event that has nothing to do with music, and that he would beg for the R17 million price tag to realise his dream of rubbing shoulders with her and other US stars of his fantasies, sickens. It’s an insult to SA artists.
Last year, for the same awards, he spent R500 000 of money that could have gone towards sports development, paying US has-been Brandy alone. The actual cost of bringing Brandy, Vivica Fox and others who possibly formed a greater part of Mbalula’s teenage fantasies, may never be known.
It’s as idiotic as it is moronic to say that if he brings Beyonce, Mbalula will seek funds from private companies or individuals. He might just as well quit his ministerial job and become a music promoter. If he’s such an avid negotiator, why isn’t he negotiating with these rich people to sponsor sports development?
Corruption begins when a minister goes begging for money from private companies or individuals to fuel his own personal interests disguised as national programmes. At some point in life, Mbalula will have to repay these companies and individuals. How will he do it? Offer them contracts?
Partying and awards ceremonies should not be a priority at this stage. Achieve sporting excellence, build strong development structures, and once the conveyor belt is up and running, churning out star after star in all sporting disciplines, then reward excellence.
And when that happens, do not look further than our own borders for entertainment. SA teems with highly talented but poor artists who have no chance in hell of being invited to perform at any US event and getting paid millions in dollars.
They cannot starve in their own country while Mbalula and his ilk satisfy their izikhothane fantasies.
This preoccupation with partying, US women, models and drinking is going to be Mbalula’s downfall. His izikhothane lifestyle is going to come back to bite him.
He has already survived his first sex scandal involving a model who makes a living dating fat, beer-bellied izikhothane politicians, who include those in Mbalula’s circles.
Like the American wannabe DJ in the SABC basement parking lot, Mbalula will one day be caught with his pants down. Literally.