When I first noticed Julius Malema’s face in the crowd at last week’s Durban July, I assumed that as a hard-core socialist revolutionary, he was there to champion the cause of the exploited and underpaid racehorse grooms at the city’s most famous horse-racing event.
Only a few days earlier, the big race had been threatened by a major strike by grooms protesting at the Summerveld training centre.
But, as the EFF leader later stepped into full view, I realised he was not in his trademark red overalls, but looking dapper in a three-piece grey suit and paisley tie, with his lovely wife at his side.
No, Malema was not here to render the hallowed turf of Greyville ungovernable, but just to have a good time and share in the delights of one of white colonialism’s enduring traditions.
It’s a day when many Gucci revolutionaries abandon their hang-ups, dress to the nines, sip expensive cocktails, munch daintily on carefully-crafted canapes and wager a few grand on a nag.
Malema has a reputation of being feverishly obsessed with the issue of race. So, as I followed him around the July, I wondered how his mind worked when deciding on a horse to put his money on. Would he, for instance, be browned off if a horse called White River pipped African Night Sky to the post?
And, as a vociferous champion of BEE, would it offend his principles to bet on a horse not ridden by a black jockey? While he hobnobbed with the champions of white monopoly capital in the luxury suites, I wondered whether he realised many of his newfound companions happened to be Boers from a farming background?
And would he have minded being served by waiters who happened to be Indian, the majority of whom he has unfairly labelled as racist?
The Durban July is not complete without a sumptuous multicourse lunch in the chairman’s lounge and I imagine Malema would have joined a diverse assortment of South Africans to enjoy a typical Mzansi menu – a Greek salad starter, roast chicken leg with chakalaka for carvery, a pukka Indian breyani for main, a few Cape Malay koeksisters for dessert and a cup of English tea.
Mixing with other South Africans can be an eye-opener, Mr Malema.
You should do it again.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.