The sight of a dancing British Prime Minister Theresa May on her visit to ID Mkize Secondary School, Gugulethu this week, stirred my proudly Anglican spirit.
The fact that she didn’t hoist a “Release Mandela” banner at the barricades outside South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, must be measured against her version of The Robot popularised by Michael Jackson in the 1970s. And that she did it in front of the world press is admirable and courageous.
Ms May spoke to the dance master in me as she responded to the a capella sound of the children’s choir. She moved her head to one side and then the other as if hearing a sound from her teenage years in her dad’s vicarage in Oxfordshire. When the drumming began, Ms May revealed her street smarts, popping some unanticipated robotics. Of course not, you snooty we’ve-got-rhythm types, she was recalling the rhythm of Dancing Machine by The Jackson Five. With that in mind, see how she pops, moving her arms, staccato-like, to the lyrics that only she is hearing: “She’s a dancing machine move it baby. Automatic, systematic, full of colour she’s such a sexy lady” and so on.
The venerable Deon Irish notes that Theresa May “is not a Head of State and is accordingly not entitled to a 21-gun salute”. He is right of course, yet she is worthy of such salutary acknowledgment - even if only for her nod to Strictly Come Dancing. It was with this image in mind that I took a sharp interest in a photo of our previous president, who to my surprise, was grooving to one of my moves.
There was a party in Makwanda (previously Grahamstown) when I was in the second year of my studies for the priesthood in 1983. Many of my fellow seminarians hold high office in the church, including one being a bishop so I won’t mention their names.
A lady student from Rhodes was so smitten by the lovely eyes of one of my confederates (he hailed from Bonteheuwel), she slipped a R20 note into his pocket while bluesing to Your Body’s Here with Me (But Your Mind’s on The Other Side of Town) by the O’Jays.
Fellow Azanians, it was at this Goemba where I first introduced the Eastern Cape to my dance style, called The Duke, my nickname at the time. It’s a combo of a Nama vastrap, a James Brown slide and, most important, an ability to improvise as the spirit of the beat moves you. Smile and sing to yourself while in the groove. Being a fairly spiritual child of our culture, I would, leaning forward, lift my left leg, singing, Trappie kop vannie duiwel and then stamp the ground at, innie naam vannie Here, ennie Here sal jou seen. Some hip movement followed by the splaying of your legs, a bit like a giraffe at a drinking hole, is encouraged but it’s not essential. Trevor Manuel, I’ve been told, does this very well.
As the crowd responded to this expression of iKapa Koloni Kultuur, I felt envy-based tension from one or two males in the room. I slipped an ou roeker rol into my move and wrapped my Tiger jacket round my right forearm so as to fend off any okapi action. Nothing happened.
But that cautionary measure soon appeared in the jorls in the student residences and some of the local shebeens such as Mickey’s Joint on Raglan Road. Now at this one Goemba there were a few Congress of South African Students cadres present (during Shepi Mati’s presidency). They took The Duke with them across the Limpopo and into exile in the hinterland of our continent. Msholozi, I learnt my moves from them there in the camps of uMkhonto we Sizwe in Angola. I understand there’s an empty chair with my name on it at the State Capture Zondo Commission.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.