Politicians take insults to new level
Cape Town -To be a South African politician you need Teflon skin to ward off personal insults – and in recent weeks, even faeces – to stop it sticking when it hits the proverbial fan.
The DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko bore the brunt of the insults last week. During a parliamentary debate, the ANC’s John Jeffrey declared: “While the Honourable Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable.”
He later indicated that he would be withdrawing the remark, which he said was intended to be a pun.
On the same day, the ANC’s Buti Manamela said: “If the rand is weak, blame Zuma. If there’s a cloud on Table Mountain, blame Zuma. If Lindiwe Mazibuko is arrested by fashion police, blame Zuma.”
A row ensued, in which the DA accused the ANC of being sexist and the ANC issued a statement saying Mazibuko’s outfit had been “inappropriate” for Parliament.
They pointed out that Theuns Botha of the DA had once referred to Lynne Brown as a hippopotamus in the Western Cape legislature.
ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo told the Mail & Guardian that Mazibuko’s outfit, a black-and-white dress worn with a red jacket and black tights, was “too casual”. Later, ANC deputy chief whip Nkhensani Kubayi accused her of “reversing the gains of women in Parliament”.
“I can’t remember what she said (during Wednesday’s debate). I was embarrassed, it was just a (long) top, it was just above the bums (sic) and the leggings were transparent,” The Citizen quoted Kubayi as saying.
Taking it even further, the SACP, in a bid to defend the ANC, released a statement referring to Mazibuko as a “disrespectful kid” who should treat President Jacob Zuma with respect as he’s an “elderly citizen”.
Recently MPs from the DA and the Freedom Front Plus nearly came to blows in the house, after the FF+’s Pieter Groenewald referred to Giordin Hill-Lewis (DA) as a “dom Englesman” (stupid Englishman).
And although this week’s insults made a list of the top 10 sexist comments in politics on the UK site of The Guardian newspaper, it is not the first time that Mazibuko has been attacked.
She was once called “un-African” by MP Jackson Mthembu during a debate when he called a point of order to ask what she had done to her hair.
And the former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema famously refused to debate with a “tea girl”.
Mazibuko this week referred to her body as a “site of struggle”.
But hers is not the only DA body on the ANC’s hitlist. Former defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, known for her sharp tongue, was forced to retract comments she made in Parliament earlier this year in which she referred to DA MP David Maynier’s “flea-infested body”.
Under Malema, and helped by spokesman Floyd Shivambu, the youth league was almost as well known for the personal insults it delivered as it was for its politics.
The league also called DA leader Helen Zille a “fake, racist girl who was dropped on her head as a child”, and accused her of electing an all-white, male cabinet because they were her “boyfriends and concubines”.
Political journalists were not spared the youth league’s barbs, with BBC reporter Jonah Fisher being called a “bastard”, “a bloody agent”, and attacked for the “rubbish” in his pants.
Former Independent Newspapers journalist Carien du Plessis took Shivambu to court for referring to her as a “white bitch” in SMSes. He was forced to apologise by the court.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu once referred to Malema as a “menace and a monster”, to which a group calling themselves the Economic Freedom Fighters responded by calling Mthembu, once arrested for drunken driving, a “drunkard” whose remarks had been “childish and intoxicated-inspired”.
In 2005, Trevor Manuel referred to then-Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille as a “useful idiot”, after first telling her she “has no idea what she is talking about”.
Former DA leader Tony Leon took his fair share of flak, referred to as a “Chihuahua” by many, including former president Thabo Mbeki.