Confident?

It’s a potential watershed day for South Africa today. Yet another no confidence vote on our rotten president in Parliament, but this one has an edge on the previous versions in that it’s a secret ballot. And the opposition parties even had to go to court to get that ‘concession’.

Albeit that the ANC has slowly been losing ground in our comparatively young democracy, it still holds a huge majority. So at least 20% of the ANC MPs must vote against Zuma in order for the motion to pass (assuming that all the opposition MPs also vote that way, which seems (mostly) likely).

JZ and his people have worked hard – in various ways – to ensure that they are well supported within the party. There’s clear evidence of corruption and wrongdoing, but a lot of ANC MPs are involved in those nefarious acts, or they’re willing to overlook them, or they simply don’t care. Previously, anyone from the ANC sticking their anti-Zuma head up above the parapet has been swiftly dispatched, so the secret ballot is an important step. But then what personal reward is there for being on the right side of history if you’re voting anonymously?

Will it be enough to succeed? Probably not, but I’m not sure that anyone actually has any idea. Apart from the fact that the vote might be quite close, there could be individuals who are saying one thing and doing the other – to the benefit of either side. It’s politics, hey?

Here’s how a secret ballot happens in the RSA Parliament.

And if it succeeds, what happens then? This.

If a vote of no confidence is successful the President and the entire Cabinet will have to resign. The Speaker becomes acting president. The NA must (within 30 days) elect a new president from among its members.

So Baleke Mbete as Acting President. Frying pans, fires.

And if it fails?

Personally, I think it will be a bigger blow for the opposition parties that they’d like to admit. This is definitely their best chance yet at removing JZ, and they seem to have high hopes. Of course, they’re going to talk up their chances, but when you put that public face on, you have to publicly accept the consequences if or when things don’t go your way.

That said, every time there’s a no confidence vote in Zuma, it damages and fragments the ANC further, and so they will surely go again. The ongoing danger is that by next time, the ruling party has worked out which MPs voted against Zuma and has moved to… remind them of their party “obligations”, and realign them with the JZ faithful.

There’s an air of expectation over Cape Town today. It feels like a big day. It feels like things could change. But no-one is willing to stick their neck out and call it just yet. Personally, I think that there’s no chance of the vote succeeding, but I’m just a humble bacterium wrangler and world famous blogger, not a political expert. And I really have no problem with being wrong on this one. None at all.

 

Not today, Josephine

As the rain falls over Cape Town again this evening, and we take time out to thank those who eventually got around to praying for it, I am writing this and then getting back off the internet, pronto.

See, when “big things” occur overseas, the internet – most especially the rage-first-(maybe)-think-later little bit of the internet called Twitter, which is where I spend most of my internet time – becomes an extremely unpleasant place to be.

There are always people out there who think that they know better than you. The ‘thought-leaders’, the self-appointed ‘Twitterati’.
And look, in some cases, maybe they do.
But the thing is that these people are of a mind that they always know better than you. They’ll go out of their way to remind you of that, and tell you what you should be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. I don’t like these people at the best of times, but at the worst of times (like when a “big thing” happens overseas), these individuals step up their obnoxious campaigns a hundred fold. We are policed, we are told that we must use this word and never use that word. And, again, I’ll happily say that if once you had evaluated their plentiful demands, and found that in some instances you were left wanting, well, fair enough. But in these cases, that doesn’t happen, because there are no right or wrong answers in these cases; only the dictionaries favoured by one political movement or ideology – theirs.

They get their kicks and their pleasure by preying on people, most especially after these “big things” happen. Of course, I don’t ever give in to this thought-policing, but that wholly justified resistance has, in itself, implications. And what I should be doing is sticking my head above the parapet and telling them to pipe down a bit and refrain from getting their knickers in a knot. But when you do that, well, then come the smears, the labels, the faux outrage, the anger (and that’s the only fun bit, really).

And why on earth would I, a mere microbiologist and reluctant beagle owner, want to get involved in that sort of crap? Sure, I’ll happily fight my own battles, but when it comes to repeatedly shouting at the abyss that is their collective beliefs, I’d rather save my time. But remember:

Withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy

Because while these people are thankfully free to air their feelings across the internet and beyond, I am equally free to take note of who is saying what and pass my own mental judgement on them. So that next time, when they proffer an opinion or point of view – even on something wholly unconnected with any “big thing” – for me, it will come served with a side salad of pre-warning and prior knowledge.
If it sounds like I’m talking about you, I probably am.

And that’s why once I’ve hit the publish button on this, I’m going to switch off the internet and try to take a second-tier Danish side to the UEFA Champions League Final on FIFA 17.

You should try it – it’s much nicer than the real world.

Charles the Nickname

It’s June 13th, and if you check the Wikipedia page for today’s date, you’ll see that on this date in 1381, the Peasants’ Revolt led by Wat Tyler culminated in the burning of the Savoy Palace.

Who Tyler? No, Wat Tyler.

But way, way before that happened, it was the birthdate of Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor. “Which Charles?”, you ask, knowing that there were several. Well, today is a birthday for two of them, actually – the unfortunate ones.


Yes, both Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat were born on this day just 16 years apart.
What are the chances?

A quick search of other Wikipedia pages reveals that other Holy Roman Emperors, such as Charles the Handsome, Charles the Devilishly Goodlooking and Charles the OMG Mavis, Int’ee Buff weren’t born on June 13th.
Because they didn’t exist. I made them up.

However, amusingly, reality is almost more ridiculous than whatever was going on in my twisted mind just then.

Firstly, we’re told that Charles the Bald shouldn’t be confused with Charles the Bold. The latter presumably being braver and more hirsute. Charles the Bold was Duke of Burgundy between 1467 and 1477, when he was succeeded by Philip the Good (one of the nicest of the Philips).

Whereas, Charles the Bald was, by all accounts, bald. He had several children, including Judith*, Louis the Stammerer, Lothar the Lame and then – when someone’s imagination ran out – Charles the Child. Charles the Bald was King of West Francia (843–77), King of Italy (875–77) and Holy Roman Emperor (875–77), succeeding his father Louis the Pious and being succeeded by… Charles the Fat.

Annoyingly for Charles the Fat, there’s actually no evidence that he was fat:

The nickname “Charles the Fat” (Latin Carolus Crassus) is not contemporary. It was first used by the Annalista Saxo (the anonymous “Saxon Annalist”) in the twelfth century. There is no contemporary reference to Charles’s physical size, but the nickname has stuck and is the common name in most modern European languages (French Charles le Gros, German Karl der Dicke, Italian Carlo il Grosso).

Unfortunate.

Charles the Fat (sorry) held the offices of King of West Francia and Aquitaine, Emperor of the Romans, King of Italy, King of East Francia and Alemannia during his 48 year life. Busy guy. He had one son, who never amounted to much, probably primarily because his name was Bernard (the Illegitimate). (Oops).

Reading this, and noting the rampant nepotism and huge opulence that were part of the daily lives of these individuals, I can’t help but wish that we had something akin to their use of appropriate descriptions in naming modern day politicians.

Jacob the Corrupt.
Gwede the Boep.
Helen the Repeatedly Foolish.
Julius the Mouth.
Fikile the Clown.
Malusi the Captured.

 

married firstly with Ethelwulf of Wessex, secondly with Ethelbald of Wessex (her stepson), and thirdly with Baldwin I of Flanders. Gosh.

Another attack

Another attack, more outrage, more division, more strong words.

No solutions.

There will be a vigil, prayers, candles, hashtags and a minute’s silence. But give it a week and we’ll all have moved on and forgotten about it. The only reminders will be the banners across the bottom of the profile pictures of our more dramatic Facebook friends.

I’m tired of being told that this is the new normal, tired of being policed on which adjectives I’m allowed to use when describing the individuals involved, tired now of this cycle of horror and distress followed all too quickly by acceptance.

We’re told that hundreds of terror plots have been foiled, and that’s to be congratulated. But when things like Manchester and London Bridge happen (because that’s how we describe them now – just the geographical location – we all know what we’re talking about), then whatever measures are being taken are clearly not robust enough.

Don’t ask me what to do. I’m a microbiologist. If you want to know what eight spots in the second panel of an immunological test for latent tuberculosis means, then I can tell you. It’s the politicians and the leaders who get paid the big bucks – our big bucks – to make the policies which should explicitly prevent these attacks from occurring. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist (which I’m not either) to see that whatever policies exist right now around this area need to be strengthened. It’s not for me to say how. I’ll look at your blood test and tell you whether or not you’ve been exposed to TB. You stop the terrorists from killing innocent people on a night out.

And yes, some rights might get trodden on, some individuals might get offended, upset, angry. So be it. The needs of the many and all that. A van and some knives, a jar of homemade TATP surrounded by screws in a backpack? That’s nothing compared to what these people would like to be able to do, nothing compared to what they are aiming for. So put on your big girl panties, take a deep breath, and make those decisions which you know are going to be unpopular with some people.

Because hashtags and candles aren’t ever going to stop people being murdered.

Recent politics

Our Dear Leader Jacob Zuma survived another vote of no confidence at the ANC NEC this weekend, despite the conveniently timed release of several (or more) emails detailing how his chums in the Gupta family are essentially pulling the strings that make the country work.

And yet, the important guys in the top echelons of his party still voted to keep him. And you realise that when they do that in a democratic environment (which is what the ANC NEC supposedly is) then the problem is with the party, not the president.

But let’s watch as those dissenters all fall dutifully in line again after this thinly-veiled threat:

Meanwhile, the ex-leader of the official opposition and Lord High Empress of the Western Cape, with this HUGE open goal to aim at, is fighting with her boss about whether she can stay on for another term, given the alleged damage that she is causing to the party.

A local mayor wasted time praying for rain last Thursday.

How could you have missed that Donald Trump has been being Donald Trump internationally this week?

And in the UK, Labour comedy duo Abbott and Corbstello refuse to condemn terrorist acts from the 1980s, blame UK foreign policy for the Manchester attack, went to a “poignant” ceremony honouring terrorists from the 1970s and tell us that “the terrorists will not prevail” while… er… planning to radically alter UK foreign policy because of terrorism.

Thus – with a language warning in hand – please see this cartoon which illustrates the approach that many people will be taking towards the subject of politics today (and for the foreseeable future).

Really. Life would be so much more pleasant if we didn’t have to worry about these people who have been elected to serve us and whose salaries our taxes pay.