Big international hitters dominate the fiction section of January’s Sunday Times South African bestseller list, but the non-fiction is gratifyingly Mzansi-heavy, as has come to be expected.
Gray Mountain, the new John Grisham novel, is number one for fiction, with Wilbur Smith’s Desert God hot on its heels, but dropping off the top spot for the first time since October.
The extraordinary bestselling run of Zelda la Grange’s Good Morning, Mr Mandela continues in the non-fiction section. The memoir was top in July and August, second in September, and then back on top in November, and is still holding strong.
Ndumiso Ngcobo, Sunday Times columnist and author of Eat, Drink and Blame the Ancestors, recently wrote an column for the Rand Daily Mail about the politics of carrying a man purse.
In the column, Ngcobo talks about the many and inevitable jibes he gets about toting a man bag. He says it was not an easy thing to get used to, but he persevered because of the number of things he finds he needs with him as a man of a certain age.
Read the column:
I must confess that the decision to start carrying a man purse was a bit of a Kilimanjaro climb for me. The first time I went out in public with it, circa 2010, I was so self-conscious I kept apologising to everyone, “No, it’s not a man bag. It’s a satchel.” And that’s the standard “contextualisation” offered by man-purse carriers; it’s not a man purse, it’s a satchel. And, as we all know, the difference between the two is a sharp one. (Not.)
So why do I carry a man purse? Simple. I was tired of walking around looking like a doodle by Pablo Picasso, what with all my pockets bulging because of the house keys, car keys, nasal sprays, phone and whatnot.
How to Marry a Politician and Survive is a tongue-in-cheek look at South African politicians, a celebration of quirky moments, a guide for those who want a wedding with hand-made menus that cost millions and a lifestyle of Johnny Walker blue (not red), as well as a glimpse at their shenanigans and creative machinations.
In this fun-filled book, Magoulianiti-McGregor gives readers advice on how to check out his psychological profile – whether he is a Number One, a Trade Union Leader or the Opposition Oke – and use this to your advantage, discover why a Working Class hero self-sabotages by scoring “own goals”, and laugh in the face of the Juju Curse. Learn how to ward off nyatsis (even the likes of shameless Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt). And Flirt Coach Catriona Boffard gives step-by-step instructions to hunt your “prey”.
Advice is at hand about surviving in a polygamous marriage and becoming the “wife to retire on”. Plus, readers will get tips on how to satisfy all his appetites – with recipes from acclaimed chef Dorah Sitole, sport talk from Lucas Radebe and tantalising snippets from Sexual Health Practitioner Elna McIntosh. Wedding planner supremo Sophie Ndaba walks you through your fairy-tale-fabulous wedding.
How to Marry a Politician and Survive also pays tribute to the innate determination and resourcefulness of South African women, who want what they want. And if you’re a politician, watch out, we want YOU.
Chapters in the book
The 3 P’s: Pomp, Power and the Politician – In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the huntress does not sleep tonight – Fake it till you make it – The letter bomb – Party people – The hook, line and sinker: sustenance, sport & sex – The (t)Art of War – Media mogul – Seal the deal, baby – I will survive.
About the author
Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor is a Johannesburg-based writer, editor, columnist, journalist and the mother of a 23-year-old son who knows everything. She studied Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in the early 1980s, sidelined into PR before taking on the role as a desperate housewife, which she played alarmingly well for many years. She rejoined the workforce as a magazine writer, scriptwriter and newsreader after her divorce at age 40 (a long time ago.)
Zapiro, South Africa’s foremost cartoonist and the author of It’s Code Red!, was featured on Extraordinary Lives, a Mail & Guardian and Triple Word Score Media series that looks at people who make the world interesting.
In the podcast Helen Walne, journalist and personal acquaintance of Zapiro, and Andy Mason, a fellow cartoonist, speak about what makes Zapiro stand out as a cartoonist and political commentator.
Listen to the podcast:
Political cartoonist Zapiro’s work is as important as ever following the Charlie Hebdo killings. His life and role in society is discussed.
The story of Jacob Sello Selebi, commonly known as Jackie, is a sad tale of a legacy ruined, a fallen hero. Here was a man who sacrificed a great deal to help free his country – he was arrested for his activism in the 1970s, he went into exile, he ran the ANC Youth League, he became a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee – yet who spent his last years in ignominious humiliation. Such a pity that, having helped liberate the nation, he felt the need to sell it down the river quite so spectacularly, and in quite such an internationally notable manner. How did it ever go so wrong?
After the ANC was unbanned, Selebi returned to South Africa in 1991 and was put in charge of repatriating exiled ANC members and other anti-apartheid activists. He and Thabo Mbeki were close.
Selebi was elected as an MP in 1994, but it wasn’t long before the Mandela administration sent him off to New York to represent South Africa at the United Nations. That continued for three years and, after a session in the department of foreign affairs as director general, his old mate Thabo asked him to take on the role of police commissioner in 2000.
This was classic Mbeki. The president, you’ll remember, didn’t really rate South Africa’s crime problem. He thought it was all a racist whinge, so he saw no problem in appointing as chief of police an old exile chum who’d never worn a uniform in his life. Selebi seemed to fit all the political requirements of the job – that is, he was loyal to Mbeki – and he ticked enough boxes to be elevated to the presidency of Interpol in 2004. At this point he was in an extremely powerful position and had the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of South Africans reeling from the wave of violent crime that had hit the country. But he didn’t.
Instead, his time as commissioner was to be catastrophic. Apart from anything else, Selebi was just a pathetic policeman. Embarrassingly overweight, he hardly inspired confidence in his subordinates, the poor guys on the sharp end of South Africa’s battle against crime. He wobbled about in his uniform like an enormous jelly in a duvet cover, and he saw no harm in describing a young female officer as a chimpanzee.
Amusingly, he thought it perfectly reasonable to suggest that prostitution and the drug trade be legalised for the duration of the Soccer World Cup. This was really cunning. You see, if you legalise a whole load of nasty stuff then there won’t be any actual crime to worry about while people go about pimping their daughters and selling mandrax to 12-year-olds. Naturally, civil society was appalled, and the top cop’s brilliant scheme was quietly shelved. The notion that we should turn South Africa into a vast whorehouse and crack den – but only, of course, while the whole world was watching – was so mad as to be laughable.
Less amusing was his attitude to his job. “What’s all the fuss about crime?” he nonchalantly remarked in 2007, infuriating the millions of South Africans concerned with our fifty-a-day murder rate. When taken to task, he expanded: “We do have crime in South Africa. Nobody has denied it. But to exaggerate the point and speak about a crisis… A crisis means total disorder. I’m sure what we experience, everyone around the world experiences.” He truly was Mbeki’s man.
Beyond the incompetence and negligence, however, there were the actual dirty deeds.
As it all came out in the court case, Selebi had a friend. A friend called Glenn Agliotti. Now, as Selebi was himself told in 2002, Agliotti was a drug smuggler and a gangster. But he was a rich one, and Selebi liked sharp suits and a bit of retail therapy for him and his wife every now and then. So his friend offered to help him out with a few thousand rand here and a Louis Vuitton handbag there. Then it became R120,000 here and R200,000 there. In the end, these bribes – those that were proven in a court of law, that is – were to amount to more than R1.2 million. Rather like the Zuma-Shaik relationship, Agliotti had the chief of police on retainer.
Bribes being bribes, there had to be something in return, so Selebi kept an eye out for his mate, using his position at Interpol to, among other things, show Agliotti a document indicating that MI5 and MI6 were tracking him. When eventually questioned on this hugely unsuitable relationship with a convicted drug smuggler – the police chief hanging out with the mafia don – Selebi was insulted: they were just friends and they never discussed crime, he declared, “finished and klaar”.
Mbeki, being Mbeki, did nothing. Loyalty, remember. In fact, he implored a meeting of religious leaders to trust him on Selebi the week after Agliotti was arrested in connection with the murder of Brett Kebble in November 2006.
But eventually it all became a bit too obvious and a bit too much. In September of the following year, the National Prosecuting Authority had Selebi arrested on charges of corruption, racketeering, fraud and defeating the ends of justice. He was given an extended leave of absence (on full pay) – with the result that South Africa didn’t have a national police commissioner for a year and a half – while the court case went ahead, and he quit his position at Interpol. Despite the jaunty arrogance that would characterise Selebi’s behaviour in court over the next couple of years, and despite the bald intimidation that the state advocate Gerrie Nel faced in leading the prosecution, the Selebi ship was going down.
In January 2008, a group of about twenty police officers arrived at Nel’s house, where they arrested him on trumped-up charges of fraud and perjury, handcuffing him in front of his family. The charges were quickly dropped, but the incident served as further motivation for Nel and his team to nail the complex and politicised case – which they did. Selebi was convicted of corruption in July 2010, and Nel ultimately won the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) Special Achievement Award in 2012 for his efforts. (He would go on to achieve global fame in a less successfully prosecuted case, the trial of Oscar Pistorius.)
Ironically, it was Selebi’s insistence on testifying in his own defence, against the advice of his counsel, wife and friends, that ensured his downfall. In reviewing Selebi’s time in the witness box, Judge Meyer Joffe was scathing: “It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness. It stigmatises the witness as a liar, a person of low moral fibre. It is a stigma that remains forever. It is so much more unpleasant to make such a finding against the person at the head of SAPS.” Selebi had displayed “a low moral fibre” and his evidence was “mendacious and in some cases manufactured”, Joffe said. “It is inconceivable that the person who occupied the office of the national commissioner of police could have been such a stranger to the truth. At no stage during the trial did the accused display any remorse.”
It was damning stuff, and resulted in a 15-year sentence for corruption. And all the while the crime outside continued. Great savage waves of it.
But it wasn’t done inside either. Following the example of Schabir Shaik, that paragon of modern South African venality, Selebi found that the awarding of a lengthy prison sentence had left him feeling somewhat unwell. The denial of his appeal was even more debilitating: with magnificent timing, he collapsed at his home while watching the judgment on television in December 2011. He went on to serve six months’ jail time in the medical wing of Pretoria Central Prison before being released on medical parole, treatment officially reserved for those with just months or even weeks to live. Unlike Shaik, however, it turned out that he was genuinely ill. Suffering from diabetes and kidney failure, he died three years later. On hearing the news, Shaik described him as “a good man”.
“What’s all the fuss about crime?” Indeed. In the world of Jackie Selebi – and the new politically connected South African elite – there’s no real need to fuss when you’ve committed a crime.
This is an edited extract from 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa by Alexander Parker, with illustrations by Zapiro
Ngcobo chats about the things that fascinate him and how he is able to continually write entertaining pieces. He shares the fortuitous story of how he came to be a column writer for the the Sunday Times and shares the anecdotes that have inspired some of his writings. Masoka brings up the randomness of some of his thoughts, to which Ngcobo responds by explaining that since he was a child, he has always been aware of what he refers to as his own “morbid weirdness”.
Listen to the colourful podcast, in which Ngcobo chats about everything from his views on being Zulu, his big head, catching chickens, and people from PE, to eating KFC, why he is not interested in talking about the latest news about the EFF and what President Jacob Zuma likes about his column: