The looneys have their tunes, but let's not make them singalongs

Ideas

The looneys have their tunes, but let's not make them singalongs

Don't let self-serving politicians hijack our life-and-death issues

Columnist

Peter Dutton, the Australian minister who wants to fast-track the relocation of white South African farmers to his country, says that his critics are dead to him.
This is, of course, a lie. Dutton’s critics are political gold to him.
After all, if you’ve decided to exploit South Africa’s explosive land issue to score points with your cracker constituency in Queensland, what’s the only priceless gift no amount of money or publicity can buy?
African anger.
Enter Julius Malema, stage far left, denouncing Dutton as a racist and giving the Australian an early Christmas present.
No doubt Malema was playing to his own electorate, but accusations of racism are meant to do damage: presumably, he also hoped to dent Dutton’s reputation in Australia. But if that was the case, he was hopelessly off the mark.All Dutton’s voters would have seen was an angry black African Marxist, one who was pivotal in putting Trainwreck Zuma in power and who once sang songs about killing white people, yelling abuse at their bloke. In an instant, Malema confirmed their vague notion that South Africa is being run by Idi Amin and that Dutton is a sensible, calm humanitarian. Well played, Peter Dutton.
I don’t know Dutton. He’s probably very nice to heterosexual Christian white men. But I do know that only three sorts of people say, with a straight face, that something is “dead to me”.
The first is Mafia godfathers kissing their brothers on the cheek before sending them to sleep with the fishes.
The second is people who understand how cheesy and melodramatic that phrase is, and who use it accordingly on ungrateful cats and tin-openers that stop working.
And then there’s the third kind: a low-grade, dully ambitious suburban boy who spends his formative years throwing rocks at logs in the local playground, watching ants flee before lifting his eyes to the distant skyline of Boondall – the majestic Brisbane Entertainment Centre where he goes every year to watch The Man From Snowy River: The Musical Ice Spectacular and, next to it, Chunder’s Bait Shop – and dreaming of the day he will leave this place and move to Canberra where he can throw rocks – or legislation, or simply words – at the ant-people across the sea.I know this is an ad hominem attack. I know we’re supposed to play the ball and not the man. But in my experience, politicians stay in power precisely because we play the ball – or whichever shiny ideological object the politicians put in front of us – and not the opportunistic, manipulative people trying to stay in the headlines at whatever cost.
The issues cynically seized upon by Dutton, and to a certain extent Malema, are real. Many South African farmers do not feel safe. Many have been tortured and murdered. Racism and contempt for black lives remain rife.
These crises must be confronted and resolved, but to allow the likes of Dutton and Malema to dictate the conversation helps nobody. It is simply too important to be left in the hands of self-serving politicians. Because whether they pitch their tent in Braamfontein and Brisbane, and whether they claim to be helping persecuted farmers or fighting colonialism, populists serve only thing: themselves.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times Daily subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times Daily content.

Sunday Times Daily

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Previous Article

The greatest love of ball

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey
4 min read