And lo! A pilgrim arose and entweeted me to heed the Gospel of Cyril
This ANC acolyte wasn’t a politician defending an utterly rotten party, he was a monk defending the One True Faith - in 280 characters or less
Twitter is not a place for debate. At best it is soapbox; at worst, a dog-fighting pit. But, as is sometimes the case in many of the world’s dingiest alleys, every so often a pilgrim wanders in, preaching the gospel of a mad, cruel god.
On Friday I found myself loitering in that very alley, asking a suitably snarky question: if the ANC replaces Cyril Ramaphosa after the election, will you leave this country by plane, car, boat or on foot?
Most of the people who replied understood I wasn’t asking a question so much as stating the obvious, namely, that such a bait-and-switch manoeuvre would buy us a one-way ticket to the magical kingdom of Groot Kak. A few patriots misunderstood and said I shouldn’t let the door hit me on the way out.
And that’s when the pilgrim appeared.
Before Friday, I didn’t know much about Cameron Dugmore, other than that he represents the ANC in the Western Cape provincial legislature and is therefore a well-paid ball-boy. But now here he was, responding to my question with one of his own.
“Tom,” he tweeted, “why u joining the scare mongering brigade?”
I don’t need to tell you why this reply annoyed me: anyone who has the time to type “mongering” has the time to type “you”.
But mostly my objection was summarised in my reply to him, which gently suggested that, as a senior and vocal enabler of the ANC, he wasn’t really in a position to pass judgment on how members of the public react to the malevolent omnishambles that is the ANC.
Because this was Twitter, I expected one of three things to happen: Dugmore would meet me in the gutter and start swinging, or he would drop some pithy retort and stalk away, or – and this seemed the most likely, given that he is a public figure, even if it’s sheltered employment – he would simply ignore my reply and maintain an icy dignity.
But this was where things got interesting, because Dugmore did something else: he crossed himself, murmured three Hail Cyrils, and started preaching.
To be sure, he started slightly grumpily, retorting: “So now we can’t even have a view!” I would hate for Mr Dugmore and his colleagues to think that I want to gag them, so let me take this opportunity to stress that it is their right as human beings to have a view, just as it is my right as a human being to listen to their view plop down into the bowl, pick it up with rubber gloves, examine it, and then flush it on to where it belongs. But I digress, and I don’t want to digress because this is the important part.
“The reality,” continued Dugmore, “is that the majority of South Africans won’t be taken in by the smear ... we know the pathologies we face but signs are clear that renewal on [sic] and voters want ANC Med [sic] by Ramaphosa to lead.”
I understand the reference to “pathologies”: when citizens object to institutionalised corruption and a systematic destruction of state institutions, a good politician from the ruling party – or even an average one like Dugmore – should always brand those citizens as mentally ill.
The “smear”, however, was much more confusing. How, I wondered, was it a smear to suggest that a Zupta presidency would sink this country within months?
Fortunately, many other Twitterers were asking Dugmore similar questions, and his answers revealed the truth: he wasn’t a politician defending an utterly rotten party. He was a monk defending the One True Faith.
The “smear”, Dugmore revealed, was the simple act of repeating the idea, currently worrying millions of South Africans, that Ramaphosa might be recalled; that the pope might be replaced with an Antipope. To Dugmore, this wasn’t a valid fear: it was heresy.
Once he’d got that out of his system, however, he became almost scholarly. Piously, methodically, relentlessly, he cited chapter and verse from the Gospel of Cyril – increased investment! Integrity Committee! Renewal! Rule of law! – as the facts of the past nine years bounced off him like demons off the breastplate of an archangel. On and on and on he went, all through Friday and Saturday and Sunday and Monday, holding up the name of Ramaphosa like a crucifix in a basement full of vampires.It was morbidly fascinating to watch someone who purports to serve the public work so had to dismiss the fears, born of experience, of that same public. It was also impressive. True faith is quite a thing to witness.He convinced nobody, of course. But all the same, I hope he is rewarded in heaven.