27. Angie’s panties and the end of my career as a political commentator

I have learnt something valuable while writing about politics this week. Don’t write about politics. South African politics is a richer source of stories than most other countries. We have great heroes and evil villains (often the same person). We have heart-warming triumphs and heart-breaking tragedies. But I’m not going to tell you any more of those stories. Not unless something really unusual pops up.

Other politicians are boring.

Other politicians are boring.

It’s not that the stories aren’t worth telling. They are. They just don’t fit into something as small as a blog post. I can’t do them justice. I start off by remembering or reading something funny or odd. The stories are usually fairly simple on the surface. And if all the people reading this were South African, it would be great fun telling them again. But most of you are not South African. So the stories need a bit of background.

I wish our politicians could be a little more boring.

I wish our politicians could be a little more boring.

About three hundred and fifty years of background. And it’s not just the amount of background that I would need to put in. It’s the nature of it. It’s pretty sobering stuff. If you scratch off the surface of even the most outlandish and laughable of our stories, you’ll find something ugly. Or tragic. Or infuriating.

As South Africans, we go ahead and laugh anyway. Unless we’re weeping. Or raging. It’s our way of coping. But we are used to it because we live with it every day.

Or a lot more boring.

Or a lot more boring.

I was going to tell you the story of Angie’s panties today. I thought it was funny when I first read it. I still do. But the background story leaves me seething. The Angie in question is Angie Motshekga. She’s the Minister of Basic Education. A few weeks ago, a bunch of teachers organised a strike. Tens of thousands of teachers stayed away from work. Thousands of teachers marched on the union buildings.

People really sat up and noticed. This march had a powerful effect on the emotional well-being of our government as a whole, and Ms Motshekga in particular. Because of this;

How to make a government sit up and take notice.

How to make a government sit up and take notice.

Shocking, isn’t it. It is a pair of panties stretched over a wire frame. The writing basically says “Angie’s Panties”. I don’t know how we as a society are going to bounce back from this. But we are doing our best. Our government has swung into action. The Gender Commission has been approached. The ANC Women’s’ League wanted to take the matter to court. Open letters were written to the Trade Union bosses hammering on about respect for women and our patriarchal society.

It was a regular old bun-fight. It was all a bit of a hoot. Our government was mobilising to deal with an unimaginable threat. Panties. Yellow ones. Huge yellow panties. Could our democracy survive? Now here’s a bit of that unfortunate background stuff I was telling you about.

Angie is, as I say, Minister of Basic Education. One of the stated reasons for the strike was that, on her watch, her department failed to deliver school books to huge numbers of children last year. When she was first made aware of this, she laughed it off a no big deal. And failed to do anything. Her department had to be taken to court before they sorted out the mess.

Not our nation's employee of the month.

Not our nation’s employee of the month.

Other reasons for the March were that the teachers wanted Angie’s deputy-general to resign because they thought he was corrupt. And that the department had reneged on an agreement to increase salaries.

But that’s just one side of the story. Our teachers aren’t exactly as pure as the driven snow. They strike for several weeks every year. The kids stay home and learn nothing. The pass rate for our kids has been dropped to an embarrassing 30%. Kids are routinely sexually abused by teachers. They are beaten. There are schools that have no buildings, where classes take place under trees. It’s a mess.

It’s worth shouting about. It’s worth going to court about. It’s worth writing open letters about. But that doesn’t happen. Not round here. Take a look at that picture of the panties again. It’s one man. Just one guy, holding up some ropey yellow panties on a piece of bent wire. In the middle of a crowd of thousands with legitimate issues. Marching on behalf of tens of thousands. Affecting the education of millions.

And that’s what our leaders chose to act on. That’s what got them out of bed. That’s what got the headlines and the letters and the court actions and the commissions. A pair of panties. Huge yellow panties.

The official crest of the South African Government

The official crest of the South African Government

It’s hilarious. And enough to make you weep. And my blog is not for weeping. So no more. Next week I’ll teach you how to braai boerewors instead. Or tell you why it’s a shame that our potholes aren’t being fixed by an insurance company.

Chops and boerewors. Better than politics.

Chops and boerewors. Better than politics.

48 thoughts on “27. Angie’s panties and the end of my career as a political commentator

  1. panos48 says:

    Article Reblogged by SA BLOGGESR – http://www.southweb.org/coza/

  2. Buzzwordz says:

    Mmm! Boerwors, pap and gravy.

  3. duncanr says:

    is her arse really that big ? 😆

  4. Trapper Gale says:

    I always find your posts entertaining and educational. Yes, the political situations are sad and deplorable and sometimes even unimaginable, but I learn more from your perspectives than any newscast – ever. Thanks.

  5. Your posts are usually educational and always funny. Your political posts have had their laughable edge to them but all tinged with more than a little sadness too. They have been educational though. I thank you for sharing them but I do look forward to the next Lowveld post or the next post about your criminal mastermind daughter or another post on cooking a la 23thorns style perhaps. As for learning how to braai boerewors, I await with baited breath. They look delicious. 🙂

    • 23thorns says:

      Boerewors is delicious. especially if you don’t think about what’s in it!

      • Sounds like hot dogs. I mean, trotters and snouts and other even less desirable piggy parts sound disgusting (my husband has referred to ear’oles and arse’oles on more than 1 occasion) but hot dogs, despite their misleading names, are kind of artificially delicious.

  6. Marcia says:

    I have enjoyed ALL of your posts, 23, even the political ones. But the political ones make me sad, too. And mad. I have about as much of that as I can stand on a daily basis, just watching the news here. So while I have been astounded by just how truly bizarre things are in your country, and while I am glad to have learned a bit more about life there, I think overall, I may have to agree with Kami:

    “You are a priceless gem in a world of unbearable stuff.”

    In my selfish little heart, I want to laugh, and your blog provides that daily dose of hilarity better than anyone I know. It’s probably a heavy responsibility, knowing so many people depend on you to get their day off to a happy start, but somebody’s gotta do it, and no one does it like you.

  7. Kami Tilby says:

    Writing or reading about politics will suck the life from your soul and spit it out onto an unending flaming fire. Stay away and keep laughing, and help us keep laughing in spite of it all. You are a priceless gem in a world of unbearable stuff.

  8. narf77 says:

    We haven’t always had boring politicians. Some of them were downright “Out There” as world leaders go. This week one of our first ladies died. Her name was Hazel Hawke and she was the backbone and moral conscience behind one of our most enigmatic psychopathic politicians ever, Mr Bob Hawke a.k.a. “The Silver Bodgie”. I have to point out at this stage (should it ever become a legal technicality and I have to declare some form of vested interest) that My Aunty Alice went to school with Mr Bob Hawke and was best friends with one of his sisters. Mr Bob Hawke didn’t need other politician’s underpants (indeed why would he? He could charm the pants off any female who came within cooee of him…or so we are led to believe…) he didn’t give a stuff about what other people thought about him. He drank yards of ale with impunity (and still holds a record for it) and he once, and most famously said ‘Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum.’ Our politicians are pale and insignificant compared to our past pollies. We seem to spawn some great leaders but only when they aren’t actually needed. The story of Aussie life really…Of all the posts that I have read here at 23Thorns this one gives me the most insight into our common condition. When control is handed over to people that just aren’t ready for it, it is inevitable that the power is going to go to their heads. It is an endemic condition that seems to grow like fungus on anyone who manages to get their head above the rest of us. It would seem that our great Aussie tradition of “Tall Poppy Syndrome” where we love to cut the stems of those reaching for the lofty heights of fame might actually be a survival mechanism! I grieve with you Mr 23Thorns and you are absolutely right, politicians are NOT what this blog needs. They leach the life out of us and remind us of remind us just how insignificant our humble vote really is…time to head out to the lowveldt and find that elusive fungus methinks! I can’t be doing with that curly sausage by the way…they would drum me out of The Vegan Confraturnity as soon as I lit the BBQ!

    • Lyn says:

      Hazel was a down-to-earth lovely, lovely Lady (capital “L” deliberate).
      You felt that if you ever ‘Hello’ to her in the street, she’d give you a hug and say, ‘Hello love, how are you?’

      • narf77 says:

        I agree and Bob certainly didn’t deserve her in the least. She was an amazing woman in her own right and would have run rings around Julia. R.I.P. Hazel, a quintessential Aussie Shiela that we can all aspire to and be proud of.

    • 23thorns says:

      Don’t fret- I’m going to cook a potato as well. and an onion. There is much that you can learn.

      • narf77 says:

        As someone who has managed to complete certificate 2 and 3 in commercial cookery and who worked in the industry I can’t WAIT for your enlightening recipe Mr 23Thorns…

      • 23thorns says:

        No wonder you’re a vegan. You’ve seen too much!

      • narf77 says:

        Damned RIGHT Mr 23Thorns…I know what they do to people’s pizzas when you dis the waiter, when you are supercilious to the servants you NEED to remember that they are in charge of what you are just about to put into your mouth…I once saw pizza dough being inserted into the front of someone’s trousers and then made into a pizza and delivered with GREAT aplomb to a particularly nasty customer…vegan food also doesn’t contain ANY of those foreign insects, strange forms of “milk” (Yak milk anyone?) soured butters or anything else suspicious that this little black duck wouldn’t want to put into her mouth in a blind fit…fool me once Mr 23Thorns…FOOL ME ONCE! 😉 Now what was that you were saying about potatoes? Potatoes are my FAVOURITE food…I adore them more than I adore my Pinterest account. “Bring on the potatoes!”

  9. I guess the U.S. is not alone in its teacher problems.Government seems to be government everywhere…unfortunately. As men say here about5 women, “You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them”, so we all feel about government.It’s run by people and people are jealous, and you can probably trace all bad things back to jealousy.
    I am definitely looking forward to more on boerewors.Pack in all the information you have!

  10. The Rider says:

    I weep with you…

  11. Jim Morrison says:

    I recently saw a suggestion that the she-been suppliers should take over the distribution of school text books, as they already have a timely and efficient delivery system in place.

  12. I have to bribe myself with your blog. I can’t venture out to read it unless I finish my own post first. Thank you for writing!

  13. Ashana M says:

    I don’t know–it seems a lot like our US education system. Not perhaps quite as corrupt or ineffective, but we can’t even figure out if the children are learning or not although we really like to shout very loudly either that they definitely are or definitely aren’t. But what would really get everyone’s attention is a large pair of panties. It’s just no one here thought of it. We just keep displaying our ignorance of basic statistics by throwing numbers around that don’t have any meaning and screaming about their great meaning. It only looks more polite and civilized. But it’s still about basic problems being ignored. Maybe you can think of each issue–such as Angie’s panties–as a series rather than as a a single post. I for one would read 6 posts on Angie’s panties.

    • 23thorns says:

      Sadly we’re pretty damn sure our kids aren’t learning. And it’s nothing to do with poverty, either. The kid’s in countries to our North, which are far worse off than us, seem to end up with better educations.

  14. billgncs says:

    don’t stop – I find this insightful and interesting. In the US city of Cleveland, the school board corruption is legendary.

  15. zen city says:

    from the u.s., i am not at all surprised. . . i guess government is government everywhere!

  16. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Hooooooooo. They sell those coiled sausages here in a butcher shop in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. I don’t know why they do, but I’d love to know what to do with the things. Your picture seems to indicate stir-frying them with … what’s that, acupuncture needles? Oooooooooh.

    • 23thorns says:

      Dude! You are never allowed to go anywhere near a coiled sausage of any sort. Stir frying?!?!.
      We make fire. We drink beer. We braai our wors. We watch rugby. We do not, under any circumstances, stir fry, fry, bake, or saute the boerewors. It’s caveman food. We cook it like cavemen. And our souls are the better for it. Stick with me for anther week and I will teach you how.

      • The Rider says:

        thanks #23, you are a man after my own heart…

      • Henk says:

        Such was the primal yearning for boerewors that we set about making our own here in Fort Lauderdale. After reading the recent press concerning some of the more unusual animal products used in making biltong and wors, I am somewhat more at ease when lighting the braai fires these days knowing exactly what’s in the stuff.

      • 23thorns says:

        What you don’t know can’t hurt you. If it’s donkey (and I’m pretty sure it is) and it tastes good, i’m just going to stick my fingers inn my ears and shout “LALALALALA” while chewing away.

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