Before you judge, put yourself in Duarte’s (terrifying) place
Yes, Jessie Duarte’s “rant” at eNCA journalist Samkele Maseko was startling. But before we call her names or ascribe her outburst to ANC kragdadigheid, let’s try to find some empathy.
Let’s open our hearts and try to see the humanity in a person who is tired, frightened, unemployable and, at 73, entering the final phase of a life that, if it is remembered by anyone, will be a minor footnote in a long history of idealists who sold their principles.
I understand why many local journalists were alarmed by Duarte’s impression of PW Botha this week. Nobody likes being talked to harshly by the consigliere of a mafia family, even if some of the tongue-lashing is clearly insane: Duarte accused Maseko of being “the worst bully I’ve ever come across”, and this is someone who used to clink champagne glasses with Julius Malema.
Perhaps that’s why Malema came out in support of Duarte on Thursday, retweeting Tony Yengeni’s opinion that Duarte had put “Maseko into his miserable DA little corner”. As we rush towards the elections, it was a gentle reminder that, even though our politicians wear different colours, they can still be united in their contempt for a free press.
But I digress. I don’t want to talk about politics. I want to talk about humanity. I want to remind you that Jessie Duarte has the heart of a child. Probably in a jar in her fridge. (That’s not an original joke, but then again, neither is the ANC.)
I’m not defending powerful people who lose their temper with less powerful people. But, just for a moment, imagine the soul-sucking blight of being Jessie Duarte; of waking up every morning, thinking, for a split second, that you’re an asset to humanity and then, as the sleep falls from your mind, remembering what you are.
Try to imagine the terrible grief you feel at having been separated from Jacob Zuma. Just more than a year ago, your lips were pressed warmly and snugly against his political buttocks. You knew your place in the world, even if it was an ass cheek. Now, you don’t know where you’re supposed to be. Do you kiss Ramaphosa’s rump? Does he even want you to?
God, it was so much simpler when Msholozi was king, back when you could pronounce that the attempt to uncover his corruption “smacks of apartheid”, or that his appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister “demonstrated bold leadership”, or that criticism of the Guptas was “tinged with xenophobia”. Hell, just last year you could publicly suggest that convicted fraudster Yengeni had been treated unfairly.
But now? It’s almost as if nobody wants to hear a single goddamn word that slithers out of your mouth.
That is a terribly heavy burden to carry. But it’s nothing compared to the knowledge you have about yourself: knowing that you risked your life for freedom, democracy, accountability and transparency; and then, instead of riding into the sunset with the respect of a grateful nation, you sold it all for a ticket at the trough.
If that were me, I’d have temper issues too.
That’s why I’m going to go easy on the deputy secretary-general next week. Because she is Jessie Duarte, and God knows, that’s punishment enough.