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Hunter S. Thompson, Che Guevara and the ANC

POSTED: By Chris Rodrigues

"The leaders will now enjoy the champagne, and of course they do so on your behalf through their lips." - Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthle


In a famous obituary written for Rolling Stone, Hunter S. Thompson described Richard Nixon as so "crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning".

He didn't pull his punches: "He was not only a crook but a fool. Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that 'if the president does it, it can't be illegal'. Shit. Not even [vice-president] Spiro Agnew was that dumb. He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed."

One can only wonder what Dr. Thompson would make of the ANC's gold-diggers and hangers-on? Take your pick: A-Z. They are generally too fat to be crooked; too vulgar to be tragic. Badmouthing animals would also constitute a slur on the character of the hyena or the pig. Perhaps he would think them unremarkable - just another form of parasitical life with a human face.

There is no better vignette than Kgalema Mothlanthle's proposal of a toast at the ANC's 100-year celebration of "selfless struggle". Having asked the spectators in the stadium to raise their clenched fists - or just take photographs - the Deputy President intoned: "The leaders will now enjoy the champagne, and of course they do so on your behalf through their lips."

Come again? What's with the liturgical turn of phrase? Talk about the social contract equivalent of turning wine into the blood of Jesus. Or is it the reverse: turning the blood of sacrifice and struggle into sparkling wine? Let's also not forget that on that same day the "disciplined force of the left" somehow managed to combine rounds of golf, with a no fly zone, and ritual animal slaughter! Perhaps HST would find the ANC engrossing.

Later that evening, the father of gonzo would have been at the Cubana staring at the shadows of tenderpreneurs cast on the walls. Beyond the gold velvet rope where a VIP table cost R50 000, he would have noticed: a convicted arms deal fraudster, a suspended police commissioner and an unknown comrade who was described in the City Press as arriving in a real polo outfit "complete with jodhpurs, striped stockings and a pert little hat".

Maybe after drinking a skinful of Glenivet, Thompson would have donned his own customary Nixon rubber mask and, tiring of fleas and tapeworms, slipped out into the night of Manguang – careful not to be run down by a politician's cavalcade.

On the subject of disguises: Julius Malema wore his Che-beret earlier on in the day. Poor Ernesto - cannibalised now by the Ratanangan Family Trust.

Che ought to be an example. Here was someone so austere that he wanted his father to pay for his own meals and petrol when he visited Cuba, who refused to let his wife commandeer an official state car to take their sick child to hospital ("Take the bus like everybody else," he is supposed to have told Aleida) and who insisted, during the food rationing period, that his own family eat only what the Cuban people did.

What would he say to the secretary-general of a Communist Party who drives – in a country where millions can't rub two coins together - a R1.1 million rand BMW 750i? What would he tell the president who – in a republic where many are so destitute they buy sugar by the spoonful - celebrates his birthday by stuffing his face with a cake that cost R12 500? And what truck would he have with a half-baked populist aspiring to build a triple story Sandton mansion?

There are some commentators who delight in the view that human nature is perverse. Corruption confirms that everyone is red in tooth and claw. "Man is a wolf to man," they shrug.

Both Che and Hunter (who is said to have kept a picture of the former in his kitchen) abhorred graft and treachery. Both fought, in their different ways, for a better world: Che - whatever one thinks of his ideology - practised what he preached; Hunter hurled words like "rotten" and "scum" at those who shit in our nests, and break the heart of our dreams.

Follow Chris Rodrigues on twitter:@klaaskatkop.

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