Take2: The Dear John letters
With all this serious journalism going on about Judge John Hlophe’s strange dinner table conversations, many readers will notice that there’s one glaring question that remains unanswered: What did the judge eat?
After some exhaustive investigative action (I walked over to the M&G staffer who was present at the dinner and asked him), I can now exclusively reveal that the Judge had oxtail. Ha, and to think people said I’d never crack a scoop for the M&G.
But lest I be accused of putting the oxtail before the horse’s arse, let me get to the meat of this story. To summarise, Judge John is alleged to have used the dreaded w-word to describe Pius Langa. For our overseas readers, an explanation is probably necessary here. While not as taboo as the k-word or the n-word, and certainly not as unambiguously insulting as the p-word, the w-word is still very bad. Not as bad as the non-w-word, but still bad.
To say that you wouldn’t shake hands with a black man who is looking a little pale, isn’t an entirely unreasonable standpoint. After all, swine flu is rife, and if anybody’s going to catch it, it’ll be Zuma appointees, a fair few of whom are known for feeding from the trough. Context is everything. As Themba Ndou comments on the original story, “[Hlophe] was misquoted as usual. The context of his utterance should be understood ... Maybe some white person had just insulted him.”
Fair enough. Maybe the Hanging Judge (so named because of his propensity to hang out in restaurants) had just been snubbed by a waiter. They were having dinner in Cape Town after all, one of the most racially integrated cities in the world. If by racially integrated you mean that the waiters treat all customers as bottom-feeding scum, regardless of colour or creed.
But as one Kahlolo Kgofelo remarks, “The fact that [Hlophe] has shown his [lack of] impartiality in public serves as a good reason not to let him continue as a judge ... All those black people who support such people must stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the future of their children.”
A contrary point is made by Kobus Botha. “In all our institutions where we don’t see transformation, it’s because we don’t have black Africans with the courage of John Hlophe who are prepared to tell it as it is ... Pius Langa and Moseneke became satisfied with their fat salaries instead of considering the upcoming generation.”
Now astute readers will be thinking, ha—they’ve mixed those two readers’ names up. Surely Kahlolo is pro-Judge John, and Kobus is anti-. But no. That’s the thing that reborn racists—and I’m not naming a name here, who am I to judge—don’t seem to realise: racial lines are not as delineated as they once were. Abu Kamogelo alludes to this, with the comment: “Hlophe’s appointment is going to be the exact opposite of transformation of the judiciary since he himself is not transformed from his poor self-esteem mentality of Transkei and racism that he grew up under.”
In general, however, readers’ comments seem to fall into one of two camps, summed up by this interchange: Judith Mason asserts that “Judge Hlophe’s words were a direct insult to the President of the Constitutional Court, Pius Langa. Nuff said.” TM responds: “It is not an insult, the truth is that the respected man [Pius Langa] became the puppet of his masters (white people).”
Ah, the cut and thrust of political debate. It makes you proud, it really does. It’s almost worth having Judge John around, getting this kind of response from readers. He fills the gaps on those boring, mercifully rare days when Julius Malema isn’t saying anything stupid. And I think I’ll leave the last word to reader Bongane Makwakwa.
“As a civil citizen I can say whatever I want about any ethnic group, but the last thing we need is a person who wants to be appointed as a judge to the highest court in the land to articulate such pathetic statements ... it’s disgusting.”