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Will Kortbroek run?

These past couple of weeks have been absolute hell for dedicated Kortbroek- watchers. And the next 13 days of the floor-crossing window aren’t going to be any better as we wait, our hearts in our mouths, to see where the country’s favourite one-size-fits-all politician next peddles his loyalties. Now that Kortbroek has had a taste of the conscience- obliterating drunken power that goes with being a Cabinet minister in the ANC, does he find his elegant political virtues in some way stained? Is he sated with all the benefit? Does he long for a life independent of party discipline, of not having to toe the brooding Mbeki line like an obsequious schoolboy? Will he have found that vandalising other people’s plans for luxury golf courses isn’t nearly as pleasurable as desperately trying not to approve them for minor Italian nobility?

Marthinus van Schalkwyk is both progenitor of South African political floor-crossing and virtuoso interpreter of its hypocrite’s score — so deftly coined by someone as ”crosstitution”. He’s been in more parties than even he can remember, declared his fealty to as many new masters as would shake a stick at him. Kortbroek will go anywhere he’s pointed. He is the original government circular. So, it will not be surprising if, over the next fortnight, his unruly self-promotional urges suddenly put him up and scuttling.

Will it be back to the Democratic Alliance that Marthinus van Schalkwyk repairs, his purse brimming with inner-Cabinet goodies for Tony Leon to fondle? Somehow I don’t think so. They still haven’t finished scraping off the kak Kortbroek left on the DA’s stoep last time he was there. Could it be to the newly forming UDF alliance? Surely Kortbroek, his acquisitive eye on advantageous future positioning, can imagine a niche for himself in a brand-new structure which, sooner than anyone expects, could quite overwhelm the current order. Rather be outside the ANC tent when the pissing starts in earnest.

Or perhaps Van should just give up politics altogether and, instead of crossing the floor, march straight back into the world he abandoned for political glory. I’ve always believed Kortbroek missed his true vocation. He would have been far better employed in some worthy public duty, like running the customer care department at the morgue. Keeping corpses cheerful is a most admirable pursuit and, if his career so far is anything to go by, he’d do it with style. This is also because everything around and about Kortbroek seems to be, well … dead. His political ideas have always been in a state of advanced decomposition, or just frozen solid. The New National Party that he headed with such gusto was little more than a body bag for terminalised apartheid. Kortbroek had to play mortician to this noisome stiff, lurch it around in a wheelbarrow for months trying to find some hole in the ground willing to accept it. Eventually, in a fit of ecstatic compassion, it was the ANC who came to the rescue, embalming the NNP and all its rotting trespass in democratic perpetuity.

Martie, won’t you please come back to us. The State Mortuary’s telephone number is (021) 448 4456.

Still on matters sad. Two weekends ago, distributed along with the Sunday newspapers, was a booklet entitled HIV and Aids — Prevention, Care and Treatment. A most commendable motive was behind this publication, intended to serve as a reference of fact and common sense about its subject. It’s hard to determine which of the numerous sponsors was responsible for the booklet; fore and aft it looks as if it has been sprayed with a logo gun. There are banks and petrol companies and sundry institutes, some obscure arm of the Health Department, an Irish development corporation and others. The credit for production goes to Soul City.

The booklet seeks to destroy myth, reinforce fact and give practical advice about HIV/Aids. Generally, it does this well, if relying a little too heavily on cant phraseology. What is really amazing is that the booklet has been passed into publication without apparently being edited at anything like a professional level. Like unprotected sex, the writing, in some cases, is decidedly unsafe. The following startling sentence closes off a short section on ”Myths around HIV”.

”Non-consensual sex and sex with a young child is rape.”

What are they saying? That sex with an older child is okay? If you think that’s bad, consider this one:

”There is a false belief that HIV in South Africa is only a heterosexual epidemic, or that the risk of infection is low. Thus men may have unprotected anal sex with other men.”

The introduction to the section where that appears is unequivocal on the infection dangers of anal intercourse. But paying off with a sentence so duplicitous in its meaning is appalling. Those for whom the book is intended will generally not be sophisticated. The line should read something like: ”There is an equally high risk of HIV-infection when men engage in unprotected anal sex.”

It’s this sort of carelessness that spoils so valuable an exercise. They should insert little correction slips in their future editions.

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