/ 25 February 2009

Helping Carl — the traditional way

While the media, the opposition, the haters of mixed (formerly known as immoral) marriages and detractors in his own party are all gleefully chuckling at the woes of former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus, I want to stand out as a South African who not only sympathises, but can also offer to help a brother who has seen it all.

I have personally encountered Niehaus only twice in my life. First in 1995 and then again about two weeks ago when he called in to a TV programme on which I was a guest. So I cannot claim to know him well and I have no personal views on him. This advice is motivated purely by ubuntu.

After reading the Mail & Guardian‘s scoop two Fridays ago and the follow-up by every paper, radio station and its cousin, I am convinced our Carl has a problem. I cannot say what the problem is — after all, I am just a newspaper columnist. But what I know is that when you have such problems that seem insurmountable and beyond human endurance, you have to take them to the next level.

In my youth in Dobsonville, Soweto, I knew of many people who had Niehaus-like problems. Some cheated on their wives ad nauseam, others stole from their neighbours (and occasionally from the church). No amount of admonishing or imprisonment could ever save these social misfits. They seemed programmed just to keep on messing up. These misfits would be referred to a motho. To the uninitiated, and those who pretend to know Sesotho, motho translates as ‘a person”. But in this context motho goes deeper. In any given township or village there are several different kinds of motho you can consult, depending on the severity of your problem, your preference, proximity and affordability.

For instance, Niehaus could go to see a motho in Meadowlands known as a moporofeta — seemingly stolen from the word ‘prophet”. A moporofeta uses water to cure. Nine out of 10 times a moporofeta would be an elderly woman. She would put you in a buth tub and cleanse you using blessed water and herbs. I don’t think Niehaus would have issues with stripping naked in front of a moporofeta — our Carl is a paragon of non-racialism who has always undressed in front of black women. This cleansing in a scented bath would be guaranteed to cure Carl of his ills.

Or he could go to see a different kind of motho — a bone reader. The best one is this old man I know in Tembisa. For a measly R5 per consultation the bone thrower would tell Niehaus upon arrival what his problem is and what causes it — more often than not a jealous family member. Or Jessie Duarte. The bone thrower would give Niehaus a concoction to smear on his forehead and another to swallow every time he goes to the office so that his detractors won’t weigh on him (ba se ke ba mo imela would be the right words in my language). The concotions are normally smelly, unlike the perfumes Niehaus is used to. But extraordinary situations call for extraordinary solutions.

But for me the best motho has to be the mirror woman from Venda. Apparently this sage can show you in a piece of mirror who your detractors are. After you have seen them, all nasty and conniving, the mirror woman would give you options. One option is to take the needle she offers you and ‘stab” your enemies in the mirror. Apparently this is guaranteed to kill them stone dead with immediate effect. Imagine half of Luthuli House and all editors dying in one fell swoop. That would be something, wouldn’t it?

But I don’t see Niehaus going for the latter option. It is too ghastly to contemplate and even though Niehaus seems to have problems with money and truth-telling, he’s obviously not the murdering kind of misfit. The Niehaus I know can go to My Pa. You see, My Pa is a different motho. For a small fee he will pray for you and ask God to help you. Because Niehaus is a church man, specifically with a Rhema Church background, he might readily submit to a solution that would see him face the nation and say ‘the devil made me do it”.