Back to the days of autocrats as we roll out the red carpet for Bashy and the boys

Columns in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, before Islamic State destroyed part of an ancient temple. (Sandra Auger/Reuters)

Columns in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, before Islamic State destroyed part of an ancient temple. (Sandra Auger/Reuters)

THE FIFTH COLUMN

  Good news for dictators and mass murderers! Now that South Africa is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), tyrants such as Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir (“Bashy” for short) will no longer have to worry about making a quick escape from those who would stick by South Africa’s constitutional requirements and arrest him because the ICC has a warrant out for his arrest.

No, Bashy can now enjoy weeks of fun and pleasure in South Africa, doubtless in a penthouse suite at an internationally accredited hotel in Sandton. Bring on the dancing girls! (Or is he a strict Muslim? Maybe he’s a Muammar Gaddafi kind of Muslim – in which case, bring on the supermodel bodyguards.)

  President Jacob Zuma must be pleased with himself. The announcement of withdrawal from the ICC came very soon after Zuma’s state visit to Kenya, where he spent a few days partying it up with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was also troubled at one point by the ICC’s strictures on not fomenting mass violence.

It must be deeply satisfying to be giving the Wicked West a black eye, as it were, on that issue.
Shut up about your darn human rights rubbish! We have had enough of that. Okay, yes, we were committed to human rights for a time, and at least one of our former presidents said our foreign policy would be guided by such considerations, but times have changed. They look like they are changing back to the old days of rampant dictatorships all over Africa, a bit like the old European system of absolute monarchy, so this rights stuff no longer counts.

Absolute monarchy is really what’s needed. Like Louis XIV of France in the early 1700s, Zuma should be able to say: “L’état, c’est moi” – I am the state. Or was that Mobutu Sese Seko? Anyway, absolute monarchs can do whatever they like, whether massacring or pilfering public monies, and we need strong leadership. A bit of patronage for the regional barons and party elders and you’re sorted. Then you just need a media tribunal to make sure nobody says anything impolite about you. We’re working on that.

And how proud we should feel. If you’re losing, get out the game. Surely that’s the basic rule? If you don’t like the rules of the game, throw the board up in the air and let the pieces scatter. Devil take the hindmost and all that.

What are a few massacres between friends? History is littered with massacres, mostly perpetuated by the Western colonial powers because they had the best weapons. Don’t blame us if we have to conduct our massacres with cheap old Russian weapons and homemade pangas. It’s more labour-intensive, and heaven knows we need to soak up more of those unemployed people.

  In fact, bring me my machine gun. I hope it’s working.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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