When the PP hits the crapper


Sometimes news filters very slowly up to our northern provinces from the south – well, I suppose it has to cross the Drakensberg. Hence we who live up here in Gauteng have discovered only now that Helen Zille is in even more trouble than she was before, and her Democratic Alliance cohort Patty de Lille is also in big trouble. Who are they in trouble with? The public protector!

It’s not because Zille has been found to be an unrehabilitated colonialist in love with the sewerage systems provided by Western civilisation. And it’s not because De Lille has a penchant for selling off key bits of Cape Town property to moneybags developers instead of gifting it to the poor. It’s not because either of them banks with Absa.

No, no – these two power players are in trouble because the public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, couldn’t get them to attend her inspection of the sanitary arrangements in Masiphumelele township in the Western Cape, the province in which, as we know, Zille and De Lille are the reigning queens.

Apparently, the residents of Masiphumelele had complained about the dearth of modern, efficient, SABS-approved crappers in their area. This was a surprise to Mkhwebane. What? No proper toilets installed in a Western Cape township? But it’s a DA-run province, isn’t it? Don’t they always provide the necessary social services, such as roads and school textbooks, without having to be sued by Section27? Could the DA-in-government really be as slapdash and uncaring as the ANC-in-government in all the other provinces?

Determined to discover the truth, however unsanitary or insalutary, Mkhwebane jetted off to the Cape, issuing Zille and De Lille with subpoenas, which are court orders to say you must be at such-and-such a place on such-and-such a date and so on.

“I want you there,” she ordered the DA dames, in triplicate and sealed with the great big public protector seal, “I want you to witness, in person, my inspection and evaluation of these toilets or nontoilets.”

She’s an advocate, so Mkhwebane knows this stuff.

If she were a politician, however, she’d know that you can’t just summon a politician (let alone two at a time) to wait on your pleasure in a township that hasn’t even got proper loos.

Neither of the subpoenaed DA doyennes actually took receipt of the relevant document, being either busy inspecting toilets in Singapore (“Immaculate!” came the tweet from the ladies’ room at Singapore Central Station) or locked in back-to-back backstabbing meetings.

So they stood her up. They stood up the public protector!

And she’d specially put on her stern face and put on her favourite camel-coloured Burberry in case of acid rain. She wasn’t going to be upstaged by either of those DA women, no way. And then they just didn’t arrive! “That’s contempt of court,” she muttered to herself as she looked at where a township loo should have been.

At least she learned one thing: if you stare into that toilet-shaped hole, it stares right back at you.

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Author 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.


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