Obed Bapela: Putting the moron into oxymoron

Obed Bapela: Putting the moron into oxymoron

Why was this tiny community of just over 60000 souls being given such exemplary attention?

ON SATURDAY Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank penned a withering put-down of Hillary Clinton‘s faltering second try for the White House.

He accused her “bloated campaign team” of “putting the moron into oxymoron”.

He has a point: in the early polls for the initial primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton has fallen behind a self-styled socialist, Senator Bernie Saunders, even though she has vastly outspent him and started off being far better known. Her problem, apparently, lies in her authenticity. Or, actually, her lack of this essential personality attribute.

The voters‘ anti-establishment, populist mood, and the search for a “real deal” leader is not confined to the US. On Saturday it crossed the Atlantic to London. The Labour Party elected a 1960s throwback, a banner carrier of the movement‘s hard left, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader. He thus becomes Leader of Her Majesty‘s Official Opposition, though in 36 years in parliament he has never approved of any of his party leadership predecessors. Nor any of the policies which won Labour three election victories from 1997 until 2010.

His views will go down a treat with the local members of our own SA Communist Party. But in Britain, largely prosperous and overwhelmingly middle class, they will probably keep the ruling Conservative Party in office for the next decade or more.

Aside from some ideological congruity, there is much in that phrase “putting the moron into oxymoron” — or rank stupidity coupled with a contradiction — which provides an explanation for some current events in local politics.
For the moron part of it, look no further than Obed Bapela. On the eve of the Jewish New Year, which is meant to be characterised by sweetness and light, he managed to make the local community‘s festivities decidedly sour. (Declaration: I am a member of this tribe).

Bapela heads the ANC‘s international relations section. He, or they, came up with the bright idea of ending dual citizenship to prevent local Jews from serving in the Israel Defence Force.

In an interview with Chris Barron in the Sunday Times, he could not elaborate on any of the essentials: how many actual cases of local citizens taking up arms on behalf of Israel were known? Why was this tiny community of just over 60000 souls being given such exemplary attention? How did this proposal square with our own constitution — which guarantees the right against forced revocation of citizenship — or even the provisions of domestic legislation which enshrines the concept of dual citizenship?

Even if he couldn‘t provide a single straight or comprehensible answer, the question had become moot by then because of an intervention by one of Bapela‘s colleagues.

Before introducing the unlikely saviour from this piece of idiocy, here is the oxymoron part of Bapela‘s “15 minutes of fame”.

Why on earth is Bapela, whose day job is deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, put in charge of the ruling party‘s international relations? His government job is to look after municipalities, chiefs and the affairs of the provinces. The two areas, in a country where the boundary between the governing party and the state are all but clear, could hardly be further apart.

Then there‘s the question of why we have a full minister and no less than two deputy ministers of international relations and co-operation, and yet not one of this trio is in charge of the ruling party‘s foreign policy.

Which rather begs the obvious issue: how does the ruling party align its policies to those it implements as government? Or do they simply float about as a grab bag of ideas to buy off restive populist sentiment at the party conference? Thereafter they can be ignored when the black, green and gold T-shirts are put away and the suits and skirts of power are worn?

For our country on a knife-edge of economic recession and staring down both barrels of a credit downgrade, one would have thought that this would be a time to consolidate international friendships and alliances, not go in search of a new raft of economically powerful enemies.

Apparently not: the same Bapela alerted Power FM interviewer Tim Modi “to the imperialist agenda of the US and its allies”.

In that giveaway phrase, far more than the anti-Semitism which the SA Jewish community locates in Bapela‘s world-view, you find the nub of the issue and the real base of his prejudice.

Israel might well have self-defeating policies in regard to the Palestinians. But its real offence, to the anti-Westerners of Bapela‘s stripe, is that it is the No1 ally in the Middle East of the global hegemony, the United States. The very same country, as I pointed out here two weeks ago, whose African Growth and Opportunity Act renewal keeps our automotive industry and hundreds and thousands of jobs going in South Africa.

The same policy documents which Bapela has both advanced and defended are rooted, he says, in human rights. But they have little or anything to say, for example, about the local recruitment of South African citizens into the ranks of the barbaric Islamic State, the murderous thugs who decapitate Westerners and any locals in Iraq or Syria who get in their way.

In a further twist of ironies and contradictions, Bapela‘s policies were shot down by his cabinet colleague Malusi Gigaba.

Yes, that‘s right: the same man who has capsized our tourist industry with visa regulations which put red tape in place of a red carpet, has ridden to the rescue here. He announced last week that Bapela‘s policy formulation would not pass constitutional muster and that local legislation would not be amended to accommodate it.

It would be less of an oxymoron if Gigaba could apply the same logic and consistency to his own department and end the choke-hold it has placed on attracting international visitors.

We are now the only country in the world whose visa regulations trip up the one plus of a declining currency. Gigaba has ensured an alarming drop in foreign tourists to these shores.

But then again an oxymoron is defined as a “self-contradiction”. – The Times

• Follow Leon on Twitter: @TonyLeonSA

About the Author: