The fly in the ointment
With the sunny seasons now upon us, we’ll have to deal with that perennial problem of irritating flies buzzing about.
They will be hovering above our food and drink, and landing on our clothes uninvited. They make meals unappetising and bother you even when you are clean. These things are just everywhere. In fact, scientists estimate that, for every human on Earth, there are 17 million flies.
The fly problem is not confined to unhygienic surrounds, as some wrongly believe. In some of Europe’s coolest pavement cafes and fine dining outlets, restaurateurs have to put measures in place to keep the dreaded things away. Despite the crucial ecological role that flies play, we wish they would go away and never come into our purview.
There are, however, some fly enthusiasts among us. One of them is Erica McAlister, a fly curator at the Museum of Natural History in London. McAlister, who has had a life-long fascination with these irritants, has a doctorate on insects and has even written a book called the Secret Life of Flies.
She told the New York Times last year that she loved how versatile flies were: “That’s why I love them. They do everything. They get everywhere. They’re noisy. And they love having sex.”
South Africans are very familiar with this because, to our dismay, there is this irritating fly that is noisy, is everywhere and loves doing the carnal deed. This fly is refusing to let us enjoy the little bit of sunshine that came with the nation’s new dawn.
The fly in question just refuses to go away. We have tried hard to swat it away and hoped it would be affected by the many repellents we have thrown at it. But, no, it is still here.
The fly came back into the mix this week with revelations that it was secretly meeting with powerful players in the governing party to plan how they could dirty the national ointment. While some of those who were with the fly deny that this was the purpose, the factional composition of the gathering spoke volumes.
This is not the first time this fly has done this. It has taken it upon itself to be ever present when the governing party’s national executive committee meets, thus not allowing its successor the space to lead and succeed. Previous holders of its previous position have behaved with maturity and been respectful enough of their successors to step back, even though they had every right to attend such meetings.
The omnipresent fly then buzzed down to the Eastern Cape, where it proceeded to speak nonsensically to students at Walter Sisulu University, having had nine years to implement the loony economic policies that it now believes are the great solution to our many problems.
“We should nationalise the land, we should nationalise the banks, we should nationalise the mines. We should nationalise the monopoly industry,” the fly was heard to say.
What? Was this not the same creature that has in past years repeatedly denounced nationalisation as the crazy musings of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. That “we’re very clear. It [nationalisation] is not our policy. We’ve been saying this inside the country, outside the country. It cannot be.”
For further emphasis, it added that “we have answered this question many times. We are very clear. Our policy is mixed economy.”
From there, the fly would proceed to take state-owned assets and put them at the disposal of its cronies, who in turn milked them until they were as dry as a Port Elizabeth reservoir.
Anyway, that is history. Even flies are allowed to change their minds.
Back to Walter Sisulu University, where the fly was not done polluting the minds of the youth. In a direct attack on the nation’s founding document, the fly urged the students to interrogate the reason the Constitution was above Parliament and why decisions of elected representatives could be overriden by this charter.
The fly was not done. It went on to question the notion of state capture – as it has done in the past – to the point of actually denying its existence.
“My view, and I’m not disagreeing with anyone, is that these are political decorated expressions. There is no state that is captured, even when people try to describe it, worse when they give evidence,” it said.
It continued: “There is no state capture in South Africa. There are people who did things to others‚ but there is no such thing called state capture. Let us not swallow everything that is given to us.”
In February, when we swatted the fly away, there was hope that it would keep its distance. There was hope that the February swat would be enough of a deterrent. But we were wrong. Flies do not behave like that.
Fly experts explain that flies have heavy appetites – in other words, they are greedy. Their strong sensory abilities – especially the sense of smell – draw them to potential nutrition sources and places of warmth, where they do the things they like to do a lot. Like reproduce, for instance.
So, South Africa, swat all you want, this fly is not going anywhere. It is going to land on our necks, hover over food and make a lot of noise. It is going to irritate us until we find a warm place for it in a sprawling, high-walled and very secure complex in the Durban suburb of Westville.