I went to a very charismatic, Pentecostal church as a young teenager- it was emotional and fun and seemed meaningful at the time. I have recently reunited with a high school friend from that time- 16 years later (Feel OLD). Sitting on the beach in Umdloti two weeks ago, we were discussing how dangerous, dysfunctional and influential it all was. We were teenagers who were easily influenced, young and naive (13/14 year’s old). We both consider that hysterical church experience as a negative part of growing up- damaging and confusing. Double the age we were then- we both go to church as a personal choice where there is no hysteria, mob mentality, charlatans, incessant singing, and all the emotions that come with it.
When I stumbled upon an ANC rally in the Zulu town of Mbazwane, very near to the tourist diving spot Sodwana Bay, yesterday – it reminded me of my emotional, teenage church experience.
It was fun and hyped up and the bussed-in ANC supporters certainly turned the tiny town centre into a party. If I were to vote for a political party that knew how to throw parties, the ANC would win hands down. There was this IFP bakkie of four IFP supporters on the back that kept driving past, but it was hugely outnumbered and just looked lame. I was embarrassed for them.
The colourful supporters with their Zuma flags and shirts ( Isn’t this a local election?) thronged into the parking lot of the OK grocery store and Capitec bank opposite The Spar and other shops, including one run by a Chinese man, as is obligatory, it seems, in even the smallest Zululand outposts.
I am beginning to wonder if there is a formula for ANC rallies.- Say “Viva ANC” as many times as possible and then its Phanzi to everything else (phanzi means down). The bit when I noticed teenage girls in high school uniforms shouting “Long live Umkonto we Sizwe long live”, I shook my head. They weren’t even alive when Umkhonto we Sizwe was in its heyday and I know it’s glorious to refer to the struggle and all that, but it still doesn’t sit well with the DA voting Umlungu in me.
Then there were plenty of shouts of Amandla, and a little cute baby that looked about 18 months old was being shown how to make a fist. The speakers added more Vivas- Viva ANC Viva, Viva Cosatu Viva, Viva YCl, – the usual. It’s all a bit formulaic to me and Pentecostal over-the-top-church like. Interestingly, the smiling candidate for the ward next to Mbzawane proudly told me he was a Pentecostal church pastor. I am not criticising the church- dad – just the ones that play on people’s emotions and promote mindlessness.
Of course the were some struggle songs- always the same songs- and the word ‘communis’ chanted a zillion times. It was kind of like the hysterical repeated shout of “Amen brother” which can be used sensibly too. It was great fun and I was so into the whole thing that I didn’t leave in time to get home before dark which is foolish and just plain stupid – cause the cattle and potholes should not be negotiated in the pitch dark. I stay in tyre puncture territory.
Amidst the dancing, singing and flag waving – a speaker shouted “Kill the Farmer, Kill the Boer” in English. Thanks to Malema or Afriforum’s equality court case, I think that phrase is as much a part of ANC rally lingo as Amandla, Viva and Phanzi DA!
So I arrive home in the pitch black and rain, join the dinner table and repeat the farmer statements.
“I’m sorry,” says Anu strongly, there is only one thing ‘Ibhunu’ means and it is Afrikaner in a derogatory wa y- “take it from a Zulu speaker”. ( Kill the Farmer comes from the statement Dubul’ Ibhunu for anyone who has not read a newspaper in the last 6 months.)
Anu grew up in Ingwavuma, a small town in rural Zululand, not far from the Swazi border. There was not even a tar road to the hospital when she was born. She grew up playing with Zulu children, obviously, and speaking Zulu and is as fluent in Zulu as she is in her home language Afrikaans. Sometimes in conversation she will say things like “there’s a Zulu word for such and such” which is better to describe the situation than the English word…
She says you can tell a word is not acceptable when kids say ‘whoooa’ when you use it. She’s a teacher and it’s a relevant comment. Here in Zululand, Ibhunu gets a (haaa whoa) reaction from children. It can be the Zulu version of the k- word for Afrikaaner, she says.
So, asks her mother Maryna, who learnt Zulu as an adult, then what word can be used in Zulu to describe Afrikaner? Maryna recently introduced herself as an Ibhunu at a local meeting.
“Most words to describe Afrikaaners in Zulu are derogatory” says Anu. She says the word Isibhunu refers the to the language Afrikaans and is neutral so describing oneself as an Afrikaans speaker is better.
Anu then adds, “Malema can’t even tell you want ‘Ibhunu’ means because he is Pedi”. White as she is- Zulu is as much her first language as English and Afrikaans. I laughed.
I didn’t like the Kill the Farmer reference but I think the whole emotional, hysterical, mob mentality vibe is as worrying. But, I think people see through it. They are not all naïve 13-year-olds. I think enough people can see a hyped-up-party with repetitive formulaic language and jumping up and down for what it is and that’s why most of the supporters were bussed in- I drove behind about 10 bakkies overloaded with yellow ANC supporters.
I also think that’s why a local man told me: “I am not voting, I am a Christian and they are all dishonest”. So we got into a debate about if religion dictates not voting- but he answered “they are all liars – why must I vote for any of them?”
I didn’t have an answer.