SA’s history of randy politicians – when more than a bit-on-the-side sets you apart | Fin24

SA’s history of randy politicians – when more than a bit-on-the-side sets you apart

Dec 06 2016 08:46

In this, often side-splitting satirical piece, Ed Herbst, takes a global historical tour of the more colourful political fornicators and masters of infidelity.

He argues that where South Africa differs markedly in the sleaze stakes today, is in how much more and how often our fearless and adulterous leaders bless their conquests with political position and economic good fortune.

It’s a fun read and perhaps even welcome light relief from the corruption overload that we daily willingly absorb. Zuma’s acquittal on rape charges in May 2006 hardly features, but an allegedly illegitimate offspring whose adult years have seen him recently accumulate instant wealth via a shaky tender, does.

Perhaps a case of belated lobola? No DNA tests were ever done, so we’ll never know.

It’s one of many local examples. There’s no doubting it; blood and tribe in the highest echelons of SA politics are indicators of mountains of moolah and seductive power – that time-honoured, irresistible mix for young women the world over.

Some value-add advice to readers; pause to consider the punctuation in the author’s description of the wombat’s behavioural habits. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

A twist in that tale is that Edith Cresson was one of president Mitterrand’s many mistresses years ago. “My little soldier”, he used to call the feisty redhead. When he made her minister of agriculture, however, angry farmers called her la parfumee du president – the president’s floozie. – Dangerous liaisons: why the French still do it in styleThe Independent 2/4/1999

Today it’s wall-to-wall pussy (nothing new there) and bowing and scraping and frigates and flybys and the cash is flooding in to a degree that he can start being choosy about where it comes from. – Nic Borain Daily Maverick 19/3/2013

There was a moment when, given our very peculiar politics, I thought we might be able to lure Boris de Pfeffel Johnson into moving to the Beloved Country. It would have been a perfect fit.

That was between him declining the leadership of the Tory Party and Theresa May appointing him Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Boris, you see, is a man who does not take the vows of marital fidelity too seriously. In fact, I have always felt that his avatar should be a skull and crossbones because he is Jolly and Rogers for England.

I had my doubts though because I realised that there would be strong competition from Down Under, the Aussies not having had a swordsman of international acclaim since the demise, decades ago, of the swashbuckling Errol (In like) Flynn.

The Ockers would have loved Johnson because someone like the renowned Australian operatic tenor, Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson – do your own Google search but ‘Living next Door to Alan’ is one of his more genteel and politically correct compositions – would describe Johnson as a Wombat, a cuddly marsupial which is an Aussie icon because it eats, roots and leaves and, as a pedant of note, I must ask you to retain the comma.

In defence of our philandering Number One I must point out, though, that the road to political power is dangerously strewn with almost incomprehensible temptation.

So much so that when Nicolas Sarkozy divorced his second wife in 2007 it is said that about a dozen leading women in upper crust French society divorced their husbands in the hope of becoming First Lady.

That didn’t work out for them and a big up to him for his up yours to Mick Jagger when he inveigled the lissom Carla Bruni away from the poncing rocker – a justifiable and karmic retribution for Jagger’s caddish behaviour in luring the delectable Jerry Hall away from the infinitely more refined Brian Ferry.

But, I digress, my point being that women will, like moths to a candle flame, always be attracted to famous and influential men. This is a major incentive to every pimply youth, more than happy to put in Malcolm Gladwell’s requisite 10 000 hours on a Fender Stratocaster, in the hope of having hordes of ravenous groupies fording rivers of molten lava to get at his lithe young body when he becomes a Rock God.

They are all at it, the politicians I mean – ask one of the most colourful politicians in recent history – Silvio Berlusconi, he’ll tell you.

Four-year affair

But who, for a moment, would ever have thought that the colourless, the greyest of grey British politicians, John Major, would have had a fiery, four-year affair with the feisty Edwina Currie?

The French politicians, of course, do it with a certain je ne sais quoi and I don’t think it did François Hollande any harm when the news broke that his bodyguard would take him on a scooter to assignations with the captivating Julie Gayet, returning the next morning to collect him and deliver freshly baked croissants.

(To my chagrin and my shame however I must admit that the very occasional woman journalist has succumbed to the charms of those in high political office. But this did, at least, contribute a new phrase, ‘Ugandan discussions’, to our lexicon of adultery phrases.)

JFK was a notorious philanderer and had, on permanent call, two interns, nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle by White House staffers.


John F Kennedy

He was not a possessive man though and he was happy to share them with his actor friend Peter Lawford – just as they were happy to be shared.

Lawford’s personal documents were auctioned in 2013 and they included a letter thanking him for a weekend gleesome threesome that the two interns spent with him and it included the following immortal line:

I hope we left your wife’s clothes in wearable condition. I’m afraid they went through quite a trying-on session.

But here’s the point and the reason why I headlined this article, the second I have written on this subject, ‘Our very peculiar politics’: Fiddle and Faddle lived out their professional lives as bureaucratic non-entities – JFK never placed them in positions of authority at airlines or major broadcasting companies

Which brings me to a very peculiar press release issued by the Presidency in December last year which contained the following line:

“Rumours about a romance and a child are baseless and are designed to cast aspersions on the President‚” said Presidency spokesman Bongani Majola.

Quite right too – the very thought that Thalente Myeni has sprung from the frenetically fecund loins of our libidinous ‘Father of the Nation’ is clearly preposterous – and a plague upon your doubting houses.

Yes, I know that Thalente has just snouted his first multi-million rand tender but that is obviously pure coincidence as it has been on so many other similar occasions.

DNA test

Any PR person, myself included, would point out the obvious solution to the totally unjustified reputational damage that the ANC is suffering as result of these vile, vicious, media-fuelled and probably CIA-sponsored rumours. Just get Thalente to do a DNA test, announce at a press conference that the results prove, obviously, that he not a son and heir but that you are going to set up a media tribunal anyhow.

It was, of course, worse under apartheid.

Yeah, right.

When, in the late 1960’s, Willy Maree, the National Party MP for Newcastle was caught flagrantly in flagrante with one of his office staff in what contemporary sources described as an ‘Olympian knee trembler’, he was toast but not toasted and resigned for ‘health reasons’ a few days later. To the National Party, bringing the party into disrepute was not a forgivable offence.

(Strangely enough, as someone who has had an abiding interest in politics stretching from Sir De Villiers Graaff to Mmusi Maimane, I can’t recall an adultery scandal in those ranks – perhaps the Presidency or the Luthuli House oracle – the ‘Intern Unit’ – can provide an explanation.)

Things have changed somewhat since the days of Willy Maree’s ignominious departure from parliament and some distinctly insalubrious dramas have subsequently and routinely played themselves out on social and in other media.

Few qualms have been expressed by the African National Congress to whom adulterous carnal congress like lying and snouting, seems a perfectly acceptable norm. This is a wondrous world where, instead of buying a nail file, you feel compelled, as part of your National Democratic Revolution duty, to visit a massage parlour, a world where a manicure is now referred to – in Limpopo at least – as a ‘hand job’.

Lubricious intentions

We are thus confronted by the unedifying account of the unspeakable Fikile ‘Razzmatazz’ Mbalula, travelling to an extra-marital tryst accompanied by bodyguards and, presumably, in a blue light convoy, only to subsequently lie about it and then have the very temporary object of his lubricious intentions dismissing him as ‘just a shag’.


South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

Or Marius Fransman sending SMS messages to a newly-employed woman giving advice on what he regarded as appropriate working apparel – diaphanous obviously and, one must assume, preferably acquired at the nearest Adult World outlet.

Or an ANC chief whip pointing out that he is not an ‘ordinary’ man.


In closing I must point out that Number One might be number one with Guptas but, in the Rampant Rutter rankings, he is beaten by the late Sicelo Shiceka, who was described in a Chris Barron obituary as a ‘notorious philanderer and high-living abuser of the public purse’.

There is surely not a province that is not home to one of Shiceka’s multitudinous, out-of-wedlock brood, making him a supercharged version of the Zapiro Baby Shower.

Given his record in public office as a revered member of the ANC he probably felt that it was every taxpayer’s duty to provide – as a sort of charitable ‘blesser’ – the necessary papgeld for all the biblical ‘begetting’ he got up to during his political career – while constantly disregarding the Ninth Commandment.

One can understand why the Aussies might consider Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as a possible successor to the late and much lamented Errol Flynn but at least they don’t do it while splayed on the public purse. And if you question that consider the fact that in April 2014 the Premier of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell, resigned after not declaring a bottle of wine given to him by a major donor to his party’s funds.

Things are somewhat different here, I am sure you will agree, but it’s all part of the ANC’s ‘Good story to tell’, its Tsunami of Sleaze and very much part our very peculiar politics.

Should we ever be accused by the zealously righteous and the righteously zealous of being fanatically-focused fornicators we could, in our less-than-righteous defence, say that the African National Congress leads by example, a disturbing example given the prevalence of HIV-Aids.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.

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