I know that liking a politician for their appearance is as shallow as choosing a racehorse for its name or a wine for its label, but, well… I am that shallow. I am more likely to be found reading the derring-do exploits of The Four Marys from the Bunty Annual 1965 than perusing the political pages of the papers, but for what it’s worth, I liked the fact that Thabo Mbeki was always immaculately tailored just as I liked his upright posture, his quiet demeanour and his reputation for academia.
And I confess that almost as much as the charges of corruption against Jacob Zuma are intensely worrying, and his habit of saying stupid things without thinking are unforgiveable in a politician, what really makes me uncomfortable about old JZ is his penchant of wearing an oversized leather jacket and, well… lolling.
Obviously South Africa is going through some big upheavals at the moment. The country is going through a spotty, greasy teenage phase of emotional angst and heavy sighs and cries of “it’s not faaair” and stomping off to its room to slam the door and play loud music. But that is what makes it exciting. It is not a nit-picking granny of a country, it is a nation brimming with potential… as the tourist board says, South Africa is “Alive with Possibility”.
And now Kgalema Motlanthe has been voted as caretaker President until the elections next April. In addition to my glee at the idea of international reporters getting their tongues used to the name, it appears he is a rather good choice. Mentored by the great Walter Sisulu both while on Robben Island and after their release, he apparently is a quiet man respected across all parties and factions. Not only do reports describe him as a cool-headed man of principles with a keen grasp of international politics but best of all, he’s got a good sense of humour.
And his dress sense? Well, he has been caught on camera sporting a leather jacket and giving the double thumbs up. But generally he appears to be rather well turned out. So long as he resists pairing a suit with a baseball cap or surrounding himself with men in military garb displaying their mobile phones alongside their medals, I think we’ll be all right. South Africa may just have grown up a little…