This is a book of desire denied, of what the pain of that impotence drives people to do, and how it makes them unwilling contortionists and even co-conspirators in their oppression. From ‘The Transformation of Harry’: “And there we all were; in an uncertain country, ourselves uncertain. A land with a sly heart; and ourselves ready to be deceived.” For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening. First published in 1978, The House of Hunger speaks, or rather shouts, forward from its own time to 2017. Perhaps the most painful parts of the book to read are those that show how little has changed in thirty-nine years. For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening.
Why, oh, why do so many South Africans suffer from an affliction I call the Hansie Cronje syndrome? The Hansie Cronje syndrome robs usually sane and nice people of all reason. They jump to the defence of scoundrels and fools, believe the most outrageous lies and defend the indefensible – merely because the person being criticised comes form the same racial or gender group than they do.
The Hansie Cronje syndrome really makes fools out of all of us. It allows politicians and other influential people to get away with the most dangerous and stupid behaviour and allow them to display that attitude so perfectly captured by Marx – that is Groucho Marx – when he said: “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
How stunned I was after Hansie Cronje confessed that the Devil made him fix matches and take money from scaly bookies, just to hear many white South Africans still defending him as the victim of a conspiracy. Even after going on national television and confessing to his dastardly deeds (while tjanking like a baby), some of his fans still could not believe that he was really to blame. Even at his funeral, a sense of misguided racial solidarity allowed many people to give him a heroes send off.
The Hansie Cronje syndrome seems to afflict people who call in to radio talk shows in a disproportionate manner. If one wants to hear black people defending other black people or white people defending other whites – no matter what – just tune in to any radio station with a mixed listenership.
When the dearly beloved MEC, Bheki Cele, broke the law by driving at more than 160 km per hour and then justified it by explaining that he was late for a meeting, there they were, some afflicted fools, phoning in to defend their dear leader and to deride those who dared to criticise the MEC. Don’t they have any shame, talking such unadulterated rubbish? Apparently not – and the only reason is that they are afflicted by the Hansie Cronje syndrome.
A wonderful place to see this affliction in full flight is on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website. Here supporters of Mr Zuma keep up a lively debate in support of their hero but never, no never, stop to wonder why Mr Zuma took more than a million Rand from a convicted fraudster only to do a series of favours for him. Mr Zuma’s supporters seem to have that same slightly unhinged we-love-Hansie look in the eye that was so prevalent at the ex-cricket captain’s funeral.
One day, hopefully, we will start to believe our own eyes and not what our leaders tell us. Then we can finally get rid of the ghost of that colossal crook, Hansie Cronje once and for all.BACK TO TOP