My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
The question is why a person so obviously and fatally flawed as Goniwe had ever been elevated to the very important position of Chief Whip of the ANC in Parliament. I happen to think the ANC remains a relatively principled organisation (for a political party in power, that is). So why would they elect such an obviously flawed person to the high position of Chief Whip?
The answer, I think, is that Mbulelo’s father was Mathew Goniwe, a leader of the UDF who was callously murdered by the apartheid government in the nineteen eighties.
So because of his family name he was elected as chief whip of the ANC in the National Assembly.
I was thinking about him when I read the scathing review article by R.W. Johnson about Mark Thatcher, son of the lady who was not for turning, in the London Review of Books.
Johnson, a right wing commentator residing in Constantia Cape Town (just like … Mark Thatcher) who must have been quite a fan of Lady Thatcher, starts his article by saying:
Mark Thatcher, talentless, and so graceless that the most charming thing about him was that he would sometimes introduce himself as ‘charmless Mark’, was – is – doted on by ‘Mummy’, in whose eyes he could do no wrong and who insisted, against all the evidence, that he was a ‘born businessman’.
In South Africa it would be difficult to imagine a journalist writing about Goniwe in such contemptuous terms. But that does not mean that there are not similarities between the two.
Its is a good omen that the ANC seems to have taken decisive action against Goniwe, despite his famous name. Maybe its a sign of a new understanding that in the long run the shenanigans of a Goniwe will cost the ANC some votes, no matter how hopeless the DA might be.
On another level it is depressing to think that we are no different from places like the USA (George Bush), or India (the Ghandi’s) in that names often mean more than ability. So much for the capitalist spirit.
Slight amendment (19 November 2006): Michael Osborn points out that R.W. Johnson has never been a great fan of Mrs. T. If one reads the complete review in the London Review of Books this becomes apparent.