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Culture, Reality

Elephantiasis Durbanitis

by Alex Sudheim, images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 23.02.2010

Even though the tropical parasitic disease Elephantiasis is characterised by a catastrophic thickening of the skin, the local version – known as Elephantiasis Durbanitis – afflicts only members of the ruling party and is defined by a startling reversal of the usual symptoms in that it causes an alarming thinning of the skin.

As part of one of Durban’s many costly cosmetic surgeries of the inner city designed to impress those few Europeans who actually come here for the World Cup, the municipality commissioned world-renowned Durban sculptor Andries Botha to construct three life-size elephant sculptures in his ongoing, hugely acclaimed project involving the use of recycled materials to create his singular pachyderms. As an indication of the success of this project, consider the the fact that nine of Botha’s elephants are currently wowing audiences around the world: Lux Themba, created from galvanized steel and indigenous leadwood is permanently in the Netherlands; Nomkhubulwane, woven out of recycled motorcar tyres, drew awestruck crowds beside her at Durban’s KZNSA Gallery before travelling to Mexico to be displayed at the 9th World Wilderness Congress whereafter she will travel to the American cities of El Paso, Fayetteville, Chicago, Bozeman, Montana and Detroit.

Thus, even though our soccer stadia are grotesque monuments to arrogance, folly and hubris and the puke-inducing propaganda force-fed us by the state media is triggering national waves of nausea, I mean patriotism, for once it seemed the ANC were spending public funds on something that everyone could agree was a pretty good idea. After all, seeing a trio of massive elephants grazing upon an island in the midst of Warwick Junction, Durban’s bustling, utilitarian transport hub, would be pretty neat. Plus, at a cost of R1,5 million, it wouldn’t cost the city more than it pays Shauwn Mpisane to build a self-destructing RDP toilet.

IFP Elephants

But alas, these elephants appear to have been placed upon the extinction list right next to their flesh-and-blood brethren. When a convoy of ANC stuffed shirts recently glided by the elephants being installed, the party’s brittle ego had a wobbly. Isn’t the elephant the symbol – shock horror – of the IFP? Immediately these party functionaries contracted a morbid dose of Elphantiasis Durbanitis, promptly wet their nappies and bawled at Durban’s municipal manager Mike “Mussolini” Sutcliffe to do something about it. Once again our Mike jumped boldly into the breach to shaft the city at the expense of his party’s petty power hang-ups. All of a sudden, ages after the project was green-lighted, approved and given the go-ahead and scant months before its completion, Sutcliffe has put the brakes on it.

Out of the blue, this has now become, in Sutcliffe’s own words, “something which I am investigating so that I may be better informed about processes and procedures being followed. I was not aware of any of the details of this project, including ensuring there is proper procurement, and I need to report back to the Mayor.” Some crackerjack city manager we got here, “unaware” of a high-profile public art project which has been in the media spotlight for months on end. Then, with flabbergasting disengenuity, he goes on to say: “I am sure you would agree that it is my job to ensure public funds are properly expended and that fair and transparent processes are followed.”

Elephant Enclosure

But the real clincher is Sutcliffe’s bald-faced assertion that “the fact that some people want to politicise it is not something I will waste time reporting on.” How stupid does he think we are?! Even the terminally turgid IFP was bemused and noted that “the elephant goes beyond the IFP and is part of greater South Africa. Where will all this end? The DA uses the sun on its logo, so will the ANC next try and stop the sun from rising?”

When asked by the Sunday Times about his decidedly non-revolutionary lifestyle of garish opulence, Julius Malema retorted indignantly: “What gives you the power to ask me this question?” In a country where a factotum such as Malema clearly comprehends as much about transparency being a cornerstone of democracy as he does about woodwork, perhaps it’s time for all other political parties to make their symbol a condom since this is one thing the ANC leadership evidently has very little use for.

All images © and courtesy Kevin Goss-Ross.

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