The Culture of Cakeby Lindokuhle Nkosi / Illustration by Alastair Laird / 02.05.2012
The ANC will no longer eat cake. In a reverse on Marie Aintoinette, the African National Congress has declared that it will no longer eat cake in public. The Cake Report, tabled in early February, proposes the “culture” of public cake eating at ANC celebrations may be viewed as insensitive and uncaring. It is unclear when it became a culture.
“It was proposed that for future January 8 celebrations the eating of cake should be made private, as it does not augur well to eat in front of our members and supporters while they are not eating,” said the Cake Report in its assessment of the ruling party’s centenary celebrations.
“How do we tweak this culture and make it less insensitive?” Jackson Mthembu is quoted as saying. “It makes us appear elitist. We are saying we either get enough cake for everyone, or we don’t eat cake at all.” How sacrificial of them. Too sacrificial. I guess it was too extreme to expect them to actually give up the cake all together, and so a more moderate middle-ground is under consideration. The private consumption of cake. A mass blinkering of the public.
The ANC has practically written their own satire here. They’re competing with Hayibo. So many options, so many roads to take. Let’s start with the low road. Something about the president’s four wives, outside affairs and a cake being sliced in many, many different ways. Maybe a poor, mixed-metaphor about cake-eating and the airing of dirty laundry (Fikile Mbalula, an ambitious gold-digger and the Sunday tabloids). Possibly a South African version of the Swedish screaming cake, except this time the country-men will be unable to hear its cries. Or maybe the obvious, linking the party’s plan to conceal their consumption of baked goods to the manner in which they constantly attempt to hide accounts of their misspending (dissolution of the Scorpions, Protection of Information Bill etc.) rather than curb the corruption itself.
The cake is a symbol of the ANC’s overindulgence. A symbol of the big pay day at the end of the revolution. Of how far they have strayed from the ideals of the Freedom Charter. Of how out of touch they are with people. The ANC has not committed to curbing the excessive and lavish lifestyles of its leaders. What they have undertaken, is to shield us from the ostentatiousness. It seems that the ruling party is not as concerned with the corruption and gross misallocalation of funds that seems so endemic to the organization, but rather with how we, the voting public view it. The issue at hand here, is not whether the ANC has been behaving in an unfeeling manner, but rather, whether we are aware of it. It seems the holy principle of “enjoying champagne on our behalf” does not apply to confectionary, nor is it relevant to buying million Rand cars and charging private expenses to the state.
That they even think that this issue is more pertinent than the myriad of problems facing the country is worrying. R12 million was donated by the government to fund the ANC’s centenary celebrations, while over 40% of South Africans live below the bread line. This mean that 40% of us cannot afford the R322 minimum it takes to feed oneself for a month. Add the 25% unemployment rate, and regular, nationwide service delivery protests and it becomes clear we are a nation in turmoil. While our leaders cash in, and nobly decide to hide their cake eating, we’re sitting with unemployment rates that are amongst the highest in the world.
Talk about fucked up priorities. Insensitivity. A ruling party that deems it fit to use state funds for private parties, and more disturbingly, a pervading agenda to obscure the truth. There is at least one positive in all of this, despite its incredible fatuousness, for perhaps the first time in 18 years, the ANC has commissioned, published and reacted to a report in record time, almost successfully quelling accusations that they are unable to.
*Illustration © Alastair Laird.