Miraculously, the ‘terminally ill’ danced the night away

Share this...

By Howard Feldman

South Africans have always been early adapters. We have had to deal with an energy crisis long before it became fashionable, and we have been gaslighted way before social media declared it a trend.

The term “gaslighting” derives from the title of the 1944 American film Gaslight. It tells the story of a husband who uses trickery to convince his wife that she is mentally unwell so he can steal from her. You see where this if going?  The title refers to the gaslight illumination of the house which seems to waver whenever the husband leaves his wife alone at home. The term “gaslighting” itself is not in the screenplay or mentioned in the movie. The 1944 film is a remake which, in turn, is based on the 1938 thriller play Gas Light, set in the Victorian era.

There have been times over the last number of years when South Africans could have easily thought that they were losing their sanity. When Schabir Shaik went to prison for corruption, while the man with whom he was found to have a corrupt relation, did not, it seemed strange. We might have wondered if it was perhaps our lack of understanding that made it difficult to comprehend. When Shaik was paroled for having a very serious terminal illness (as if there is another type), we might have questioned our understanding of medical science, especially when he seemed to frequent the golf course instead of a hospice.

Allegations of corruption against the Zuma government were confronted with shock. So much so that Zuma demanded his day in court to prove the nefarious nature of it all … and then proceeded with everything in his power to prevent that day from ever happening.

He followed through with this strategy and avoided appearing before the very commission designed to uncover the truth. When he ultimately was sentenced to prison for contempt of court for not appearing, his defenders told us that he was on old man and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. They forgot that he was reasonably young (or at least younger) when this whole mess began.

And then, when it couldn’t get any more insane, it did. Jacob Zuma was released from prison because, well, he too was terminal. Very terminal. Only no one would say what was wrong with him and not a doctor could be found to support the finding. When I interviewed his organisation on my show, I was accused of not understanding how the system worked. It was a medical condition and how dare I ask for an explanation of his illness as it was private. Besides, he was an old man and I was clearly disrespectful.

Really. There was something wrong with me.

This weekend a restaurant called Zuma opened in Umghlanga near Durban. Zuma himself cut the ribbon and then he and Schabir apparently danced the night away. Neither were accompanied by medical teams, and both appeared to be in hearty health. The religiously minded amongst us would consider this to be nothing short of a modern-day miracle. After all, consider the chances of two jailbirds having been released from prison on medical parole and both having experienced remarkable recovery in order to be able to celebrate as God intended.


The gaslighting did not stop with Zuma. The ANC strategy of telling us that they are working fiercely on the unemployment issue and that they have plans for the Eskom disaster, are cases in point.

The Government’s welcoming of the Iranian foreign minister to the country during the 16 days of activism where we focus on our unacceptably high level of gender-based violence, is further evidence of gaslighting. To insist that the ANC is committed to its women whilst entertaining the Iranian minister, is to affectively turn the lights down further whilst denying having done so.

Gaslit relationships are never successful ones. They are categorised by disrespect and even contempt for the person or group being treated that way. While the ANC government might have been earlier adapters with this technique, it says little positive for their approach and their care for the people they are meant to serve.