Today, the last in the month of uMandulo, there are people marching against corruption. They are marching in all the major centres of Mzansi.
Elsewhere I have spoken about the connection between forgetting, deception and corruption. It is a complex dance of backward glances, envelopes under the table and vocal dissimulation, designed to perpetuate an unjust power dynamic based on a system of lies, nepotism and deception.
This word, though – this word haunts our country’s nightmares. It contains within it so many features of the utter wrongness of corruption.
Firstly, it’s a noun. It’s in the same noun class as the moon and other objects that vary with the seasons. It is not of a constant shape, but is recognised as the same thing regardless of which form it takes according to its context.
Secondly, it is a singular. There are instances of the plural, but there they mean something different.
The noun is derived from a neuter form of the verb khohla, khohlakala, which means:
get forgotten, be overlooked
get corrupted, become demoralized or contaminated
This form of the verb is a frequent part of my discussions of political double-speak and linguistic lack of accountability in isiZulu – it doesn’t require a personal subject concord in many instances, and simply indicates that verb “happens” or “gets done” without even implying an agent.
So, up to this point we have an understanding that the noun is a seasonal thing indicating something overlooked, corrupted or contaminated, with uncertainty or denial of the agent behind the action.
Let’s finish off by having a look at the actual noun’s meaning:
1. a puzzling affair; a matter that puts one at a loss as to what to say or to do
2. demoralization, corruption, corruption
To me, this captures the concept perfectly. Up to now, we have become utterly demoralized by the cancer of corruption that has metastasized to all organs of our country’s government. One could speculate as to the original site of the cancer, but (to mix metaphors slightly) some say that the fish rots from the head. We have been at a loss as to what to do. Nothing we throw at the problem seems to work. All treatment options have failed.
And so we try one more treatment – mass mobilisation. I wonder what this procedure’s survival rate is.