NEWS item: President Jacob Zuma receives honorary doctorate of leadership from Limkokwing University during an official visit to Malaysia.
Amid so much negativity, we can look forward to a wave of good feeling sweeping our business and political circles as a rising tide of prestigious accolades boosts South Africa’s stature. Sources tell me a host of honorary doctorates and other prestigious honours are to be awarded in the coming months:
• The J Arthur Brown Award in Creative Accounting is to be awarded, posthumously, to Jeff Wiggill, the late chairman of engineering firm First Strut. Wiggill convinced major banks and asset managers to invest more than R900m in his company’s bonds. His death precipitated the collapse of the firm, leaving a trail of job losses and exposed financial institutions. Rumour has it that the likes of Investec and Nedbank are in the running for honourable mention for due diligence in the First Strut affair.
• The Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos School of Public Policy is to present African National Congress MP Dina Pule with an honorary doctorate of ethical governance. The selection committee was impressed with her remarks in Parliament last week: "I want to say to this house I did the best I could to do my job and if I made a mistake, I want to apologise." The committee remarked that "Imelda would have loved this blameless performance, and would have killed for Pule’s shoes".
• The George Orwell Doublespeak Award will be awarded to presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj. Long a favourite, he vaulted to the top of the short list last Friday, after a radio interview in which he defended Zuma’s refusal to hand over the infamous spy tapes, saying "this is not a question of hiding, this is a question of exercising one’s rights in law".
That the Presidency is a centre of excellence is clear from the number of accolades in the vicinity of Number One. Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, is to receive an honorary doctorate from the Tom Hagen School of Law. The unanimous decision by the selection panel followed its study of his role in Zuma’s legal battles. The panel remarked: "He comes closer to consigliere than any South African lawyer to date." Members of the legal fraternity warn, however, that while he may be the flavour of the month, Hulley should remember Michael Corleone’s parting words to Hagen: "You’re out, Tom."
Which coincidentally brings us to Glenn Agliotti. The former drug lord is the subject of a glowing biography by Peter Piegl and Sean Newman. In a review of the book, Anton Harber wondered about "the ethics of attempting to profit through a second-rate whitewash of a known despicable scoundrel". It is therefore no surprise that the Brett Kebble Literary Award will go to the only contender, Agliotti.
From politics and commerce, we move on to entertainment. Last week, the 24-hour channel popularly known as Gupta TV launched on DStv. Confusion over whether it was intended as a news or comedy station was settled in the first few days, when, for example, a weather presenter informed viewers that "tomorrow our Mother City Johannesburg will be nice and warm". By popular acclaim, the Hlaudi Motsoeneng Award for Excellence in Live Broadcasting will go to ANN7.
Iqbal Survé is to receive the Floyd Shivambu Award for Civil Public Discourse, following a remarkable non-interview with the Mail & Guardian in which he uttered the word "bulls**t" 13 times. Said the awards panel: "We could do with some straight talk around here — no s**t."
South African Communist Party deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin is to receive an honorary doctorate from the Marshal Beria School of Trade Union Unity. This is after he told delegates at the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union congress that "some black heroes of the white cocktail circuit … are turned into fashionable … media celebrities, oppositionists hero-worshipped for ‘speaking’ so-called ‘truth to power’."
The doctorate will be presented by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim — who has referred to Cronin as the "Marxist Pontiff" — during a special ceremony at the Vatican.
• Morudu writes from Cape Town.