THERE is nothing that politicians from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) find more irritating than citizens who refuse to be (mis)ruled. But there is nothing that unhinges our politicians more than citizens who labour under the illusion that it is their democratic right to complain, rightly or wrongly, about the performance of their government.
To be fair to our rulers, I would be incensed too if the hordes known to us as "our people" (when they do what they are told), "the masses" (when they vote for us) or a "mob" (when they think like Africans from Africa … generally) start thinking they have the capacity to exercise free will.
No wonder Gauteng’s premier and staunch defender of President Jacob Zuma, Nomvula Mokonyane, was forced to tell protesters in Bekkersdal to, "Hou jou bek!" (Shut your mouth!", which is the appropriate thing to say to an unruly mob in Bekkersdal given the fact that "bek" — mouth — is part of Bekkersdal).
I am making this up, of course. Ms Mokonyane said no such thing. What she did say was more conciliatory and befitting of one who is destined for promotion to the ranks of our national Cabinet after the 2014 general election. Ms Mokonyane, who surely had been heard out of context, reminded the angry Bekkersdal protesters who were heckling her that the ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Julius Malema (at some point) and Thabo Mbeki, was not desperate for their "dirty votes".
For me, the problem is that she did not say this at the University of the Witwatersrand where such truths should be told. In fact, she reminds me of a comrade, in my previous life as an ANC fisher of votes, who told an angry mob of South African Democratic Teachers Union members in Soweto that they "can keep their stinking votes".
At least the votes of the Bekkersdal mob are just dirty, but they may yet be upgraded to "stinking" level if the protesters continue to display a flagrant disregard for the dignity of their rulers. By the way, I am not sure which made Mokonyane more livid, the fact that she was booed and heckled, or the wanton destruction of private and public property by the dirty vote in Bekkersdal.
Allow me to digress a bit: my parents named me Aubrey Mongameli. The second name Mongameli has many great, important and delusional meanings. One is "president". If I were to move to Bekkersdal, the wanton destruction of my private-is-public property would not be just a spot of bother for the Gauteng premier and the Cabinet colleague responsible for property owned by all whose name is Mongameli. Instead of the dirty votes comment, the Bekkersdal mob would have received an SMS from the democratic government with a promise to upgrade the property they have destroyed, no questions asked, finished and klaar.
Back to the dirty and stinking votes. It seems to me that Gauteng has the highest concentration of such voters. Are Gauteng motorists not the ones who provoked our rulers with their unreasonable demands and threats of encouraging white people to learn the toyi-toyi in preparation for a civil disobedience campaign against e-tolling? Are they not the ones who told our democratically elected ANC government that they are very happy to drive on the exquisite Gauteng highways but the president must keep his "stinking e-tolls"?
What was the president supposed to say when his people start thinking like people from another continent? Even the premier of our neighbouring country, the Western Cape, does not talk to him so condescendingly. She, in fact, is full of the kind of praise for Msholozi that may put her in danger of receiving a diplomatic posting to a country that has posh freeways. At least Helen Zille knows she will not be posted to Malawi the day she steps down as the leader of the eternal opposition.
But it is the voters we must thank for the colourful manner in which our rulers are forced to talk to low, down and dirty voters. Since 1994, the majority of voters have been forcing the ANC to smell their stinking votes.
• Matshiqi is an independent political analyst.