Viva Old People Who Dance Like Teenagers!


My New Old Self would like to go on record as endorsing old people who dance like teenagers – whether they’re jiving at home or on a public platform.

This is in response to a comment from ex-African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema. The 32-year-old South African launched his new political party with a reference to 71-year-old President Jacob Zuma. Malema proclaimed to his followers: “We do not want an old man who dances like a teenager.”

Malema is entitled to his opinion about Zuma. But Not In My Name. Not with unproven allegations about the views of older people on dancing.

A quick review of recent South African political history reminds us that Malema shot to fame with the slogan “Kill 4 Zuma” – so fervent was his initial support for then-sidelined politician Jacob Zuma. But after helping oust President Thabo Mbeki and installing Zuma, Malema’s ardour faded.

The joke goes that when the police searched Malema’s house for evidence of alleged crimes they discovered a Kill 4 Zuma T-shirt with the 4 crossed out. His ex-house, as it was attached by the court to cover unpaid taxes, allegedly bought with proceeds from fraud, corruption, theft and money-laundering. When Malema was charged he danced outside court.

At the recent launch of his Economic Freedom Fighters party, Malema maligned his hero-turned-nemesis with this claim: “Every time he dances, older people look down with shame.”

Well, Juju – a nickname that could stand for Juvenile Julius – South Africans of all ages may have at least 99 problems with Zuma, but his dancing is not usually cited as one of them.

(In case you missed that allusion, it’s a reference to rapper Jay-Z – not to be confused with Prez Jay-Z – who sang about having “99 problems but a bitch ain’t one”. And please note that although Hip-Hoppers may be prone to profanity and misogyny, the bitch in this case was canine, a reference to racial profiling by police with dogs.)

Jay-Z of SA once headlined a top US blog as “Jacob Zuma, President of Dancing Awesomely”. It may be a question of taste but there is no evidence of older people looking down with shame when this fellow senior citizen dances.

There is also no evidence that South Africans “do not want an old man who dances like a teenager.” The New South Africa wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for an old man who’s been dancing like a teenager since he came out of jail.

Nelson Mandela was still dancing at the age of 80 when he joined Johnny Clegg on stage at a concert in France and reaffirmed his love for dance.

It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world – and at peace with myself.

– Nelson Mandela


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