In 1773, Americans protesting new taxes set foot on trade ships seen as a symbol of British imperialism and dumped an entire shipment of tea into the Boston Harbour, an act that became known as the Boston Tea Party.
In 1995, Nelson Mandela set foot in Orania – a symbol of apartheid – to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of the architect of apartheid.
This past weekend, the EFF’s Julius Malema set foot in Nkandla – the KZN homestead that he once dubbed “the monument of corruption” – to have tea with Jacob Zuma, the alleged “king of corruption”.
From revolution to reconciliation to reckoning, it appears the act of drinking tea has come full circle.
With Donald Trump’s impeachment trial starting on Tuesday and Zuma due to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry all of next week, the latest developments in politics can be seen as valuable cautionary tales.
Both men are defying the very democracies of which they were custodians, by refusing to testify at their trials. But there are other signals of danger that surround them.
In Zuma’s case, there is Juju suddenly and very publicly tea cosying up to him; the ANC’s Tony Yengeni’s presence at the tea party, alongside the ANC’s Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina; and ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule defending Zuma’s intention to defy the Constitutional Court by refusing to appear before Judge Zondo.
These should all reinforce the lesson that our politics is mostly self-serving and being practised by men without honour or integrity.
Besides liking sweet, hot tea served slowly, most of these men have one thing in common: at some stage, they faced either allegations of or actual criminal charges related to corruption.
You either believe that there’s a national conspiracy against them, or – as like recognises like – they have found common ground around being morally suspect.
But my biggest bugbear with our politicians is not that they are easily tempted, but rather that they don’t appear to have spines.
Their manifestos are as flexible as their principles, making them inconsistent and untrustworthy.
If you voted for the EFF based on their parliamentary tirades and their heckling of Zuma, saying they refuse to listen to him because he is a criminal, then what do you make of the Nkandla tea party?
And if you support the ANC, then what do you make of Magashule’s support of a man openly defying the Constitutional Court, after practically bringing our country to its knees to benefit the Gupta family?
The questions are the same as they are for Trump’s supporters.
How can you claim to be patriots, while supporting self-serving leaders with distinctly unpatriotic tendencies?
Sadly, the answer hinges on the same thing for all these men – the politics of personality.
It is a scourge that our masses of voters have fallen victim to.
Many have short memories and care only about the issues that their favourite politician tells them to care about at the moment, never mind contradiction or hypocrisy.
Politics is as old as society itself, so I doubt we will ever see the end of politicians finding ways to manipulate us; and finding favour with masses of gullible people willing to defend them.
The tools of communication change over time, but the messages and results stay the same.
But we really do have an opportunity in this age to use those tools to educate ourselves and to raise the expectations we have of our leaders.
We need to insist on their consistency and – when elections come around – hold them accountable for misleading us.
The consequences of the Boston Tea Party eventually sparked the American Revolution that led to independence.
Mandela’s tea party was an important symbolism, encouraging forgiveness and unity.
The Nkandla tea party was nothing more than contrived misdirection attempting to court relevance.
But make no mistake, the words that come out of these people’s mouths must be viewed with as much suspicion as the host who serves you flou tea, but with no biscuits.