My South-African relatives use this term to describe a major family incident, like when somebody comes out of the closet or whatever. As in, “ach, man, when Lars announced he was marrying that stripper, it was a total rundepest. My grandmother was threatening to slit her wrists.”
It’s pronounced roon-de-pest, and is apparently not an Afrikaans word. I Googled extensively, but couldn’t turn up anything. My step-mother thought it might be Slavic or Russian. Does anybody have any ideas?
I was reminded about the term by this Neatorama post from a while back.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the tips on the, uh, cattle plague. A reader writes in with a definition from the Oxford University Press dictionary of South African English:
rinderpest: a virulent highly infectious cattle disease long known in Europe but with particular historical significance in SA where it broke out in 1896; described as the greatest shock ever sustained by the agricultural community in SA.