Dear Honourable Comrade Mahlobo,
I have been meaning to write to you for some time to congratulate you on your meteoric rise from humble ANC deployee in the department of fisheries to the exalted glory of the cabinet in just a few short years.
Truth is, though, I’ve always been a little afraid. One doesn’t simply write to the minister of state security as one would to, say, the minister of sport. You have proper powers. Other ministers only get to follow people on Twitter. You get to have them followed in real life.
I can’t say I envy you your job, though. It must be a nightmare trying to ensure the security of a state as berserk as South Africa. Keeping us all under surveillance can’t be easy. And yet it must be done. We can’t be trusted. Half of us would happily spy for the Russians in return for free cocktails and the other half would think nothing of plotting a coup if it meant skiving off work for a few days.
Hang on. It’s not the Russians you’re worried about at all. They’re still mates of ours, right? And it can’t be the Americans, either. Not with Donald Trump in the White House. I might be wrong, but I get the feeling that our much-loved president has taken note of Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing and has decided to emulate him. In other words, take no notice of mounting scandals, ignore calls to step down and blame foreigners, the judiciary and the media for everything. Also, never confirm or deny anything. As Jacob Zuma so eloquently put it in a message to his senior people, “The lesser you talk, the better.”
Comrade minister, who are these foreign intelligence agencies you say are working with “negative domestic forces” to undermine the state? Which country has so few problems of its own that it can afford to get involved in the affairs of another, particularly one with an economic growth rate of one percent and a second place ranking on the global Misery Index? Could it be Zimbabwe? We should just buy them out. Make Mad Dog Mugabe an offer he can’t recognise.
I know who the “negative domestic forces” are and I am prepared to identify them for a modest fee. It doesn’t have to be cash. I’m happy to stick with the dop system. Should we say one name, one case of beer? I’m open to negotiating group discounts. A family for a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt, for instance.
No, I didn’t think you’d fall for it. You know as well as I do who the negative domestic forces are. They’re everywhere. And yet nowhere. Sorry. I didn’t meant to make you paranoid. Like you, I am a huge fan of conspiracy theories. Unlike you, though, I don’t get paid to disseminate them. I don’t mind. Walking into crowded places wearing a hat made of tinfoil and whispering to strangers, “We know where you live” is reward enough for me.
The other day you scornfully referred to people who “run to court on political matters to undermine decisions taken by the government”. I sympathise with you. This is not my idea of a democracy, either. The solution is simple. Get rid of the courts or get rid of the people. I apologise. You’re the boss. You obviously know what the solution is. The courts can be stacked with judges quick to show their appreciation for what the ANC is doing, but it gets trickier when it comes to the people. Luckily, South Africans, and not just the police, are easily bought off. All 50 million of us must be put on the payroll as soon as possible. The finance minister will have to be drugged.
I commend you on your ability to learn from history. In 1985, then state president PW Botha said in parliament, “The tragedy is that hostile pressure and agitation from abroad have acted as an encouragement to militant revolutionaries in South Africa.” Your words might be different, but the sentiment is the same. I like to think that Botha is looking up at you from hell, nodding approvingly and twisting those squabby lips into a grotesque approximation of a smile.
If social media had been around in PW’s time, I have no doubt that his boys from Boss would have pulled the plug in no time at all. As you so succinctly put it a week ago, “We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space.” Are you talking about democracies like China and North Korea? Of course you are. When it comes to putting up roadblocks on the information superhighway, they are hard to beat. For example, thanks to Beijing’s grip on things, we can safely discount Western propaganda about events in Tiananmen Square, where two protesters were slightly injured in a minor scuffle with a policeman. Barely worth reporting on. And Pyongyang is such a paradise that the country had to close its borders to stop people trying to get in.
By “regulating” the internet – in concert with your sock puppets over at the Film and Publications Board – you will also be able to prevent information on covert operations from leaking out. You were obviously in deep cover on a top secret mission when visiting the Jinxu-Chinese Massage establishment in Nelspruit. You said you were there to get your nails done, which is exactly what I would have said had I come home looking deeply relaxed and smelling faintly of exotic Oriental unguents.
Thanks to that nest of neo-liberal vipers over at al-Jazeera, there was no happy ending for you. Not this time. They caught your parlour owner friend and suspected rhino horn merchant, Guan Jiang Guang, on camera saying things like, “(Mahlobo) came to my massage parlour every week or at least twice a month. I know him very well.” Upon broadcast of the documentary, Guang disappeared faster than a bottle of poppers in a gay club. What a shame. Another few months of manicures, pedicures and facials and you would have had him. Bloody media. Damn their selfish eyes.
Guang also said he did business with your wife. How were you to know? It’s impossible to keep track of a wife these days. They have their own cellphones and cars, for a start. Remember your predecessor Siyabonga Cwele? He was surprised to learn that his wife Sheryl had been running cocaine with the Nigerians in her spare time. She’s still in prison, which doesn’t seem fair because cocaine is way more yummy than rhino horn. Or so I’ve heard. Comrade Siyabonga was subsequently punished by our president for being the minister of state security and not knowing his wife was a drug trafficker. He is still serving penance as minister of telecommunications and postal services, both of which are listing sharply to starboard.
By the way, did you ever find the R17-million that was stolen from your offices just over two years ago? Probably not. We would have heard about it by now. No matter. These days, anything under R20-million is considered petty cash and if it goes missing someone might get around to asking the cleaner if she’s seen it, but otherwise it’s no biggie, really.
I was wondering about something. Do you and the minister of police ever get together at, say, the Saxonwold shebeen and compare notes? I only ask because there seems to be a tremendous amount of organised and disorganised crime happening without either of you knowing about it. Sure, most of it happens inside the government, but still.
Hey, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but did you hear about the R200-million heist at OR Tambo International? It’s been in all the papers. I first heard about it on social media. Isn’t it awful? A crackdown is urgently needed. Once the internet and independent press have been shut down, nobody but the bandits and their victims will know about the terrible things that are going on. In effect, crime simply wouldn’t exist. Imagine a deaf, blind one-handed man clapping in a forest while a tree fell. He’d make a pathetic witness. What? Good heavens, this stuff is strong. Where was I?
Oh, yes. My point is that bona fide intelligence is hard to come by in South Africa these days, so there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t know what’s happening. None of us do, either. Have you ever considered using informants? These are people who live in the community and tip you off about crime. Hire me. I’ll tell you anything if the price is right.
Your priority now, though, is to control the internet. Please hurry. I am addicted to Twitter and Facebook. My intellect and concentration span are rapidly approximating those of a pigeon. With your help, we can all be liberated from this heinous electronic prison.
I, for one, long for a return to the days when men would sit around the fire sharpening sticks and telling tales of bravery while the women gave birth and foraged for berries.
If all else fails, follow Donald Trump’s lead. Nothing can go wrong.
An open letter to the Minister of State Security
Dear Honourable Comrade Mahlobo,