Armageddon outta here

“We can’t pay R25 a litre!” What? Of course we can. In fact, there are far too many of us who can still afford petrol. And that’s the problem.

Let me explain. We all agree that a bad moon is rising and trouble’s on its way. Between Cyril Ramaphosa, Joe Biden, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, we are properly screwed. But it’s not happening fast enough. We must hurry the process along. Let us not suffer the indignity of whining our way into the apocalypse. The government already thinks we’re pathetic. We don’t want to be frogs in water slowly being heated. We must be crayfish dropped into boiling water. It’s imperative that we be jolted from our torpor.

We must take to the streets and demand that the government bumps up the petrol price to R150 a litre. Push up bread to R90 a loaf. Make rice 50 cents a grain. And keep burning those fossil fuels. Burn, baby, burn. Delaying the inevitable is a cruel way of punishing people who have done nothing more than do nothing. Apathy and ennui will kill us long before price increases do. So let us go directly to the end of the road so that we may adjust appropriately and accordingly.

By this, I obviously mean burnish our skills in hunting down the elite. It’ll be easy to identify them. They’ll be the only ones still driving cars and shopping in supermarkets. The rest of us will be out in the veld or on the mountains foraging for roots and berries along with the few wild pigs that have managed to outsmart us.

Soon, the government will call on us to tighten our belts. Let’s get the jump on the swine and book ourselves in for vertical banded gastroplasty. If we can no longer afford staples like potatoes and tequila, then we must have staples in our stomachs. It’s a simple procedure whereby a surgeon seals off your massive demanding stomach and creates a smaller, more economical one. A single banana and you’re full for days. If your budget doesn’t extend to a banana, tree bark or small stones will do the job just as well.

If you can’t afford a banana, you’re probably thinking you won’t be able to afford surgery. That’s what they want you to think. The best thing about doctors is that they don’t charge you upfront for operations in case they inadvertently kill you and have to return the money to your grieving family. Get your staples in and don’t answer the phone. It’s not long before the police start trading their guns and handcuffs for chickens or fellatio, so you have nothing to worry about.

Speaking of which, Robin Hood has been a hero of mine ever since an English teacher told me about an outlaw from Nottingham who’d ambush money-grubbing priests and cronies of the king on their way to do whatever religious leaders and the privileged classes did in those days. Probably the same as they do now. Buy a few grams of coke, pick up a couple of harlots, rip off a bunch of widows and orphans and head back to the castle.

Robin was a true philanthropist, robbing the rich to give to the poor. Principled, too. His adversaries knew better than to approach him with suggestions that the sheriff might be open to turning a blind eye if Robin were to put, say, 10% of the spoils in an untraceable account.

Robin also stole from the tax collectors. Back then, as now, the taxman worked hard at coming up with new ways of squeezing the middle class. We do what we can to avoid paying taxes, but he’s still getting away with too much of our hard-earned cash.

We need a Robin Hood to lead us. There is not a person in this country who shows any inclination to rob the rich and give to the poor. The ANC and its corporate collaborators know it’s easier to take from the poor and give to the rich, i.e. themselves. To be fair, they only learned how to do this by watching other less developed countries.

So let us demand that the government increase the price of everything. Put it out of our reach. It’s time to end the myth that working hard will one day pay off. Let’s stop the futile striving and the lying to our children about the importance of a university education. It’s time to go full Mad Max.

Once the 99% can’t afford 99% of everything, we can focus on the 1%. That’ll get the government’s attention. We might not be very good at maths, but we do have the numbers.

In the meantime, Eskom must convert its power stations into carrot farms because carrots are good for the eyes and we are all going to have to develop the ability to see in the dark.

When days are dark … call Alfred

A tweet came through from Eskom on Sunday afternoon. It said: “Just Energy Transition – Re-invigorating, rejuvenating, and redefining Eskom’s destiny as we lead the energy transition into the future. Learn more about #JET.” It was accompanied by a Photoshopped image of high-voltage lines and, like silver bullets piercing Gwede Mantashe’s coal-black heart, solar panels and wind turbines. An incandescent glow on the horizon represents either a sunrise or an explosion in the reactor of a Russian-built nuclear power station.

Fortifying myself with a shot of diesel, I clicked on the link. The first thing I learned was that Eskom’s Just Energy Transition office was established earlier this year and that it has “made significant strides to…” An involuntary sob escaped my liquescent lips. I think it’s fair to say that Oscar Pistorius has made more significant strides than Eskom has in this past year. And that’s with his leg in for repairs.

JET’s vision “focuses on achieving ‘Nett Zero’ carbon emissions by 2050”. I assume they used quote marks as an escape hatch. When it comes to plausible deniability, it’s the only thinking ahead that Eskom does. In thirty years’ time, a very old Sikonathi Mantshantsha will issue a press statement: “We didn’t say anything about net zero. We promised nett zero, which is a very different thing. We are pleased to report it’s possible that we have accomplished whatever we thought we meant in 2021.”

For the hard of thinking, Eskom helpfully provides definitions for the words “Just” and “Transition”. Perhaps they are not yet utterly without shame as they refrain from giving us the definition of “Energy”. Simply put, there is none. Not in the power stations, not in the masses of people who aren’t taking to the streets to protest this horrific state of affairs. Let us put our faith in words like “Just” and “Transition” and hope that by the time 2050 rolls around, our children aren’t spending their days foraging for locusts and fashioning crude weapons to hunt down the generation that allowed this to happen.

Eskom’s vision and strategy for this JET malarkey strikes me as having been drafted in a shitty little prefab by two people texting their boyfriends while a man in a cheap suit stands at a white board with a finger up his nostril.

Twenty minutes after reassuring us that we’ll all be in a much better place in 2050 (I certainly will – I’ll be dead), Eskom sent another tweet informing us that stage 2 load shedding would continue throughout the week. Their timing at least suggests that someone there understands dramatic irony. I mean, nobody can be that bad at corporate messaging, right?

Who in their right mind goes from promising us “a cleaner and greener energy future” and “new exciting jobs” and a “greater preservation of biodiversity” to telling us, in the very next breath, to prepare for a return to the Stone Age?

To their credit, though, Eskom did preface it’s warning with the word “Regretfully”. It suggests there are people at Megatwatt Park who feel our pain. It hints at empathy. However, while an expression of regret is many things, it is not an apology. For example, it might not have been all that effective if the National Party had put a notice in Die Volkstem in 1948 saying, “Regretfully, black people will henceforth be segregated and denied the vote. This will continue until 1994. Please bear with us.”

Less than 24 hours later, we were dragged from stage 2 and dashed upon the rocks of stage 4. This time without the “regretfully”. Also on Monday, we were informed that “Alfred, Eskom’s chatbot, has assisted over 500 000 customers in just 4 months”. We need to come out in our millions and demand that Alfred be made CEO.

Anyway. It’s important to stay positive. For the children’s sake, you understand. It’s hard enough explaining why they’re too young to watch political parties stripping off and getting jiggy.

“But I thought they hated each other,” they say in their tremulous little voices. It’s the responsibility of our education department to explain that while no one has sex in a political ménage à trois, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t getting screwed.

It’s bad enough that we have to cover their eyes to spare them the grotesque sight of the ANC with its head up its own ass devouring itself from the inside. Rat snakes have been known to do that. The ANC should have one on their logo.

So. Games to keep the kiddies distracted this week as the country joins the Blue Train in going off the rails. Blind Man’s Buff. Big saving on blindfolds because nobody can see anything anyway.

Marco Polo. Instead of shouting “Marco”, you shout “Who’s there?” And instead of shouting “Polo”, someone else shouts “Shut the fuck up and open the safe.” Not really for children.

Musical chairs, except there’s no music because the power’s gone and dad has sold the chairs to pay off a gambling debt. Works best with lashings of alcohol.

Indoor bowling. Set up all the empty wine bottles and throw things at them. There are no rules and nobody wins. More of an adult game.

 

 

 

Happy Halloween, you filthy pagans

It’s Halloween tonight and I, for one, cannot wait to put on my succubus suit and go creeping around the neighbourhood late at night banging on doors, shouting: “Trick or treat!” The real sport starts when the homeowner presses his panic button. You then have seven minutes to break into the house, tie the occupants up, find a treat and get out before an armed response unit can shoot you in the face. The kids love it.

Not all of us celebrate Halloween on the 31st of October. For a lot of South Africans, every night is Halloween. The only difference is that these perennial pranksters can’t be bothered to dress up. To be fair, though, some do make the effort and put on a balaclava. Traditionally, a treat is a handful of sweets or, if you hit a vegan house, an eggplant without the egg. Our year-round rogues rarely settle for less than cellphones, money and guns. Or, at the very least, a plasma TV. Anyway. Who are we to judge? A treat is mos a treat. I would advise against opting for the trick unless you want to watch someone juggling with your testicles or super-glueing your wife to the wall.

I have celebrated Halloween ever since I was dishonourably discharged from the Army of Christ in the early ’80s. Standards were higher back then. These days they take anyone. I would like to call myself a pagan, but I can’t. Worshipping nature is all very well if it knows its place. By this, I mean its place is not down my broeks stinging my bollocks to death. Nor does it have any business trying to crush me, drown me or bury me alive. It would be a far better idea if nature were to worship us. That way the ants would stay out of the butter and sharks would be a little nicer to us. Is that too much to ask?

Besides, I have grown weary of flappy-lipped adherents of monotheistic religions using “pagan” in a pejorative sense while relying on me not to over-do the sacrificial lamb at our Saturday night synod. Adding insult to injury, they are the ones who invariably bogart the bong. Bloody heathens. I generally refrain from defending my position for fear of inviting the fate met by Hypatia of Alexandria, a pagan philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who was killed by a Christian mob in 415CE.

Unfortunately for the employed, Halloween is not a public holiday in South Africa. If only the Soweto Uprising had taken place on 31 October instead of 16 June. Youth Day would be so much more entertaining if it were combined with Halloween. The horror is already there. All we would need are police uniforms, nitrous oxide grenades, a few dozen crates of cherry-flavoured vodka and some live music. And maybe some live ammunition. And a smattering of drug squad dogs all sniffed out and hoping to reach retirement age without any major drama.

At this time of year, carving vegetables into grotesque shapes is popular in some cultures. In my house it’s called dinner. In Ireland and Scotland they use scooped-out turnips. It’s that lack of imagination that allowed the English to oppress them for so long. In America they use pumpkins. In Israel they use Palestinians.

I don’t know what we can use here. If I tell people that instead of eating their madumbi this week, they should carve them so they look like little tokoloshes, they will think I work for the DA. And if I tell them to put a small candle inside the hollowed-out madumbi, they will think I work for Eskom. Either way I’m fucked.

If only we could make some kind of genetically modified clone of Julius Malema’s head and carve that, instead of wasting perfectly good vegetables. It’s the ideal shape and consistency. And scary as hell.

Halloween’s imagery is derived from horror movies and literature like Frankenstein and Dracula. Here, it can be derived from films and books like Bitch, please! I’m Khanyi Mbau and There’s A Zulu On My Stoep.

There are many overseas traditions that can be adapted to local conditions. Take apple bobbing, for instance. Instead of using your teeth to grab an apple from a bucket of water, you must use your political connections to win a tender wrapped in fly-paper and coated in honey. This creates a hilarious yet potentially sticky situation, especially if the Hawks find out about it.

The telling of horror stories is also a popular feature of Halloween. Gather the children around and, in the unlikely event that Eskom or the municipality hasn’t already done it for you, switch off the lights. Tell them about The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Man Whose Mouth Tasted of Wormwood or The Return of Jacob Zuma.

The important thing, comrades, is not to let your Halloween be co-opted by the Christians. We are more Nosferatu than we are Cosatu. No praying. No fasting. No skiving off to church. Deconstruct all that Celtic reconstructionist propaganda and unleash your inner demons.

The watts and volts of making easy money

When I was growing up, nobody told me the only way to get rich is to make things that people needed. Or, better yet, hire other people to make them. Were my parents too busy to point this out? How did my teachers not bring this to my attention? Did they think my knowing the difference between the pharynx and the larynx and how oxbow lakes are formed would one day bring me unimaginable wealth?

I met an old school friend not long ago. Hadn’t seen him in decades. He was driving the latest BMW and dressed in a way that made me look homeless. I asked what he did for a living.

“I make pipes,” he said. I laughed. “Funny, that,” I said. “I was thinking of making a pipe just before I came here.” His eyes narrowed.

“Polyvinyl chloride pipes,” he said, sliding his iPhone beyond my reach. After asking the waiter for the wine list, something I have never done in my life, he went on to explain that PVC is the world’s third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer.

“It comes in two basic forms,” he said, gravely. “Rigid and flexible.” I tried laughing again but it came out more like a death rattle. “Sort of like women?” I said hopefully.

He sniffed once and tapped a single freshly manicured fingernail on his car remote. Evidently suspecting that I had suffered some sort of mental trauma since school, he spent the rest of lunch slowly explaining the astounding properties of PVC piping. I began drinking heavily, wondering all the while if I could murder him right there and get away with it on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Or feign a cutlery malfunction and stab myself in the face. He would have to stop talking then. No, that wouldn’t work. He would insist on getting into the ambulance with me and he’d lean into my face with his disgusting wine breath and ask if I knew that PVC is insoluble in alcohol but slightly soluble in tetrahydrofuran.

“Not many people know that,” he would say, while the salad fork wobbled in my eye socket.

So, yeah. This guy obviously got the memo. Make stuff that people need. It doesn’t matter if it’s spigot joints, ball bearings or toilet seats. You can get very rich like that. You can also develop a superpower – the ability to bore people to death.

My superpower is to put words together in the hope they evince some sort of emotion. Unlike the construction of bridges and shopping malls, the construction of sentences and paragraphs is not necessary for people to survive. At best, it’s a nice-to-have.

Then, a few days ago, I read something that could change my life. Thanks to Cyril Ramaphosa getting Gwede Mantashe into a chokehold and forcing him to see the light, so to speak, a rare opportunity has arisen for late starters like me to make electricity and sell it to the government. I was very excited and called my old mate Ted right away. He didn’t think much of the idea but when I told him I had seven cases of beer, he was outside my house within minutes.

He arrived wearing a wetsuit, gumboots and yellow dishwashing gloves, explaining that if we were going to be making electricity, we would need to be well-grounded. He gave me the lazy eye and said I clearly wasn’t well-grounded and hadn’t been for a very long time.

“Right,” I said, handing him a six-pack and opening one for myself. “What generates electricity?”

Ted thought for two seconds. “Cats and balloons,” he shouted. I explained that he was thinking of static electricity.

“Do you,” I said, “have any idea how many cats and balloons we’d go through just to make one cupful of electricity?” Ted said South Africa had a massive surplus of cats and balloons and it was unlikely we’d run out, which wasn’t the point. He also said electricity doesn’t come in cupfuls and, on closer reflection and a second six-pack, I conceded that he might be right although he couldn’t say what it did come in so I won on a technicality.

“Solar is where it’s at,” I said. After calculating our finances, we agreed to start out with one panel. Then we argued about whose house we would put it on and who would keep it clean and that was the end of that idea.

A wind farm seemed the next best option. Since neither of us owned a farm, we felt that one smallish turbine would be sufficient. I’d seen dozens of them on a recent trip to Jeffreys Bay and it made sense to dig one up, put it on my roof racks and bring it home. Getting caught wasn’t an issue since theft is encouraged in the Eastern Cape. Maybe it only applies to municipalities.

After calculations done on the back of Ted’s hand, we reckoned we’d need to produce five thousand gigawatts a day, or maybe an hour, to make it worth the effort. And we’d need the government to pay at least R500 a megawatt or portion thereof. But even with a free microwatt thrown in for every fifty uberwatts, or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s with every kilowatt, it seemed unlikely our embattled Treasury could handle that kind of outlay. The idea was scrapped when we fought about who would be responsible for maintenance. South Africans hate doing maintenance. We can’t see the point. It’s a genetic flaw.

“How about,” I said, “if we bought, say, a million of those plastic windmills that children play with?” Ted stroked his beard, even though he doesn’t have one, and looked thoughtful. After a few minutes, I smacked him across the head and woke him up.

“Whirligigs!” he shouted, knocking his beer over. Sure, why not. Link them together with fibre optic cables and feed it straight into the government’s gaping maw. Half a day of digging up the neighbourhood and we’d have enough macrowatts to keep us in beer for the rest of the year.

The more we drank the less viable it seemed. Too many whirligigs. Too much effort.

“How do they make electricity at our power stations?” said Ted. Just then load-shedding kicked in. We sat in the dark for two hours, drinking quickly and silently, as if the absence of light somehow rendered our brains inactive. When the power returned, we hit on it at the same time. “Fossils!” We’d heard a lot about fossil fuel but had no idea where to get the fossils from. Ted seemed to think they were kept in caves, like Sterkfontein, but it sounded too far away. And anyway, the spine of a brontosaurus would never fit on my car.

“What about coal?” All we needed to do was keep fifty or so braais going around the clock and connect them to a bunch of car batteries. This was by far our best idea but it fell apart when we calculated how much meat and alcohol we would have to buy. Our livers would liquify and our arteries would turn into carbon rods long before we could make enough to retire as wealthy men.

“How about gas?” said Ted, from the foetal position, and proceeded to fart the opening bars of the national anthem.

At this point, I ran out of renewable energy and had a spontaneous blackout.

The light at the end of the tunnel has gone out

I was on deadline when an Eskom attack dog was unleashed on Twitter, snarling that stage 4 load shedding was imminent and anyone who had a problem could meet him outside in the parking lot. Like cancer, there is no stage 5.

Hysterical, I ran naked around my shack in the milkwoods shouting at the cat to get ready. A few hours earlier we had been subjected to stage 2, resulting in lukewarm beer for me and tepid milk for her. We were less than impressed but at least we weren’t panicking. There was still stage 3 to go.

But that didn’t happen.

Proceeding directly from stage 2 to stage 4 meant that something terrible was happening. We weren’t sure what it was because Eskom won’t tell us how it’s possible to go from months and months of wallowing in electricity to having almost none at all. In the space of a few hours.

They don’t explain because they either think we are too stupid to understand or they fear that we will unite across racial and political lines and march on Megatwatt Park and burn their building to the ground. So. Stupid it is then.

The cat licked her paw and set about washing her face. She must have seen some truly appalling things in her life to be able to remain calm in the face of a stage 4 clusterfuck.

Seven minutes later the lights went out. I hadn’t even found my pants yet. The cat raised its damp paw and pointed at its mouth. I pretended not to see. “Mroww,” she said. I am semi-fluent in cat as I’m sure she is in English but we keep it to ourselves out of mutual fear of exploitation.

“I can’t see you!” I shouted. “You’re a black cat in a power failure on a moonless night in a country poised to hurl itself into a stygian abyss. Give me a break.” She yawned and fell over. It was all I could do not to follow suit.

The ill-advised advisories began oozing out like ectoplasm. “Generating units are still tripping”. So am I, bro. But you don’t see me plunging the country into chaos.

“Expect defective traffic lights.” Oh, please. It would have come as a tremendous shock to get a message that all traffic lights were working.

“Since this morning we have unexpectedly lost six generating units and are consequently at war with Germany.” Oops. I’m getting my chilling announcements mixed up.

I sympathise with Eskom. Things go astray. I’ve lost many things over the years, including my car keys, mind and virginity. What I don’t understand is how you unexpectedly lose six generating units, which are probably bigger than, say, a Bic lighter. Perhaps they meant it literally. Everyone went on lunch and when they came back, six units were missing. People will steal anything these days. But they probably mean that the units were lost in much the same way that soldiers are unexpectedly lost in battle. A management sniper firing deadly bursts of incompetence and neglect brought them down in the prime of their lives.

Eskom should at least have the decency to erect a memorial in their honour. They gave their lives so that we could, however briefly, have light. There could be a Tomb of the Unknown Unit dedicated to all the unsung units who have sacrificed their lives since the great plundering of 2008.

Weirdly, Eskom still blames us. There’s too much pressure on the system, they whine. It’s those people in Durban. The temperature drops below 28 degrees and it’s out with the electric blankets and turbo-charged heaters, draining the national grid and forcing the rest of us to suffer horribly. Selfish bastards.

Trapped knee-deep in a treacherous quagmire of political compromise and public expectations like a deer in the headlines – I mix better martinis than metaphors – our noble president announced the other day that Eskom would be unbundled. Generation, transmission, distribution. Many of us would also like to see the utility’s top management split into three parts. Head, torso, limbs.

Ramaphosa’s plan means that bribes will in future have to be split three ways. The old days of one family and a couple of cadres getting everything are over. This is a perfect blend of capitalism and socialism and works very well in a model kakistocracy such as ours.

I say let’s put Eskom in private hands. From where I sit I can see my neighbor having a braai. He doesn’t have any friends, but nor does Eskom. The fire has gone out and he is on his knees throwing up into the swimming pool. Let him run Eskom. He couldn’t possibly do a worse job.

I’m on deadline and it’s a race against time to finish this before the beers get undrinkable and the pirated battery in my laptop load sheds itself.

Don’t talk to me about pressure on the system.

Hello darkness, my old friend

If our capacity to believe anything hadn’t already been terminally blunted, we might find it hard to believe that load shedding is back again. Here’s a piece I wrote eight months ago. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

………………….

I was on deadline when an Eskom attack dog was unleashed on Twitter, snarling that stage 4 load shedding was imminent and anyone who had a problem could meet him outside in the parking lot. Like cancer, there is no stage 5.

Hysterical, I ran naked around my shack in the milkwoods shouting at the cat to get ready. A few hours earlier we had been subjected to stage 2, resulting in lukewarm beer for me and tepid milk for her. We were less than impressed but at least we weren’t panicking. There was still stage 3 to go.

But that didn’t happen. Proceeding directly from stage 2 to stage 4 meant that something terrible was happening. We weren’t sure what it was because Eskom won’t tell us how it’s possible to go from months and months of wallowing in electricity to having almost none at all. In the space of a few hours.

They don’t explain because they either think we are too stupid to understand or they fear that we will unite across racial and political lines and march on Megatwatt Park and burn their building to the ground. So. Stupid it is then.

The cat licked her paw and set about washing her face. She must have seen some truly appalling things in her life to be able to remain calm in the face of a stage 4 clusterfuck.

Seven minutes later the lights went out. I hadn’t even found my pants yet. The cat raised its damp paw and pointed at its mouth. I pretended not to see. “Mroww,” she said. I am semi-fluent in cat as I’m sure she is in English but we keep it to ourselves out of a mutual fear of exploitation.

I can’t see you!” I shouted. “You’re a black cat in a power failure on a moonless night in a country poised to hurl itself into a stygian abyss. Give me a break.” She yawned and fell over. It was all I could do not to follow suit.

The ill-advised advisories began oozing out like ectoplasm. “Generating units are still tripping”. So am I, bro. But you don’t see me plunging the country into chaos.

Expect defective traffic lights.” Oh, please. It would have come as a tremendous shock to get a message that all traffic lights were working.

Since this morning we have unexpectedly lost six generating units and are consequently at war with Germany.” Oops. I’m getting my chilling announcements mixed up. I sympathise with Eskom. Things go astray. I’ve lost many things over the years, including my car keys, mind and virginity. What I don’t understand is how you unexpectedly lose six generating units, which are probably bigger than, say, a Bic lighter. Perhaps they meant it literally. Everyone went on lunch and when they came back, six units were missing. People will steal anything these days. But they probably mean that the units were lost in much the same way that soldiers are unexpectedly lost in battle. A management sniper firing deadly bursts of incompetence and neglect brought them down in the prime of their lives.

Eskom should at least have the decency to erect a memorial in their honour. They gave their lives so that we could, however briefly, have light. There could be a Tomb of the Unknown Unit dedicated to all the unsung units who have sacrificed their lives since the great plundering of 2008.

Weirdly, Eskom still blames us. There’s too much pressure on the system, they whine. It’s those people in Durban. The temperature drops below 28 degrees and it’s out with the electric blankets and turbo-charged heaters, draining the national grid and forcing the rest of us to suffer horribly. Selfish bastards.

Trapped knee-deep in a treacherous quagmire of political compromise and public expectations like a deer in the headlines – I mix better martinis than metaphors – our noble president announced the other day that Eskom would be unbundled. Generation, transmission, distribution. Many of us would also like to see the utility’s top management split into three parts. Head, torso, limbs.

Ramaphosa’s plan means that bribes will in future have to be split three ways. The old days of one family and a couple of cadres getting everything are over. This is a perfect blend of capitalism and socialism and works very well in a model kakistocracy such as ours.

However, a dark cloud looms over this exciting new dispensation. It comes in the form of a man who is no friend of the ruling class. Or of cosmetic dentistry, for that matter. Irvin Jim is his name and unionising is his game.

As the lord and master of the National Union of Mineworkers, his task is to reject anything that might cost a worker his job, even if it means saving the country from ruin.

I’m not a union basher by any means. I happened to be living in London when Margaret Thatcher unleashed the cavalry on striking coal miners. I urged my fellow squatters to rise up and join me in sourcing bigger, meaner horses and riding against the mounted police. Sadly, they were incapable of rising at all. Eventually someone took the hash pipe from me and shortly afterwards I was asked to leave.

But this is different. For a start, it’s not easy to find hash in my area and although there are horses nearby, they are programmed to attack anyone who isn’t blonde, female and doesn’t drive a Range Rover.

Irvin Jim believes that the president’s plan is nothing short of a conspiracy to privatise Eskom. This would lead to a reduction in the workforce, which, in terms of size, is bigger than the Dutch army.

Jim is not a big fan of alternate energy because you only need three people and a dog to run a wind farm. When it comes to solar energy, all it takes is someone to let the cleaner in once a week to give the panels a wash. Jim should live in a country where everyone has a job for life and benefits to spare. Jim needs to move to Cambodia, which has an unemployment rate of 0.3%. This impressive accomplishment has nothing to do with the fact that the Khmer Rouge killed a third of the population. There’s something about Jim that reminds me of Pol Pot. I don’t know if it’s the bogus smile or the sheer bloody-mindedness of flying in the face of all that is right for the common good.

I say let’s put Eskom in private hands. From where I sit I can see my neighbor having a braai. He doesn’t have any friends, but nor does Eskom. The fire has gone out and he is on his knees throwing up into the swimming pool. Let him run Eskom. He couldn’t possibly do a worse job.

I’m on deadline and it’s a race against time to finish this before the beers get undrinkable and the pirated battery in my laptop loadsheds itself. Don’t talk to me about pressure on the system.

Shedding loads and spreading lies

Eskom has been fucking with us for years and there’s no end in sight. Here’s a letter I wrote to the boss of the power utility in 2011. This was before the Guptas even got their claws into it.

 

Dear Sir,

This is the fourth time I am writing this letter to you. The first three times you turned the power off before I could press save. I was angry before. I am now incensed.

I live in Cape Town, supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but what the hell good does that do when I can’t see anything for most of the time? Oh, sure, the sun still works, but how much longer can it be before you find a way to switch that off too?

The first time Eskom plunged the province into darkness, you kept very quiet and hoped nobody had noticed. Truth is, we weren’t too bothered. Unless you were on a life support machine. But it was a novelty. The power cut forced married couples to go to bed early where, without the option of reading or television, they were left with no alternative but to have sex. Apparently this helps to keep couples together. Or at least from killing each other.

Then you turned the power off several more times over the next few weeks. Suddenly it wasn’t such fun. Weeping women, saturated with sex, begged their husbands to sell up and emigrate to a country with electricity.

People began going hungry, fridges defrosted, beers got warm. The only thing moving in the streets were four men on horseback riding from town to town shouting in what sounded like Aramaic.

You, in the meantime, denied that anything was wrong. “Relax,” you said. “Everything’s under control.” The rolling blackouts got worse. Suburb after suburb, town after town, became engulfed in darkness.

Your men in suits went into a huddle. “The masses are revolting. What are we going to call this thing?” A middle-ranking executive blew his chances of ever getting promoted by replying: “An unmitigated fucking disaster?” But the truth is not something to be bandied about at times like these, is it?

“Let’s call it load shedding,” you said brightly. “That makes it sound like we are getting rid of something that we have too much of. People will want to thank us.”

Apparently not, though. Instead, people wanted to hunt you down and ram a syringe full of sodium pentathol, or any kind of truth serum, into your fat lying capitalist arse.

Once the ANC had pointed out that your incompetence was going to lose them control of Cape Town, which it subsequently did, you said sorry in a very small voice and pretended to cry.

The then public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, felt so bad for you that he made up a story about a bunch of imaginary warlocks throwing a bolt into one of the Koeberg nuclear power station’s generators, damaging a rotor and causing a serious power shortfall in the Western Cape.

Since Koeberg is your baby, and a potentially lethal one at that, the last thing you wanted was the government suggesting that just anyone could walk up to the facility and gain entrance by scaling a wall. Oops, sorry, Greenpeace already did that several years ago.

So you dismissed Erwin’s claim. Erwin, under the mistaken impression that you were right behind him, quickly denied ever mentioning the word “sabotage” or even knowing where Koeberg was. “Look,” said Erwin, “I don’t even use electricity. I’m a gas man, myself.”

So not only were we surviving on tins of baked beans heated over cheap candles, but we now also knew that our shivering bodies could be incinerated in a boiling tsunami of radioactive particles at any moment.

Then, once businesses hit the magical mark of R500-million in losses, you began publishing a load shedding schedule in the local newspapers. But even then, you never lost your keen sense of humour. I bet you found it hard to stifle a giggle when you tricked people into thinking that they would be without power from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday, only for the lights to go out from 7pm to midnight on Thursday. You did this, with a twinkle in your eye, in towns around the Western Cape. And sometimes even in the Northern Cape, although it’s not quite as much of a laugh for you because the folk in Kimberley don’t even notice these things.

Sometimes, in the middle of a spot of load shedding, you would switch the power back on and then, a few seconds later, turn it off. What’s the point of earning R13-million a year if you can’t have a bit of fun? If you have the ability to make millions of people go “yay!” and, moments later, “fuuuck!” in perfect synchronisation, then you should go right ahead and do it. I know I would.

In the unlikely event that you decide to do the decent thing and resign, I would like to be the first to propose that Homer Simpson takes your place. He has worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Station and will cause far less mayhem than you already have.

Apart from the loose bolt, short circuits caused by mist and soot, an unusually high tide at Llandudno beach and the gay pride parade, the power crisis is the result of you believing in 1998 (accurately, as it turned out), that South Africa was doomed to become just another corrupt debt-ridden crime-ravaged basket case and consequently there was no point in maintaining your power stations or even building new ones because they would just be taken over by squatters or stripped down and sold on the black market.

In the intervening years the population has grown and a lot more boys have reached drinking age. More shebeens means more fridges to keep more beers cold. Now there is simply not enough electricity to keep all those new fridges running. This is how countries descend into civil war.

Now you are asking us to help you by bathing in cold water, cooking over primus stoves, washing our clothes in the river and eating by candlelight. It’s fine for the majority, but we white folk are simply not accustomed to this lifestyle.

Vote Homer Simpson.

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato

 

Trump scores own coal

global warming-1.jpg
Global warming could wipe out three quarters of all species. Is this really such a terrible thing? I wouldn’t complain if climate change saw an end to, say, mosquitoes, hadedas and sharks. Or anything, really, that thinks it can bite me or shout at me before the sun even rises. I’m including an ex-girlfriend here.
There is only one species of human – two if you include women – but at least nine million species of crawling, flying, jumping, swimming things in the bush and oceans. And every one of them wants us dead, make no mistake. We’re the ones who are endangered here.
There are loads of species we’ve never even set eyes on and I don’t see the point of keeping them around. If we can’t throw them bits of bread, take pictures of them, make them do tricks or eat them, they’re useless to us. There are microorganisms so small that you can’t see them even when they wear their bright yellow jumpsuits and play the harpsichord on Saturday nights. Bacteria pretend to be on our side, but they’re not. We must kill them before they kill us.
So when I heard that America’s pre-pubescent president had pulled his country out of the Paris Climate Accord, I broke out the tequila, turned up the music and danced with the cat until the noise woke the hadedas. See how they like it.
America joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries out of 195 who want nothing to do with this filthy accord. If you’re a true patriot, you will support these three countries at every turn. Invest in Nicaragua. Take your holidays in Syria. Sing the Star Spangled Banner before going to work. It’s the right thing to do.
Donald the Magnificent once said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. In other words, climate change is not real. Like goats. Or the moon. His supporters understand this kind of language. Evolution is a hoax. Vaccines are the devil’s work. Barack Obama is a lizard. The pope is a Muslim. Guns don’t kill people. America is finally in safe hands. The tiny hands of a man who falls asleep in mid-Tweet, god bless his swollen Christian heart.
One of the goals of this fake climate pact is to keep global temperatures from rising by 2ºC. With the exception of my second wife, I have never come across such selfishness. Four million people live in the Arctic region. It drops to -40 in January. But even though the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, it’s just not fast enough. Those who live there have to stick lighted matches into their eyes to unfreeze their eyeballs in the morning. Do you think they’re against planet-warming emissions? Of course not. So let’s help our Eskimo brothers, or whatever the hell they call themselves, by spraying aerosols into the air and putting those yummy chlorofluorocarbons to work.
Donald is making Europe nervous. This is a good thing. For too long Europe has annoyed us with their strong currency, efficient public transport and bloody-minded insistence on speaking languages that aren’t English or even Zulu. Addressing last week’s G7 meeting, Germany’s vivacious president Angela Merkel said, “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over.” This, with typical Teutonic subtlety, was aimed squarely at America. I imagine Comrade Trump was delighted to hear that fewer people were relying on him.
Six of the G7 countries claim to understand the importance of combating the depraved myth known as climate change. If they wanted Donald to also understand, they should’ve given him an animated cartoon of ice caps melting and Manhattan being flooded. Maybe with a cute squirrel narrating. They only have themselves to blame, with their big words and fancy pants logic.
Big Don has always vowed to jumpstart America’s economy. He has already tried to do this by connecting the positive red to the positive Russians and the negative black to … I don’t know. I don’t have all the details. It’s late. Feel free to come up with your own metaphors and analogies.
Somehow the health of the planet became more important than money. I know, Donald. I know. It’s inexplicable to me, too. This foolishness started a long time ago. It goes back to the first Bush. Even the name has ecological connotations. That dynasty of bunny-hugging bohemians set a nasty precedent of bombing our enemies with minimal collateral damage to the environment.
Lyndon B Johnson was on the right track when he ordered napalm to be used on the jungles of Vietnam. Vegetation gets out of hand. It needs to be taught a lesson.
I saw a snake in a tree on Wednesday night while having a beer on my veranda with a friend. He said there was no need to call the police because it was probably a harmless grass snake that had learnt to climb trees. I said it was more likely to be a deadly tree snake and dialled the flying squad. It went to voicemail and I gave up. He said there was no such thing as a tree snake so I told him about the Afrikaans-speaking snakes who go by the gang name of Boomslang and he left shortly afterwards which was good because it meant more beer for me but also bad because if the viper launched an aerial attack I’d have no-one to talk to while I died.
Nobody needs serpents harassing them while they’re drinking and I, for one, urge Agent Orange to issue an executive order stopping this nonsense once and for all. He is the only man with the power to teach nature a lesson from which it will never recover.
Next to himself, Donald loves fossil fuels more than he loves his wife who can’t stand him. The older the fossil, the better it burns. The spine of a brontosaurus can light up the Bronx for a month. Eskom, on the other hand, loves coal almost as much as it loves Brian Molefe. Unlike Molefe, though, there is little chance of coal disappearing.
The hairy-legged, jumper-wearing counter-revolutionaries who dwell among us claim that coal is a finite resource. This is nonsense. Everyone I know has a bag or two of charcoal in their garage. And they know people who know people who have bags of their own. Every petrol station and cafe has lashings of charcoal.  The earth and even most people are made of coal. Je suis carbon.
Our dear friends, the Guptas, own entire mines full of charcoal. These are not people who run out of things, whether it be fuel, money or excuses. And I can’t imagine they’d ever want to put themselves in a position where they might have to tell their adopted family, the Zumas, to either give up meat or start using solar-powered braais.
 

Dirty, rotten scoundrels

Lying is the new truth. Girls are the new boys. Dogs are the new cats. It occurs to me that I can write any gibberish and get away with it because nobody can tell the difference or perhaps even gives a damn.
This past week, Eskom’s dissembling chair Dr Ben Ngubane and our ethically flaccid myrmidon of an energy minister appeared before a parliamentary committee and performed the foxtrot, waltz, tango and samba – all from a sitting position. The room was awash in sophistry and subterfuge when Ngubane lifted his hands like some kind of wounded messiah. “Give us the benefit of the doubt,” he wheedled. The longest of shots with nary a blush in sight.
What does this man have a doctorate in? Audacity? Shamelessness? Was he genuinely impervious to the cloying stench of doubt that pervaded the room, let alone the country, or does he simply think we’re all complete idiots? Like most wannabe messiahs, a bit of both, I expect.
Meanwhile, above the rattle and hum of overheated shredding machines at Megatwatt Park, liquidators appointed to wind up a mining company owned by Ngubane and his wife Sheila are proceeding with a court application in which they accuse the couple of using fake documents to personally lay claim to the lucrative mining rights.
A little more of that yummy benefit, sir? Perhaps drizzled in dashed expectations with a splash of misplaced trust?
I feel ill. Let’s move on to matters marginally less nauseating but equally repellent. The tripartite alliance, once hailed as the great unifier of workers, socialists and the exploited – everyone apart from white people, in other words – has almost overnight been reduced to the ANC standing bewildered in the middle of the ballroom wondering where its dancing partners have gone.
Cosatu has made it clear to President Jacob Zuma that he should stop checking his in-box for invitations to their insurrectionist soirees. The Communist Party, clinging to the teachings of some of history’s most impressive mass murderers, moves upwind whenever Zuma’s name is mentioned. The churches have Elysium-mailed a photo of the president to St Peter so that he can stick it up on the Pearly Gates in the event that Zuma, post mortem, manages to bribe his way out of hell. The veterans and stalwarts are rattling their Zimmer frames. The deputy president thinks we’re becoming a mafia state and wants a judicial commission of inquiry. And the general populace, among whom I reluctantly count myself, can do nothing more than shake its head and order another round.
The ANC says the confederacy of dunces formerly known as the tripartite alliance “is founded on a common commitment to the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution”. Right now I don’t have the energy to research these so-called objectives. Quite frankly, I’m struggling to make it to the fridge and back. I imagine, though, that they don’t involve selling the country to a sprawling family of robber barons from Uttar Pradesh.
Political analysts keep saying that Zuma is against the ropes. That this or the other latest scandal is the one which will bring him to his knees. But it never happens. A long time ago, when he ditched all pretense at being an honourable man, Zuma adopted what’s known in legal circles as the Stalingrad defence. Here’s the definition.
“This is a strategy of wearing down the plaintiff by tenaciously fighting anything the plaintiff presents by whatever means possible and appealing every ruling favourable to the plaintiff. Here, the defendant does not present a meritorious case. This tactic or strategy is named for the Russian city besieged by the Germans in World War II.”
As we all know, or, in my case, as I’ve just learnt, the Nazis got their arses handed to them in a battle that lasted just over five months. Today the city is known as Volgograd.
In South Africa, where Bolsheviks and Nazis shop side by side in Woolworths, the forces of democracy are bravely fighting the Battle of State Capture. One day, Zuma’s name, like that of Stalingrad, might also be changed. My personal preference is inmate #1/9/2017.
The ANC’s national executive committee is meeting as we speak. Well, as you speak. I live alone and don’t speak much at all. I’m just sitting here on a broken chair hoping that I can finish this column before the beer runs out.
The NEC is a big organ with lots of members. And while Zuma has lots of organs and a big member, the NEC has the power to end his career as commander-in-thief. They did it before to Thabo Mbeki. In terms of ethics and morality, Mbeki was like Jesus compared to Zuma.
Thing is, experts say, not that we can believe a word anyone says any more, that Zuma has the support of at least 60% of the NEC. These are the patriots who saved his Teflon-coated skin in November last year. According to the ANC’s website, which I eventually managed to access after threatening to take Telkom to the International Court of Justice, the NEC has 107 members, 21 of whom are ex-officio members. I don’t know what that means. Maybe they have to bring their own lunch. Among them are cabinet ministers and members of parliament, all of whom are going to have to vote in an upcoming motion of no confidence in the president. Unless, of course, the NEC does the right thing this weekend.
The party’s incomprehensible secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, says that voting against the president would be a betrayal of the ANC and that the party needs to deal with its problems internally. There we go, then. The old organised conspiracy theorist subculture. The illness, if it even exists, will be treated from within. Vaccinations cause disease. Blood transfusions and medical treatment are the work of the devil. Christian Scientists. Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Amish. Scientologists. The ANC.
Brazil has the Zika virus. We have the Zuma virus. What a time to be alive. Or, if this carries on for much longer, dead.