Dear President Zuma,
I have become accustomed to congratulating you on one or other of your remarkable successes – whether it be state capture or simply the acquisition of a fresh wife – and it grieves me terribly to have to offer condolences this time around.
It is always sad when a democracy loses its president at the hands of a political lynch mob instead of at the polls. When presidents are removed in dictatorships, they at least go out in a blaze of glory. With a bang rather than a whimper, as it were. Although I dare say even courageous leaders like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi might have indulged in a spot of whimpering at the end.
I have to admit that at the time of writing this you were still pulling a Mugabe and refusing to budge. I guess I’m approaching you with the optimistic assumption that it’s just a matter of time.
If you still intend resigning – and it seems to me that Monday’s NEC meeting is a massive incentive – let me assure you that there is no shame in it. I have resigned from several jobs over the years. Sure, impeachment wasn’t my only other option. Nor was getting hounded out of the office by angry, disillusioned colleagues.
When I read last week that your pet poison dwarf Jessie Duarte had said a clear decision on your fate was urgent, I knew the cat was truly among the pigeons. The ANC’s top six do not use words like “decision” and “urgent” unless something pretty damn serious is about to happen to one of their own.
Then the quisling Baleka Mbete, who tried so hard to protect you in parliament for so long, turned on you and announced that your State of the Nation Address was being postponed. To her credit, she was kind enough to make out that this was at your request. Everyone knows it wasn’t, though. But that’s okay. When you’re cornered by a buffalo, you do whatever it takes to stay alive.
It’s a shame, really. That would have been your last opportunity to speak to the nation. To remind us, in your own unique somnambulist style, of how much the ANC has done for the country. I never tire of hearing the good stories. Every year it’s the same and every year it sounds like I’ve never heard it before. Perhaps I keep falling asleep. It’s not you, comrade. It’s a biological survival mechanism.
I was so hoping you would complete your term in office, not only because you provide a constant source of material and even income for struggling satirists and cartoonists, but also because … no, that’s it.
You have always insisted you’ve done nothing wrong and that the people love you. I made the mistake of thinking the same about a girlfriend once. It turned out that she loathed me. I completely misread the signals, as you seem to have done. To be fair, you only ever watch ANN7, read the New Age newspaper and surround yourself with people devoted to osculating your gluteus maximus. Given these quixotic conditions, how on earth were you to know how unpopular you had become?
What a pity you never really got the chance to experience what it must feel like to run the country. Right from the start you were fighting a rearguard action to stay out of court and there’s been no time for anything else. As a taxpayer, I have contributed substantially to your legal fees and I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but if you do go to jail, you can expect an invoice from me.
Listen, I was wondering about that meeting you had the other day with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. I’m in Cape Town at the moment and at some point will need to return to my home in Durban for a glass of water and a bath. I need to know that it will be safe. If you and the King are planning to secede the province and unleash the Amabutho, please let me know. I have seen the movie Shaka Zulu and, quite frankly, I have no wish to end up like Michael Caine with an assegai up my bum.
A lot of people are wondering how you managed to convince Cyril Ramaphosa – the pretender to the throne; the Capulet to your Montague – to give you a stay of execution by postponing last week’s NEC meeting. I don’t want to imagine that you both stripped off, coated yourselves in baby oil and wrestled for it. Damn. Now I am imagining it.
Not only did you get him to call the dogs off, but you also gave him a list of conditions to meet before you’d even consider stepping down. That takes audacity to entirely new levels.
From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed that you had about as much negotiating power as a frog dangling from a heron’s beak. Your options, on the surface, were to resign, be recalled by the party or face a vote of no confidence in parliament. Finishing your term seemed not to be among the options. And yet there you are, still behind your desk.
The NEC has turned into a nest of vipers and even in the top six you can count on the support of just the poison dwarf and Ace “Dairy Queen” Magashule. That’s not enough. You’ve already survived eight votes of no confidence in parliament. Cats and people like you get nine lives only. You wouldn’t want to risk it. Not with the likes of Vladimir Putin waiting to have a quiet word with you. And let’s not forget that your tame penguin in the NPA, Shaun Abrahams, could well drift off with the prevailing current.
I have to say, Jake old buddy, you really are something else. Africa has never seen a leader quite like you. You are neither democrat nor dictator. You are a man of the people with no mandate from the people. You literally laugh in the face of adversity. By tarnishing the reputation of the ANC, you single-handedly succeeded where the National Party failed. And that’s quite an achievement, particularly since it was done inadvertently.
Dragging a once-respected liberation movement’s name through the mud was merely collateral damage in your headlong pursuit of wealth. I don’t judge you, Jake. We’re all after money. What is perhaps more surprising is that so many of your comrades either turned a blind eye or helped you in your quest. That’s genuine loyalty, that is.
In the political milieu, you have redefined concepts like honesty, commitment and sacrifice. And, thanks to you, ubuntu now translates as, “I am rich because you are a Gupta.”
Don’t feel bad, though. You’ve had a damn fine innings. Longer than your predecessor, that’s for sure. You have travelled the world, met some interesting people from India, own a lovely property in Nkandla and have a bit of cash in your pocket. You’ve done very well, Jake. All you have to do now is stay out of prison. By the way, if you had to look up the word schadenfreude in the dictionary right now, you’d see a picture of Thabo Mbeki.
I want to see you and your old financial advisor kiss and make up. Play a round of golf together. Buy him a meal. It’s the least you can do. After all, it was because of you that Schabir spent a week or so in prison where he contracted a fatal illness which, miraculously, has improved his handicap.
So there’s only one question now, really. Is it better to jump or be pushed? Can’t help you there, old friend. Whatever you decide, it’s a long way to the bottom. Tuck and roll, Jake. Tuck and roll.
Dear Victoria Geoghegan, Doyenne of Public Relations, Lion of Bell Pottinger, Doctor of Spin and Master of Mass Distraction,
On behalf of all South Africans apart from those who hate you, allow me to thank you for the sterling work you have done to drive a wedge between our people. I appreciate that it was not an easy assignment. In 1994 Nelson Mandela set about trying to bring black and white, rich and poor, closer together. Sadly, his example was followed by a few others in the years to come, ultimately making your job so much more difficult.
It was only in January last year that you met with Comrade Duduzane, the number one son of our illustrious president Jacob Zuma. You weren’t to know that the liberal snowflakes in our ridiculously free press would get wind of your noble venture and conspire to paint you as a rapacious, unprincipled carpetbagger from the north. It is these malcontents in the media who, when one of their kind drags herself from the swamp and announces that she’s taking a job in public relations, move to stand upwind and denounce her as having crossed to the dark side.
I am sure you are familiar with this term and doubt that it gives you sleepless nights. Good for you. I’m also a huge fan of the dark side. Too much light hurts my eyes and integrity gives me a headache. Let us not even speak of truth, that slippery scoundrel who delights in nothing more than playing one side off another. Loyalty, as you and I know, Victoria, comes at a price. In your case, your price was in the vicinity of R24-million.
Your invoice was mailed to someone in the vicinity of Dubai. When I say someone, I obviously mean Salim Essa, trusted lieutenant in the Gupta crime family who selflessly work day and night to economically liberate South Africa for the good of all who live in her. By all, I obviously mean all the Guptas and all the Zumas. In my book, that’s not a crime. Unlike state capture, which, as we now know thanks to you, is nothing but a cunning construct of the evil Johann Rupert and his band of billionaire brigands.
So what did you think of Duduzane? No flies on that lad. They wouldn’t dare. I like him. He has a perfect set of teeth through which he lies flawlessly. He also recently acquired a bride and fathered a child almost simultaneously. Different women, obviously. He learnt from the best.
Did you know he recently bought an R18-million apartment in Dubai? Of course you do. You’ve probably attended one of his glittering soirees. Lucky girl. Did they serve your favourite dish, red herrings?
Geoghegan. Is that Lithuanian? I don’t mean this as an insult. It’s just that there’s something very Baltic about your strategy when it comes to South Africa.
In one of your early emails to Duduzane, you correctly pointed out that a lot of criticism was being aimed at President Zuma and, by extension, the ANC itself. This was obviously an untenable situation, especially when an account potentially worth many millions was at stake.
“There is a need,” you said, “to explain in clear, unambiguous language that it is vital ‘economic emancipation’ is addressed.” Have you been to my country? I expect you have. How else would you have known that South Africans were likely to miss the point entirely unless clear and unambiguous language was used? We’re not very bright.
Your next couple of sentences were sublime. “The people of South Africa need to be told that their dissatisfaction is being heard and that concrete actions are being, or will be taken, to address them. In addressing this issue, the language and psychology used will be crucial.”
With that, your campaign to divide the races and distract the masses was up and running. It was you who came up with immortal phrases like ‘white monopoly capital’ and ‘radical economic transformation’. Money well spent, in my view. You were taking a bit of a chance using words of four syllables, though. As it turned out, even unreconstructed idiots like the ANC Youth League’s Collen Maine could get his swollen tongue around these awesome slogans.
You wouldn’t be where you are today, Victoria, if you weren’t a master at playing the long game. I particularly liked this bit. “For this campaign to be believed and to achieve credibility there will need to be discipline, continuity and consistency over a period, ideally running up to the 2017 elections and beyond.” Your stirring words remind me of another superhero, Buzz Lightyear, who once cried, “To infinity and beyond!” Unlike you, Buzz wasn’t solely motivated by commercial imperatives. I expect he died intestate with nobody but Sheriff Woody and Slinky Dog at his graveside. What a loser.
One of the mistakes you might have made was to think that discipline, continuity and consistency were even possible in a rogue state like South Africa. By this I mean a state full of rogues, most of whom are investigative journalists who drink too much and care little for the dark art of ‘reputation management’.
In that email to Duduzane, you said, “The key to any political messaging is repetition and we will need to use every media channel that we can, to let our message take seed and to grow.” Duduzane should have told you that with the mad emperor Hlaudi Motsoeneng out of the picture, you could rely on just one newspaper and a single TV station. And, obviously, a handful of cabinet ministers, a few hundred mid-level bureaucrats, some parliamentarians, a bunch of businessmen and, of course, a president.
It wasn’t enough, Victoria. But you know that now. We all know. Tragically, your dream of taking your campaign to the ANC elections in December and your clients to the cleaners was doomed to crash and burn. Bell Pottinger promised to “package the narrative into speeches, press releases, website content, videos/broadcast content, slogans and any other material required”, but it was all too fast and way too much. Your campaign was like an overloaded taxi guaranteed to break down on the side of the road.
You told Duduzane it was “critical that the narrative grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it, and feel united by it”. Sounds good on paper, but did Duduzane not tell you that the best way to grab the attention of the grassroots population is to offer them a Streetwise Two and a quart of Zamalek?
So. The old bait-and-switch, hey? Smoke and mirrors. Look at my eyes, don’t watch my hands. All tried and tested by those who have lived and died in the trenches of propaganda and puffery. And why not? If it worked for Joseph Goebbels, a pioneer of the public relations industry, why wouldn’t it work for Bell Pottinger?
Apart from offering the use of a team made up of the likes of Tony Blair’s political advisor (you might want to rethink that in future), you tossed Lord Bell himself into the mix as a sweetener. He will, you promised, be available for strategic counsel as and when required. I might be wrong, but I struggle to imagine the Lord voluntarily relinquishing his gin and tonic at the East India Club to come and help you and the lads resurrect the decomposing reputations of the Guptas and the Zumas.
You even offered “other divisions should we need a wider skillset”. Good heavens. Like what? The Royal Shakespeare Company? The Light Dragoons? Skinheads from Whitechapel? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you had reserves. Perhaps you should have deployed them before the cat was presented with an opportunity to leave the bag.
You were so concerned about the future of South Africa and its people that you almost forgot to mention anything about payment. But then you did. “Bell Pottinger is keen to build a long-term partnership with you. Given our deeper understanding of the assets you have at your disposal, we envisage an initial five-month project at a fee of £100 000 per month, excluding costs.” Seems fair. Especially considering that the assets Duduzane has at his disposal are basically the entire contents of our treasury.
Anyway. I must go and lie down. Knysna has been gutted, Cape Town has been washed into the sea and Helen Zille has gone mad. Send my regards to your friend Max Clifford. Good man, that. Well, apart from being a paedophile. You probably won’t see Max though. I imagine you’ll be going to a different facility. New Hall women’s prison, probably. Not to worry.
Just think of all those potential new clients.
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.
It is in the nature of my job to be a cynic and a sceptic. I take nothing at face value and always believe the worst. Give someone the benefit of the doubt? Please. That’s about as likely as seeing me in church on a Sunday.
However, I am deeply embarrassed to admit that I failed this week in my capacity as a professional doubter and detractor. When I woke to the news that three of the ANC’s top six, the party’s integrity commission, ANC veterans, Cosatu, the Communist Party, churches and civil society groups were united in their call for President Jacob Zuma to stand down, I felt a twinge of hope. I was not so far gone as to be countenancing faith, but that tiny twinge grew stronger overnight as it fed off my dreams of a better future for all. By the time the ANC National Working Committee had ended its crisis meeting, I was telling anyone who would listen that this might well be it. That Zuma had finally played his last card and the entire disgraceful edifice he’d constructed around himself would come crashing down and Wednesday would see the country’s streets and bars filled with people half mad with joy.
Then came the historic press conference that I thought would put South Africa on the road to recovery. Secretary general Gwede Mantashe, looking increasingly like a well-used stress ball, was slumped in his chair, his wounds freshly licked and still raw. As he started speaking, the swelling balloon of hope in my heart began deflating like a plastic soccer ball headed by Jesus wearing his crown of thorns.
Confirming that he and his two fellow invertebrates, deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, are in an abusive relationship with the president, Mantashe said, “We must find it adult enough to close the door, beat each other up, if you find me with a blue eye, I must develop a narrative that I bumped a pole rather than going public with disagreements.” In other words, it is always better to lie than tell the truth. I happen to agree with him on this.
He also said that the ANC “has reflected on the calls by the SACP and COSATU amongst others for President Jacob Zuma to resign from his position as the President of the Republic of South Africa.” I tried that once with one of my ex-wives when she cornered me over her alleged repeated requests that I unblock some or other inconsequential drain. Looking her square in the eye, I said, “I have reflected on your requests.” She seemed to expect more but eventually lost interest and wandered off.
So on Wednesday I coughed up my nugget of hope, now all shrivelled and manky, and went to the pub to rinse the bile from my throat. There, I met a man who claimed not to care about politics. Or even understand how our government works. He said he was just there to drink and asked me not to bother him. I put him in a half-nelson and polished off his beer while he begged for mercy.
“Get a grip,” I said. “You’re behaving worse than Ramaphosa.” He didn’t know what a Ramaphosa was, so I got him to buy me a drink and began explaining the entire sordid business from Marikana to McDonalds.
I also had to explain to this sad bag of rags that in the old days there were three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judicial – but today there are dozens of branches. These are known as ANC branches. I told him to imagine the executive as a shark and the ANC branches as suckerfish that cling to and feed off the parasites on the shark. Imagine, I said, that the parasites are Cosatu and the Communist Party. And maybe the ANC Youth League.
“Remoras,” he shouted, and fell off his stool. I kicked him gently in the head to bring him to his senses. “Order Perciformes, family Echeneidae. They eat the host’s shit,” he said, giggling uncontrollably before appearing to die.
Even though with his final sentence he seemed to be grasping the metaphor admirably, I cannot abide ichthyologists who can’t hold their drink. I kicked him twice for good measure and left swiftly.
So. Comrade Greedy, I beg your pardon, Gwede, admitted that the dumbest “intelligence report” ever created by someone over the age of five was not, as initially stated by Zuma, the sole reason Pravin Gordhan was fired. Saving what little remains of the president’s face, the Working Committee came up with a reason more suited for adult consumption.
“The NWC has accepted the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship between the President and a member of his Cabinet (Gordhan) as sufficient explanation for the decision taken by the President.”
Look, relationships take work. Not mine, obviously. At the first sign of trouble, I’m out of there. But these are grown-ups we’re talking about. If they’d just taken the time to consider each other’s needs, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Would it have hurt either of them to occasionally send flowers or call just to say I’m thinking about you? And why the quickie divorce? What happened to relationship counselling? It’s all too sad.
So to get back to what I was saying. My flirtation with hope flared and died before it could ripen into a full-blooded emotion. It was crushed like a handful of marijuana on the last day of Afrika Burn. I have now returned to my natural state of cynicism, scepticism and ostracism.
I have, in fact, gone one step beyond. Madness, you may say, but these are the times in which we live. The only way we can beat these swine is with a baseball bat but there are too many of them and not enough bats. So we join them. I have already drafted my letter to the head of the government’s human resources department.
Dear Mr Gupta,
Forgive me for not knowing if it’s Atul, Rajesh or Ajay in charge of human resources this week. You guys have your fingers in so many pies it’s hard to know what’s happening. Maybe that’s why you all look so healthy. Too much of pies. Just kidding. I am a big pie man, myself. Mutton curry, mainly. I’m talking proper Verulam mutton, here. Not that Umlazi goat mutton.
Thing is, I am having a problem because I can’t afford to keep myself in the manner to which I ought to be accustomed. As a white man I should be well off, but something terrible must have happened and now I am only well off my face. This is why I am hoping you can give my life a skommel. Put me somewhere with a nice salary and maybe one, two perks.
Don’t put me in the cabinet. I’ve just come out of the closet. That’s a gay joke. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Also, I’m not gay so it’s not really a joke. A cabinet position is like the kiss of death. It’s like being given a poisoned chalice except you don’t have to drink the poison and you get to sell the chalice over and over again. Or something.
I want to be low key but high flying, if you know what I mean. Of course you do. You invented that thing. Smart move. I call it the Dubai Shuffle. But you’re all still South Africans, right? Good for you. It’s the 97th best citizenship in the world to have. And yet we can’t help being morons.
Take that Mcebisi Jonas fellow. You give him free dops in your en-suite shebeen, offer him the position of finance minister and still throw in a R600-million bonsella but he shakes his head and walks away, later making all kinds of affidavits and whatnot about this generous offer that was obviously never made.
This won’t happen with me, uncle. I’m not bluffing you. When you do your next reshuffle, give me maybe director general in tourism and let’s say R50-million and you won’t hear from me unless I hear from you.
Your man in the struggle,
Benjamin “Buttons” Trovato
If my column makes less sense than usual, you can blame MTN. I am currently without a landline, you see. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get one but everybody I talk to wants proof of address. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to prove anything without eyebrows being raised. These tedious muffin-eaters insist that a photo of me at my desk accompanied by a hand-drawn map is not the kind of proof of residence they’re looking for.
So I have spent the last few months accessing the internet via a hotspot on my phone. Don’t worry. This was also gibberish to me the first time I heard it. Data is a bit like beer. One minute you think you have loads and suddenly there’s nothing.
Until fairly recently, I wasn’t aware that you could buy data over the phone. I’d get a message in the early evening telling me that I had run out. During the day, no problem. I’d drive 10kms to the shops and buy more. But after hours? What the hell was I meant to do? I’d pace anxiously or
lie awake for hours twitching and sweating and clawing at my skin. I’d often be the first person at the mall, hanging around the entrance pale and trembling, unable to make eye contact with the car guards.
Then I discovered you could punch in a few numbers on your phone and buy data, just like that. I could lie in bed and within seconds be returned to that magical, diabolical realm where something could happen anywhere in the world and I’d instantly know about it. I don’t have a fear of missing out. I have a fear of not knowing. It’s unlikely to become a thing because Fomo is so much more of a catchy acronym than Fonk.
On Wednesday at 1.45pm I ran out of data. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was due to deliver his budget in parliament at 2pm. This is a man who is fighting a rearguard action on all fronts. Actually, his enemies don’t often come from the front. Being the craven curs they are, they’re far more likely to come slinking up from the back.
I needed to watch this speech. Anything could happen. It was probably Gordhan’s last stand. This was a major public test of loyalties and if I missed it, I’d regret it forever. Also, I’d have nothing to write about.
Then, at 1.47pm, I had a moment of great clarity. “Fuck that!” I shouted, scaring a couple of idiot doves who had wandered into my lounge looking for food. I don’t know why they think they’ll find birdseed scattered all over my floor.
“I’m not giving those MTN robber barons R260 for two miserable gigabytes so that I can watch the budget speech.” The doves blinked at me. Then the bigger one tried to climb onto the smaller one’s back. If ever there was a sign that I should go to the nearest bar and use their free wifi, this was it.
And that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. MTN is forcing me, and who knows how many other decent God-fearing citizens, into daytime drinking in bars with free wifi.
Thanks to MTN, I am a fairly familiar figure in this particular bar. They know what I want. This is more than I can say for myself. On Wednesday there was a newbie behind the bar. A puce-faced callow youth who did a rubbish job of not showing signs of panic at the sight of a red-eyed unshaven possibly homeless man setting up what appeared to be a crude office in the corner. I despised him for not instinctively knowing what to bring me. Do I have to spell it out? Beer, I snarled, lashing a pair of cheap headphones to what little remains of my head.
I was just in time for Pravin to take the podium. He got a standing ovation, even from members of his own party. This was a good start. I quickly worked out a system of drinking, taking notes, eyeballing the talent and flicking back and forth between the speech, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and Pornhub in case something happened that I needed to know about.
Look, the finance minister’s delivery is positively electrifying compared to Jacob Zuma’s, but put him in Nuremberg in 1938 and I dare say people at the back would start drifting off, even if it meant risking a bullet from one of the marshals.
I made it thirty minutes in before suffering my first neurological collapse. Fortunately it was gradual and the glass never shattered against my forehead. It seemed to affect my already frosty relations with the moron bartender, though, and he stopped asking if I wanted another after that. I wasn’t about to ask him for one, either. I have my pride.
Anyway. The entire speech was not only available online the moment Gordhan started talking, but a menagerie of civic-minded journalists were live-tweeting the entire affair. I’d hear him say something and seconds later 15 reporters would repeat it with varying degrees of accuracy. There was no point in me being there. I downloaded the speech, bought nine cases of beer and went back to my shack for some serious political analysis.
When I regained consciousness the speech was long over. That’s the nice thing about Cape Town in summer. You can take spontaneous naps and when you wake up it’s still light at 7.30pm and you don’t feel you’ve wasted the entire day.
I saw clips of the end of the speech. It seemed to go down well. Another standing ovation. Apart from a handful of ministers who pointedly drew the nation’s attention to their undying commitment to the Gupta family by being the only people who didn’t stand up and applaud. To be fair, our top-heavy social services minister Bathabile Dlamini was possibly unable to get to her feet by that stage, although she did show signs of life when Gordhan announced an increase in alcohol tax.
I don’t know what people are complaining about. If another 12c for a can of beer is going to devastate your family, perhaps you shouldn’t be drinking.
Gordhan told us that 10% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. Why give us this information and then withhold their names and addresses? How are we meant to send them begging letters or even petrol bomb their homes? Don’t taunt us, Gordhan.
The speech is littered with references to millions, billions and even a few trillions being allocated to this, that and the other thing. Lest we forget, R46-billion was stolen or squandered by civil servants in the last fiscal year. That’s enough to fill every swimming pool in the country with single malt whiskey. At the next budget speech, I expect to see thousands of white collar criminals paraded outside parliament in leg irons so that we may hurl abuse and other things at their loathsome heads. If there’s one thing this country needs, it’s catharsis.
Meanwhile, there’s good news for the country’s 17 million spongers – I beg your pardon, social welfare beneficiaries. Child support has rocketed to R380, which is more than enough if your child doesn’t eat and prefers walking around naked. Pensioners will be getting a whopping R1 600 a month so no more clogging up the aisles listlessly checking prices on every item. You’re getting in the way of the really poor – the shoplifters. You’re rich now. Load up your trolleys and get out. Also, drive faster.
My best bit was when Gordhan announced a 45% tax rate for people earning more than R1.5m a year and then, to a deathly quiet house, urged people to clap. The sound of the country’s top wage earners looking for their passports was louder than the applause.
But it wasn’t the only reverse-Machiavellian backflip with half-twist that he deployed, either. Breaking into a poorly rendered indigenous language followed by the English translation, he managed to look at Jacob Zuma without actually looking at him and said, “If lions work as a team they will bring down even a buffalo.”
Deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa wasn’t sure how to react. On the one hand, he is really fond of buffaloes. On the other, he really wants to be president. Tough call. He settled for his inscrutable comrade capitalist smile.
Dear ANC Women’s League,
I apologise for addressing you as a league and not as an individual. Women are so much more than mere leagues these days. My non-sexist sensibilities are telling me – well, shrieking at me, really – that it would be highly inappropriate to continue referring to you as some sort of collective rather than a warm flesh and hot-blooded woman with big … I beg your pardon. That’s the medication talking.
My point is that I cannot find a name by which to address you. My limited capacity for research unearthed Lilian Ngoyi, although she appears to be more of a fisheries patrol vessel than a leader of sorts, so I shall call you Mary after one of my heroes. I’m not talking about the Mary who had a little lamb, although that was certainly a biological feat of note, but rather Queen Mary I of England. She got the nickname Bloody Mary after waging a brutal campaign against prostitutes. It’s my favourite morning-after drink. They might have been Protestants.
Anyway. Enough of that. I am writing to congratulate you for so resolutely standing by your man, Jacob Zuma. I have known women, biblically and otherwise, who do not seem to understand this concept at all. When the legendary women’s rights activist Tammy Wynette released her seminal protest anthem, Stand By Your Man, in 1968 in support of real men like Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski, we applauded her. We sang along and danced and fought like lions, then went home to our wives and god help them if dinner wasn’t ready. Just kidding. Not really.
I see you have been very busy issuing statements. Well done, Mary. I like a woman who can make a statement. In the old days, women were only good for making fashion statements. Sometimes they made fashion faux pas, but we forgave them. Or not. I have a friend who said your statements are a faux pas. Ignore him. He is one of those men who think women should automatically defend truth and justice. This should be rejected for the sexist filth it is. Women are nothing more than men without willies and they are entitled to act accordingly without being judged as traitors to their gender. Or, for that matter, their country.
A long queue is developing for the moral high ground and, much like you, I cannot abide queues. Especially when they come stacked with shiny eyed opportunists pretending they’re not desperate to suck on the hind tit of … whoops. Sorry about that. I was talking fiscal rather than physical. Let’s just move on.
You say you are critical of the Public Protector but respect her office? I know what you mean. I have worked for unimaginable arseholes over the years, but I have always been humbled by their offices. The counterfeit oil paintings, the crystal dolphins, the coke chopping boards made of Burmese teak. And while I was quite prepared to cut their throats during the tea break, you showed admirable restraint by demanding “a more objective and less populist person who will campaign against government and its people but defend principles of the structures”. Would those be ANC structures? Viva objectivity.
Quite frankly, the structures seem a bit wobbly right now, Mary. What the hell is wrong with the Gauteng branch that they want Mr Big to resign on the spurious grounds that he gives the appearance of being a semi-literate, corrupt scumbag dragging South Africa to the brink of disaster? Are they on drugs? I heard the Nigerians were bringing in some kind of truth serum. If that’s true, then Paul Mashatile seems to have made an early start.
Can you believe that the Public Protector said you should rather focus on fighting for gender equality and inclusive development? What the hell does that even mean? She also said “women should be fighting to make sure that South Africa was advancing everyone, because when the state fails, it’s women who pick up the burden”. This is a pack of lies and she ought to be jailed at once. I have had two wives and several girlfriends and the only thing any of them ever picked up was a knife or a bottle of gin. Sometimes both.
To be honest, Thuli Madonsela doesn’t bother me as much as she does you. Sure, she talks a little slowly for my liking, but she has the eyelashes of a camel and that’s all that really matters in these days of miracles and wonder.
In your statement on Wednesday you said you would “lead at the front to protect the ANC”. I like it. Everyone knows that Germany only lost the war because they sent men to the front. And let us not even speak of the Russians. You, Mary, have a weapon that men don’t have. I can’t imagine how and where you would use it to protect the ANC, but I’m sure you will find a way.
“For how long should we keep quiet?” you asked. I didn’t know the answer so I asked my so-called friend Ted. He said, “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned. Only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.”
I deployed a stranglehold I learnt in the army and accused him of perpetuating a quite possibly fictitious Red Indian saying. He accused me of using outdated racist terminology and kneed me in the nuts. I was incapable of speech for an hour or two, something you wouldn’t have experienced in your life.
You also took the whip to ABSA, Anton Rupert, Trevor Manuel and his squeeze Maria Ramos, Thabo Mbeki, the Rothschilds, Barclays Bank, the Oppenheimers, the World Bank and the Easter Rabbit. Maybe not so much the rabbit.
Hang on. You’re not Mary at all. You’re someone called Meokgo Matuba. I can’t say I have ever heard of you. This is not my fault, even though I am a white man. You have been very quiet since getting the position. Well done. I like women who keep a low profile. The world doesn’t need more Angela Merkels or Margaret Thatchers, that’s for sure.
Bits of your statement are right up there with Martin Luther whathisname’s speech about a dream he once had. “We have forgiven our leader, Comrade President Jacob Zuma. We will not be shaken by songs of disrepute, clatter of confusion, misinformed quotes by the mainstream media, and its originators, false religious prophets and veterans who have been fed to their stomachs by our former oppressors. Our people are most welcome and liberated to derive their opinion, but we urge all not to be hasty, but rather search within the deepest of secrets to unravel the truth.”
Are these your own words or did you hire Thamsanqa Jantjie to translate from the original? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you continue defending men at all costs. By men I obviously mean one man in particular. The mother of all patriarchs is a man who stands head and shoulders above other men, thanks to all the lawyers and cadres who moved in to break his fall when the Guptas ran away.
Listen, please don’t get involved in the uranium business. It’s very unladylike. If you really have a thing for mining, go for diamonds. They’re a girl’s best friend. Well, Zuma is a girl’s best friend. Then diamonds. And maybe a contract to build nuclear power stations.
So, anyway. All this fuss just because the Constitutional Court found that the president violated his mandate. So what? Boys will be boys. You can violate my mandate any day, baby.