How to Stay Alive

With all this talk of farm murders and other crimes of a less savage nature, I thought it a good time to share a chapter from my book Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival.
 
BUYING property is a big decision. Bigger even than choosing a wife. These days it is far easier to divorce a dud wife than it is to sell a dud house.
You home is your castle. You worked hard for it and you have the right to defend it with your life. Or, preferably, someone else’s life.
When it comes to choosing where to buy, a lot of people make straight for the gated villages and security estates. I am not a big fan of these for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that you can’t escape easily if the sheriff comes looking for you.
Whether you opt to live in the leaf-riddled suburbs, within the walls of a fortified compound or free-range on a farm, you need to pay close attention to the points of entry. Some people prefer to stay in apartments high up in the sky where the yellow-eyed varmints can’t get to them. The estate agents call this a lock-up-and-go. All my life, wherever I have lived, I have simply locked up and gone. And yet I have been burgled more times than I care to mention. So much for that idea.
The suburbs are the natural habitat of the common housebreaker. Although they are solitary animals, it is not uncommon to find two or three of them hunting together. These shy creatures are easily startled and are difficult to spot during the day. Nocturnal by nature, they have a keen eye for detail, especially when it comes to alarm systems and dogs.
Police have warned that “scouts” leave coded messages on the pavement indicating which houses are safe to be robbed. Green crème soda cans let the boys know it’s open house. Red Coke cans signify that a little force might be required. Police urge residents to report strange objects that appear on the pavements outside their homes. Among the unusual objects that regularly appear on my pavement are drunk homeless people. I am still trying to work out what this signifies. I also on occasion leave half-empty beer bottles outside my house. I hope this strange new code gives the varmints sleepless nights.
The only way to ensure that you are never broken into is to make your house impregnable. Doors and windows are the weakest security points. These must be bricked up. Make sure you do this from the inside. If you have a chimney, seal it off. Burglars can also gain entry through your roof so you will need to replace your ceiling with a concrete slab. Your house should now be completely safe. Nobody will be able to get in to rob you. Nobody will be able to get out, either, so make sure you have enough food to last for the rest of your life. If you are married to someone who insists on getting out now and again, then you should probably consider other options.
Here are a few ways you can minimise the chances of getting burgled.
Moats
Apart from being one of the sillier words in the English language, a moat can be highly effective in keeping the varmints at bay. To minimise your water bill, it is best to run hoses from taps around the neighbourhood. If you live near a stream or river, go out late at night with a spade and divert it so that it fills your moat.
Once your moat is full, you may want to make a feature of it by adding water lilies, fountains and a couple of crocodiles to take care of those housebreakers who, as adults, have learned to swim.
Crocodiles are easily obtained in South Africa. Lake St Lucia is well stocked with these brutes. In Zululand, nature conservation officials move slower than the crocs so you need not worry about getting caught. You should worry more about getting eaten. With that in mind, try to avoid taking fully-grown crocs. As tempting as may be to have instant security, you will have trouble fitting more than one adult in the boot of your car. You could tie another to your roof racks if you don’t mind attracting attention.
If you are pressed for time, it makes more sense to load up on eggs. You can visit one of our crocodile farms and stuff the eggs down your pants when nobody is looking or you can get them on eBay for a few dollars apiece.
The eggs of saltwater crocodiles take about 80 days to hatch, but I would suggest you stay away from these unless you are prepared to go to the trouble of converting your moat. Some people say chlorine is best, others swear by salt. I don’t want to get involved. This argument has claimed lives.
You are most likely to end up with Nile crocodiles. Crocodylus niloticus can grow to over five metres long and weigh up to a ton so it is best to get them while they are young. Unless you want the SPCA on your case, you will have to feed your crocodiles on a regular basis. Although they will get to eat the occasional drunk who falls into your moat, this should be seen more as a dietary supplement than anything else.
One of the major benefits of using crocodiles instead of other aquatic species such as geese or hippos is that crocodiles can live for up to 80 years in captivity. Not having to replace your watchcrocs will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don’t forget to get the drawbridge people in before you fill your moat.
Landmines
Some people have a thing about landmines. Princess Diana was one. She decorated two entire rooms at Balmoral with disarmed mines. The green room was reserved for anti-tank mines, the red room for anti-personnel mines. They were all there, from the Soviet POMZ-2 to the American M-18 Claymore. A particular favourite of Diana’s was the Valmara 69. Produced in Singapore, this little baby can shoot more than a thousand metal fragments over a 25-metre radius. Sometimes, when William and Harry were little, she would bring out the OZM-3 jumping mine as a special treat and let them play with it. The princes had hours of fun trying to catch it as it bounced through the castle.
None of this, however, is of any concern to you. All you have to do is remember where you laid your mines. I have heard of people who went to the trouble of sowing a minefield around their house only to step outside to fetch the newspaper and get blown up. It is essential that you create a map showing precisely where the mines are.
Most housebreakers prefer to take the path less trodden, so you might want to scatter some of those mines in the more inaccessible areas of your garden. Try not to bury any in the flowerbeds. Reliable gardeners are hard to find these days.
If you are a real patriot you will want to get your hands on something homegrown. During the 1980s Armscor turned out some damn fine blast and fragmentation mines. Unfortunately these have not been stocked at local hardware stores since Nelson Mandela was released. You could try getting your mines from the Russian mafia in Cape Town, but be advised that it is very difficult to get through to them. On all levels.
Here’s an idea. Why not make it a fun outing? Take the family to Angola for the weekend. Even though the country is a little run-down, landmines can still be found in most of the rural areas. It might take a while, but with a little poking around, you, mom or one of the kids are almost guaranteed to pick up a few good-quality mines for use around the home.
Walls and fences
The Germans and Israelis have done more to popularise defensive walls than any other nation in recent times. The trend was started by Roman emperor Hadrian in 122 AD when he built a stone wall right across Great Britain. It was the only way he could keep the lunatic Scots at bay. The feat impressed the electorate back in Rome and simultaneously served as a warning that Romans would not hesitate to build stone walls should anyone dare try to stop them from taking over the world.
Today, Hadrian’s Wall is the most popular attraction in northern England and tourists are often seen walking the length of it. Considering what else is on offer in northern England, this is extreme adventure at its best.
If we had to be honest we would admit that the Chinese started this nonsense with walls around 220 BC, but they claim credit for way too much already and I doubt that I shall mention them again.
Not everybody believes in the power of walls. The anti-wallers believe that by erecting a wall you are converting your home into a prison. What’s wrong with that? When last did you hear of a prison being broken into? How often does the head warden get back to his office to find his door kicked in and his TV missing? It just doesn’t happen. Prisons are the safest places on earth because they have walls around them.
Barbed wire vs blade wire
Anyone who grew up in South Africa will have a soft spot for barbed wire. Anyone who is white, of course. Barbed wire was invented to keep the darkies in their place and out of yours. Barbed wire sent out an unambiguous signal. Barbed wire was on the side of right. Barbed wire was strong. Trustworthy. It had principles.
Barbed wire topped the fences around our military bases. It lined the streets whenever the natives got restless. It lay there in tight reassuring coils in hardware stores throughout this once great country. If it weren’t for barbed wire, parliament would have fallen to the communists long before 1994. And if barbed wire is good enough for Guantanamo Bay, it’s good enough for your home.
The only negative thing I can say about barbed wire is that it is very working class. If you have received a good education and are well spoken (i.e. English-speaking), the chances are that you will prefer to secure your house with something that has a little more breeding. I am talking about razor wire, also known as blade wire. The Germans came up with it in World War One. And even though they eventually lost the war, they did succeed in killing several million enemy soldiers before admitting defeat. This was not bad going for a country that had little more than the crumbling Ottoman Empire and a couple of stoned Hungarians on their side.
It was at 11am of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that a ceasefire came into effect. At 10.58am, a German sniper shot Canadian George Price through the head. Being the last soldier to die in the Great War showed the world once and for all what Canadians really are – a bunch of no-hope losers with an appalling sense of time and place.
This has nothing to do with razor wire.
Eina ivy
The most aesthetically pleasing device to come out of the home security industry. Its spikes will tear your burglar to shreds, but at least he can admire its shroud of lifelike plastic green leaves while slowly bleeding to death in the hydrangeas.
Alarms
Home alarm systems remain one of the most popular deterrents to people who lie around all day drinking wine from plastic bottles and smoking crystal meth and then when everything runs out they think they can come over to your house and take your stuff and sell it for a fraction of its worth so that they can stay drunk and wired for another three days. If it were that easy, we would all be doing it.
Alarms work by frightening off burglars who suffer from hyperacusis, an abnormal sensitivity to loud noises. These burglars, who make up 0.1% of the housebreaking fraternity, now wear earplugs to work.
Alarms are also designed to alert the neighbours that there is trouble next door. However, neighbours in South Africa have long since learnt not to get involved in anything that happens beyond their garden gate. The house next door could be dismantled piece-by-piece and carried away by a chorus line of transvestites in fishnet stockings and latex rubber leotards singing “Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go” and still the neighbours would say, “Didn’t hear a thing. We had the rugby on, you know.”
These days most alarms are linked to armed response companies. Keep in mind that most housebreaking syndicates are also linked to armed response companies.
If you are at home and your alarm is activated, all it really does is induce cardiac arrest in the elderly and infirm, give you a splitting migraine and encourage your cats and dogs to find a new home in the next town.
If you insist on an alarm that makes a conventional wailing sound, I suggest you invest in the type that Israel uses to warn people in Haifa that Hezbollah is about to ruin their day. If your alarm can be heard by every police station in the city, the odds are dramatically increased that someone might come around and investigate. If it’s not lunchtime, that is.
Try to get your hands on a Chrysler Air Raid Siren. It is the size of a car and weighs three tons but if you can hoist it up on to your roof, it would be a desperate burglar who would keep robbing you with 138dB howling into his head.
You may want to impress or even terrify your neighbours by acquiring a siren that has the ability to broadcast voice messages. These electronic sirens are similar to conventional sirens except for the fact that they rely on a series of electrodynamic, horn-loaded loudspeaker drivers to produce sound. I presume you record your message in much the same way that you would on your telephone answering machine. Here are a few suggestions in case you can’t come up with any of your own:
“The house is surrounded. Get down on the floor. If you move, you will be shot.” (Edit in background sound of helicopters and dogs barking).
“This is God speaking. Stop that at once.” (Insert background sound of thunder and a chorus of celestial voices raised in anger).
“Freeze! I’m Ma Baker! Put your hands in the air and gimme all your money!” (Boney M instrumentals in the background).
CCTV
Closed-circuit television has revolutionised home security. Cameras mounted in strategic places are able to monitor a housebreaker as he climbs over your garden wall, enters through a downstairs window, walks down the passage, grabs a beer from the kitchen, heads up the stairs and sidles into your bedroom where he ties you up and steals all your valuables, leaving you with a unique video of an unidentified man in a balaclava roaming around your house and robbing you blind, which you can then show to all your friends and use as justification for emigrating to Perth. You may find it more rewarding to use your CCTV system to make cheap porn.
Armed response
Armed response units are to police what paramedics are to doctors. They walk, talk and smell just like real cops but are quicker on the draw because they don’t have to fill in as much paperwork after gunning down a varmint. On the down side, they are paid almost as badly as cops. And, like cops, they also have habits to feed, gambling debts to pay and kids to put through reformatory. This is worth bearing in mind when you invite them into your home to inspect the entry and exit points and provide them with your secret code and a detailed schedule of your movements.
Dogs
Let us be clear on one thing. Dogs are animals. They are not meant to be kept as pets. We have all been to the beach or to a park and seen someone throw a ball for a dog. Perhaps you have even done it yourself. You people make me so angry. Why in god’s name are you encouraging your dog to chase balls when it is blindingly obvious to all who care about these things that he should be chasing criminals? Every time your dog runs after a ball, somewhere out there is a criminal not being chased.
And you, you with that fur-covered beach ball. Oh, it’s a Labrador, is it? Shame, give him another piece of cake. Watch him go into cardiac arrest through the sheer effort of wagging his anaconda-like tail. You, madam, are doing your dog and this country a great disservice. Your Labrador should be a lean, mean killing machine. He should be at home patrolling your perimeter fence, fangs a-slaver and barking mightily at anything that moves.
Big dogs are the infantry in our fight against crime. Their position is at the front. If you only have one dog, get another to watch the back. They are the first line of defence against those who wish to take our stuff and our lives.
Little dogs are signallers in this war. They form part of an early warning system and should be scattered about the property. Their job is to alert the big dogs that something might need checking out.
It is also useful to keep a supply of miniature breeds inside your house. If a burglar does gain entrance, one of the more effective methods of slowing him down is to throw them at him. Do not waste your dogs. Use them wisely. If you have done your job properly, your handheld dogs will have been trained to bite on impact. There are very few burglars who feel comfortable robbing you with two or three lapdogs hanging from their face. On the down side, small dogs frequently come with a manufacturer’s defect. Once they start yapping they frequently forget how to stop. A finger up the bum usually turns them off.
Breeds
Alsatians make the best guard dogs. Originally bred as all-purpose working dogs, they have a proud history of keeping darkies out of white areas. They also spent a lot of time on Jesus’s side of the Berlin Wall helping to fight communism.
They are handsome hounds, even if a bit right wing, and you will have to watch out for those neighbourhood bitches slipping in for a quickie while your dog is meant to be working.
If you are in the market for an Alsatian, pop in to your local police station and see if there are any on special. Try to get a dog from the drug squad. That way the days of misplacing your stash will be over.
Alsatians have their own governing body called the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde. Being German, the dogs understand what this means but they are often reluctant to talk about it. Perhaps it is like belonging to the Freemasons.
Some famous Alsatians are Hitler’s dog, Blondi; Rex the Wonder Dog; Rin Tin Tin and Orca of the SAPS KZN Midlands K9 Unit.
Bull terriers would make ideal guard dogs if you could only get them to open their jaws and let go. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for a pedigree dog and then have to cut its head off so the burglar can be thrown into a police car/mortuary van/hole in your back yard.
Whippets are faster than cheetahs in built-up areas. Obviously, out on the plains the cheetah will whip the whippet’s ass any day. When it comes to protecting your house, the whippet isn’t much good. Nobody is likely to be deterred by the sight of its tiny head, huge chest and ridiculously long legs. That its tail is permanently wedged between its legs is also less than intimidating.
A whippet will only care about whether the strange man climbing over your wall has any food in his pockets. Look at him in a friendly fashion and he will grin gratefully, roll over onto his back and open his legs. If I ever get the chance to dabble in genetics, I am going to cross breed a whippet with a woman.
Your whippet comes into his own when the burglar tries to flee. To see some real sport, tie something soft and furry (a pair of bunny slippers would work) to the burglar’s ankles and give him a 30-second head start.
Dachshunds are a bit of a gamble insofar as security is concerned. If the burglar does not incapacitate himself with laughter, you might want to have a back-up plan.
Zulu hunting dogs only work if the intruder is Zulu.
crocmoat

Even the good times are bad

There was a knock on my front door on Wednesday morning.  I opened it to find a matching pair of men in cheap suits standing on my Go Away mat with simulated smiles stuck on their stupid faces.
“Have you heard the good news?” said the tall one. “God loves …”
“Beer?” I said. “Yeah, I know.” And shut the door.
I’ve just about had all the good news a man can take right now. It’s bad news I’m after and there simply isn’t enough of it to go around these days. We’re all too damn cheerful at the moment. Drinking only makes things worse. So much for alcohol being a depressant. A couple of beers and suddenly life seems too short to waste on protesting against the Zuptas. I mean, this isn’t bloody Yemen, right? And it’s a lot easier getting another drink than another party into power.
There’s even good news in the fight against crime. Police minister Fikile Mbalula has notched up one million followers on Twitter. First out of the gates to congratulate him was himself, closely followed by the official SA Police twitter account, which may or may not be run by the minister.
If I was thinking about pursuing a life of crime – and I do, several times a day – I would be completely put off after learning of the size of Mbalua’s twitter following. It’s a major deterrent. Charles Manson had only, like, twelve followers and I wouldn’t mess with him. Maybe I’m thinking of Jesus. But just imagine how popular and powerful a man with a million followers must be. Our police minister is like a Kardashian. No wonder criminals are cowering in fear.
More good news is that 36 Dutch tourists cut their holiday short and went home after not being able to buy weed in any of our coffee shops. Good riddance, I say. Look what happened the last time the Dutch overstayed their welcome. They developed a taste for brandy and a thing for the kitchen staff and it wasn’t long before they were tampering with the phonetics, segregating the beaches and sending Nelson Mandela to Robben Island.
What else? Oh yes. The presidency – the nerve centre of corruption – showed its appreciation for irony this week when it tweeted that the number of people convicted for corruption had, in the last three years, soared from 52 to 110. Nice one, guys. It’s important to retain a sense of humour.
There’s even good news from America, where black sportsmen are finally showing their gratitude for the abolition of slavery by dropping to one knee whenever the anthem is played. If our darkies were that grateful for an end to apartheid we wouldn’t have a racism problem in this country.
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died this week, which is good news for a coterie of young women who can now spend their evenings in the company of men not old enough to be their great-grandfather. Also, they can finally go back to their natural hair colour. The editor of the now defunct South African version of Playboy once asked me to write a piece for the magazine. He seemed surprised when I asked about his rate. He seemed to think the honour of being published in Playboy would be payment enough. Exploiting women is one thing. But writers? That’s where I draw the line.
Over in the Faroe Islands, the Danes are doing their best to rid the world of pods of aggressive, entitled dolphins. Well done. The world needs fewer dolphins, especially those arrogant white-sided ones. Give them an inch and next thing you know it’s us who are jumping through hoops and clapping our withered hands for scraps of fish.
In Thailand, the former prime minister was sentenced to five years in prison over a rice subsidy scheme. Oh, what we’d give to have a president implicated in dodgy rice deals. Here, a mid-level grain-related crime will get you the Order of the Baobab.
Happy news out of Nepal is that there is one less spoiled brat on the streets after a three-year-old girl was taken from her home to live among strangers in a castle where she will be allowed out only thirteen times a year. A small price to pay for being accorded godlike status as the new Kumari of Kathmandu. Selection criteria for aspiring Kumaris includes specific physical attributes such as an unblemished body, a chest like a lion and thighs like a deer. Even if a girl fulfils all the physical requirements, she must prove her bravery by not crying at the sight of a sacrificed buffalo. I imagine the buffalo would be the least of her worries.
My personal run of good luck continued this week when I discovered that, according to the latest income figures, I fall squarely into the emerging middle class bracket. I used to be higher up the ladder but someone greased the rungs, causing me to have a bit of a slip. Ten percent of the population falls in the top two most affluent income groups. When I say falls, I obviously mean wallows. To be a member of the 10% club, you have to earn a minimum of R65 000 per month. Affluent starts at R141 000. There is no maximum. Well, apart from maximum security prison, of course, which is where most of the people in this bracket deserve to be.
Someone asked me the other day if I’ve done any retirement planning. Of course I have. The plan involves being a burden on my friends and family. It’s popular among the emerging middle class, particularly those who never actually emerge.
I thought I’d stumbled across some really good news when I found a website promising a cure for hangovers. They lied, naturally. But something positive came of it because they also told me, perhaps to make up for their lies, about the warning signs of a stroke. If you think someone is having a stroke, ask them to raise both their arms. And get them to smile. If they can’t do it, call an ambulance. If they can, well, they’re already in the position. You might as well take their wallet.
Meanwhile, my search for silver linings in the darkest of clouds will continue apace.

Cheap lies & dumb points

So here we are, clinging to shattered shards of hope trying desperately not to get swept away in the poisonous torrents of traducement that spew from the repulsive mouths of our lords of the lies and other vile merchants of mendacity. Our streets are full of toothless hags inventing tales of woe and the courts are packed with prevaricators of every shade. Churches reverberate to the sound of equivocating men fencing their own brand of truth while places of learning are overrun with pseudologists more suited to busking in subways. Parliament is overrun with wool-pulling fabulists and the papers are packed with shaggy dog stories.
Don’t believe what you see, read or hear. Don’t take anything at face value. Question everything and everyone, including the people with whom you live and work.
I saw a headline the other day that read, “Cops hunt for man who shot seven homeless people.” I didn’t read it because it’s full of trigger words, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this turned out to be the latest scheme by our unhinged social development minister to solve the homeless problem. Nothing is as it seems any more.
We are down the rabbit hole and things can only get curiouser from now until the ANC elects a new president in the party’s traditional orgiastic feeding frenzy of greed and expediency. It’s becoming way too crowded around the trough and old snouts will have to make way for the new. It’s not going to be a pretty sight. Keep the curtains drawn and the children indoors.
Parliament may try to ram home a fistful of ill-considered laws before they turn off the lights and go off to do constituency work. I did some of that earlier in the week and was tongued awake the next day by my neighbour’s Labrador. To be fair, I was in his basket. Exhausting stuff, constituency work.
Speaking of which, one of the more malevolent pieces of legislation tabled recently is the elegantly named Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. Amendments are meant to be good, right? We look to the glorious United States of America to set the standard here. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Eighth Amendment deals with excessive bail, fines and punishments that are forbidden. And so on. This gives the impression that amendments are good things. A tweaking of the laws so that the people might be better served and less oppressed.
Not here, buddy. When you hear the word ‘amendment’ in South Africa, you sell your house and get to the airport as quickly as possible. Leave your family. There’s no time.
And when the word ‘amendment’ appears in the same sentence as ‘road traffic offences’, you should know it’s not going to be a sensible amendment that encourages people to drive stoned because they are unable to go faster than 50km/h. Or an amendment that allows men to drink and drive if they are taller than 1.9m because we, I mean, they, can obviously hold their alcohol a lot better than a 1.5m teenage girl.
Instead of making good laws better, we’re making bad laws worse. This is in line with government thinking on pretty much everything, really. There is good news for some, though. Once implemented, the demerit system will enable traffic police to demand far bigger bribes since the stakes are so much higher. I’m happy for them. There’s no reason bribes shouldn’t at least keep pace with inflation.
In KwaZulu-Natal, traffic officers have already been trained “so that they can adapt to the new law”. Fair enough, although I would’ve thought it more important to train us, the general motoring public, who seem utterly unable to adapt to laws of any kind.
From what I can make out, the amendment is designed to reduce carnage on the roads in the most brutal way possible. On top of being fined, you will have points added to your licence. This sounds like a good thing. But if you go around boasting that you have 97 points on your licence, you’re doing it wrong. The higher your score, the more your chances of losing. It’s like golf, except you’re playing against Tiger Woods off his face on amphetamines.
Will the demerit system reduce the number of accidents on our roads? Of course not. I’m willing to wager that most crashes are caused by people not paying attention. The proliferation of cellphones, social media and infidelity has taken away our ability to concentrate for more than three minutes at a time. Accidents happen when our minds are elsewhere.
So the demerit system is not going to make drivers any less attention deficit. All it will do is take a vicious financial toll on motorists who activate speed traps, don’t use seatbelts and park in loading zones, all of which I do regularly without anyone getting hurt.
This is what Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky had to say about the amendment. “Something is terribly wrong here. This not only violates the constitution but the principles of the justice system.”
Here’s how it works. Do something naughty and you will receive an infringement notice ordering you to pay a fine. Ignore it and a month later you’ll get a “courtesy letter” – for which you will be charged – reminding you to pay up. Ignore that and 32 days later you’ll get an enforcement order notifying you of the number of demerit points against you and again ordering you to pay the fine plus the cost of the enforcement order. Until you pay, you won’t be able to renew your car’s licence disc. Ignore the enforcement order and a warrant of execution will be issued and the Sheriff will come to your house and take your stuff. This is a way of getting rid of the junk in your garage. He is also allowed to confiscate your licence, immobilise your car and report you to a credit bureau, after which you may wish to emigrate.
Let me tell you about the demerit system. You start off with zero points. Skip a stop sign, fail to renew the car’s licence or use your cellphone while driving and it’s a R500 fine plus one demerit point. Exceeding R100km/h in a 60km/h zone – which everyone does – will get you six demerit points and a fine. Drive with more than 0.05g of alcohol in your blood – which everyone does – will also see six points added to your licence. Plus a fine. You will then be stripped naked, given a light stoning by clerks from the finance department and, once the Alsatians have finished with you, banished from your village.
When you reach 12 points, the game is over and your driving licence is suspended for three months. One point is taken off if you behave yourself for three straight months. But get three suspensions and your licence is cancelled and destroyed. If you ever want to drive legally again, you will have to undergo a “rehabilitation” programme. That’s right. You’re going to rehab. And don’t expect any yummy methadone, either.
It doesn’t end there. Get out of rehab and it’s off to the tribunal. Do you know who else appears before tribunals? War criminals, that’s who. But you’re not a war criminal. War criminals aren’t expected to have their hearing repeatedly postponed because the photocopier is broken or their file is missing. War criminals aren’t expected to walk for three days to reach the tribunal because their licence has been suspended. You’re going to be wishing you were a war criminal by the time this is over.
If the tribunal decides that you have learnt from your mistakes – contrition is best shown by wearing sackcloth and lashing yourself with a cat ‘o nine tails – you will be able to apply for a learner’s licence. If you pass, you may take a driver’s test. I’m not making this up. They really think this is going to work.
Pregnant women apply for their unborn babies to write the K53 test in the hope that they’ll get an appointment by the time they turn 18. You get 12 points and lose your licence, you’ll be in a retirement home by the time you reach the front of the backlog .
The bill must now be adopted by the National Council of Provinces and signed into law by President Zuma. This is excellent news. Once Zuma starts applying his mind, all bets are off.
RoadblockBen
 

Long haul to Bali

If you have to go to Bali at short notice but lack access to a high-powered boat fitted with supplementary vodka tanks, supersonic stabilisers and three depraved Scandinavian contortionists, you should probably fly Singapore Airlines. My contortionists were in for repairs so I decided to fly.
OR Tambo International Airport is nothing like the man. For a start, it lacks his outward sense of calm and order. Ironic, though, to name an airport after a man whose lexicon included regular use of a word that may not, under pain of imprisonment, be uttered in an airport. For the slow-witted, I’m talking about the word bomb.
I suppose I could’ve flown South African Airways. It would have been the patriotic thing to do. Then again, not allowing an immigrant family from Uttar Pradesh to ransack our state owned enterprises and loot the treasury would also have been the patriotic thing to do. Flying SAA is about as patriotic as giving Jacob Zuma a third term.
Singapore Airlines is everything that SAA isn’t. It runs on time, gives people free drinks and, unlike the rand, hardly ever crashes. The ten hour flight to Singapore was a pleasure. The pilot wasn’t even a little bit drunk. I have experienced more turbulence in hotel rooms. And their meals make SAA look like a soup kitchen for homeless war criminals.
Singapore is one of the many airlines that don’t fly from King Shaka International Airport. Hadedas barely fly from King Shaka. Most of them depart from the tree outside my bedroom window at 5.30am. Hadedas have the worst air traffic control in the world, shouting at each other whenever they take off or land. Or even just sit there.
To get to Singapore Airlines I had to fly from Durban to Joburg. I managed to get myself an emergency exit seat by weeping openly at the check-in counter while standing on my tip-toes, which brought my height to around three metres. I need extra leg room like sharks need to keep moving.
The cabin attendant pretended to give me instructions on what to do in the event of what she coyly described as a forced landing and I pretended to listen. We both knew that in the history of aviation, nobody in my position had ever swung that lever up, kicked the door open and helped his fellow passengers onto the wing.
The attendant then told me, with a straight face, that in the event of a water landing I should swim to the front of the plane where I’d find the life vests. So there was a chance we’d come down in the Umgeni River, then. Or maybe Zoo Lake? It was like a triathlon. Fly, swim, crawl to hospital.
Waiters in an airport bar took me hostage and only released me when they heard my name being called. Weaving off to the gate severely handicapped by a belly distended with beer, I made it just in time.
“Where were you, sir. We’ve been calling you,” said a gatekeeper with the face of a rejected kidney.
“I thought that was the voice of God,” I said.
This conversation might have taken place in my head. Living alone as I do, a fierce amount of conversations take place in my head.
It wasn’t long before I was on nodding terms with the onboard medication. But there comes a time on any long-haul flight when the airline treats its passengers as one would a bunch of parrots. They’ve barely fed and watered you when the blinds come down and the lights go off. It’s the equivalent of putting a blanket over a cage.
“More gin and tonic, air slave!”
“Sir, now is sleepy time, not drinky time.”
“What? This is an outrage! Drinky time has barely begun and you expect …”
“Sir, it is 2am in Singapore. Not drinky time at all.”
“Rubbish. It’s 6pm and it’s still light outside. Look.” I went to raise the plastic shutter thing.
“Mr Parrot, do not touch the fittings or we will have you shot.”
Singapore, you will remember, is the country that destroyed Helen Zille’s career. I shudder to think what their airline is capable of doing. Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that Singapore is a country at all. I think it’s just a giant airport with travelators instead of roads, planes instead of trains and sliding glass doors instead of borders. I’ve visited smaller countries than Changi Airport, which appears to have a GDP considerably higher than most African states. Another reason I don’t think Singapore is a real country is their idea of what constitutes crime.
A teaser emblazoned on the front page of last week’s Singapore Sunday Times screamed, “The ugly side of bike sharing!” I assumed “bike sharing” was a polite euphemism for one or other less than salubrious activity. Human trafficking, perhaps. My brain salivating at the idea of receiving a dose of fresh filth, I flipped the paper open. The page two lead story was headlined, “LTA moves against badly parked bikes.” Ramming home the full horror, four photographs showed bicycles parked willy-nilly, some obstructing doorways, others partially blocking a staircase. A few have already been impounded. It was too terrible. I had to bite down hard on my knuckles so as not to cry out at the inhumanity of it all. But, despite the brutally indiscriminate parking of bicycles, Singapore will rebuild. Je suis Singapore.
To reach my connecting flight to Bali, I had to cross several topographical zones within the Singaporean People’s Republic of Changi. Across the temperate highlands of Duty Free through the megalopolis of pharmacies to the glittering cornucopia of Gucci, I soldiered bravely on. Rebel controlled roadblocks slowed my progress but, after handing over bottles of water, I was allowed to continue on my way.
I spent the flight with my knees around my ears, eating with T-Rex arms and shooting death stares at parents who think it’s somehow acceptable for their children to carry on like malfunctioning air raid sirens.
Black-gloved gunmen were waiting for me at Denpasar Airport. Were they to release me into the wilds of Bali with my bottle of rum and my bottle of gin, I would quite clearly be unable to resist the urge to violently overthrow the Indonesian government. They gave me a choice.
“Rum or gin,” said a beautiful combatant with sloe eyes and a quick draw. It was a vicious and cruel choice to have to make.
“Eat prey, love,” I muttered, handing over the gin before walking out into a thick soup of tropical humidity, Australian accents and seven billion motorbikes.

Bell Pottinger – experts in reputation damagement

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.

Trump scores own coal

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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.

A letter to our next president

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Dear President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,
I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your election to the highest office in the land. Please do not panic or consult a sangoma. I am not back from the future. Yes, I am fully aware that the election is only in 2019, but there is no reason to think that you won’t be our next president and my name will go down in history as the first person to congratulate you.
If, for some bizarre reason you don’t win, I shall withdraw my congratulations and deny ever having written to you. I would also prefer it if you did not attempt to contact me. However, this unfortunate situation is unlikely to arise since you are blessed with the magical name of Zuma.
Marrying Jacob was the smartest thing you ever did. Well, second smartest. The smartest thing you ever did was divorce him. Had you not shed those shackles of matrimony, your sparkling charisma would have dulled as you became lost in the common herd. A woman of your intellect and individuality demands to be the wife and not simply a wife among many.
I see your slave name is Clarice. How unusual. The only other Clarice I have ever come across is Clarice Starling, the FBI agent who unfortunately got eaten by well-known Baltimore psychiatrist, Dr Hannibal Lecter. Today, of course, this piece of American history ranks as a nostalgic triviality compared to the hideous atrocity committed in their last general election.
Some people, members of the ANC Women’s League, mainly, say that South Africa is now ready for its first female president. This is nonsense. The country has been ready since 1883 at least. While Paul Kruger could speak Afrikaans, basic English and several African languages – much like your ex-husband – he married Maria du Plessis, a feisty young girl who could just as easily have become president. Maria was 14 at the time, but she would have grown into the role between baking, embroidering and breeding. Our history is awash with missed opportunities.
Speaking of which, I’d like to also congratulate you on your tenure as chairperson of the African Union Commission. I’m sure a lot of African governments were nervous that you would work tirelessly to end their profitable civil wars and help them out of their least developed country status, costing them enormous amounts of money in foreign funding. You never failed them, comrade. Well done.
I was very impressed with the welcome the government afforded you when you returned from your sabbatical in Addis Ababa. Even when you were just popping out to Woolies, you had armed security and a three-car blue-light escort. At first I thought this was a courtesy being extended to all unemployed people, but it turned out to be just you. That’s okay. It shows the government cares about one of its jobless citizens at least. A friend of mine said the ANC was psychologically grooming the electorate to vote for you. I called him an unreconstructed cynic, confiscated his beer and chased him from my home. The electorate cannot be brainwashed. For a start, they’d need a brain in the first place.
When I saw pictures of you visiting the poor a couple of weeks ago, even going so far as to touch them, I took this as a sign that your campaign for the presidency had begun. Apparently I was wrong. Apparently your visit to Stinkwater township near Hammanskraal was simply because you care. I see you were accompanied by celebrity “prophet” Pastor Mboro from the Incredible Happenings Ministry. Amen, sister. Incredible happenings, indeed. Perhaps when you are president you can rename the township. I’m sure the locals would appreciate it.
A couple of days later you were in Ixopo talking to more poor people. Was this campaigning?
“This is not a campaign,” shouted Zamo Nxumalo, chairperson of the ANC’s Harry Gwala region. “It’s part of the programmes of the ANC, so her visibility should not be seen as campaigning.” Mluleki Ndobe, mayor of the Harry Gwala district, was also desperate to quell rumours of campaigning. “Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a humble and accessible leader of all the sectors of society either rich or poor, educated or uneducated.”
I hope you have had this man arrested. How dare he go around calling you humble? I think it’s pretty clear to everyone but the clinically insane that the meek aren’t going to inherit the earth any time soon. We want someone who will loudly and proudly continue the Zuma tradition of turning South Africa into the continent’s greatest excess story. We want more of everything, even if it is only power cuts, unemployment, crime, ignorance and water-borne diseases. Not that we’ll have much water by the time you take your seat in the Ovaltine Office, but still.
So it’s a two-horse race, hey? Your only other female competition is the speaker of parliament, Baleke Mbete, who isn’t much competition at all considering that she can’t recognise anyone. If we didn’t have Squirrel Ramaphosa as deputy president, you’d have a clear run at the title. Damn your selfish eyes, Squirrel.
The last thing this country needs is a smart, eloquent, hard-working, independently wealthy, globally respected businessman with a law degree on his wall and the Olof Palme prize on his bookshelf. He also regularly gets begging letters from the chairman of Standard Bank and Please Call Me messages from vagrants like Patrice Motsepe. Even worse, he clings to old-fashioned beliefs that corruption is somehow wrong. What a loser.
Thing is, comrade, South Africans tend to vote for losers. I’m talking about Jacob, here. I should point out that I only consider him a loser because he lost you, a real catch in anyone’s book. What the hell happened to you guys? I know his third wife committed suicide and his fourth tried to poison him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not easy to live with. Was it the singing and dancing that did it? I’d want to murder him if I had to hear Mshini Wam warbling from the shower every morning for sixteen years.
Come to think of it, you were probably put off theatrical performances of any kind in 1995 after it was found that, as minister of health, you had lied to parliament about where the R14-million had come from to fund the musical Sarafina II. Big deal. When it comes to musicals, everyone lies. Imagine a scandal involving a paltry R14-million! It’s almost cute.
I liked you when you were foreign minister. You didn’t do or say anything while Mad Bob Mugabe taught those white farmers and, as it turned out, his economy, a lesson never to be forgotten. You called it “quiet diplomacy” and you were very good at it. I look forward to your “quiet presidency”. This seems to run in the family because no matter what happens, your ex-husband resolutely refuses to appear on television to reassure the nation. Will you also let the lawyers do all the talking?
Hey! Maybe you and Jake get together again after the election. You get Nkandla and he doesn’t get charged. The Guptas know how to throw a damn fine wedding party and Dubai would be perfect for the honeymoon. Blue skies, warm water, friendly banks. What’s not to love?
Good luck with the not campaigning. You’ll have my support when it comes to not voting.

The people shall govern – or at least boo those who do

I was hoping to make it onto the guest list for the World Economic Forum on Africa that was held in Durban last week but someone must’ve intercepted my invitation. One of David Mahlobo’s spooks, I expect, who then tried to sell it on the black market. There is a white market, too, but I’ve never been to that one, either.
The WEF’s motto is, “Committed to improving the state of the world.” Well done, lads. The world has improved tremendously since the organisation was founded by some German dude in 1971. Today there are only 800 million people living below the international poverty line.
If you are reading this and wondering whether you’re one of them, it is safe to say that you’re not. Unless, of course, you are spending your $1.90 a day on a newspaper or a few miserable megabites of data instead of a bread roll and half a rat.
The people who set international poverty lines are those who, at the age of four, lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when their pocket money was reduced to $5 an hour because Daddy’s seventh wife was taking three properties, nine cars and one of the islands.
I want to see the poor setting their own poverty lines, if only to avoid conflict between the poor themselves. I imagine this artificial construct causes ructions among the needy.
“You can’t sleep on my pavement. Fuck off.”
“What? Why?”
“Heard you’ve been earning above the international poverty line.”
“Oh, come on. I got $2 for weeding a garden.”
“Don’t care. You stepped over the poverty line. Go sleep up-pavement with the other larneys.”
Later, at around 3am, a fight breaks out over the rand/dollar exchange rate and a bottle of wine. A man walking his dog is stabbed in the leg. That’s all I know.
The World Bank, staffed by some of the most oppressed people in the world, sets the international poverty line. It only seems fair, then, that they should also set an international wealth line – a line beyond which nobody may go without having to subject themselves to a range of nasty challenges. A financial Fear Factor, if you will.
Sure, earn R60 000 a month, but if you want to go higher you have to subject yourself to public humiliation and … oh, wait. That’s called parliament. To be fair, your average MP isn’t rich, relatively speaking. They are sleepists and sheeples, sure, but they aren’t particularly wealthy. They might have their little fingers in the odd pork pie here and there, but they aren’t up to their elbows in opulent diamond encrusted pies drizzled in crushed rubies and served on platters engraved with the Gupta coat of many arms.
So. We are called upon to worry about the poor when they drop below a certain level of income. Get them up to $2 a day and we can sleep easily. But let it fall to a point where they can’t afford sherry or crack and we have to hire extra security, crank up the voltage on the electrified fencing and get a fresh pack of dogs that are more interested in killing than they are in eating. Better yet, dogs that kill the poor and eat them. Two birds etc.
Clearly worried about the consequences of the docile poor becoming the violent poor, the World Bank came up with two goats in 2013. No, they didn’t. They came up with two goals. Having a spot of finger trouble at this point. There are, though, people who would come out and vote if their government had to promise them two goats. Zimbabwe, for one. Probably Britain, too, at this point.
Two goals, then. The first was to reduce the percentage of people living in extreme poverty worldwide from 10.7% to three percent by 2030. That’s a lot of numbers for one sentence and I imagine most of you will be struggling to grasp what’s going on here. My cat just looked at me and smiled as if to say, “You’re projecting, mate,” which is weird because I don’t own a cat and even if I did it’s unlikely that it would use a word like mate. More chance it’d say bru or bro. Or, knowing cats, arseface.
So 2030 rolls around and the World Bank sends out its inspectors. Senseless takers. The lowest of the high. Men with bruised egos and basic martial arts skills inveigle their way into the poorest areas of every city around the world.
“Evening, sir. Would you describe yourself as a. comfortable or b. living in extreme poverty?”
“You’re standing on my face.”
“Oh, I see. Now you need a face to talk. You’re doing alright then, aren’t you?”
“I haven’t eaten since Tuesday …”
“It’s only Thursday.”
“Tuesday last week. Please. I need …”
“I’ll mark you down as one of our successes. Well done. You’re in the top three percent.”
“Do I get something?”
“Of course you do. You get to bask in the reflected glory of the World Bank reaching the first of its goals.”
“Some vodka would be nice.”
That’s the thing about those who loiter on the fringes of the international poverty line. They don’t see that they are dragging down global averages and ruining it for the rest of us. All they want is alcohol and a seat in parliament. Wouldn’t say no, myself.
The World Bank’s second goat is to “promote shared prosperity in every country in a sustainable way”. As far as weasel words go, these are right up there with, “In sickness and in health”. Not to mention “radical economic transformation”, Jacob Zuma’s penultimate straw which continues to be grasped by the rats blindly refusing to abandon the rotten ship Patronage.
Finance minister Malusi Gigaba, parachuted into the ministry without the benefit of a parachute, has recently taken to referring to his boss’s latest vote-catching phrase as “inclusive growth”. Fortunately, the international investor community is easily fooled when it comes to dressing up heavy words like “radical” in soft synonyms like “inclusive”. Now that I’ve given the game away, I fully expect to be shot at dawn. Or, given the speed at which our government works, 3pm. Unless it’s a Friday, in which case I’ll be executed on Monday. Unless the firing squad calls in sick.
Thing is, we don’t have anyone remotely approximating a Castro or Guevara in this country. If any of our politicians ever threatened to take to the bush, we’d have Gert from Brakpan calling in to a radio talk show saying, “Howzit boet. Ja, listen, I fink I found these rebel okes. They lekker dronk here by Kosi Bay.” And that would be the end of it.
We’re not going to take up arms because most of us earn so little that we’d have to choose between bullets or a gun. I’d rather have the gun because you can at least throw it at someone. I don’t know anyone who’d run away if you started throwing bullets at them. I probably would but that’s because I react badly to having anything thrown at me. Two marriages will do this to you.
For a long time, terrible things happened in this country before America allowed us to have proper elections. Now, confronted by our adversaries, we boo them.
As we all know, Zuma wasn’t able to address Cosatu’s rally on May Day because people wouldn’t stop booing. This is a good thing. Booing is free and there is little chance of being arrested for it. Your house might be set slight and you’ll never get a government tender again, but booing is almost always preferable to detention without trial and certainly an improvement on torture.
The ANC Youth League’s porcine president, Collen Maine, subsequently threatened to boo deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa, who had addressed a rally in Mpumalanga without being booed or, as far as I know, even saying the word boo. I don’t know when exactly this mini Hindenburg plans to boo Squirrel.
I am relieved, though, as I’m sure are many of you, to hear that the fight for power will be conducted through booing and not the traditional African method of machetes at dawn.

Vladimir, we're sorry

Dear Comrade Vladimir, Putin of all Putins, Ruler of Russia, Emperor of Eurasia, Capturer of Crimea, Nemesis of the Balkans, Vlad the Impala and Brightest Tsar of All, I throw my unworthy self at your feet.
While I am down there, allow me to apologise for this week’s disastrous court ruling that dashed Russia’s hopes of covering our countryside with nuclear power stations. Yes, I know we had an agreement, but what happened is not our government’s fault. None of us wanted to have to rely on the filthy wind or stupid sun for power. The problem lies with our courts. Unlike your country, we are still struggling to get the right people into the judiciary. Give us time.
If you are going to bomb us, please aim for the courts. The Western Cape High Court in particular is a hotbed of anti-nuclear, pro-marijuana snowflakes. If your missiles can’t reach Cape Town, send in the navy. Your men can come ashore at Camps Bay under cover of lunchtime. The police there have been trained not to question white people about anything.
I expect that our president is deeply embarrassed by the latest turn of events. I don’t just mean financially embarrassed either, although it will take some explaining to the wives why they might have to wait a bit longer for their R50-million apiece.
When Comrade Zuma got his men with pens to sign a cooperation agreement with your Rosatom heavies, he wasn’t to know it was unconstitutional and unlawful. For him to know that, he would’ve had to ask someone. He is a very busy man, our president. He doesn’t have time to go around asking people for advice. Also, he had to fire his finance minister for refusing to make duplicates of the keys to the treasury. So he got a combination lock and a new minister who can’t remember the combination. We’re not even back to square one. We’re just going in circles.
Our then idiot energy minister Tina someone-or-other – who is undoubtedly still an idiot but has since been fired and her name expunged from mortal memory – signed the secret deal with your guys last year. No problem there. Secret deals are good. However, we have a handful of people in this country who haven’t emigrated to Australia and for some reason they think they are entitled to question what the government does. This often leads to court cases and red faces in high places. You don’t have this problem. If anyone questions the Politburo, or whatever you call your inner circle these days, you get someone to cut their legs off. Not personally, obviously. You can’t be spending your days despatching brutes with chainsaws to sort out every unhinged bolshevik when you have a royal flush in a high stakes game of political poker in Syria while simultaneously toying with that kandy-coated tangerine-flake unstreamlined warbaby in the White House.
I have a confession to make. “What?” I hear you shout. “Without even being tortured?” Sorry. This is no time for jokes. Thing is, I stopped following Russian politics when Yeltsin stabbed Gorbachev in the forehead with a broken glass. A waste of good red wine if you ask me. So you’ll forgive me when I say I thought the Communist Party was still in charge. You won’t? I didn’t think so. You are not a man to whom forgiveness comes easily. Not your fault. That’s what happens when you’re breast-fed up to the age of 16.
Anyway, you probably stopped following South African politics on … what was it? Wednesday? When the nuclear deal went arse over kettle, to coin a phrase popular with the bleeding-heart liberals who sprawl across our judicial benches sucking on bongs and quoting from the constitution as if it were a real thing.
Your Communist Party got 13% in the last elections. Ours didn’t even stand. Hell, the general-secretary can barely stand. I see your party, United Russia, is firmly in control. Well done. Our ANC is very dominant, too, even though President Zuma is still looking for his machine gun and doesn’t ride horses with his shirt off. Not while on duty, anyway. We don’t know what he rides while he’s on holiday. He might not even wear trousers, for all we know.
I hate to quote Wikipedia but they have proved marginally more reliable than tea leaves and bone throwing, and they say that United Russia “has no coherent ideology; however, it embraces specific politicians and officials with a variety of political views who support the administration”. It’s uncanny how similar this is to our ANC. The only difference is that we embrace anyone with a variety of ways to launder backhanders and … oh, right. Wikipedia knows about the chainsaws.
I have to ask you something, comrade president. Does United Russia also rely heavily on the support of the benighted proletariat and failed agronomists less familiar with the Dow Jones Index than they are with the goat/chicken exchange rate? We call it the rural vote. I suppose in your country you’d call it the Ural vote. It doesn’t matter. The point is, we’re both big fans of a multi-party dictatorship based on ignorance and fear.
But let us return to matters nuclear, since it is quite likely the only interest the Kremlin has in us. Or rather, had in us.
I was shocked when Judge Lee Bozalek – if that’s his real name – ruled in favour of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute. Shocked because two shadowy organisations nobody has ever heard of succeeded in depriving me and my friends of 9.6 GW of nuclear energy. I don’t know if that’s a week’s worth or what. I don’t know what a GW is. VW, I know. And 9.6? That’s a low number. It doesn’t sound like a good deal for one trillion rand. For that kind of money I’d expect at least 75 000 GWs per person, per day. With a free bag and maybe a T-shirt.
Comrade Vlad, perhaps you’re looking for answers and nobody at the Union Buildings or even at the head office in Saxonwold is taking your calls. This seems likely, especially if you’ve already paid the bribes. I think I know what happened here. The case has been dragging on for 18 months and Judge Bozalek shut the whole thing down because he had to get home and start the braai. Also, he might be Ukrainian.
Apparently the whole shebang was meant to be debated in parliament long before those agreements were signed with invisible ink in an unlit room on a moonless night in the middle of the darkest month of the year, thus “flouting democratic processes”. Oh, please. I can’t speak for Russia, but we are a nation of flouters. We flout at the drop of a cat. I fully expect a Floutist Party to contest the next election. I’d certainly vote for them.
Besides, aren’t parliamentary debates more for the benefit of the international investor community than the great unwashed? After all, United Russia has a 76% majority in parliament and the ANC – which can’t be called united in any sense whatsoever – has 62%. With those odds, it’s not even gambling. The house is guaranteed to win every time. The game is rigged and that’s how it has stayed ever since the Ancient Greeks invented democracy and sodomy.
It is even more saddening that this kangaroo court of ours jumped to its rabid conclusions on Chernobyl Day, a day the world sets aside to celebrate nuclear power and tries to forget the men and women who died doing whatever it was they were doing when the number four reactor reacted badly to a late night safety test. We all react badly to being tested late at night. It’s no reason to be anti-nuclear.
Comrade, I urge you not to give up on us. We have other things we can give you. Would you like an elephant? I see you on the cover of GQ magazine wearing nothing but a pair of armadillo boots and ivory spurs, urging a giant tusker into a full-blooded gallop. Maybe heading into a fight with a Zimbabwean riding a hippo. I don’t want to tell you what to do. You have your own fantasies.
I’ll pop in for vodkas next time I’m in Moscow.
Do svidaniya!
VladImpala