One from the archives

I know it’s a bit early for nostalgia, but here’s a letter I wrote to the one-time lion of Africa eight years ago.
 
To: Zimbabwe President His Excellency Robert Mugabe
1 Feb. 2009
Dear Mr President,
As per your request, I examined your wife, Grace, upon her recent return from China and may I say what a lovely woman she is. You are a very lucky man.
Having said that, however, I would be failing in my duty if I did not admit to having detected one or two interesting anomalies in her psychiatric make-up.
While Grace admits to having attacked a man upon leaving a Hong Kong shopping mall, she maintains that she was stricken by an episode of snow blindness and mistook the photographer for a Ninja assassin working for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
I find her version of events entirely plausible. History has shown us that the Chinese cannot be trusted. You only have to ask the Japanese. Or place an order at my local takeaway. You ask for stir-fried shrimp and they give you chicken that smells like fish. But I digress.
During our session, Grace used her lipstick to draw several organograms on my office wall, proving that the triads are controlled by the House of Lords. This makes perfect sense given that Britain ruled Hong Kong with an iron fist for 150 years.
 Grace told me her primary concern was that Hong Kong, her preferred shopping destination, would now be closed to her.
I assured her that these fears were unfounded. All it would take is a call from you to President Hu Jintao threatening to cut off their rhino horn and close down the shoe shops.
I am, therefore, pleased to inform you that Grace is a healthy, normal woman. Well, she will be once the operation has been performed. If you are interested, I can put you in touch with a good man in Pyongyang.
In the meantime, I would like to suggest that you keep her indoors, preferably away from the windows, for the next 12 months.
 As far as medication goes, not that she needs it, you may wish to consider slipping 1500mg of lithium into her Beluga caviar each morning.
And if there is any buspirone, propranolol or clonidine lying around State House, you could always stir it into her raw rabbit spleen and fish eagle foie gras.
 It is up to you.
Yours eternally,
Professor Benjamin Trovato (Dipso.M.Aniac Chimanimani Univ.)

Amazing Grace

Dear Comrade Grace,
Congratulations on achieving what nobody else has been able to in 37 years – get Robert Mugabe to stand down. This is especially remarkable at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to get him to stand up.
Looking back, it might have been a tiny miscalculation on your part to get your husband to fire vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Who would’ve thought a war veteran with strong military ties would have had the army in his corner? I’m no political strategist, but it seems to me that you might have moved a little quicker with your plan. If Bob had abdicated last week and installed you as president, you could have had your defence force rounded up and jailed by now. You could have borrowed our army to imprison your army. We’re not using ours at the moment. Give our soldiers a mutton curry pie and a Coke and they’ll do anything.
I was astounded that half a dozen armoured personnel carriers could simply drive into Harare and instantly put an end to life as you know it. Is it possible that Bob himself was behind the coup-that’s-not-really-a-coup? I read somewhere that you had started beating him. I always assumed he enjoyed it. Perhaps he only said he did to keep you happy. Some husbands are like that.
When President Zuma called for calm and restraint, do you think he was talking directly to you? After the awkwardness of having South Africa captured by an overweight immigrant family from Uttar Pradesh, the last thing the region needed, as the Zimbabwean army gently eased the passage of the new national democratic project, was to have you burst from state house shrieking and swinging a nine-plug extension cable at anything that moved.
I believe Zuma is sending his state security minister, Bongani Bongo, to have a chat with Bob and the new boys. Try to get in with Bongo. He’s a good man to have on your side. His predecessor loved massages. You must have all manner of oils and unguents lying about the palace. Bob doesn’t get to look like that without lashings of intensive skin care. Roll up your sleeves and give Bongo a bit of a rub. You don’t even have to pretend to enjoy it. Talk about espionage when you’re doing it. He likes that. Slap him around a bit. We’d like that.
Apparently Zuma spoke to Bobbles this morning. He said he was fine. Or fired. Or on fire. It was a bad line. I don’t suppose his health matters much to you any longer. What a tremendous weight off your mind, let alone your hips. It couldn’t have been easy being married to a 138-year-old man. Does he still wake up in the middle of the night and order Winston Churchill to be shot?
I hear you’ve, er, gone off for a bit of a holiday. You certainly deserve a break. One minute you’re shaking your booty to a North Korean marching song on ZBC while picking out an outfit for your inauguration and the next you’re in the boot of a loyal lackey’s car racing for the Vic Falls border.
Apparently you have a farm in the south of Namibia. You’ll love it there. Okay, Keetmanshoop isn’t exactly Singapore in terms of shopping and health care, but there are a lot of bottle stores and, well, that’s about it.
Do your two gorgeous boys realise they’re going to have to get real jobs now? Poor little things. They must be devastated. Still and all. Keetmanshoop is a far healthier environment for Robert Jr and Bellarmine than, say, Chikurubi Prison. Try to interest them in sheep farming. It’s better than alcoholism. Not really, but don’t tell them that.
Anyway. Don’t let the fire go out of those crazy black eyes of yours. I’m a big fan. Not big enough for you to come and live with me, I should point out. I am partial to the mad ones, but, Grace, you’re next level and I’m just not ready for that right now.
Pamberi ne chimurenga! Pameberi ne karakul farming!
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An Open Letter To The African Union

Dear AU,

Congratulation on turning 50! You’ve come a long way without actually going anywhere.

You’ve gone through quite a few changes, too. I remember when you were the Organisation of African Unity. Like so many youngsters, you fell in with the wrong crowd as soon as you were old enough to let go of your colonial coattails.

I remember you hanging out with lovable rogues like Mobutu Sese Seko, Muammar Gaddafi, Idi Amin and Haile Selassie, who was a step up from the rest because he at least invented reggae music and smoked weed. You certainly earned the right to be known as the Dictators’ Club.

You changed your name to the African Union in 2002, presumably after realising that African unity was, like, the biggest pie you ever saw in the sky. There isn’t even a family on this continent, let alone a government, that has managed to achieve unity. When Gaddafi started blabbing on about being the president of the United States of Africa, you had to hire the Americans to put him down. Unity is heavily overrated. Look at Europe. I got a call last night from Brussels begging me to lend money to Spain.

Like me, as you get older, you’re moving a bit slower with each passing year. When that scuffle broke out in Mali last year, it took forever before you tried to do anything about it. I expect you’ll be addressing the Mau Mau rebellion at any moment.

Now that you’re officially middle-aged, you will probably find that you start forgetting things. Like who co-founded you. “Thabo who?” I hear you say. You must be relieved that there is no more talk of the African Renaissance. Like a freshly peeled mango, it was a concept that many of your members found hard to grasp.

I see your foreign ministers have backed a request by Kenya for the International Criminal Court to stop badgering their president. Crimes against humanity aren’t what they used to be. In the good old days, you would have to murder half your population to get that kind of attention. Now you turn a blind eye to a spot of post-electoral pushing and slapping and it’s off to The Hague for you.

Nearly half of the 20 most corrupt countries in the world are African. This is excellent news. All of them might have been African. This is real progress.

The quality of leadership is also improving. Our own president, for instance, makes Barack Obama look like a swivel-eyed illiterate. As for Robert Mugabe, well, there is no finer example of the perfect democrat.

Best of luck in spending the next 50 years searching for African solutions to African problems. Self-sharpening machetes would be a good place to start.

An Open Letter To President Barack Obama

Dear Comrade Barack,

Yeehaa! What a week! I can hardly see, my eyes are so red and swollen from celebrating. I never imagined that so many of your people could shed their conservative carapaces and be so progressive and open-minded on something as important as this. Indeed, my friend. The results went a long way towards restoring my faith in Americans. History has been made.

Who will ever forget where they were when they first heard that Colorado and Washington state had voted to legalise marijuana? What a moment. Or so I believe. I don’t recall where I was because my short-term memory is shot. My doctor tells me it’s probably a survival mechanism that will fade once I remember to emigrate.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. You guys also had an election, didn’t you? Of course you did. It’s all coming back to me now. Well done on trouncing that maniac with the magic underpants.

To be honest, I thought Hurricane Sandy might have put a spanner in your wheel of fortune. Where I come from, this sort of thing usually bodes ill for a politician’s future. For instance, our president recently visited a clan in the Eastern Cape. While he was there, a thunderstorm broke out. A lawyer representing a rival clan said the storm was no coincidence, but rather an indication that the ancestors had rejected the president. I am surprised Mitt Romney failed to play the ancestor card during the hurricane. No wonder he lost.

A word of advice. Get your supporters to stop chanting, “Four more years!” This creates the impression that you will go quietly at the end of your second term. Keep your options open. After all, the blood of the Mau Mau runs in your veins.

Let Africa be your guide. Cameroon’s president has just celebrated his sixth term. In accordance with local tradition, he used water cannons and teargas to thank his people for their continued support. Angola’s President Jose dos Santos has been propped up by your oil companies for decades. And in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has been in power for over a hundred years. There is no reason you shouldn’t follow in their footsteps.

And what is this enemy-controlled Congress I keep hearing about? No good can come of it. What’s the point of being president if you can’t get anything done because a pack of Tea Party terrorists are standing in your way? You are going to end up a lame duck if you’re not careful. Again, look to Africa for solutions.

I suggest you get SEAL Team Six onto it right away. Take out a couple of key congressmen and the rest will jump ship or flee for the foothills. It works in KwaZulu-Natal and it can work in Washington DC.

People say they want change? Well, now is your chance to give it to them. In spades. I beg your pardon. I meant no disrespect. Some of my favourite gardening tools are spades.

What I am trying to say is that you don’t want to end up like Bill Clinton opening supermarkets and having phone sex because your wife lost her libido the moment you lost your job.

Here’s what you need to do. Go big on immigration. Let everyone in. Actually, once I’m in you can shut the doors. Flood the suburbs with mobile abortion clinics. Offer a free handgun with every termination. The Republicans will be conflicted. Ramp up the China-bashing. Declare a three-day working week. Donate self-igniting American flags to Arab nations as a gesture of goodwill. Turn Thanksgiving Day into a day of giving thanks to the American Indians for putting up with those dreadful pilgrims. End the war in Afghanistan by offering green cards to the Taliban. Fire three disarmed nuclear warheads into Russia to keep them on their toes. Encourage FBI agents to experiment with their sexuality. Invade a bunch of countries that aren’t expecting it. Like Britain. And Israel.

Arrest David Cameron and Benjamin Netanyahu and install new leaders. Ones who know how to have fun. Send an attack helicopter to pick up Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy and drop him off at his new home in Downing Street. Have some girls waiting for him. Also, I know this really cool Jewish dude you can get to run Israel. Well, he’s more of a non-practising Jew in that he loves bacon, hasn’t been circumcised and doesn’t wear a yarmulke. Or celebrate Hanukkah, Purim or Rosh Hashanah. Okay, so he’s Irish. Apart from that, he’s pretty kosher. You’d like him.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of a little corruption. You have until 2016 to feather your nest. Clean government is an oxymoron and these days there is a new honour among thieves.

When our president Zuma congratulated you on your victory and said, “We value our relations with the United States and look forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the years to come”, what he really meant was we value our relatives in America and look forward to a bit more back-scratching in the near future.

Don’t let us down now, y’hear? If we can’t hear the sound of one hand washing the other come January, we’re going to send you our tired, our poor, our huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And trust me when I say you really don’t want that.

So don’t be a stranger. Maybe you had visa issues, but you only visited sub-Saharan Africa once during your first term. Forget those countries at the top. They’re doomed. That’s the price they pay for being too close to Europe.

Come and see us. We might not have much of a growth rate, but we do have unlimited hot chicken wings and even hotter women.

Good luck and stay away from the edge of that fiscal cliff. Tell Michelle and the girls I say howzit.

Four more beers! Four more beers!

A Wunch Of Bankers

Let us, for argument’s sake, agree that I was having a business lunch at, say, Teazers on Tuesday.

I am speaking hypothetically, of course. I would never lower myself to indulge in something so repulsively middle class as a business lunch. Where I come from, business is best conducted late at night among rogues and reprobates and the eternally discreet Mr Jack Daniels.

Taking this conjecture one step further, imagine, if you will, that I spent the evening sampling a range of imported beverages whilst appreciating the assets of several fecund fillies fresh from the Balkans.

I expect the bill for such an evening would not be a pretty sight in the eyes of the working man. Luckily I am not one of them.

The bill is presented in a manner befitting the lickerish milieu. Perhaps it is written in curlicue on a lace panty, or rolled up and constrained by a scarlet garter.

I produce my credit card with a flourish and a doe-eyed Ukrainian virgin, envisioning the size of my overdraft limit, blushes coyly.

She takes the card away to be cloned so that her family in Sevastopol may survive another month, but then returns two minutes later with a gentleman in tow. He is three metres tall and has metal hooks for hands.

He is there to explain that my credit card has been declined.

Even though he speaks Russian, I get the message because he has me by the throat and is apparently planning to perform a rudimentary tracheotomy with the sharp edge of my card.

From my bed in the casualty ward, I use my one unbroken finger to email my bank to find out what the hell happened.

The reply is quick in coming: “I have done an investigation and noticed that the account is placed on a FICA freeze.”

A what? Have they mistaken me for a member of Robert Mugabe’s government? Am I on an Interpol list along with Nikolai Kravchenko and the boyish Lukic Dragan? Have they perhaps mistaken me for the notorious Jose Silvestre Ortega? I might have picked up a bit of a tan in Durban, but I’m nowhere near Dominican Republic brown.

The bank man explained helpfully. “FICA was passed into law as part of the South African government’s fight against money laundering and unlawful activities.
One of the requirements of FICA is that all financial institutions should IDENTIFY and VERIFY all new and existing clients.”

You want to get all uppercase with me? Fine. WHY DID YOU NOT WARN ME BEFORE FREEZING MY ACCOUNT?

Now, if I want to have access to my money – MY money – all I have to do is fight my way through traffic, battle for a parking spot, stand in a long queue of fellow thieves and money-launderers who have been fucked by the fickle finger of FICA, then get turned away because I forgot to bring one of the 17 documents needed to prove that I am not the Iranian terrorist Mohammadreza Abolghasemi in disguise.

I sloped off to the computer to find out more about this shadowy organisation that would have me join the ranks of the indigent.

Google coughed up Grande Fica Amateur Sex but that couldn’t be them. Anyone with the power to get a bank to arbitrarily and summarily freeze a long-standing customer’s account is not going to be interested in sex, amateur or otherwise. They are interested in power. Maybe some sex later. But power first. At all costs. That’s how Big Brudda rolls.

When I finally tracked down FICA’s website, I found that my money was being held to ransom by the Financial Intelligence Centre. Oh, please. You can’t be very bright if you think it’s in the interests of state security to freeze an account owned by someone who has been with the same bank for 30 years, most of which was spent in overdraft.

Then the page disappeared and up popped this message: “Your current session has expired due to an extended period of inactivity.” But it’s not true. My session couldn’t expire because I was never asked to log in.

I suspect if there are any extended periods of inactivity, they are taking place inside the FICA offices in Pretoria.

Under Careers, we are told there are no positions available. A government department with not a single vacancy? Incredible. My guess is that FICA consists of a one-eyed war veteran working on a stolen laptop in the Union Buildings parking garage.

But that still wouldn’t explain why, after freezing my account, the bank said: “In terms of the new FICA law your detail needs to be updated at the branch.”

The new law? It came into effect in 2001. Maybe he is permanently stoned. Weed has a habit of distorting time. Or so I’m told.

Yes, indeed. My bank also deserves a damn good kick in the teeth.

I was told in a subsequent email that a FICA freeze is imposed when documents are submitted to a branch but the branch fails to load them onto the system.

What documents? Which branch? All my banking business is conducted through a Nigerian transvestite based in an internet cafe in Sea Point. I haven’t been near a branch in years.

So, essentially, the blame lies with one or other irredeemably incompetent half-wit in a blue shirt slouched behind a bullet-proof window flicking through his Blackberry with one hand and my account with the other.

I could have had my face torn off were my card rejected at Teazers and not Woolworths. Instead, I died of embarrassment.

I’m changing banks and suing for loss of dignity, not to mention supper.