SONA – a dull blip on my radar

President Jacob Zuma’s nine-step programme to save the economy has a lot in common with AA’s 12-step programme to save alcoholics. They both rely on the intervention of a higher power and … well, that’s about it.

Watching the State of the Nation address last week was like being on drugs. There was the frisson of anticipation, the big build-up, the climax and the come-down. Maybe I’m thinking of sex more than drugs. I often get the two confused. Would you like to sleep with me? Yes please, where do I suck? It happens.

Helen Zille was there wearing purple and a smirk. I can’t remember when last I heard her barking about some or other issue. Then again, I’d also go very quiet if I was earning R1.7m a year. I’d be so quiet that you wouldn’t even know I was here. Which I wouldn’t be. I’d be in Madagascar. Not among the poor, obviously.

I love the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the State of the Nation address every year. There is nothing quite like the smell of teargas and the sound of stun grenades as one runs through the Company Gardens to avoid being beaten or arrested. It’s what makes democracy great.

There were motorcycle cops, the cavalry and a fleet of black snub-nosed BMWs. Cannons were fired. There was screaming. Ambulances raced through the debris. A weeping mother held her dead child … what? Oh. I sat on the remote. That was Aleppo.

I love how our elected representatives still waddle down the traditional red carpet towards that holy chamber of promises and lies. The early colonialists used a white carpet, of course. They only switched to red when it became too much of a bother to get the bloodstains out.

Zuma and his femme du jour walked grimly down the carpet. I have seen pictures of dictators walking to their executions with happier faces than theirs.

The session started with an “opportunity for silent prayer”. It lasted for exactly six seconds. This pretty much limits you to, “Jesus, please let this be over quickly.”

The EFF behaved like attention deficit children deprived of their Ritalin and Terror Lekota had the good sense to get thrown out just as happy hour started at the pub around the corner.

After watching Zuma pick his way through his speech, approaching every syllable and number with the trepidation of an explosives expert approaching a landmine, I switched off. But not before Speaker Baleka Mbete’s hectoring tone got my skin crawling. Shame. Her prosopagnosia has got a lot worse since I last saw her in parliament. She barely recognises anyone any more.

Anyway. We already know what the state of the nation is. Unlike Jacob Zupta, we actually live in the belly of this savage beast.


An open letter to Jacob Zuma

Dear Comrade President,

Are you aware that your office has invited the hoi-polloi to send suggestions about what you should say during your State of the Nation Address next week? You can’t possibly have sanctioned such treachery. Who the hell came up with that idea? Hunt them down and put them to the lash. What is the point of having a chief whip if nobody ever gets whipped?

Asking people to help you with your speech is not a sign that participatory democracy is working. It’s a sign that you’re not working.

Apparently lots of people have suggested lots of things. Well, two things, mainly. They suggested you resign and they suggested you pay back the money. Typical bloody peasants. How do they expect you to do both?

If you resigned, you wouldn’t have to pay back the money because you’d be living inside your fortified compound and anyone brave enough to deliver an invoice or, god forbid, a summons, would have to do so by helicopter. You’re not stupid like Osama bin Laden. You wouldn’t get trapped that easily. For a start, word on the street is that MaNtuli has an Armscor-designed catapult with serious surface-to-air capabilities. She’d take them out, one shot.

And if you paid back the money, there’d be no need for you to resign. In fact, you’d gain so much moral high ground that you could probably pull a Mugabe and rule for another 50 years.

I know it’s unlikely, but if you do pay back the money, you might want to give it to animal welfare. Imagine the photo opportunities. If Stalin had got his picture taken with a homeless puppy, everyone would have forgiven him for killing all those people.

A word of advice. Don’t spend too long on what the government has achieved in the last year. We know. We were there. We saw it. Or, as the case may be, didn’t see it.

It must come as something of a relief to know that much of the proletariat will miss your speech. What you don’t want are voters huddled around a candle in leaking tin shacks watching a fat man with more wives than they have hot meals in a week telling them how much the government has done to improve their lives. That’s just asking for trouble.

Fortunately, it’s still only the middle and upper classes who can afford access to electronic media. On the other hand, Eskom may well prove to be your government’s downfall. No SABC means no propaganda. When television sets fall silent, the lower middle classes start to think for themselves. This is never a good thing.

The upper middle classes may even take to reading by candlelight. This is dangerous since the state cannot control what people read. Yet.

If I were you, I’d also avoid talking about the work that still needs to be done. Again, we know. Better than you do. And don’t talk about priorities for the new financial year, either, because you’ll just have to rephrase them as “work that still needs to be done” when you deliver your next State of the Nation speech.

Your biggest problem, of course, is not what you should or shouldn’t say. It’s how you’re going to deal with the fallout when riot police storm the chamber to extricate the Economic Freedom Fighters who, well and truly hoisted by their own petard, are now beholden to disrupt proceedings.

I bet you wish democracy in South Africa had run its course, as it has in so many other African countries, and that we could revert to natural justice without thin-lipped foreigners fiddling with our credit ratings and banning us from international travel. When I say us, I mean you.

I’m sick of democracy and all its mealy-mouthed two-faced pussy-footing around. I’ve had it. The investors aren’t fooled. The people aren’t fooled. So why do we bother with it? Instead of making us pay rates, let us use rather that money to stockpile weapons and defend our homes. Allow us to build our own cars, make our own water and generate our own power. Let us physically fight each other for jobs, women and other scarce resources.

I know it goes against the grain, but this time you’re going to need to be honest. Get up there, use your middle finger to push your glasses up, giggle, and say, “From now on, it’s every man for himself.”