The king is dead … long live the king!

News that the King of the Zulu nation died on Friday reminded me of the correspondence Goodwill Zwelithini and I enjoyed over the years. Well, I enjoyed it. Also, it was very much a one-sided affair. Perhaps his letters got lost in the mail. Here’s one of mine from 2012.


Howzit Comrade King,

I hope you don’t mind the informality. I am King of the White People and feel that, as equals, it wouldn’t be right for me to come across all fawning and obsequious. That’s the kind of behaviour we expect from our loyal subjects, do we not? Well, when I say loyal, I’m largely referring to your followers. My subjects are a bunch of capricious ingrates who would sooner bugger off to Perth than approach me on their knees.

His Royal Highness Ben Trovato – King of the White People

Well done on trying to squeeze the KZN treasury for another R18-million. It’s outrageous that the Royal Household is expected to get by on a mere R62-million a year. I spend that kind of money in a month. And that’s just on beer.

Your chief financial officer (I must get myself one) says you will need at least another R12-million to build a new home in Nongoma. I gather your current residence in Osuthu is little more than a bunch of huts. This kind of thing is fine for your subjects, but as their king you certainly deserve something more lavish. Thatch is all very well, but it doesn’t exactly glitter in the morning sun, does it? You need chrome and glass for that.

I like your idea of building a modern palace behind your traditional palace. Get Sol Kerzner to design it. When you’re in the mood, you can pop down to the huts for a couple of tins of umqombothi with your mates on a Friday night. Maybe keep a stockpile of fresh virgins. You never know when you’re going to need one.

I hear Queen Zola Mafu, your sixth and youngest, wants a palace of her own. At the moment she’s bunking with Queen Mantfombi. Why should she have to share? It doesn’t seem right. If I were her, I’d also want my own palace. Especially if I lived at the KwaKhangelamankengane Palace and had to spell it every time I phoned Mr Delivery.

I understand you paid 264 000 euros in lobola for Queen Zola. Apparently this was taxpayer’s money that went straight into Swaziland. Good for you. This wouldn’t be the first time I have paid for a woman from a foreign country. It would, on the other hand, be the first time I’ve paid for a woman and not got so much as a kiss out of it. Oh, well. Glad I could help a fellow king into a tight spot. I’m sure you would do the same for me.

You seem to like the Swazi girls. Is there something I don’t know? Don’t answer that through the media. Call me on my private line otherwise everyone will want one.

At 27 and counting, you have more children than our president. Congratulations! This is a fine example to be setting in a country that is crying out for more people. I think a film should be made about you.

Brenda said with the level of conjugal activity in the royal boudoir, it could be called Goodwill Humping. You will be pleased to know that I beat her soundly, then impregnated her while she cooked my dinner.

There are some – my subjects mainly – who whine about you not complying with the prescripts of a ridiculous piece of legislation called the Public Finance Management Act which allegedly governs the use of so-called public funds. Keep ignoring them. Your customary needs come first. As do mine.

A word of warning. You need to do a sweep of your staff. There are people in the department – Xhosas, probably – who think the palaces should be generating income through tourism. This is an appalling idea.

Look what happened to Walt Disney, the last king of America. He ruled Disneyland for years until his senior advisor, Michael Mouse, convinced him to throw it open to the proletariat. Nothing was ever the same again. Last year, sixteen million gum-chewing, coke-snorting, burger-scoffing peasants passed through the gates.

Do you really want Nongoma to be the portal to Fantasyland? A land where everyone has three dozen beautiful wives and a million cows, swimming pools full of money and a private jet in the back yard? Yes, our subjects deserve to have their unrealistic expectations tarted up every few years, but at what cost?

It’s a slippery slope, my friend. Once you agree to lower the drawbridge, there is no going back. Next thing you know, you’re trapped on the top floor of the palace as angry mobs with flaming torches – oops, I’m getting ahead of myself here. You’re trapped because hordes of gormless tourists are queuing up for Tomorrowland, a magical place where you can have any job you want regardless of skin colour or political affiliation.

If Tomorrowland is full, they can go to Yesterdayland, where IFP assassins dressed as chipmunks randomly accost groups of visitors and make them swear allegiance to Gatsha, a loveable old puppet who needs all the support he can get. To infirmity and beyond!

If you decide to go down that terrible road, here are a few more ideas.

Adventureland – car guards dressed as authentic Zulu warriors lure groups of white tourists into the Michelin-rated Dingane’s Kraal restaurant for a meal and a massacre. Don’t leave your weapons outside!

Critter Country – win a free bankie of Durban Poison after successfully negotiating your way through a section of bush infested with black mambas, green mambas, boomslangs, button spiders and members of the Cato Manor organised crime unit.

Mineland – you have two hours to bribe a government official into giving you a licence to explore for heavy minerals and then, before your time is up, try to destroy as much of the environment as you can in a small coastal town like, say, Mtunzini.

NPAland – help hilarious cartoon characters from Uruguay sell dysfunctional and overpriced water purification plants to the health department. Avoid prosecution by calling the right people!

Metroland – bribe your way home through mobs of rioting metro police. You might get shot, you will be fined! Fun for the whole family!

The Christmas spirit

Today, 177 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.

And in 177 minutes from now, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Mall. The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. The Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight-abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking me out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.

William Butler Yeats wrote, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Here, they’re slouching out of Bethlehem (there by the Free State) and into Durban. Quite frankly these people scare me. If I had the space I would explain how one can tell the difference between trolls, homunculi and troglodytes.

I did a recce at Gateway earlier in the week to check out the exits and locate the shops that sell weapons. If it was going to turn ugly, I wasn’t going down without a fight. To hell with reconciliation. At this time of year it’s every man for himself.

The first thing I noticed was that Christmas decorations aren’t as Christian as they used to be. In the old days you could barely walk through a mall without smacking your head into a simpering polystyrene angel swinging from the rafters. These days it’s all disco balls and plastic dross swaddled in fairy lights. It’s not so much Santa’s grotto as it is Hugh Hefner’s, although in Game you do have a slightly smaller risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those lucky enough not to have parents. They never say how much goes to the orphans, though. It could be 0000.2% of each purchase. This means that by the end of the holidays, three children in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they’re really lucky, they might get a tin opener.

The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that young and old alike are desperate for fresh meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family. Ativan or Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without slashing a sibling’s throat.

However, if you’re worried about getting drunk and exposing Uncle Pervy for the kiddie-fiddler that he is, you might need one of the neuroleptics. Thorazine works well, but get your timing right. You don’t want to be slack-jawed and drooling into the turkey with your paper hat over one eye while everyone else is pulling crackers.

I saw a sign saying, “Add more sparkle to your festive season – shop with American Express!” Yeah, sure. It’s all fun and sparkles now, but what happens next year? It’s bad enough what the local banks will to do to you, but you fuck with the Americans at your peril. I’ve heard that Guantanamo Bay isn’t a prison for political detainees at all. It’s for people – Muslims, mainly – who have maxed out their American Express cards and are late with their repayments.

A 10-piece nativity set caught my eye. It was rather nicely done, if a bit outdated. If it were today, the three wise men would be unemployed academics with substance abuse problems, Joseph would be out working overtime to pay for the new baby and the shepherds would be on strike.

I saw television sets so big you would have to sell your house, buy a piece of land and build a new house around the telly. Where will it end, this race for the biggest television? Will new homes eventually offer plasma screens instead of walls? I hope so. I already spend hours staring at the wall. I may as well be watching something.

And lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison.

In the toy section, there’s a doll that speaks six lines. Or does six lines. I can’t remember. Cocaine Barbie, perhaps.

For the boys, there are millions of heavily armed action figures that don’t look so macho as they do gay. This is a good thing. If you want your son to grow up believing he can kill with impunity, rather he does it wearing nothing but cropped hair, a moustache and a pair of tight red shorts. At least that way we’ll see him coming.

I found a paramedic’s kit but it lacked a plastic handgun for when the ambulance has to go into the townships on a Friday night.

Then I came across a whole series of things you can do in the tub. “Shaving in the tub” was one. This is a filthy habit and you should only get this for your child if you have someone other than yourself who cleans the bath. Everything on the box is in French, which makes sense when you consider what these people regard as acceptable behaviour. What next? Wine in the Jacuzzi? Frog’s legs in the bed? Pissing in the pool?

There’s also a talking octopus. I once met an octopus while snorkelling and in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk, though, I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common octopi would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.

A shop assistant has just caught me looking up a doll’s skirt. Awkward. I simply wanted to ascertain whether it was anatomically correct. With the education system as it is, I wouldn’t want my nephew growing up thinking that all girls have a piece of hard plastic between their legs. Not that I have a nephew. Or can even remember what’s between … never mind.

With my blood-alcohol levels dangerously low, I repaired to the restaurant area where several companies appeared to be having their get-togethers. Christmas parties used to be held at night. There would be carousing and fornicating and the company would happily pay your bail the next day. Now, the grinches offer their employees a free lunch. As if there’s such a thing.

King or Joker?

Dear King Goodwill Zwelithini, Defender of the Zulus, Head of the Ubukhosi, Sovereign of the Ancient Order of the Knobkierie, Wearer of Leopards, Emperor of Nongoma and Father of Many.

Bayete! Or, in the mangled parlance of those magnificent men who brought development and apartheid to our shores, hoezit!

Well done on congratulating the old National Party regime for their hard work and single-minded determination. It couldn’t have been easy keeping the races apart for so many years and it’s about time a man of your standing gave them their due. You, Sir, are the black Donald Trump of our generation. I’d be surprised if FW de Klerk, or, at the very least, Steve Hofmeyr, doesn’t invite you over for a round of jukskei and a brace of Witblits and Coke.

As you so rightly pointed out, it was the Afrikaners who built the economy and army into the most powerful in Africa. All of this without any help from the other 90% of the population. Quite an achievement. As the Aryan Brotherhood like to say, white is might.

And then, in your courageous words, “this so-called democracy” came along and everything went to hell in a handbasket. You were speaking at your kwaKhethomthandayo Palace to celebrate your 44 years on the throne. That’s the royal throne, obviously. Some white people use the word ‘throne’ when they talk about the toilet. It’s the unspeakable English who talk like this. Get your impis to round them up at once. Is Shaka’s Rock still working? Toss them off, I say. That’s another English expression, but I shan’t elaborate. We want mass murder, here, not mass debations.

Also, you might want to think of simplifying the name of your palace. It’s damnably difficult for white people to pronounce and you might find yourself being accused of failing to appreciate the true value of colonialism. How about Windsor Castle? Your British counterpart would be awfully grateful and I imagine she would want to reward you in much the same way Queen Victoria rewarded King Cetshwayo.

You said history would judge black people harshly as they had failed to build on the successes of the apartheid regime. With all due respect, I’m not sure I agree. One of the biggest successes of the previous order was to prevent black people from getting a proper education. After we were subjected to the scourge of democracy, successive black ministers have done a spectacular job of building on this. PW Botha and his knights in shining polyester suits succeeded in not providing black people with everything from health care to jobs and I’d argue that the ANC has done an admirable job in, if not building on, then at least maintaining that particular status quo.

What was your favourite thing about apartheid? Not being able to go to the movies or beaches in town, not being allowed to sit on park benches or snog white women, having separate public toilets and entrances, being unable to live in a nice suburb or eat in decent restaurants, living in a hostel, carrying a dompas, working for a pittance? There’s so much good stuff, I suppose it’s unfair to ask you to pick just one.

You said you considered yourself lucky to have been born in the same year the National Party came to power. Sadly, I was born more than a decade later and cursed my misfortune at having missed all the excitement of watching white supremacy blossom. Fortunately, the best years of apartheid were still to come so not all was lost.

I’m sorry to say that I never contributed much to the apartheid infrastructure that your ungrateful countrymen are so quick to torch. I’m not very good with my hands. I did, however, play a small part in helping the army to become such an awesome fighting machine. Regrettably, I killed no one. I was thrust into the Signals regiment and taught how to type. As I said, a small part, but a part nevertheless.

Thanks to democracy – and by democracy I obviously mean black people – today’s army could be vanquished by an ADT unit from Ballito. Assuming, of course, the unit was made up of white Afrikaners.

You also proudly said there were medals hanging in your palace that the apartheid government had awarded to the Zulu kingdom, and that you didn’t know how it happened that the Afrikaners respect you so much. It’s a mystery to me, too. Perhaps you should have a word with Uncle Gatsha. He might know a thing or two about it.