How peculiar to live in a country where the only person still capable of being shocked is the president. Not that I am currently in the country. If you’ve been paying attention, you will know that I am on a tropical island in an archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Panama, where any sane person would be right now. Sure, I might lose a couple of toes to a hungry cayman on my way to the bar, but I won’t get knifed or hit by a taxi. Don’t be envious. It’s quite easy to do. Buy an air ticket. On the day you’re due to leave, tell your family you’re nipping out to the bottle store and drive to the airport. Sell your car to someone in the parking lot. Get on the plane and never come back. You can thank me later.
Anyway. Never having managed to completely free myself from the treacherous tentacles of journalism, I still follow the news. But as the days slip-slide away, I find myself caring less about what happens in truly dreadful countries like Canada, America and Britain. I do, however, keep track of what’s happening in South Africa. Not with any sense of schadenfreude. I still have family there, after all. Listen to me, talking like I’ve emigrated. I’m on holiday. Aren’t I? I don’t get annual leave or even have a proper job, so it’s hard to say what I’m on. Recreational drugs, mostly ha ha.
So. What headline coming out of SA would shock me? Or you, for that matter. I suspect it’s impossible to even invent one that would raise much more than an eyebrow, a sigh or, at most, a shake of the head. A more jaded, cynical nation than ours is hard to imagine. I need not recount the many egregious examples of incompetence, corruption and sheer dumb brutishness that have come to define the country. You already know this. I can tell by the steady uptick in sarcastic tweets, our last defence against the barbarians at the gate.
It should be estate agents rather than travel agents who come up with advertising copy describing our beloved homeland.
“Sprawling second-hand country with 1.2 million km² floor space. Massive potential but neglected under current owners. A real fixer-upper. Foundations crumbling. Needs rewiring and proper plumbing. Sixty million tenants already in place (mostly unreliable). Nearest cash offer.”
Excuse me. A falling coconut just missed me by a metre. Let me move out of the impact zone. There’s nothing like a near-death experience to focus the mind.
I find it increasingly difficult to define our political leadership in human terms. All the words for them have become worn out and meaningless. Look up “incompetent” and “corrupt” in a thesaurus and you’ll find that almost every synonym has at one time or another been used to describe our government.
Perhaps if I dipped into the animal kingdom for comparisons.
Cyril Ramaphosa: Cross between a sloth and a jellyfish. A jellysloth. Capable of moving fairly quickly yet awkardly when called upon to dance with the wives of West African leaders. Better known for moving at a glacial pace when it comes to doing something, anything, to save his country from sliding into the abyss. Lacking a backbone, he subdues his prey by boring them to death.
David Mabuza: Javan rhino. Shorter and smaller than others of his ilk, he is hardly ever seen in his natural habitat (Union Buildings), preferring to spend time in Russia. Possessed of armour-like skin, he was at one time thought to be extinct but surprised the world after making a rare appearance at a press conference. Adept at dodging poachers and the law.
Bheki Cele: Leopard tortoise. Slow of thought and foot, he remains resolutely unable to change course even though he instinctively senses disaster ahead. Happy to stick his neck out when the coast is clear, he is even faster to withdraw into his shell when asked to explain his actions, or rather, lack thereof.
Gwede Mantashe: Cross between a crow and a black mamba. Beware of flying snakes. A scavenger by nature. Struts about with a misplaced sense of self-importance, looking for easy pickings and shiny things. Speaks with forked tongue. Can be venomous if provoked. Prey consists primarily of small mammals and enemies of the fossil fuel industry.
Fikile Mbalula: Peacock. Born a peahen, he transitioned when friends kidnapped him and forced him to get circumcised. Displays iridescent plumage, especially at events offering free food and television coverage. Unusual vocalisation that attracts derision rather than members of the opposite sex.
Shamila Batohi: Remora fish. Once mistaken for a shark but later turned out to be harmless. Has the ability to suck firmly onto her paymasters, draining a handsome salary while doing nothing. The relationship between the remora and the host is mutually beneficial – she doesn’t prosecute ANC leaders and they keep paying her.