Day: October 27, 2013

Pravin’s mid-term sleight of hand

In his mid-term budget review this week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan … hey, wake up! This is important, dammit. It’s your money we’re talking about here.

What’s that? You don’t care? You’re suffering from corruption fatigue? Not good enough, I’m afraid. We’re all sick and tired of seeing our taxes getting sucked into a black hole, and by black hole I don’t mean to be racist. Quite frankly, I don’t think white holes are any better than black holes.

My skills as an economic analyst are a little on the rusty side, not having practiced them for, like, ever. What I can say, though, is big up to Pravin for throwing a spanner in the public works in a brave attempt to cut off some of the gravy that’s feeding the train. Cut off or divert? It’s all smoke and mirrors.

The downgrading of perks, implemented across government, could save R2-billion. That was done with his left hand. With his right hand, Pravin allocated R2.25-billion to the civil servant wage bill. It would be like Peter paying Paul if they hadn’t emigrated to Perth.

Lesser financial analysts than I were reporting that Pravin had drawn a line in the sand on state spending. Why are they not saying that he has chiseled a line in bedrock? By couching Pravin’s actions in such a mealy-mouthed fashion, it gives him a way out. When his tight guidelines are surreptitiously loosened by agents of the status quo, he can turn around and shrug and say, “Well, you said it was a line in the sand, remember?”

I saw on the news that Pravin was expecting a 4.3% budget deficit in 2013/14. I don’t know what this means. Do we break out the champagne or the razor blades? I don’t even know what year he is talking about. Nobody says, “Yeah, I’m hoping to get off heroin in 2013/14.” If we can pin our plans down to a particular year, so can he.

From December 1st, there will be no more official credit cards, million-rand vehicles, luxury hotel stays and expensive home upgrades for cabinet ministers. Pravin pulled this off in what was reported as “a last-minute agreement with cabinet”. The movie is called Raging Bullshit and the scene goes like this.

Minister: But you can’t take away our …

Pravin: Shut it, you fat fuck. Either you all agree or I resign and expose you for the profligate pack of rapacious narcissists that you are.

Pravin gave the cops a big splodge of wonga, most of which will go on boxes of Nescafe’s instant cappuccino. Don’t scoff. Coffee is an essential tool in the fight against crime. Without it, the police would never be able to stay awake beyond 11am.

A paltry R444-million is to be spent on increasing visible policing. I thought it would cost a lot more to bribe officers to risk their lives walking around outside their cosy police stations.

Pravin also called on the labour movement to come to the party in stabilising the investment climate. This can only create confusion among the comrades.

“Hey! The finance minister wants us to come to his party.”

“Free beer?”

“Don’t know. Must be. He said nothing about bring your own.”

Pravin said no new money would be given to South African Airways while the company’s turnaround strategy was being evaluated. If I wanted SAA to stop losing money, my strategy would have all the planes turn around and never leave the ground again.

And, in a noble nod to nationalism, Pravin gave the defence ministry an extra R150-million so that more of our troops could go off to central Africa and risk their lives for no good reason whatsoever.

I have the solution to our government’s financial woes. Print more money. You can thank me later, Pravin.

 

Thinking about drinking like an African

A few days ago, President Zuma said we should stop thinking like Africans, although I am fairly sure that he meant to say we should stop drinking like Africans. It would have made more sense. Anyway, our fearless leader is not known for making much sense. It’s why we love him.

I thought he might be onto something, though. Just because we live in Africa doesn’t mean we have to think like an African any more than we have to speak, look or taste like one. And so I spent much of the past week thinking like other nationalities.

I started off by thinking like the English. This came quite naturally to me because I think in English and it’s easier to think like a particular nationality if your thoughts are in the language of that particular group. This sounds more complex than it is. I think this is what long-suffering spin doctor Mac Maharaj was getting at when he said the president sometimes gets his words mixed up because English isn’t his home language.

The problem with thinking like the English is that almost immediately you start complaining about things. It’s raining too much. It’s not raining enough. Blasted beggars at the traffic lights. Them darkies are making an awful mess of running the country. Good help is so hard to find these days. I also found myself nipping down to the pub a lot more. When I was thinking like an African, I’d go to the bottle store. I would get into conversations with strangers and moan endlessly about the weather and how David Cameron needed to pull up his socks if he hoped to get my support next year.

Then I tried thinking like the Germans. I woke up and reorganised my cupboard. After colour-coding my socks and folding my underwear into perfect little triangles, I went off for a breakfast of schlackwurst, bratwurst, blutwurst, schwarzwurst, leberwurst and rollmops. If I were in Syria, the UN weapons inspectors would have mistaken me for a biological weapon. The trouble started when I waddled out into the city. My brain began having miniature seizures. The littering. The jaywalking. The shouting. The hooting. Mein Gott im Himmel! And all of this to a German porn soundtrack in my head.

On top of it, I was struck by an unfamiliar urge to separate my garbage. Even worse, my sense of humour was slipping away. I had to think like someone else quickly or risk going mad. When Germans go mad, they put ads in the paper asking for volunteers to cook and eat them.

This time I chose the Russians and found myself waiting for the bottle store to open. I took my vodka into a park and it wasn’t long before I was going up to people and shouting at them about those bastard Chechen rebels, the gays in government, the tyranny of babushkas and the shocking price of potatoes. At one point, I was crying because I was in love with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the pretty one from Pussy Riot. That’s all I remember.

The next day I decided to think like an Israeli. After instructing builders to add another five metres to my boundary walls, I declared my house a sovereign state and annexed the neighbour’s back yard. His dog bit me when I tried to put up a flag. There will be retaliatory strikes when he least expects it. I stuck an ‘Occupied Territory’ sign on my bathroom door, locked myself inside and prayed for eighteen hours for the total destruction of my enemies. After that I felt guilty and tried thinking like an American.

This one suited me the most. I felt even more like one of God’s chosen people than I did when I was thinking like an Israeli. I began to find that the idea of oil – olive or engine – excited me more than it should. My voice went up several decibels and I was taken by conflicting urges to buy a gun, become a hippie, kiss a man, hurl abuse at homos, evangelise my suburb, torch a church, buy an SUV, save the environment, go to war, join a peace movement, fill up on hamburgers and go to gym.

It was all too exhausting. I felt myself drifting perilously close to stereotyping those who do not think like me. The last thing I needed was to be accused of bigotry and intellectual indolence. That’s the domain of Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr.

In the end, I found it easier to just go back to thinking like an African. Time to work on a new get-rich-quick scheme. But first a nap. Then something to eat. And maybe a post-snack snooze. Followed by drinks. And later, sex.

I’m feeling better already.