Dear Comrade Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the First, by the Grace of God President of the Republic of South Africa, Head of the Household, Defender of the Faith, Pastor of the Flock, Defeater of the Mbeki, Unifier of the Nation, Msholozi of Msholozis, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Conqueror of the Apartheid Regime and Owner of Property in Nkandla, greetings in the name of the third democratic revolution.
I say third because, as you may have heard, the second has been hijacked by students and the less said about it the better. In fact, you’ve had less to say than anyone. Do you even know there’s trouble at the universities? Perhaps you don’t get the papers any more. If I were you, I wouldn’t. You have enough on your plate, and I’m not talking about that kudu haunch drizzled with warthog jus, either.
Some say democracy and revolution make uneasy bedfellows. That’s rubbish. Uneasy bedfellows would be Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr. As you probably know, democracy is a Greek word invented by Plato. ‘Demo’ means ‘the people and ‘cracy’ means ‘are crazy’. An example of this is how 62% of the electorate voted for you and your party to remain in power for another five years.
And what a party it’s been. Especially for you. Not everyone gets the chance to travel the world, meet interesting people (Asians, mostly), play Monopoly with real money and chess with real pawn-people. If there’s one thing you do have, it’s time to spare. That’s the beauty of rule by collective. You take the money and the overseas trips, they take the responsibility.
Perhaps I’m being a little unfair here. I’m sure you’re very busy. A man in your position must spend at least six hours a day with his lawyers. That only leaves 18 hours for the wives. It sounds a lot, but it’s not really. Not when you have four wives. What does that work out to? Just over four hours per wife? No, wait. You dumped one of them after she tried to poison you.
Anyway, whatever time you have left in the day is probably spent helping your kids with their homework, tender applications and impending lawsuits. I can’t work out what that is divided between 22 children. That’s why I’m not your finance minister. Although if you had your wits about you, you’d dump that tight-fisted Gordhan and appoint me at once. I’m a reckless fool when it comes to money. You could take me out for lunchtime drinks and the Treasury would be yours by sunset.
I appreciate, though, that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to snatching the organs of state. I don’t even understand what I’ve just written, that’s how much of an idiot I am. This is starting to sound like a job application. I do apologise.
I admire you for having the intestinal fortitude to continue going through the motions as head of state. For instance, early last week you addressed something called the South African heads of missions conference in Pretoria. Who are these people? No, wait. Don’t tell me. Upstanding citizens like Bruce Koloane who allowed friends of the Guptas to land at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, Mohau Pheko who lied about having a PhD and Sibusiso Ndebele who is facing corruption charges.
You told our diplomats a side-effect of democracy was that “processes tend to be slower”. This must be very frustrating for you. Progress is not achieved through committees. It is achieved through seizing the moment, the state-owned enterprises and, ultimately, the Treasury.
I am reluctant to quote you back at yourself, but this one has a special place in my heart. “Democracies go through difficulties, precisely because they are democracies. Only in the autocratic dictatorships … there are no problems. When the ruler says they want a bridge here, there is no debate, the bridge will be constructed. No one says there is no money.”
Precisely. Take, for instance, the bridge over the River Kwai. If Pravin Gordhan had been in charge of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942, things would have been very different. Emperor Gordhan would have said there is no money for a railway and thousands of British prisoners of war wouldn’t have died building the Burma-Siam line. Thank god for autocrats like Hirohito.
And let’s not forget North Korea, one of our brightest stars in the firmament of autocratic dictatorships. Kim Jong-un might have had his hairdresser’s eyes plucked out so the commoner could never gaze upon the Loinfruit Leader’s glorious countenance, which is only right, but one cannot deny that the man gets things done. Despite selfish western sanctions, his nuclear programme continues apace. When he feels like launching a rocket to see if it is capable of reaching Washington DC, even factoring in the added weight of a nuclear warhead, he doesn’t ask permission. He doesn’t ask if there’s money. He just does it. This is why we love Kim.
The other alternative to democracy is, of course, a benevolent dictatorship. This is my personal favourite. Wikipedia says “a benevolent dictator portrays himself as compassionate and altruistic, allowing for some decisions to be made by a democratic process. A benevolent dictator remains in power only while the people allow him to.”
This, comrade president, describes you perfectly. If we ignore words like compassionate and altruistic, naturally.
Your final option – and this is where it gets interesting – is the military dictatorship. We had that under PW Botha. No reason it can’t work again. On the other hand, it’s not exactly the same army, is it? There are no pilots for our jets and the submarines are up on bricks. Also, the infantry is on sick leave. Perhaps the MK Veterans’ Association can prop you up.
You’re right, though. Things move painfully slowly in a democracy. You’re a fast mover – a man who likes to get things done. Look how fast you moved the other day when Thuli Madonsela sent you that list of questions. In no time at all, you were off to Kenya on a state visit.
You told our diplomats, “When people say to you, what is happening in South Africa, why these protests? Tell them it is democracy. When they say why does it look like the ruling party is fighting? That is democracy.” I suppose it could work. It might be better, though, if, faced with difficult questions, our diplomats simply exercised their right to remain silent.
We spend R3.2-billion a year on 122 diplomatic missions abroad. The only country better represented on foreign soil is America, with 126 missions. We need to beat America. Can’t you open a few more embassies or have we run out of countries? They don’t have to be fancy. Perhaps something along the lines of our least expensive embassy, which happens to be in Belarus’s glittering capital Minsk and costs a mere R5-million a year.
Anyway. Good luck with your court application to prevent the public protector’s report on state capture from being released. If the judge asks any awkward questions, get your lawyer to blame democracy. The same goes with Pravin Gordhan. If ratings agencies want to know why your boys in the Hawks are prosecuting the finance minister, tell them that’s democracy.
If things get too hot, you can always take another trip. I hear the weather in Dubai is lovely at this time of year.