Month: April 2017

Vladimir, we’re sorry

Dear Comrade Vladimir, Putin of all Putins, Ruler of Russia, Emperor of Eurasia, Capturer of Crimea, Nemesis of the Balkans, Vlad the Impala and Brightest Tsar of All, I throw my unworthy self at your feet.

While I am down there, allow me to apologise for this week’s disastrous court ruling that dashed Russia’s hopes of covering our countryside with nuclear power stations. Yes, I know we had an agreement, but what happened is not our government’s fault. None of us wanted to have to rely on the filthy wind or stupid sun for power. The problem lies with our courts. Unlike your country, we are still struggling to get the right people into the judiciary. Give us time.

If you are going to bomb us, please aim for the courts. The Western Cape High Court in particular is a hotbed of anti-nuclear, pro-marijuana snowflakes. If your missiles can’t reach Cape Town, send in the navy. Your men can come ashore at Camps Bay under cover of lunchtime. The police there have been trained not to question white people about anything.

I expect that our president is deeply embarrassed by the latest turn of events. I don’t just mean financially embarrassed either, although it will take some explaining to the wives why they might have to wait a bit longer for their R50-million apiece.

When Comrade Zuma got his men with pens to sign a cooperation agreement with your Rosatom heavies, he wasn’t to know it was unconstitutional and unlawful. For him to know that, he would’ve had to ask someone. He is a very busy man, our president. He doesn’t have time to go around asking people for advice. Also, he had to fire his finance minister for refusing to make duplicates of the keys to the treasury. So he got a combination lock and a new minister who can’t remember the combination. We’re not even back to square one. We’re just going in circles.

Our then idiot energy minister Tina someone-or-other – who is undoubtedly still an idiot but has since been fired and her name expunged from mortal memory – signed the secret deal with your guys last year. No problem there. Secret deals are good. However, we have a handful of people in this country who haven’t emigrated to Australia and for some reason they think they are entitled to question what the government does. This often leads to court cases and red faces in high places. You don’t have this problem. If anyone questions the Politburo, or whatever you call your inner circle these days, you get someone to cut their legs off. Not personally, obviously. You can’t be spending your days despatching brutes with chainsaws to sort out every unhinged bolshevik when you have a royal flush in a high stakes game of political poker in Syria while simultaneously toying with that kandy-coated tangerine-flake unstreamlined warbaby in the White House.

I have a confession to make. “What?” I hear you shout. “Without even being tortured?” Sorry. This is no time for jokes. Thing is, I stopped following Russian politics when Yeltsin stabbed Gorbachev in the forehead with a broken glass. A waste of good red wine if you ask me. So you’ll forgive me when I say I thought the Communist Party was still in charge. You won’t? I didn’t think so. You are not a man to whom forgiveness comes easily. Not your fault. That’s what happens when you’re breast-fed up to the age of 16.

Anyway, you probably stopped following South African politics on … what was it? Wednesday? When the nuclear deal went arse over kettle, to coin a phrase popular with the bleeding-heart liberals who sprawl across our judicial benches sucking on bongs and quoting from the constitution as if it were a real thing.

Your Communist Party got 13% in the last elections. Ours didn’t even stand. Hell, the general-secretary can barely stand. I see your party, United Russia, is firmly in control. Well done. Our ANC is very dominant, too, even though President Zuma is still looking for his machine gun and doesn’t ride horses with his shirt off. Not while on duty, anyway. We don’t know what he rides while he’s on holiday. He might not even wear trousers, for all we know.

I hate to quote Wikipedia but they have proved marginally more reliable than tea leaves and bone throwing, and they say that United Russia “has no coherent ideology; however, it embraces specific politicians and officials with a variety of political views who support the administration”. It’s uncanny how similar this is to our ANC. The only difference is that we embrace anyone with a variety of ways to launder backhanders and … oh, right. Wikipedia knows about the chainsaws.

I have to ask you something, comrade president. Does United Russia also rely heavily on the support of the benighted proletariat and failed agronomists less familiar with the Dow Jones Index than they are with the goat/chicken exchange rate? We call it the rural vote. I suppose in your country you’d call it the Ural vote. It doesn’t matter. The point is, we’re both big fans of a multi-party dictatorship based on ignorance and fear.

But let us return to matters nuclear, since it is quite likely the only interest the Kremlin has in us. Or rather, had in us.

I was shocked when Judge Lee Bozalek – if that’s his real name – ruled in favour of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute. Shocked because two shadowy organisations nobody has ever heard of succeeded in depriving me and my friends of 9.6 GW of nuclear energy. I don’t know if that’s a week’s worth or what. I don’t know what a GW is. VW, I know. And 9.6? That’s a low number. It doesn’t sound like a good deal for one trillion rand. For that kind of money I’d expect at least 75 000 GWs per person, per day. With a free bag and maybe a T-shirt.

Comrade Vlad, perhaps you’re looking for answers and nobody at the Union Buildings or even at the head office in Saxonwold is taking your calls. This seems likely, especially if you’ve already paid the bribes. I think I know what happened here. The case has been dragging on for 18 months and Judge Bozalek shut the whole thing down because he had to get home and start the braai. Also, he might be Ukrainian.

Apparently the whole shebang was meant to be debated in parliament long before those agreements were signed with invisible ink in an unlit room on a moonless night in the middle of the darkest month of the year, thus “flouting democratic processes”. Oh, please. I can’t speak for Russia, but we are a nation of flouters. We flout at the drop of a cat. I fully expect a Floutist Party to contest the next election. I’d certainly vote for them.

Besides, aren’t parliamentary debates more for the benefit of the international investor community than the great unwashed? After all, United Russia has a 76% majority in parliament and the ANC – which can’t be called united in any sense whatsoever – has 62%. With those odds, it’s not even gambling. The house is guaranteed to win every time. The game is rigged and that’s how it has stayed ever since the Ancient Greeks invented democracy and sodomy.

It is even more saddening that this kangaroo court of ours jumped to its rabid conclusions on Chernobyl Day, a day the world sets aside to celebrate nuclear power and tries to forget the men and women who died doing whatever it was they were doing when the number four reactor reacted badly to a late night safety test. We all react badly to being tested late at night. It’s no reason to be anti-nuclear.

Comrade, I urge you not to give up on us. We have other things we can give you. Would you like an elephant? I see you on the cover of GQ magazine wearing nothing but a pair of armadillo boots and ivory spurs, urging a giant tusker into a full-blooded gallop. Maybe heading into a fight with a Zimbabwean riding a hippo. I don’t want to tell you what to do. You have your own fantasies.

I’ll pop in for vodkas next time I’m in Moscow.

Do svidaniya!

VladImpala

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No stress please, we’re Zulu

A study done last year by Bloomberg found South Africa to be the second most stressed country out of 74 surveyed. The title is currently held by Nigeria. Anyone who has driven through Lagos will understand why. It was damnably close though, with us missing the top spot by a mere point-one percent. Hopes are pinned on Jacob Zuma staying in power. This would almost certainly bump us into first place.

However, our chances of making it to world number one suffered a setback when our Teflon president said at his 75th birthday party that there was no Zulu word for stress. Stress, he said, was a white man’s disease.

“I do not have stress,” he said. You know who else doesn’t suffer from stress? Megalomaniacal sociopaths. Self-serving narcissists. Avaricious scofflaws who give fresh meaning to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

“In the Zulu nation‚ stress does not exist,” he said. “You can go to a traditional healer asking to be healed from stress‚ but they do not have muti for stress.” Zuma is probably right about this. Traditional healers might not be able to give you muti for stress, but they will give you muti to turn your unpleasant neighbour into a chicken. That will go a long way towards alleviating the stress you don’t have.

I’m not sure that Zuma is right when he calls stress a disease. It’s more of just an anxious gnawing feeling, which isn’t the same as, say, cancer or tuberculosis. Sure, stress can probably cause a disease, but you have to watch your terminology. Next thing, you’re saying a virus can’t cause a syndrome and before you know it you’re slumped over a counter telling the barman that you were the president once. Sure you were, sir. I think you’ve had enough.

People who have studied for seven years and know their way around a stethoscope tell me that stress can affect your mind and body. Oh, please. So can alcohol. It’s pretty much the only reason we drink the filth. But then we get drunk and it’s impregnations and proposals and off to the magistrate’s court and ten years later a man in a white coat gives us six months to live. That’s stress for you. It’s not the alcohol. It’s never the alcohol.

As someone who has studied medicine for a number of decades without ever having to write exams or pitch up on graduation day, I can confidently say that stress is not the killer it’s made out to be. The real killers are your boss, your bank manager and your spouse. The accessories are your children and sometimes your parents.

Stress can also be triggered by things other people might consider minor. Like getting to the bottle store an hour before it opens. Or realising that you’ve been contributing to the R550-million given to King Zwelithini and his loved ones over the last ten years while the Royal Household Trust apparently raise funds for the tribal monarchy down at the Suncoast Casino.

Conventionally, however, the top three causes of stress are the death of a loved one, a divorce and moving house. There’s no arguing with the first, but I’d say there are more stressful things in life than getting divorced and moving house. Driving, for starters. I’d rather live in a homeless shelter than do a morning and evening rush hour commute.

If you live in Cape Town, over your working life you’re looking at 800 days – nearly three years – of doing nothing but changing from first to second gear while listening to an idiot DJ and brimming with hatred for humanity. And there’s no point cursing the traffic. You are the traffic.

While a loved one’s death tops the list, death as a thing isn’t stressful at all. People we don’t know are dying all the time and we don’t get stressed about that. This is quite normal because we are, in essence, savages.

The positioning of divorce at number two on the list should be condemned and set aside. If death is qualified as stressful only if it happens to a loved one, then so too should divorce. Divorce is only stressful if you are crazy in love and the person formerly known as sweetheart isn’t. This situation usually presents itself in the space of one terrible evening.

It’s less stressful to allow your mutual hatred for one another to develop over a period of years so that by the time one of you suggests divorce, it’s a huge relief all round. Just say goodbye. Don’t get drunk and have a last pangalang. You don’t want any accidents that might entail you having to see each other, no matter how fleetingly, every second weekend and alternate school holidays for the next 18 years.

I am facing my second divorce and already I am girding my mental loins for a third marriage, which I fully expect to happen because there is little point in stopping once you’ve had two of anything. If you have ever tried two of something and never had a third, I’d like to know what it is.

Number three on the stress list is moving house. This is clearly not true. Unless you’re moving from uMhlanga to uMlazi or from Camps Bay to Pollsmoor Prison, there’s no reason to get upset. The most stressful thing about moving house is trying to stop the packing tape from sticking itself to the roll. Some people lose the packing tape altogether and end up stabbing themselves in the eye.

Then there’s something called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale and a more lucid definition: “Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise.” Or, in terms that you and I can understand, “This is fucked up and I’m running away.”

I don’t know who Holmes and Rahe are and nor do I care. They’re not politicians so there is no real reason for them to lie. That’s good enough for me. They surveyed more than 5 000 patients and asked them to say whether they had any experience of a series of 43 events in the previous two years.

Each event had a different weight for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. These events include things like jail time, sex difficulties, trouble with in-laws, trouble with the boss and minor violations of the law – in other words, stuff we all live with every single goddamn day.

Being a little drunk, I did the test and scored an impressive 393. I thought that was pretty damn good. Higher than I’ve ever got for anything. With that kind of mark you want to rush home and burst through the front door and shout, “Honey, I got almost 400 on the test!” But honey’s on the couch in front of the TV slack-jawed and drooling with 500mg of benzodiazepines ponying around the arterial racetrack. Anyway. The results of my score? “You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.”

And that’s it. They don’t tell you that you need to chuck your job, get divorced or stop drinking vodka before 10am. They simply tell you that you’re going to get ill in the near future. Like next year? In the middle of the next sentence?

To be fair, they do suggest solutions. For instance, you can acquire “conflict resolution skills”. Here, this means acquiring an AK-47. It’s a traditional South African way of resolving conflict.

Stressed? Try homicide. You’ll feel so much better.

b

 

Dear Angus Buchan …

I see Oom Angus is in the news again. Reminded me of this letter I wrote to him a few years ago. Still waiting for a reply.

 

Brother Angus Buchan

Shalom Ministries

Shalom Farm

Greytown KZN

 

Dear Angus,

The other evening I saw you being interviewed on television about your latest Mighty Men’s Conference and my first thought was, this man is a genius. You set yourself up as God’s main man in KwaZulu-Natal, write a book about proselytising potatoes, get a movie made of the book, perform a few rain-making miracles, get mobs of people eating out of your hand, get recognised as the 13th apostle, take over the presidency and then the world. What a brilliant strategy!

But then I listened closely to what you were saying and realised that I had made a terrible mistake. I do not wish to appear rude, but I got the impression you are not all that bright. Please don’t be insulted. Farmers are not generally known for their great intellectual prowess. Like most of them, you are a simple man of the soil. Tight with Jesus, undoubtedly, but simple, nevertheless.

Congratulations on getting 60 000 men to come to your farm, Shalom, in Greytown. I couldn’t get 60 people to come to a party at my house, and that’s with providing free beer and recreational drugs. Maybe you were offering imported liquor, high quality narcotics and a free car, like Oprah does. Just kidding. You are a man of God and would never stoop so low.

The first thing I thought when I went onto YouTube and saw those 60 000 men listening to you was that somewhere out there were 60 000 lonely women. Probably less, judging by the look of some of the men. Sorry about that. Sometimes the devil makes me think bad things and I have to drink whiskey to come right.

To be honest, the idea of waking up to find 60 000 mainly white Afrikaner men camped out on a field in front of my house scares the living daylights out of me. Actually, if this were to ever happen, my wife Brenda would come out onto the stoep and shout: “He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy! Now go away!”

Your wife, Jill, would never do such a thing. She knows her place. I could tell because you let her out of the kitchen just long enough for her to inform us that God needs real men. She said: “He has to reinstate the men and when he does that, the women will be very happy.” Brenda said Jill had the demeanour of a whipped puppy and I ordered her to kneel at my feet and beg forgiveness for her crass remarks. She knelt alright, but then sank her teeth into the fleshy part of my ankle and wouldn’t let go until I promised to do the dishes for the next two weeks.

Then I heard you say: “Wives, respect your husbands, submit to your husbands … if a husband loves his wife, his wife will gladly submit to him.” It’s alright for you, Angus, but Brenda is not an easy woman to love, let alone make her, as you say, “into the lady she is supposed to be”. What should I do in this case? Would it be okay if I beat her into submission? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that. The prosecutorial forces are no longer on our side.

I have another problem. My son, Clive, is overly sensitive and I was hoping you could teach him how to be a Mighty Man. I am prepared to make a considerable donation to your prophet-making organisation if you can succeed in ridding him of his irrational ideas about equality of the sexes. Let me know.

Anyway, good luck with selling the video of the April conference. If everyone who was there buys a copy, you will end up with R17.4 million! That certainly beats growing mielies for a living. And since you’re Scottish, I am sure there is no need to warn you against frittering it away on frivolous things like new clothes for Jill.

I was going to buy the first season of Seinfeld with my spare R290, but he’s Jewish and doesn’t really believe so much in Jesus so I decided to rather spend the money on your video but then I remembered that Shalom is a Jewish word and I got confused and bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Red instead.

By the way, I tried to get into your gig at Newlands Stadium yesterday but a shaven-headed thug masquerading as a man of the cloth refused to let me in. He said the mark of the beast was upon me. I tried explaining that my forehead was full of gravel only because I had fallen down in the parking lot but he was having none of it. Maybe next time, brother.

Biblically yours,

Mr Ben Trovato (Man of the house)

PS. I am enclosing a picture of me with my tractor. It needs a bit of work. So do I. Send directions and I will blow up the tyres and drive down to the farm next week.

tractorbling

Petty thefts and passion plays

Trawling through this berserk electronic mental penitentiary infested with food, cats, babies and bloodshed, I came across Robyn informing her Facebook friends that her phone had been stolen. This heartbreaking news was met by an avalanche of sad and angry emoticons. Some were sad and angry at the same time. Sangry. They wanted to know how and where this atrocity had been committed. If you, too, feel a crushing need for details, let me give you the short version.

A man claiming to be the neighbour’s gardener knocked on her door and said he needed to trim the overhanging branches. He asked if he could borrow an extension lead. Anyone who has ever owned an extension lead will know that they are never where you expect them to be. They have lives of their own. So Robyn, and quite likely everyone in the house, embarked on a search for the cable. Bored and left to his own devices, the ‘gardener’ pocketed a phone and wallet and sauntered off into the sunset.

Amid a steady outpouring of grief and sympathy, Samantha had a similar story to tell. “I went to the neighbour behind me who told me he didn’t have a gardener. This guy was well spoken, well dressed, probably the same scammer.” Undoubtedly. After all, what are the odds of two darkies being in a white suburb, both capable of tucking their shirts in and stringing a coherent sentence together? Clearly the same person.

Deborah, too, had an almost identical encounter. She was tipped off when the “gardener”, under interrogation, admitted he didn’t know the neighbour’s name. I don’t know my neighbour’s name either, but it’s only been nine years. Besides, if a white man knocks on your door and offers to do menial labour, you call the police immediately. Or marry him.

“I was only suspicious because I knew that neighbour used a garden service and that day they weren’t there,” said Deborah. “They are very clever.‬” Our president warned us about these people – these clever blacks – but we didn’t listen. Now look. They walk among us.

Given that we live in a country headed by a president with the morals of a boomslang, I didn’t think anyone still bothered making an issue out of trust. Cue Imelda. “Just proves that you can’t trust anyone no matter how decent they are. Spoils it for the ones who are genuine.” So there you have it. If any of you genuine ones are reading this, you know who to blame when we don’t trust you.

The best comment of all, though, came from Robyn’s friend Sandra. “You damn lucky he didn’t kill you.‬” Indeed. What extraordinary luck. There’s such a fine line between petty theft and murder. One minute you’re nicking a phone, the next you’re chopping someone’s face off. It’s really just a matter of how you feel on the day. I don’t mean you, obviously. I mean they. Them.

So anyway. Easter, eh? Funny old business. For the past couple of months the shops have been jammed with gilded bunnies of all sizes. If one didn’t know any better, and one frequently doesn’t, one might be forgiven for thinking that the alleged son of God was a rabbit.

Who are we meant to be remembering? Jesus or rabbits? If we were to do this properly, surely we’d be sucking on white chocolate Jesuses moulded onto dark chocolate crosses.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John don’t really have their story straight when it comes to what went down three days after the crucifixion, but they do at least agree that the tomb was empty. And that Mary Magdalene, possibly with a couple of her mates, happened to be in the area. Given the present situation, it seems likely that Mary said, “This is weird. We should make a point of remembering it. Any ideas?” After a bit of head-scratching, a woman holding a crudely fashioned clay bong put up her hand. “I know. Every year on this day, we pretend that an invisible rabbit brings chocolate eggs for everyone.” And so it was writ in the Book of Rabbits, later to be struck from the Bible by a rogue Middle Eastern rewrite man suffering from severe leporiphobia.

Easter is a moveable feast, as are rabbits. Nobody can agree on a precise date on which Easter should fall. Even the pope relies on the appearance of chocolate chickens in the Vatican gift shop to tip him off that the day is getting close. I have also heard mention of an ecclesiastical vernal equinox, which sounds like it could be contagious.

How’s John doing?”

Not so good. Picked up a nasty vernal equinox.”

From his wife?”

Nah. He reckons it was Shirley.”

Shirley from the pub?”

Nah. The other Shirley.”

This could go on for some time. If you want to know more about the other Shirley, contact me privately.

I need to fill up space so let me tell you about the Easter weekend I once spent with a girlfriend in one of our many delightfully white bread in-bred coastal towns. It was a dark and stormy night when I came across a rapidly forming mob at the old harbour. Sensing a fight, I pushed my way to the front. If you stumble upon an outbreak of hostilities between rival gangs of perlemoen poachers, there’s no point hanging about at the back. You want to be close enough to hear the crack of teeth and the splinter of bone. You want to feel that whipspray of hot blood across your face.

This was, after all, Good Friday – a day in history soaked in violence and steeped in shame. Not for everyone, of course. The Rosicrucians, for instance, treat Good Friday just like any other day of the week. Similarly, the day has little relevance to practicing Gymnosophists. Then again, so does food and clothing. For others, like the Rastafarians, every Friday is good.

Kicking street urchins out of my way and elbowing the elderly and infirm aside, I made it to a small clearing down by the water’s edge. In the middle were two burly bearded types wearing sheepskin car seat covers and carrying plastic shepherd’s crooks. They were nodding sagely at one another. The crowd pressed in. The bearded men nodded some more.

“Hit him!” I shouted. The men stopped nodding, glared in my direction, then went back to their nodding. “Use your crook!” I shouted, making hitting and thrusting motions.

Just then, a powerful spotlight snapped on. Thinking it was a police helicopter, I grabbed a young girl and, using her as a shield between the sniper and me, I tried to fight my way through the throng. It was like getting sheep to move. “You’ll never take me alive!” I yelled. An ancient person of indeterminate gender kicked me on the shin and told me to shush. I dropped the girl and she scuttled away like a giant crab reared up on its hind legs. Maybe it was a crab I’d picked up. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

A voice boomed out across the harbour. It was as if God himself was speaking. “Dawid,” thundered the voice, “Kyk daar.” What the hell was this? Does God speak Afrikaans? Surely not. But maybe the Boers were right and they really are God’s chosen people. Then where does that leave the Jews? The weight of the moment made my head spin and I had to fall down for a bit.

When I got up, I was pleased to discover that it wasn’t the Almighty at all, but a couple of out-of-work actors huddled on a grassy knoll looking more bibulous than biblical. In the spotlight, they looked like a pair of huge mutant dassies. This was no gang fight. No police ambush. My relief was tempered by the cruel realisation that I was in the middle of a Passion Play, or, in the local parlance, ‘n Passiespel.

What I needed, way more than redemption, was a stiff drink. I could see the lights of a pub at the top of the cliff but there was no way out. The crowd had closed in like pack ice. I was trapped.

Just then, the spotlight picked out a flock of faux Pharisees. One of them stood up and said, “We must stop this man before people start following him.” I assumed he was talking about Jesus and not me.

Then the lights went off, leaving everyone drenched in darkness. I was the only one who screamed. A woman with a purple tea cosy on her head and the hips of a zebra clenched me to her heaving bosom. Either she thought I was having a religious epiphany or had become possessed by demons. I put my foot down. The snapping on of a battery of arc lights drowned out the snapping of her tarsal bones.

The crowd swivelled and gasped as one. There, on the far side of the harbour, were three wobbly crosses illuminated against the night sky. The crucifixion was mercifully brief and I began applauding the moment the lights went off again. Nobody else clapped, though. They probably knew that wasn’t the end of it.

We had three minutes of nothing happening to allow Jesus to get down off the cross and prepare for his resurrection in a fibreglass cave the size of a dog kennel. In the meantime, under cover of darkness, I found a path to the pub. Hallelujah.

Pravin moves on after quickie divorce

It is in the nature of my job to be a cynic and a sceptic. I take nothing at face value and always believe the worst. Give someone the benefit of the doubt? Please. That’s about as likely as seeing me in church on a Sunday.

However, I am deeply embarrassed to admit that I failed this week in my capacity as a professional doubter and detractor. When I woke to the news that three of the ANC’s top six, the party’s integrity commission, ANC veterans, Cosatu, the Communist Party, churches and civil society groups were united in their call for President Jacob Zuma to stand down, I felt a twinge of hope. I was not so far gone as to be countenancing faith, but that tiny twinge grew stronger overnight as it fed off my dreams of a better future for all. By the time the ANC National Working Committee had ended its crisis meeting, I was telling anyone who would listen that this might well be it. That Zuma had finally played his last card and the entire disgraceful edifice he’d constructed around himself would come crashing down and Wednesday would see the country’s streets and bars filled with people half mad with joy.

Then came the historic press conference that I thought would put South Africa on the road to recovery. Secretary general Gwede Mantashe, looking increasingly like a well-used stress ball, was slumped in his chair, his wounds freshly licked and still raw. As he started speaking, the swelling balloon of hope in my heart began deflating like a plastic soccer ball headed by Jesus wearing his crown of thorns.

Confirming that he and his two fellow invertebrates, deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, are in an abusive relationship with the president, Mantashe said, “We must find it adult enough to close the door, beat each other up, if you find me with a blue eye, I must develop a narrative that I bumped a pole rather than going public with disagreements.” In other words, it is always better to lie than tell the truth. I happen to agree with him on this.

He also said that the ANC “has reflected on the calls by the SACP and COSATU amongst others for President Jacob Zuma to resign from his position as the President of the Republic of South Africa.” I tried that once with one of my ex-wives when she cornered me over her alleged repeated requests that I unblock some or other inconsequential drain. Looking her square in the eye, I said, “I have reflected on your requests.” She seemed to expect more but eventually lost interest and wandered off.

So on Wednesday I coughed up my nugget of hope, now all shrivelled and manky, and went to the pub to rinse the bile from my throat. There, I met a man who claimed not to care about politics. Or even understand how our government works. He said he was just there to drink and asked me not to bother him. I put him in a half-nelson and polished off his beer while he begged for mercy.

“Get a grip,” I said. “You’re behaving worse than Ramaphosa.” He didn’t know what a Ramaphosa was, so I got him to buy me a drink and began explaining the entire sordid business from Marikana to McDonalds.

I also had to explain to this sad bag of rags that in the old days there were three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judicial – but today there are dozens of branches. These are known as ANC branches. I told him to imagine the executive as a shark and the ANC branches as suckerfish that cling to and feed off the parasites on the shark. Imagine, I said, that the parasites are Cosatu and the Communist Party. And maybe the ANC Youth League.

“Remoras,” he shouted, and fell off his stool. I kicked him gently in the head to bring him to his senses. Order Perciformes, family Echeneidae. They eat the host’s shit,” he said, giggling uncontrollably before appearing to die.

Even though with his final sentence he seemed to be grasping the metaphor admirably, I cannot abide ichthyologists who can’t hold their drink. I kicked him twice for good measure and left swiftly.

So. Comrade Greedy, I beg your pardon, Gwede, admitted that the dumbest “intelligence report” ever created by someone over the age of five was not, as initially stated by Zuma, the sole reason Pravin Gordhan was fired. Saving what little remains of the president’s face, the Working Committee came up with a reason more suited for adult consumption.

“The NWC has accepted the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship between the President and a member of his Cabinet (Gordhan) as sufficient explanation for the decision taken by the President.”

Look, relationships take work. Not mine, obviously. At the first sign of trouble, I’m out of there. But these are grown-ups we’re talking about. If they’d just taken the time to consider each other’s needs, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Would it have hurt either of them to occasionally send flowers or call just to say I’m thinking about you? And why the quickie divorce? What happened to relationship counselling? It’s all too sad.

So to get back to what I was saying. My flirtation with hope flared and died before it could ripen into a full-blooded emotion. It was crushed like a handful of marijuana on the last day of Afrika Burn. I have now returned to my natural state of cynicism, scepticism and ostracism.

I have, in fact, gone one step beyond. Madness, you may say, but these are the times in which we live. The only way we can beat these swine is with a baseball bat but there are too many of them and not enough bats. So we join them. I have already drafted my letter to the head of the government’s human resources department.

Dear Mr Gupta,

Forgive me for not knowing if it’s Atul, Rajesh or Ajay in charge of human resources this week. You guys have your fingers in so many pies it’s hard to know what’s happening. Maybe that’s why you all look so healthy. Too much of pies. Just kidding. I am a big pie man, myself. Mutton curry, mainly. I’m talking proper Verulam mutton, here. Not that Umlazi goat mutton.

Thing is, I am having a problem because I can’t afford to keep myself in the manner to which I ought to be accustomed. As a white man I should be well off, but something terrible must have happened and now I am only well off my face. This is why I am hoping you can give my life a skommel. Put me somewhere with a nice salary and maybe one, two perks.

Don’t put me in the cabinet. I’ve just come out of the closet. That’s a gay joke. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Also, I’m not gay so it’s not really a joke. A cabinet position is like the kiss of death. It’s like being given a poisoned chalice except you don’t have to drink the poison and you get to sell the chalice over and over again. Or something.

I want to be low key but high flying, if you know what I mean. Of course you do. You invented that thing. Smart move. I call it the Dubai Shuffle. But you’re all still South Africans, right? Good for you. It’s the 97th best citizenship in the world to have. And yet we can’t help being morons.

Take that Mcebisi Jonas fellow. You give him free dops in your en-suite shebeen, offer him the position of finance minister and still throw in a R600-million bonsella but he shakes his head and walks away, later making all kinds of affidavits and whatnot about this generous offer that was obviously never made.

This won’t happen with me, uncle. I’m not bluffing you. When you do your next reshuffle, give me maybe director general in tourism and let’s say R50-million and you won’t hear from me unless I hear from you.

Your man in the struggle,

Benjamin “Buttons” Trovato

A letter to President Zuma

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Dear Comrade Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the First, President of the Republic of South Africa, Head of the Household, Defender of the Faith, Pastor of the Flock, Defeater of the Mbeki, Msholozi of Msholozis, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Owner of Property in Nkandla, Shuffler of Cabinets and Destroyer of Things, I hereby greet you.

First of all, allow me to congratulate you. It doesn’t matter on what. You can decide. The important thing is that a man of your intellect is congratulated on a regular basis.

Well done, though, on deposing the ringleaders responsible for attempting to boost our economy. The last straw came when that seditious anarchist posing as our finance minister flew off to sell South Africa to investors in Britain. Not even Pravin Gordhan has the right to sell South Africa, even though he’s a Durban ou and would have given them a good price and all.

The real purpose of his mission was obviously to buy heavy calibre calculators and recruit mercenary accountants for a rebel army. You know what these financial types are like. Beneath their dimpled, chubby exteriors lurk lean, mean killing machines. Or worse, adding machines. It’s a good thing you have moved fast on this. Without your intervention, the Union Buildings would be overrun by well-educated polyglots and we’d all be speaking algebra by Christmas.

I am among the millions of patriotic South Africans silently applauding your firing of Gordhan and other free-thinking radicals of his ilk. I say silently because most of us are either savagely hungover or too weak with disease and hunger to engage in the physical act of clapping. We need to conserve our energy so that when 2019 rolls around, we will be able to crawl to the nearest polling station and vote for the ANC. Many of us won’t have the strength to make it back home and will probably die right there in the ballot booth. This is a small price to pay for keeping in power the most glorious political party Africa and indeed the world has ever seen.

You’re a genius, boss. By turning your reshuffle into a bloodbath, nobody could accuse you of gunning specifically for the finance minister and his deputy. It’s a bit like the way Israel bombs an entire Palestinian suburb just to get one cheeky Hamas commander. Sure, your scattergun approach is a bit rough on the others, but there are casualties in any war and I’m sure they are all very grateful for even having had the opportunity to buttress their bank accounts … I mean, serve the people.

Brilliant move making Malusi Gigaba minister of finance. A man who knows his way around the Saxonwold shebeen, he might not be the brightest but he’s a snappy dresser and that’s all that really counts in this portfolio. Also, he speaks English like a proper Zulu and his “Christian” name is Knowledge. What more do you need? Best of all, his sexiness will deflect attention away from the man really running the ministry – his deputy Sfiso Buthelezi.

According to Who’s Who Southern Africa, Buthelezi  is or maybe was the chairman of Robben Island Ferries and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, both of which are considered not so much efficient modes of transport as they are unreliable death traps.

He’s done some other stuff, too. Banking. That sort of thing. As long as he keeps taking calls from our government in exile in Dubai, he’ll do just fine.

Good move, too, making Faith Muthambi minister of public service. With the unemployment rate higher than a Rastafarian on Haile Selassie’s birthday, the public no longer expect to be served and the comrade will therefore not be required to fill her usual quota of damage.

And nice work retaining social development minister Butterbelly Dlamini. It’s important to have someone in cabinet who consistently sets the bar at its lowest so that everyone else shines by comparison.

Your real masterstroke, though, was appointing Fikile Mbalula as Minister of Police. I, for one, look forward to stepping over the bodies of criminals who have died laughing.

What’s this I hear that three of your top six are unhappy? Have you run out of funds to guarantee their support? If Squirrel Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe and Zweli Mkhize have turned rogue, you know what to do. No, not the elephant option. It’s too soon to start shooting dissidents. That comes in your seventh term as president.

You need to kick their arses to the curb and issue a decree that the top six shall henceforth be known as the top three. If you start getting bad vibes from Baleka Mbete and that other one with the face, kick their arses to the curb, too. Then it’s just you – the top one. Round up the judges, muzzle the media and Bob’s your uncle. Is Bob your uncle? He certainly behaves as if he has a strand or two of those magnificent Zuma genes.

Speaking of Squirrel, he briefly showed signs of developing a spine but then decided to stand by his man. Good for him. The best kind of loyalty is the dumb, unquestioning kind. Tell your ex-wife to be nice to him when she is in charge.

I don’t know why everyone is making such a fuss. The only people who stand to get hurt in all of this are the poor. You’d think they would be used to it by now. They can’t afford petrol, food or medicine whether the cabinet is reshuffled or not, so no real harm is done by getting rid of the clevas and deploying the fawners and flatterers who have been waiting so anxiously for their turn at the trough … I beg your pardon, their turn to serve the nation.

I like the way you use the delusively jejune phrases “radical economic transformation”. It appeals to your semi-literate power base as well as to white people, who know that nothing ever changes for them. Whatever delightfully reckless decisions you take, they get to keep the Range Rover, the tennis lessons and the beach house. If you really want to hurt them, take away their satellite dishes and shut down Woolworths.

I have a friend who said he preferred it when you were a cavorting, giggling, marrying kind of president. A good-natured, bumbling, harmless buffoon, as it were. He said he doesn’t like what he described as “the new vicious, lying, sociopath you”. He wanted to know where the fun you had gone. I called him a shallow imperialist dog and threatened to beat him soundly. He threatened to drink all my whiskey so we called it a draw.

So, what a week it’s been. I thought it a bit rude of Ahmed Kathrada to die on the very day that you were planning to fire Gordhan for gross competence. We didn’t know at the time, of course, that you were also planning a clean sweep of all the other embarrassingly capable members of your cabinet. You must have been terribly upset having to wait a few days before beginning the bludgeoning, particularly since you have come to rely on Indians to be there when you need them.

I believe the family foundation requested that you stay away from the funeral. They probably thought you’d be so overcome with grief that you’d cause a scene with your singing and dancing. Or did you and Uncle Kathy have a fall-out? I’m sure it was over something trivial. He probably insisted on the constitution being respected or was against the idea of state capture. Ridiculous. That’s the elderly for you.

By the way, nice work getting a few of those communists out of government. PW Botha would be proud of you. If any of the leftover bolsheviks like Blade Nzimande start causing trouble, send them to the gulags. Do we have gulags? We must at least have a salt mine somewhere. When apparatchiks go bad, they need to be severely punished. It’s the only language they understand.

And whatever happens, keep pushing that collective responsibility ruse. I think it slipped your mind a bit this week. If the rand falls and the economy nosedives, it’s only right that those who survived the cull get to share the consequences. And by consequences I obviously mean financial spin-offs.

Anyway, comrade leader. It’s time for my evening weep. As the sign on the back of the taxi says, “When days are dark and friends are few …” I don’t know how it ends. The taxi rolled before I could read the rest.

Q&A with Jacob Zuma – from the archives

Here’s an interview I did with Jacob Zuma in 2008.

Gel or soap

I’m not much of a gel man, myself. Gel can only prevent you from catching cancer and not much else. A bar of Lifebuoy, on the other hand, takes care of Aids, tuberculosis and yellow fever. I always shower after having sex. So you can imagine how healthy I am after washing seven or sometimes even ten times a day.

Polygamy

I am a big man. Bigger than you think. It is impossible for just one woman to satisfy me. Besides, it is in my culture to have many wives. The more the merrier. I think maybe Hugh Hefner has some Zulu blood in him, but most white men can’t handle more than one wife because they allow them to wear the pants. In my house, I am the boss. None of my wives nag me to fix the roof or ask me where I’ve been when I work late.

The right to bear arms

I am very disappointed that even though I am president of the ANC, nobody has bothered to bring me my machine gun. I have made it clear enough, haven’t I? After all, there aren’t that many lyrics. It’s not as if people could miss the message. Awuleth’ mshini wam. Bring me my machine gun. A simple request from a simple man. Anyway, I’m hoping that someone will find it and bring it to me before my trial starts in September. My machine gun may well influence the outcome.

Education

I am living proof that you do not need an education to rise to the highest office in the land. Comrade Thabo might as well have spent his youth exploring the fleshpots of Europe for all the good those years of studying did him. Of course, it helps to be able to read and write. Everyone should at least be able to read a charge sheet and write an affidavit. But things like maths and biology and all that other rubbish are a waste of time. My advice to the youth is this: learn how to herd cows and goats. A good herdsboy learns how to think and act like a goat. Once you perfect this skill, you can go into politics and even become president one day.

Economic policy

As you know, inflation is sitting at around 60% … or is that unemployment? Maybe it was the matric pass rate. Anyway, it’s not important. These are just numbers. When I am president of the country, I will reset everything to zero and start again from scratch.

Finance

Being able to work out sums is very important when it comes to finance. I was lucky in that I learnt to count from a very young age. When it’s your responsibility to make sure that none of your cattle stray onto the N2, you need to keep track of the numbers. In my culture, cows are money. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses like airlines and clothing shops no longer accept cows as payment. If you don’t have money, you borrow it. This is how global finance operates. Sometimes our government borrows money from institutions overseas. I only borrowed money from Schabir Shaik because he offered better terms than the World Bank. Zero repayments over a period of no years. You don’t get better than that!

The charges

Racketeering? Money laundering? Who do these people think I am? Al Capone? My government created the Scorpions so that they could investigate the real criminals, not decent law-abiding patriots like me and Jackie Selebi. What on earth were they thinking? I will fight these trumped-up charges tooth and nail. Oh yes, before I forget, I would like to thank all those taxpayers who will be making it possible for me to afford the best lawyers around. When I am president, I will give everyone a tax holiday for a week.

The media

There is a perception that I regard journalists as devils. This is not true. They are worse than devils. They are like filthy rats that eat the ship they live on and then jump onto another ship when that one starts sinking. I am just one of their ships. They have many. But I am not concerned. I am suing that scoundrel, Zapiro, for R10-million. With the money, I will start my own newspaper and get parliament to pass a law making it compulsory for everyone to read it. Anyone caught buying any other newspaper will be put to death.

Thabo Mbeki

Comrade Thabo and I go back a long way. He is a very dear friend. Two men couldn’t be closer without actually being gay. We are like Caesar and Brutus, Kennedy and Oswald, Martin Luther King and James Earl Ray, Verwoerd and Tsafendas. You get the picture.

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