Month: February 2018

Vat cats, budgets and eejits

Patriotic South Africans are hoping that the VAT increase – the first in 25 years – will once and for all stamp out the poor. The impoverished, however, are resilient as all hell and I fear it will take more than this to put an end to them and their wretched, frugal ways.

I didn’t really want to write about the budget this week for several reasons, one of which is that any talk of finances causes me to lapse into a frightful state. My body continues to function as well as can be expected given the conditions under which it exists, but my brain goes into some kind of anaphylactic shock. This seems to suggest I have an allergy to money, which would explain why I have so little of it.

The other reason is that I associate the word ‘budget’ with pain. I’m not talking about this namby-pamby emotional pain suffered by vegans, poets and women trapped in men’s bodies. I’m talking real physical pain. You see, when I was growing up I was given a paltry amount of pocket money once a week. Within an hour I would have spent half of it on sweets and lost the rest by the end of the day. All my pants had holes in them as a result of the rigorous games of pocket billiards I played before, during and after school and one only had to follow the money to find out where I was.

With my blood sugar levels plummeting, I would approach my father on hands and knees. “Please, Sir, may I have some more?”

After extinguishing his Ritmeester Quick in my ear and delivering a light whipping with his cat ‘o nine tails – a genuine nine-tailed cat bred specifically for the purpose of punishing profligate boys – he pinned me to the floor with his knee and once again explained the importance of budgeting.

Today, after all these years, I only have to hear the word ‘budget’ and I curl up like a pangolin, weeping and shouting that I don’t understand numbers. It’s too terrible for words.

In an attempt to grasp what the VAT increase means, I turned to Twitter, that magnificent, monstrous oracle containing all the truths and all the lies of the world within the infinite depths and darkness of its diabolical bowels.

Zeenat Moorad caught my eye. She’s something called a “money editor” and seemed to want to help halfwits like me to understand. “Folks, the VAT increase works like this: It’s up by 1 percentage point from 14% to 15%, this is an increase of 7.1% in the VAT rate. So the impact is 0.877% increase on what consumers pay.”

I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a little when I read that. I do understand numbers insofar as you get odd ones and even ones. Fractions, though, are among the oddest numbers you can find. They make no sense at all. Ordinary people are unable to grasp the concept of 0.877% and I would like to marry Zeenat Moorad even though it would mean never eating bacon again.

There were others on Twitter who described the VAT increase in language I could understand. One said it was punishing the poor. Union conquistador Zwelinzima Vavi said the entire budget was an attack on the poor. It’s a good thing they’re poor, then. If they could afford decent weapons we’d all be in serious trouble. Mind you, the storming of the Bastille went off rather well and those peasants were armed with nothing more than rusty muskets and pitchforks. Then again, they didn’t have to contend with an unreliable central line to reach Paris. If Metrorail ever gets its act together, that’s the end of parliament.

Turning to our snappily dressed finance minister, Comrade Vavi described Malusi Gigaba in glowing terms. “An illegitimate leader condemned by the courts of our land as a liar who broke his oath of office. Now about to tell workers they will pay for the mess he played a leading role in creating! I feel like vomiting right here in parliament!” That’s glowing so fiercely it’s damn near ready to explode.

My attention was snared by another, altogether more serious, tweet. “He has taken our beer away from us,” it read. My scream set the neighbour’s dogs off. Judging by his svelte shape, Gigaba is not a man who regularly enjoys a case or two of Windhoek’s finest of an evening. In fact, he has the body of a teenage girl and the truth is I envy him. But how dare he. How very dare he.

Drinking during the Mandela years was a vice. Drinking during Zuma’s reign of error was a survival mechanism. From April 1, a bottle of wine will cost 22.5c more. I don’t care. Wine is an appalling habit. It makes your mouth turn inside out and the morning after drinking the filth you often find you have broken out in bruises and flesh wounds.

Beer goes up by 14c a can. I don’t know what that works out per case. You’d need to have studied maths at Harvard to do that kind of calculation. But it’s a lot. You’re going to find many more people doing their drinking inside bottle store fridges, I can tell you.

As for the rest, I don’t give a damn about the price of cigars and cigarettes. I used to smoke but gave it up when I realised that if I wanted help in killing myself, I’d rather give my money to Mikey Schultz than a tobacco company.

Bad news for car thieves is that the fuel levy is going up by 22c a litre. Nobody understands how this works. I have never filled up my car and then deducted the levy so that I know what petrol would cost without it. I have never filled up my car. The Road Accident Fund will go up by 30c a litre. This is also built into the petrol price increase because without petrol you wouldn’t have accidents. I have never benefitted from the Road Accident Fund but I certainly intend to. I’m just waiting for the right moment to crash into something that will leave me sufficiently maimed to guarantee enough of a payout that I don’t have to keep writing rubbish for a living.

Once again there is no tax break on books. This is a good thing. An educated nation is a dangerous nation. Once they start reading, there’s no telling what they might learn. They might, for instance, discover that anarchy doesn’t mean rioting in the streets but is in fact a valid political philosophy where people reject authority and instead opt for self-rule. Imagine there’s no government. It’s easy if you try. Sadly, we live in a country where people can’t even control their dogs, let alone themselves.

Estate duty tax is being raised to 25% for estates greater than R30-million. There’s something wrong with you if you die with that kind of money in the bank. Well, I suppose there was something wrong with you, what with being dead and all. But what the hell happened? Couldn’t you spend it all? It’s just not right. Death is not enough. You deserve to be penalised further.

Someone in Gigaba’s office who knows his way around a calculator has worked out that South Africa will need to borrow R224.2-billion this year. And I thought I was bad with money. Quite frankly, I don’t know why they don’t just print more of the stuff.



Throw them to the lions

I was woken by church bells last Thursday morning. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue and the birds seemed happier than usual. I could hear the sound of children laughing. It felt as if I were living in a village in Palermo and the Godfather, a ruthless man disliked by all, had died during the night.

Post-celebratory hangover notwithstanding, waking up to a South Africa without Jacob Zuma was intoxicating. Then, later in the day when Cyril Ramapahosa was sworn in as president, the sense of a fresh beginning was overwhelming. It was like the birth of a new nation. I got a glimpse of how lapsed Christians must feel when they return to the fold after running out of money for drugs. We are born-again South Africans. Halleluja.

Even the Hawks have discovered, to their surprise, that they were capable of removing their blinders all along. Their wings have grown stiff over the years but it seems they still remember how to fly.

Zuma was pushed onto his sword, an unusual way for any president to leave office. Then again, he was hardly a conventional president. For a start he showed no obvious interest in politics, which is rare for a politician. We know what made the man happy. Sex, money and overseas travel. The same goes for all of us, I suppose, but we’re not in charge of running a country. Most of us couldn’t have done any worse than Zuma, quite frankly.

I believe him when he says he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. The ANC won’t tell him and nor will they tell us. The ex-president’s pet poison dwarf, Jessie Duarte, told journalists during her post-resignation hagiographic eulogy that she wasn’t going to give reasons for his recall because the media is “not known for being sensitive” and for caring about the feelings of people and their families. I laughed so hard that beer spurted from my nose.

The fact that Zuma is genuinely puzzled about his recall was evident when he chose to go on live television and complain to an SABC reporter about his unfair treatment. He seriously believed that he could win support by whining to the nation. That’s us, by the way. The people who have wanted him gone for far longer than his own party has. He was appealing to the most hostile audience imaginable, which supports my theory that he honestly believes he is loved by everyone apart from a handful of dissidents led by Cyril Ramaphosa.

There has been so much lyin’ going on lately that at some point my attention turned to lions, who hardly ever lie. They pretend a fair bit, though. Nothing to see here, Miss Springbok. I’m not a lion, I’m a termite mound. Zuma, on the other hand, has been pretending to be a lion and it turns out that he was a termite mound all along. Full of venal, corrupt termites, some of which managed to gnaw their way into the cabinet. This is why it’s full of dead wood today.

We all know about termites like Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, Faith Muthambi, Lynne Brown, Mosebenzi Zwane, the list goes on, and it’s only right that the cabinet be fumigated to rid us of their insatiable ilk. But there are others who aren’t necessarily chewing their way through the fabric of our body politic. These ones are just as dangerous. They are, simply put, not very bright. I suspect this was part of Zuma’s strategy. Deploy the sluggish termites to slow bureaucracy down not so much that the economy grinds to a halt, but just enough to allow the industrious termites to latch on to the money streams and start the pilfering process.

To be honest, I don’t know if they work in concert. There are many perfect examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in almost every government department, but it could be that these deployees aren’t necessarily corrupt. They’re just morons. One of these happens to be our environmental affairs minister. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know her name. It’s only because she’s not overtly a part of the state capture brigade. She’s one of the other termites. Edna Molewa is there to think slowly, act slowly and take decisions based on how she’s feeling that day.

She’s keen on selling our rhino horn stockpile, has granted emissions compliance exemptions to dozens of companies, including Eskom, and, in her previous portfolio, blamed wet coal for the electricity blackouts which, as we now know, was caused by the Guptas. My fear is that in Cyril’s rush to get rid of the rapacious termites, he will overlook bumbling imbeciles like Edna.

In terms of importance, the government ranks environmental affairs down there with sport and recreation. Edna seems to think it’s lame to protect stuff like animals and the climate. Take lions, for instance. I’ve never met Edna but from what I have read it seems unlikely she’s a cat person.

Members of the Arizona-based Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club are also not cat people. They are not even animal people, unless by animal people you mean people who pay money to murder animals just for the hell of it. And yet both organisations recently condemned the hunting of captive-bred lions, something they had no problem with for years. I don’t know why the sudden change of attitude. A lot of states are legalising weed these days. Maybe they were high.

The SCI banned the marketing of canned lion hunts through the organisation and notified its hunters and clients that trophies from captive-bred lion hunts would be ineligible for the club’s macabre Record Book which lists members who have killed the biggest/smallest/most species.

The equally bloodthirsty Dallas Safari Club said there was no evidence that captive-bred lion hunting contributed to the conservation of wild lions. So there it is. Even Donald Trump’s people think it’s wrong. Not our Edna, though.

“A barbaric and morally repugnant relic of colonialism that is out of step with 21st century forward thinking.” No, former Australian minister Greg Hunt wasn’t describing Helen Zille. He was talking about canned lion hunting.

Confronted with a global backlash against the practice of domesticating lions, then shooting them in the face when they come up to you for a cuddle, our Edna gave it some thought. Her mouth fell open and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. A passing tick bird landed on her nose and gave her teeth a quick clean. Her think over, she decided that all lions were fair game and it didn’t really matter that their bones were being sold to criminal networks in Asia.

Responding to questions from Durban-based journalist Simon Bloch, Edna’s spokesman Albi Modise said the department had no intention of stopping hunters from shooting tame lions at close range.

“In light of the fact that South Africa has legislative protection in place for endangered and threatened species and subscribes to the principles of sustainable utilisation of natural resources, there is no reason to prohibit the breeding of lions in captivity for hunting purposes,” he said.

And while our caged lions might be safe from American hunters, there’s a whole new bunch of good old boys with big guns and tiny willies waiting in the wings. They’re going to be coming from Russia, China and Eastern Europe. At least the Americans were only doing it so they could hang a head on their wall. These guys are going to want to eat their kill. Wash it down with a Lion lager.

The Free State is a haven for the captive breeding of lions. Ace Magashule’s province. What a surprise. It was a vile province during apartheid and it’s not much better now. I think KwaZulu-Natal should invade and annex it without delay.

I also think the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa and the SA Predator Association should try to be less neanderthal about the issue. Be less blinded by greed and more open to conservation.

Now that we seem to have found our moral compass after nine lost years, perhaps President Ramaphosa could use it to help civil servants like Edna Molewa find their way out.


The breast and worst of Valentine’s Day

Most women on Valentine’s Day are quite happy to wake up and find a couple of hundred rand on the bedside table. But not Brenda. Oh, no. She woke up and wanted new breasts. “No problem,” I said, getting off the floor upon which I had inexplicably spent the night. “I’ll nip out to the shop and pick some up.”

By the time I left the pub, I had completely forgotten what she wanted so I sent her a Please Call Me. “Breasts,” she snapped. “Chicken or beef?” said I. She pointed out that cows did not have breasts. “On the udder hand, Darren,” I said.

Anyway. Turns out that I had cocked it up as usual. She wanted a completely new set of human breasts and not something smothered in honey and mustard sauce and nibbled on at lunch, although why we couldn’t combine the two was beyond me.

Most women, I imagine, choose the enhancement option in matters this close to the chest. Brenda, however, wanted quite the opposite. Unheard of, where I come from. Come to think of it, given where I come from most things are unheard of. Intellectual gigantism is one of the few conditions my so-called friends don’t suffer from.

To men, the notion of a breast reduction makes about as much sense as gobbling handfuls of Chinese medicine guaranteed to make one’s willie shrink. Ever since we are born we are conditioned to believe that bigger is better – the exception being the willie department. Here, men are more than happy to cling to the unusually charitable Cosmo myth that size doesn’t matter.

The first thing boy babies see when they open their eyes is a giant breast bearing down on them like some godawful Peruvian landslide. It has a tremendous impact on their outlook on life, especially if they are expected to swallow a nipple the size of a bricklayer’s thumb.

I had a friend who claimed that he refused to be breast-fed on the grounds that his mother’s numbies were too small, so he tried to suckle the domestic worker instead. We used to call him Jungle Fever until he started dating black girls. After that, we didn’t call him at all.

I tried telling Brenda that if she really wanted a pair of smaller breasts, there was a far less permanent way of getting them. She headed me off at the pass. “You will never have a threesome for as long as we are married.” I keep a very good divorce lawyer’s number on speed dial for moments like these, but he is only due for release in 2025. By then I expect I shall be more interested in philately than philandery.

And lo, it came to pass that I found myself helping Brenda into a backless gown in the gynae ward of a city hospital. Private, naturally. Go for a boob job at a state hospital and you risk walking out with a size 36C bum.

The week before, she had gone to see a couple of plastic sturgeons. Apparently it’s like getting your car panel-beaten. You need to get at least two quotes. She wasn’t that keen on the first doctor because he specialised in labiaplasty. Can’t blame her, really. Even I think there’s something a little odd about a man who sculpts designer vaginas for a living.

Nurses aren’t what they used to be. The guzzling of ethyl alcohol, the hideous screaming, the broken bottles and the stabbings. Perhaps they weren’t nurses at all. Come to think of it, they didn’t have white clothes. Or teeth. And they were falling about on the pavement outside the hospital.

So I got Brenda into her ridiculous medical frock, all the while trying to talk her out of it. “Listen to me,” I said. “It’s not too late to run.” It’s not as if Brenda had enormous bazookas lashed to her front. Sure, they were more than a handful, but then so is she. Her breasts were fine. It’s her brain that could do with a nip and tuck.

A nurse walked in and began filling in Brenda’s chart. Judging by her questions, I thought she might have been one of the girls I saw in the street. “Where are the pain?” she asked. Brenda explained that she was about to have a breast reduction. “Dids you call a doctor?” I began giggling like a schoolgirl but saved my face by feigning stomach cramps. “Please may I have some pethidine?” I begged. Unfortunately, the nurse had absorbed just enough training to know not to hand out awesome drugs to people who were sitting in the visitor’s chair, even if they were clearly suffering from some sort of paroxysm.

Then the anaesthetist burst in, full of piss and propofol. He offered me a cursory handshake and proceeded to focus all his attention on Brenda. How very dare you, I thought. Why don’t you ask how I’m feeling? Maybe take my blood pressure? For all you know, I’m about to have a stroke. Brenda said later that he seemed nice. Yeah, right. To the bedside manner born.

I swallowed Brenda’s pre-med when she wasn’t looking and slipped out before Dr McDreamy swaggered in, flashing his scalpel and telling my wife to get her babylons out.


Fuck off, cupid

Here’s something I wrote at a time when my so-called marriage was at its best.


Brenda said she wants me to take her out on Valentine’s Day. This puts me in a bit of a dilemma. Should I pay someone to do it or should I do it myself? Purists might say it would be more romantic to take care of something like this personally. But then what do I use? Poison would take too long. A gun is too vulgar. Perhaps a tastefully arranged accident might be best.

Living an increasingly isolated life, I have taken to musing aloud. I find it helps lull my existential crises into a false sense of reality while entertaining the dogs at the same time. Although giving voice to my thoughts goes some way towards reassuring me that I am still of this world, it does land me in a spot of bother now and again.

“Accident?” said Brenda. “What on earth are you on about?” I pretended to have suffered a stroke and began slurring about the clouds in the trees and the birds in my pocket. She was meant to pick up on the aphasia and rush me to the nearest couch, upon which I would weakly request that she bring me beer and switch the channel to Top Gear. Instead, she accused me of being drunk and went off to make a cup of gin for herself.

God know what would happen if I ever had to have a genuine stroke. I’d probably crawl into the kitchen and lie there for days, soiling my broeks and burbling to myself while she stepped over me, reprimanding me for not closing the fridge door.

Anyway. It soon became clear that Brenda was not asking me to Kebble her. She wanted me to take her out in a far less permanent manner. To dinner, for instance. Given restaurant prices these days, it would have been cheaper to have her whacked. I watched her face to see if I had said that aloud but there was no reaction. Then again, she doesn’t react to a lot of what I say.

Valentine’s Day? Really? In a country where a woman can cut open a pregnant mother’s stomach, killing her and stealing her unborn child, and yet we’re more shocked by an increase in the petrol price? Yeah, baby! Bring on the roses and shower me with champagne.

One does not, however, wish to be the curmudgeonly grinch who pours acid rain on the happy parade. There will be festivities today and this is how it should be. It has been this way ever since a clasp of Christians called Valentine were martyred on or about the date in question. Fourteen of them, at last count. Back then, the name Valentine must have been the equivalent of John.

“This is our seventeenth bloody kid. What the hell are we going to call this one?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. You keep making me pregnant, you name him.”

“Right. Valentine he is, then. I’m off to the tavern.”

Saint Valentine’s Day was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. This dude rocked. For a start, he was of African origin. He probably wanted an entire month set aside for candle-lit dinners and unbridled fornicating. On the other hand, he did suppress the festival of Lupercalia, which makes me think he wasn’t as African as he made out to be. Lupercalia was celebrated by degenerate young nobles who would run through Rome naked, striking those they met with shaggy thongs. Girls would line up to be lashed to ensure fertility.

Pope Gelasius was an idiot. He should have stuck with it. I would far rather stay home and be whipped with a shaggy thong than trundle off to a pretentious restaurant, make small talk with a woman I don’t care for, pay a fortune for a meal I never wanted, then get arrested for drunk driving on the way home and sodomised by a fighting general in the 28s. But that’s just me.

Then, in 1969, a grumpy old man by the name of Pope Paul VI deleted St Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of saints. With the stroke of his pen, he kicked Cupid in the kidneys and opened the way for Hallmark to flood the world with their nausea-inducing cards.

Hallmark’s V-Day page says, “Valentine’s Day is for saying I Love Us.” What they hell are they trying to pull here? The message was always, “I love you.” What is this “us” business? Why are they screwing with the message? What are they saying? I love us, but I sure don’t love them? Who are them? Maybe them be those who don’t buy Hallmark cards.

Love is no longer the all-embracing thing it once was and it’s fair to say the world changed forever when, on a sultry summer afternoon in a San Francisco bathhouse, a small green simian sweet-talked his way into having hot monkey sex with two men wearing little more than moustaches.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Use a condom.


A final letter to Msholozi


Dear President Zuma,

I have become accustomed to congratulating you on one or other of your remarkable successes – whether it be state capture or simply the acquisition of a fresh wife – and it grieves me terribly to have to offer condolences this time around.

It is always sad when a democracy loses its president at the hands of a political lynch mob instead of at the polls. When presidents are removed in dictatorships, they at least go out in a blaze of glory. With a bang rather than a whimper, as it were. Although I dare say even courageous leaders like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi might have indulged in a spot of whimpering at the end.

I have to admit that at the time of writing this you were still pulling a Mugabe and refusing to budge. I guess I’m approaching you with the optimistic assumption that it’s just a matter of time.

If you still intend resigning – and it seems to me that Monday’s NEC meeting is a massive incentive – let me assure you that there is no shame in it. I have resigned from several jobs over the years. Sure, impeachment wasn’t my only other option. Nor was getting hounded out of the office by angry, disillusioned colleagues.

When I read last week that your pet poison dwarf Jessie Duarte had said a clear decision on your fate was urgent, I knew the cat was truly among the pigeons. The ANC’s top six do not use words like “decision” and “urgent” unless something pretty damn serious is about to happen to one of their own.

Then the quisling Baleka Mbete, who tried so hard to protect you in parliament for so long, turned on you and announced that your State of the Nation Address was being postponed. To her credit, she was kind enough to make out that this was at your request. Everyone knows it wasn’t, though. But that’s okay. When you’re cornered by a buffalo, you do whatever it takes to stay alive.

It’s a shame, really. That would have been your last opportunity to speak to the nation. To remind us, in your own unique somnambulist style, of how much the ANC has done for the country. I never tire of hearing the good stories. Every year it’s the same and every year it sounds like I’ve never heard it before. Perhaps I keep falling asleep. It’s not you, comrade. It’s a biological survival mechanism.

I was so hoping you would complete your term in office, not only because you provide a constant source of material and even income for struggling satirists and cartoonists, but also because … no, that’s it.

You have always insisted you’ve done nothing wrong and that the people love you. I made the mistake of thinking the same about a girlfriend once. It turned out that she loathed me. I completely misread the signals, as you seem to have done. To be fair, you only ever watch ANN7, read the New Age newspaper and surround yourself with people devoted to osculating your gluteus maximus. Given these quixotic conditions, how on earth were you to know how unpopular you had become?

What a pity you never really got the chance to experience what it must feel like to run the country. Right from the start you were fighting a rearguard action to stay out of court and there’s been no time for anything else. As a taxpayer, I have contributed substantially to your legal fees and I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but if you do go to jail, you can expect an invoice from me.

Listen, I was wondering about that meeting you had the other day with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. I’m in Cape Town at the moment and at some point will need to return to my home in Durban for a glass of water and a bath. I need to know that it will be safe. If you and the King are planning to secede the province and unleash the Amabutho, please let me know. I have seen the movie Shaka Zulu and, quite frankly, I have no wish to end up like Michael Caine with an assegai up my bum.

A lot of people are wondering how you managed to convince Cyril Ramaphosa – the pretender to the throne; the Capulet to your Montague – to give you a stay of execution by postponing last week’s NEC meeting. I don’t want to imagine that you both stripped off, coated yourselves in baby oil and wrestled for it. Damn. Now I am imagining it.

Not only did you get him to call the dogs off, but you also gave him a list of conditions to meet before you’d even consider stepping down. That takes audacity to entirely new levels.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed that you had about as much negotiating power as a frog dangling from a heron’s beak. Your options, on the surface, were to resign, be recalled by the party or face a vote of no confidence in parliament. Finishing your term seemed not to be among the options. And yet there you are, still behind your desk.

The NEC has turned into a nest of vipers and even in the top six you can count on the support of just the poison dwarf and Ace “Dairy Queen” Magashule. That’s not enough. You’ve already survived eight votes of no confidence in parliament. Cats and people like you get nine lives only. You wouldn’t want to risk it. Not with the likes of Vladimir Putin waiting to have a quiet word with you. And let’s not forget that your tame penguin in the NPA, Shaun Abrahams, could well drift off with the prevailing current.

I have to say, Jake old buddy, you really are something else. Africa has never seen a leader quite like you. You are neither democrat nor dictator. You are a man of the people with no mandate from the people. You literally laugh in the face of adversity. By tarnishing the reputation of the ANC, you single-handedly succeeded where the National Party failed. And that’s quite an achievement, particularly since it was done inadvertently.

Dragging a once-respected liberation movement’s name through the mud was merely collateral damage in your headlong pursuit of wealth. I don’t judge you, Jake. We’re all after money. What is perhaps more surprising is that so many of your comrades either turned a blind eye or helped you in your quest. That’s genuine loyalty, that is.

In the political milieu, you have redefined concepts like honesty, commitment and sacrifice. And, thanks to you, ubuntu now translates as, “I am rich because you are a Gupta.”

Don’t feel bad, though. You’ve had a damn fine innings. Longer than your predecessor, that’s for sure. You have travelled the world, met some interesting people from India, own a lovely property in Nkandla and have a bit of cash in your pocket. You’ve done very well, Jake. All you have to do now is stay out of prison. By the way, if you had to look up the word schadenfreude in the dictionary right now, you’d see a picture of Thabo Mbeki.

I want to see you and your old financial advisor kiss and make up. Play a round of golf together. Buy him a meal. It’s the least you can do. After all, it was because of you that Schabir spent a week or so in prison where he contracted a fatal illness which, miraculously, has improved his handicap.

So there’s only one question now, really. Is it better to jump or be pushed? Can’t help you there, old friend. Whatever you decide, it’s a long way to the bottom. Tuck and roll, Jake. Tuck and roll.

Day Zero’s bubble bursting bonanza


The water crisis in Cape Town isn’t all doom and gloom.

I saw a newspaper headline this week that said, “Drought could damage property values.” This is excellent news for everyone who isn’t an estate agent or a homeowner who might be thinking of selling. I don’t own property in Cape Town because I never listened to my mother when I left school and became a journalist instead and now it’s too late.

I couldn’t afford to buy a place when I first came to the Mother City in 1998 to help start up news, so I became a serial renter. Then, in 2004, just when I thought I might be able to get a small place of my own, property prices went utterly berserk. Virtually overnight, estate agents went from vulpine Mazda-driving gin junkies to vulpine BMW-driving champagne junkies. Not all of them, obviously, but certainly the ones who scavenge along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Over the festive season Pam Golding sold property along this gilded seam of ocean frontage worth R167-million. That’s pretty damn festive. It was their busiest December ever. A parking bay was sold for R1.65-million.

The agency’s area manager said despite the water crisis they were still seeing “keen interest from buyers looking for trophy properties”. And why not? If foreigners with tiny willies can bag a lion as a trophy, why can’t they also bag a mansion in Clifton? Actually, many of the buyers are from Gauteng. A trophy house to go with the trophy wife, perhaps.

Since arriving in Cape Town I’ve been behind the curve in every successive property boom. Truth is, it’s just been one long endless sonic boom driven by a real estate industry gone insane with hubris and greed.

Owner: My place isn’t much but I’m hoping to get R700-thousand.

Agent: Don’t be ridiculous. There are people who will pay R3-million for it.

Owner: Are you on drugs?

Agent: Shut up and take the money.

And so the bar for entry was raised sharply and savagely, quickly outstripping the ability of workers, shirkers, revolutionaries and right-brained romantics to get a foot in the door. Hell, by the time the rapacious feeding frenzy had subsided to a dull roar, we couldn’t even get a toehold.

Now, thanks to the lack of divine intervention, things are looking up.

“Drought could damage property values.”

That headline, were it written by a well marinated subeditor with anarchist tendencies, might just as easily have read, “Drought could slash property prices to realistic levels.” But there are no more anarchist subeditors. In fact, there are no more subeditors. They’ve all been darted and sent to the knacker’s yard in the unholy name of cutting back on costs. Let me not get distracted.

The story started off well. There were no typos or grammatical errors. Perhaps there is one subeditor left, banished to a corner of the newsroom where he sits rotting quietly from prolonged exposure to weak grammar and strong alcohol.

However, before the paragraph was out, I was reeling and confused. Because I had been drinking? Perhaps. I prefer to blame the paragraph. Let’s see what you make of it.

“For as long as the Western Cape’s water situation remains unresolved, the property market could take a knock in the short term and first-time buyers could face even higher prices.”

Perhaps it is the alcohol. It has, after all, a bit of a reputation for interfering with one’s thought processes, especially those deployed to the common sense department.

I have become increasingly reluctant to read beyond the first paragraph of any news story. No good can come of it. It will leave you feeling homicidal or suicidal. Sometimes both. Most of the time I get by on a quick scan of the headlines. So it was with long teeth that I read further.

“The influx of property investors is expected to slow.” All well and good. I’ve never been a big fan of these people. They rarely live in their investments, preferring to leave them shuttered up and empty or rented out to nouveau riche white trash who made their money through contract killings, wine farms or medical aid schemes.

Right off the bat, the director of a real estate company said there was “little evidence” that the drought would affect “Cape Town’s buoyant property market”. He would say that, though, wouldn’t he? If you were thinking of buying a house in Cape Town, isn’t this the kind of reassurance you’d want to hear? As opposed to, say, reading a notice from the municipality that from April everyone in the city will be expected to defecate in a bag and wash themselves with sand.

It’s no secret that estate agents have their own unique conception of ethics and truth – a crack house is a renovator’s dream, a vibrant neighbourhood is one where the police and ambulance sirens play all night long and a slight sea view involves standing on the bog and leaning out of the window in the guest toilet.

Claiming the drought won’t affect the property market is like the black knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail getting his arm chopped off and insisting that it’s just a flesh wound.

Perhaps sensing the need to dilute his denial with a dash of honesty, the director admitted that sales in the middle to upper end of the market might start to slow. “This means we’re not going to have as many affluent Joburgers and Durbanites driving demand for luxury property and prices could take a slight knock in the short term,” he conceded through clenched teeth.

Affluent Durbanites? Oxymorons notwithstanding, anyone properly born and bred in Durban isn’t driving demand for luxury property in Cape Town. They are driving to Blue Lagoon for a bunny or to the airport to emigrate to Australia.

Then he said something that had me scratching my head, bollocks and cat. Not all at once, obviously. He said that if the “double-figure capitalisation in property over the last two years is left unchecked, there is a risk that property values would lose touch with their underlying economic fundamentals and we’d end up in a bubble situation”.

The reporter, I imagine, reacted much like I did. A bit of slow nodding, some drooling, a vegetative state and then brain death. The reporter dragged himself back from the brink. Something had been troubling him from the start. Why would a water crisis mean even higher prices for first-time buyers?

“The first is the likely influx of people that we’re going to see coming to Cape Town to look for work, as our outlying rural and agricultural areas take strain.”

Either the subeditor blacked out at this point and deleted a bunch of words with his face or the reporter, like me, abandoned all hope of making sense of anything and went drinking. The story wrapped up with quotes from the regional head of another agency.

Hedging his bets like a true professional, he said it was too soon to say whether the crisis would affect people’s decisions to buy in Cape Town. “A contained situation for a few months will not impact the long-term desirability of living in Cape Town, but a prolonged situation would temporarily impact sentiment and valuations in the short term.”

It’s a sentence wringing its hands, drenched in false optimism and crippled with contradictions. For a start, the situation is nowhere near contained. If anything, we have a container situation. I don’t even have a bucket.

The chairman of a Western Cape property forum had the last word. “For now things are still good, but we expect that it might change for the worse as the industry is water dependent.” Nonsense. If anything, the real estate industry is tonic dependent.

Gin and water is an abomination.