Bell Pottinger – experts in reputation damagement

Dear Victoria Geoghegan, Doyenne of Public Relations, Lion of Bell Pottinger, Doctor of Spin and Master of Mass Distraction,

On behalf of all South Africans apart from those who hate you, allow me to thank you for the sterling work you have done to drive a wedge between our people. I appreciate that it was not an easy assignment. In 1994 Nelson Mandela set about trying to bring black and white, rich and poor, closer together. Sadly, his example was followed by a few others in the years to come, ultimately making your job so much more difficult.

It was only in January last year that you met with Comrade Duduzane, the number one son of our illustrious president Jacob Zuma. You weren’t to know that the liberal snowflakes in our ridiculously free press would get wind of your noble venture and conspire to paint you as a rapacious, unprincipled carpetbagger from the north. It is these malcontents in the media who, when one of their kind drags herself from the swamp and announces that she’s taking a job in public relations, move to stand upwind and denounce her as having crossed to the dark side.

I am sure you are familiar with this term and doubt that it gives you sleepless nights. Good for you. I’m also a huge fan of the dark side. Too much light hurts my eyes and integrity gives me a headache. Let us not even speak of truth, that slippery scoundrel who delights in nothing more than playing one side off another. Loyalty, as you and I know, Victoria, comes at a price. In your case, your price was in the vicinity of R24-million.

Your invoice was mailed to someone in the vicinity of Dubai. When I say someone, I obviously mean Salim Essa, trusted lieutenant in the Gupta crime family who selflessly work day and night to economically liberate South Africa for the good of all who live in her. By all, I obviously mean all the Guptas and all the Zumas. In my book, that’s not a crime. Unlike state capture, which, as we now know thanks to you, is nothing but a cunning construct of the evil Johann Rupert and his band of billionaire brigands.

So what did you think of Duduzane? No flies on that lad. They wouldn’t dare. I like him. He has a perfect set of teeth through which he lies flawlessly. He also recently acquired a bride and fathered a child almost simultaneously. Different women, obviously. He learnt from the best.

Did you know he recently bought an R18-million apartment in Dubai? Of course you do. You’ve probably attended one of his glittering soirees. Lucky girl. Did they serve your favourite dish, red herrings?

Geoghegan. Is that Lithuanian? I don’t mean this as an insult. It’s just that there’s something very Baltic about your strategy when it comes to South Africa.

In one of your early emails to Duduzane, you correctly pointed out that a lot of criticism was being aimed at President Zuma and, by extension, the ANC itself. This was obviously an untenable situation, especially when an account potentially worth many millions was at stake.

“There is a need,” you said, “to explain in clear, unambiguous language that it is vital ‘economic emancipation’ is addressed.” Have you been to my country? I expect you have. How else would you have known that South Africans were likely to miss the point entirely unless clear and unambiguous language was used? We’re not very bright.

Your next couple of sentences were sublime. “The people of South Africa need to be told that their dissatisfaction is being heard and that concrete actions are being, or will be taken, to address them. In addressing this issue, the language and psychology used will be crucial.”

With that, your campaign to divide the races and distract the masses was up and running. It was you who came up with immortal phrases like ‘white monopoly capital’ and ‘radical economic transformation’. Money well spent, in my view. You were taking a bit of a chance using words of four syllables, though. As it turned out, even unreconstructed idiots like the ANC Youth League’s Collen Maine could get his swollen tongue around these awesome slogans.

You wouldn’t be where you are today, Victoria, if you weren’t a master at playing the long game. I particularly liked this bit. “For this campaign to be believed and to achieve credibility there will need to be discipline, continuity and consistency over a period, ideally running up to the 2017 elections and beyond.” Your stirring words remind me of another superhero, Buzz Lightyear, who once cried, “To infinity and beyond!” Unlike you, Buzz wasn’t solely motivated by commercial imperatives. I expect he died intestate with nobody but Sheriff Woody and Slinky Dog at his graveside. What a loser.

One of the mistakes you might have made was to think that discipline, continuity and consistency were even possible in a rogue state like South Africa. By this I mean a state full of rogues, most of whom are investigative journalists who drink too much and care little for the dark art of ‘reputation management’.

In that email to Duduzane, you said, “The key to any political messaging is repetition and we will need to use every media channel that we can, to let our message take seed and to grow.” Duduzane should have told you that with the mad emperor Hlaudi Motsoeneng out of the picture, you could rely on just one newspaper and a single TV station. And, obviously, a handful of cabinet ministers, a few hundred mid-level bureaucrats, some parliamentarians, a bunch of businessmen and, of course, a president.

It wasn’t enough, Victoria. But you know that now. We all know. Tragically, your dream of taking your campaign to the ANC elections in December and your clients to the cleaners was doomed to crash and burn. Bell Pottinger promised to “package the narrative into speeches, press releases, website content, videos/broadcast content, slogans and any other material required”, but it was all too fast and way too much. Your campaign was like an overloaded taxi guaranteed to break down on the side of the road.

You told Duduzane it was “critical that the narrative grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it, and feel united by it”. Sounds good on paper, but did Duduzane not tell you that the best way to grab the attention of the grassroots population is to offer them a Streetwise Two and a quart of Zamalek?

So. The old bait-and-switch, hey? Smoke and mirrors. Look at my eyes, don’t watch my hands. All tried and tested by those who have lived and died in the trenches of propaganda and puffery. And why not? If it worked for Joseph Goebbels, a pioneer of the public relations industry, why wouldn’t it work for Bell Pottinger?

Apart from offering the use of a team made up of the likes of Tony Blair’s political advisor (you might want to rethink that in future), you tossed Lord Bell himself into the mix as a sweetener. He will, you promised, be available for strategic counsel as and when required. I might be wrong, but I struggle to imagine the Lord voluntarily relinquishing his gin and tonic at the East India Club to come and help you and the lads resurrect the decomposing reputations of the Guptas and the Zumas.

You even offered “other divisions should we need a wider skillset”. Good heavens. Like what? The Royal Shakespeare Company? The Light Dragoons? Skinheads from Whitechapel? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you had reserves. Perhaps you should have deployed them before the cat was presented with an opportunity to leave the bag.

You were so concerned about the future of South Africa and its people that you almost forgot to mention anything about payment. But then you did. “Bell Pottinger is keen to build a long-term partnership with you. Given our deeper understanding of the assets you have at your disposal, we envisage an initial five-month project at a fee of £100 000 per month, excluding costs.” Seems fair. Especially considering that the assets Duduzane has at his disposal are basically the entire contents of our treasury.

Anyway. I must go and lie down. Knysna has been gutted, Cape Town has been washed into the sea and Helen Zille has gone mad. Send my regards to your friend Max Clifford. Good man, that. Well, apart from being a paedophile. You probably won’t see Max though. I imagine you’ll be going to a different facility. New Hall women’s prison, probably. Not to worry.

Just think of all those potential new clients.

Trump scores own coal

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Global warming could wipe out three quarters of all species. Is this really such a terrible thing? I wouldn’t complain if climate change saw an end to, say, mosquitoes, hadedas and sharks. Or anything, really, that thinks it can bite me or shout at me before the sun even rises. I’m including an ex-girlfriend here.

There is only one species of human – two if you include women – but at least nine million species of crawling, flying, jumping, swimming things in the bush and oceans. And every one of them wants us dead, make no mistake. We’re the ones who are endangered here.

There are loads of species we’ve never even set eyes on and I don’t see the point of keeping them around. If we can’t throw them bits of bread, take pictures of them, make them do tricks or eat them, they’re useless to us. There are microorganisms so small that you can’t see them even when they wear their bright yellow jumpsuits and play the harpsichord on Saturday nights. Bacteria pretend to be on our side, but they’re not. We must kill them before they kill us.

So when I heard that America’s pre-pubescent president had pulled his country out of the Paris Climate Accord, I broke out the tequila, turned up the music and danced with the cat until the noise woke the hadedas. See how they like it.

America joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries out of 195 who want nothing to do with this filthy accord. If you’re a true patriot, you will support these three countries at every turn. Invest in Nicaragua. Take your holidays in Syria. Sing the Star Spangled Banner before going to work. It’s the right thing to do.

Donald the Magnificent once said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. In other words, climate change is not real. Like goats. Or the moon. His supporters understand this kind of language. Evolution is a hoax. Vaccines are the devil’s work. Barack Obama is a lizard. The pope is a Muslim. Guns don’t kill people. America is finally in safe hands. The tiny hands of a man who falls asleep in mid-Tweet, god bless his swollen Christian heart.

One of the goals of this fake climate pact is to keep global temperatures from rising by 2ºC. With the exception of my second wife, I have never come across such selfishness. Four million people live in the Arctic region. It drops to -40 in January. But even though the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, it’s just not fast enough. Those who live there have to stick lighted matches into their eyes to unfreeze their eyeballs in the morning. Do you think they’re against planet-warming emissions? Of course not. So let’s help our Eskimo brothers, or whatever the hell they call themselves, by spraying aerosols into the air and putting those yummy chlorofluorocarbons to work.

Donald is making Europe nervous. This is a good thing. For too long Europe has annoyed us with their strong currency, efficient public transport and bloody-minded insistence on speaking languages that aren’t English or even Zulu. Addressing last week’s G7 meeting, Germany’s vivacious president Angela Merkel said, “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over.” This, with typical Teutonic subtlety, was aimed squarely at America. I imagine Comrade Trump was delighted to hear that fewer people were relying on him.

Six of the G7 countries claim to understand the importance of combating the depraved myth known as climate change. If they wanted Donald to also understand, they should’ve given him an animated cartoon of ice caps melting and Manhattan being flooded. Maybe with a cute squirrel narrating. They only have themselves to blame, with their big words and fancy pants logic.

Big Don has always vowed to jumpstart America’s economy. He has already tried to do this by connecting the positive red to the positive Russians and the negative black to … I don’t know. I don’t have all the details. It’s late. Feel free to come up with your own metaphors and analogies.

Somehow the health of the planet became more important than money. I know, Donald. I know. It’s inexplicable to me, too. This foolishness started a long time ago. It goes back to the first Bush. Even the name has ecological connotations. That dynasty of bunny-hugging bohemians set a nasty precedent of bombing our enemies with minimal collateral damage to the environment.

Lyndon B Johnson was on the right track when he ordered napalm to be used on the jungles of Vietnam. Vegetation gets out of hand. It needs to be taught a lesson.

I saw a snake in a tree on Wednesday night while having a beer on my veranda with a friend. He said there was no need to call the police because it was probably a harmless grass snake that had learnt to climb trees. I said it was more likely to be a deadly tree snake and dialled the flying squad. It went to voicemail and I gave up. He said there was no such thing as a tree snake so I told him about the Afrikaans-speaking snakes who go by the gang name of Boomslang and he left shortly afterwards which was good because it meant more beer for me but also bad because if the viper launched an aerial attack I’d have no-one to talk to while I died.

Nobody needs serpents harassing them while they’re drinking and I, for one, urge Agent Orange to issue an executive order stopping this nonsense once and for all. He is the only man with the power to teach nature a lesson from which it will never recover.

Next to himself, Donald loves fossil fuels more than he loves his wife who can’t stand him. The older the fossil, the better it burns. The spine of a brontosaurus can light up the Bronx for a month. Eskom, on the other hand, loves coal almost as much as it loves Brian Molefe. Unlike Molefe, though, there is little chance of coal disappearing.

The hairy-legged, jumper-wearing counter-revolutionaries who dwell among us claim that coal is a finite resource. This is nonsense. Everyone I know has a bag or two of charcoal in their garage. And they know people who know people who have bags of their own. Every petrol station and cafe has lashings of charcoal.  The earth and even most people are made of coal. Je suis carbon.

Our dear friends, the Guptas, own entire mines full of charcoal. These are not people who run out of things, whether it be fuel, money or excuses. And I can’t imagine they’d ever want to put themselves in a position where they might have to tell their adopted family, the Zumas, to either give up meat or start using solar-powered braais.

 

Tiger Woods still tired and emotional

Here’s something I wrote in 2009, the last time Tiger Woods was in the news for something other than golf.

 

Dear Tiger,

It is absolutely outrageous that the filthy lying dogs of the media are saying you came home smelling of some Yiddish tart called Rachel and your wife scratched your face to bits then chased you out of the house and when you tried to escape in your Cadillac you ploughed into a tree because you were whacked on painkillers and your eyes were full of blood and Elin caught up to you and smashed the window with a nine iron and dragged you out of the car and continued to maul you right there on the lawn in front of the neighbours. This kind of speculation makes me sick.

Your version of events, even though you haven’t given it yet, is far more plausible. You woke up in the middle of the night desperate for one of them damn fine Dunkin’ Donuts so you got up quietly so as not to wake your beautiful wife whom you love more than life itself and just as you were pulling away a dog, no, two dogs and a child, ran in front of you, causing you to swerve and hit a fire hydrant and then a tree. Alerted by the noise, your beloved awoke and upon seeing you trapped semi-conscious inside the vehicle after your terrible 3mp/h accident, she grabbed the nearest blunt implement, which in your house would obviously be a golf club, and came to your rescue.

My wife says I am a gullible fool and that you were clearly up to your elbows in un-American activities. I find it easier on the kidneys if I agree with her, so I am changing my story. You idiot! What on earth were you thinking? Whatever possessed you to marry a white woman? Did your mother not warn your about this? I know white women. Trust me when I say they are almost always more trouble than they are worth. Out here in the bush, many of our politicians have dozens of wives each and you never hear about marital problems. Why? Because they marry darkies, that’s why.

Look, I’m also a sucker for Swedes. Who isn’t? But as you have discovered, it’s not all hot monkey sex in the sauna and rolling about naked in the snow beating one another with birch branches. These people are Vikings, for heaven’s sake. They are natural born rapists and pillagers. Cross them and they will be at your throat in an instant.

If, on the other hand, this is a publicity stunt, then I have to say you have outdone yourself. Many of us have long suspected that you were some kind of Microsoft robot or alien from another galaxy. Nobody could be that perfect. My racist friend Ted always said your only discernible flaw was that you were black but after you made your first billion nobody even noticed that anymore.

Perhaps you decided to do something outrageous to make yourself seem human. Unlike Britney Spears, you could hardly dismount from your golf cart at the US Masters and give the paparazzi a clear shot at your gentleman’s region. So you did the next best thing – stage an affair with a sultry temptress from New York City. Classy. I like it. Did it slip your mind to tell Elin that the entire business was a PR hoax?

Whatever you do, don’t speak to the cops. Look what they did to OJ. Next thing you know, you’re up on charges of murdering half the neighbourhood. You can come and stay with us for a while. I instructed Brenda to get the spare room ready but she threatened to disembowel me with a screwdriver. That’s white women for you.

Anyway, good luck with whatever the hell it is you’re up to.

Yours at the 19th hole,

Ben Trovato

Dirty, rotten scoundrels

Lying is the new truth. Girls are the new boys. Dogs are the new cats. It occurs to me that I can write any gibberish and get away with it because nobody can tell the difference or perhaps even gives a damn.

This past week, Eskom’s dissembling chair Dr Ben Ngubane and our ethically flaccid myrmidon of an energy minister appeared before a parliamentary committee and performed the foxtrot, waltz, tango and samba – all from a sitting position. The room was awash in sophistry and subterfuge when Ngubane lifted his hands like some kind of wounded messiah. “Give us the benefit of the doubt,” he wheedled. The longest of shots with nary a blush in sight.

What does this man have a doctorate in? Audacity? Shamelessness? Was he genuinely impervious to the cloying stench of doubt that pervaded the room, let alone the country, or does he simply think we’re all complete idiots? Like most wannabe messiahs, a bit of both, I expect.

Meanwhile, above the rattle and hum of overheated shredding machines at Megatwatt Park, liquidators appointed to wind up a mining company owned by Ngubane and his wife Sheila are proceeding with a court application in which they accuse the couple of using fake documents to personally lay claim to the lucrative mining rights.

A little more of that yummy benefit, sir? Perhaps drizzled in dashed expectations with a splash of misplaced trust?

I feel ill. Let’s move on to matters marginally less nauseating but equally repellent. The tripartite alliance, once hailed as the great unifier of workers, socialists and the exploited – everyone apart from white people, in other words – has almost overnight been reduced to the ANC standing bewildered in the middle of the ballroom wondering where its dancing partners have gone.

Cosatu has made it clear to President Jacob Zuma that he should stop checking his in-box for invitations to their insurrectionist soirees. The Communist Party, clinging to the teachings of some of history’s most impressive mass murderers, moves upwind whenever Zuma’s name is mentioned. The churches have Elysium-mailed a photo of the president to St Peter so that he can stick it up on the Pearly Gates in the event that Zuma, post mortem, manages to bribe his way out of hell. The veterans and stalwarts are rattling their Zimmer frames. The deputy president thinks we’re becoming a mafia state and wants a judicial commission of inquiry. And the general populace, among whom I reluctantly count myself, can do nothing more than shake its head and order another round.

The ANC says the confederacy of dunces formerly known as the tripartite alliance “is founded on a common commitment to the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution”. Right now I don’t have the energy to research these so-called objectives. Quite frankly, I’m struggling to make it to the fridge and back. I imagine, though, that they don’t involve selling the country to a sprawling family of robber barons from Uttar Pradesh.

Political analysts keep saying that Zuma is against the ropes. That this or the other latest scandal is the one which will bring him to his knees. But it never happens. A long time ago, when he ditched all pretense at being an honourable man, Zuma adopted what’s known in legal circles as the Stalingrad defence. Here’s the definition.

“This is a strategy of wearing down the plaintiff by tenaciously fighting anything the plaintiff presents by whatever means possible and appealing every ruling favourable to the plaintiff. Here, the defendant does not present a meritorious case. This tactic or strategy is named for the Russian city besieged by the Germans in World War II.”

As we all know, or, in my case, as I’ve just learnt, the Nazis got their arses handed to them in a battle that lasted just over five months. Today the city is known as Volgograd.

In South Africa, where Bolsheviks and Nazis shop side by side in Woolworths, the forces of democracy are bravely fighting the Battle of State Capture. One day, Zuma’s name, like that of Stalingrad, might also be changed. My personal preference is inmate #1/9/2017.

The ANC’s national executive committee is meeting as we speak. Well, as you speak. I live alone and don’t speak much at all. I’m just sitting here on a broken chair hoping that I can finish this column before the beer runs out.

The NEC is a big organ with lots of members. And while Zuma has lots of organs and a big member, the NEC has the power to end his career as commander-in-thief. They did it before to Thabo Mbeki. In terms of ethics and morality, Mbeki was like Jesus compared to Zuma.

Thing is, experts say, not that we can believe a word anyone says any more, that Zuma has the support of at least 60% of the NEC. These are the patriots who saved his Teflon-coated skin in November last year. According to the ANC’s website, which I eventually managed to access after threatening to take Telkom to the International Court of Justice, the NEC has 107 members, 21 of whom are ex-officio members. I don’t know what that means. Maybe they have to bring their own lunch. Among them are cabinet ministers and members of parliament, all of whom are going to have to vote in an upcoming motion of no confidence in the president. Unless, of course, the NEC does the right thing this weekend.

The party’s incomprehensible secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, says that voting against the president would be a betrayal of the ANC and that the party needs to deal with its problems internally. There we go, then. The old organised conspiracy theorist subculture. The illness, if it even exists, will be treated from within. Vaccinations cause disease. Blood transfusions and medical treatment are the work of the devil. Christian Scientists. Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Amish. Scientologists. The ANC.

Brazil has the Zika virus. We have the Zuma virus. What a time to be alive. Or, if this carries on for much longer, dead.

A letter to our next president

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Dear President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your election to the highest office in the land. Please do not panic or consult a sangoma. I am not back from the future. Yes, I am fully aware that the election is only in 2019, but there is no reason to think that you won’t be our next president and my name will go down in history as the first person to congratulate you.

If, for some bizarre reason you don’t win, I shall withdraw my congratulations and deny ever having written to you. I would also prefer it if you did not attempt to contact me. However, this unfortunate situation is unlikely to arise since you are blessed with the magical name of Zuma.

Marrying Jacob was the smartest thing you ever did. Well, second smartest. The smartest thing you ever did was divorce him. Had you not shed those shackles of matrimony, your sparkling charisma would have dulled as you became lost in the common herd. A woman of your intellect and individuality demands to be the wife and not simply a wife among many.

I see your slave name is Clarice. How unusual. The only other Clarice I have ever come across is Clarice Starling, the FBI agent who unfortunately got eaten by well-known Baltimore psychiatrist, Dr Hannibal Lecter. Today, of course, this piece of American history ranks as a nostalgic triviality compared to the hideous atrocity committed in their last general election.

Some people, members of the ANC Women’s League, mainly, say that South Africa is now ready for its first female president. This is nonsense. The country has been ready since 1883 at least. While Paul Kruger could speak Afrikaans, basic English and several African languages – much like your ex-husband – he married Maria du Plessis, a feisty young girl who could just as easily have become president. Maria was 14 at the time, but she would have grown into the role between baking, embroidering and breeding. Our history is awash with missed opportunities.

Speaking of which, I’d like to also congratulate you on your tenure as chairperson of the African Union Commission. I’m sure a lot of African governments were nervous that you would work tirelessly to end their profitable civil wars and help them out of their least developed country status, costing them enormous amounts of money in foreign funding. You never failed them, comrade. Well done.

I was very impressed with the welcome the government afforded you when you returned from your sabbatical in Addis Ababa. Even when you were just popping out to Woolies, you had armed security and a three-car blue-light escort. At first I thought this was a courtesy being extended to all unemployed people, but it turned out to be just you. That’s okay. It shows the government cares about one of its jobless citizens at least. A friend of mine said the ANC was psychologically grooming the electorate to vote for you. I called him an unreconstructed cynic, confiscated his beer and chased him from my home. The electorate cannot be brainwashed. For a start, they’d need a brain in the first place.

When I saw pictures of you visiting the poor a couple of weeks ago, even going so far as to touch them, I took this as a sign that your campaign for the presidency had begun. Apparently I was wrong. Apparently your visit to Stinkwater township near Hammanskraal was simply because you care. I see you were accompanied by celebrity “prophet” Pastor Mboro from the Incredible Happenings Ministry. Amen, sister. Incredible happenings, indeed. Perhaps when you are president you can rename the township. I’m sure the locals would appreciate it.

A couple of days later you were in Ixopo talking to more poor people. Was this campaigning?

“This is not a campaign,” shouted Zamo Nxumalo, chairperson of the ANC’s Harry Gwala region. “It’s part of the programmes of the ANC, so her visibility should not be seen as campaigning.” Mluleki Ndobe, mayor of the Harry Gwala district, was also desperate to quell rumours of campaigning. “Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a humble and accessible leader of all the sectors of society either rich or poor, educated or uneducated.”

I hope you have had this man arrested. How dare he go around calling you humble? I think it’s pretty clear to everyone but the clinically insane that the meek aren’t going to inherit the earth any time soon. We want someone who will loudly and proudly continue the Zuma tradition of turning South Africa into the continent’s greatest excess story. We want more of everything, even if it is only power cuts, unemployment, crime, ignorance and water-borne diseases. Not that we’ll have much water by the time you take your seat in the Ovaltine Office, but still.

So it’s a two-horse race, hey? Your only other female competition is the speaker of parliament, Baleke Mbete, who isn’t much competition at all considering that she can’t recognise anyone. If we didn’t have Squirrel Ramaphosa as deputy president, you’d have a clear run at the title. Damn your selfish eyes, Squirrel.

The last thing this country needs is a smart, eloquent, hard-working, independently wealthy, globally respected businessman with a law degree on his wall and the Olof Palme prize on his bookshelf. He also regularly gets begging letters from the chairman of Standard Bank and Please Call Me messages from vagrants like Patrice Motsepe. Even worse, he clings to old-fashioned beliefs that corruption is somehow wrong. What a loser.

Thing is, comrade, South Africans tend to vote for losers. I’m talking about Jacob, here. I should point out that I only consider him a loser because he lost you, a real catch in anyone’s book. What the hell happened to you guys? I know his third wife committed suicide and his fourth tried to poison him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not easy to live with. Was it the singing and dancing that did it? I’d want to murder him if I had to hear Mshini Wam warbling from the shower every morning for sixteen years.

Come to think of it, you were probably put off theatrical performances of any kind in 1995 after it was found that, as minister of health, you had lied to parliament about where the R14-million had come from to fund the musical Sarafina II. Big deal. When it comes to musicals, everyone lies. Imagine a scandal involving a paltry R14-million! It’s almost cute.

I liked you when you were foreign minister. You didn’t do or say anything while Mad Bob Mugabe taught those white farmers and, as it turned out, his economy, a lesson never to be forgotten. You called it “quiet diplomacy” and you were very good at it. I look forward to your “quiet presidency”. This seems to run in the family because no matter what happens, your ex-husband resolutely refuses to appear on television to reassure the nation. Will you also let the lawyers do all the talking?

Hey! Maybe you and Jake get together again after the election. You get Nkandla and he doesn’t get charged. The Guptas know how to throw a damn fine wedding party and Dubai would be perfect for the honeymoon. Blue skies, warm water, friendly banks. What’s not to love?

Good luck with the not campaigning. You’ll have my support when it comes to not voting.

To not swallow or split

Last Wednesday was International Migratory Bird Day and I speak for the indigenous avian community when I say we’re happy to see the back of those annoying ingrates. I have never seen such arrogance and entitlement. Disrespecting international borders, they come over here every summer, exploit our good weather and do absolutely nothing to uplift the local economy.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not good enough to fly in on a balmy October morning and start shouting about your brilliant sense of direction when some of us struggle to find our way out of shopping malls. We won’t even speak of the flitting about hither and yon in the hope that someone will catch a glimpse of your florid undercarriage and cry out in delight.

Who do they think they are? They come from dinosaurs, for god’s sake. They’re pterodactyls. Sure, they have a better attitude, but only because they know that if they started snatching our children, we wouldn’t hesitate to make them extinct. Like we did with the pterodactyls.

Then, at the first sign of a chill in the air, they close their nests and bugger off to somewhere warmer without so much as a thank you. I spent the entire summer throwing my bread and spilling my seed into the garden and making sure the little bastards had water to bath their filthy lice-infested bodies.

Living alone as I do, they were the only friends I had. I was learning their language. Do you think they ever bothered to learn mine? Of course not. They are like the British who spend hundreds of winters on the Costa del Sol and still the only Spanish they know is, “Una mas cerveza and a steak, egg and chips, pronto Tonto.”

I’m not asking for a debate on Rabelaisian architecture – quite frankly I’m not sure Rabel was an architect at all – but a simple good morning would have been nice. There was one bird who appeared on the telephone wire at sunset who had a lot to say. He’s gone, now. Probably to the Canary Islands, where, if there’s any justice in this world, he won’t be allowed in because he’s not a canary. I suppose there’s a chance he is a local and can’t afford to migrate, in which case his sudden disappearance is quite likely linked to the neighbour’s cat.

I prefer to think that he was concerned about my well-being and was advising me to leave post haste because winter was drawing dangerously near.

“But where should I go?” I shouted into the twilight.

“Durban,” he tweeted. It’s true. He has a Twitter account. All birds do. They’ve just learnt not to follow anyone after that nasty business with Alfred Hitchcock when nobody got paid even though they totally carried the movie.

My feathered friend had been with me for most of the summer, arriving at dusk every day to see that I was okay. Or, more likely, to gloat. If I could fly I would so gloat at creatures that can’t fly.

He saw my living conditions, there in my shack in the milkwoods of Kommetjie, and must have known I couldn’t afford to migrate to the warmer breeding grounds in the north. He wasn’t even sure I was capable of breeding at all. Nor am I, quite frankly.

I had already been thinking about migrating to Durban for the winter, so please don’t assume that I take my instructions from birds. That would be mad. Unless, of course, it’s crows. You’d be a reckless fool to ignore advice dispensed by crows.

And so it was that on International Migratory Bird Day I fled my shack ahead of looming frontal attacks by wild arctic storms and clawless otters crazed from the cold. I snuck through the crippled milkwoods under cover of darkness and folded myself into the Subaru, hitting the road at 6.15am, the earliest recorded motorised departure in human history.

Apparently it wasn’t. Apparently there are other people on the road at this godless hour. Not one or two, either. Hundreds. Thousands. The entire M3 was backed up for 30kms. It was still night. I wasn’t even able to make out the occupants of the other cars. They could have been flightless birds – ostriches behind the wheel with hysterical penguins gibbering in the back seat – all desperate to migrate to Durban. Boots stuffed with illegal emus and cassowaries who came over by boat but lost their money gambling and can’t get back to Australia or wherever the hell they come from.

What a terrible world this is becoming. I want you here by 8am. But sir, the taxis are on strike, the buses aren’t running, the trains are burning, the roads are jammed, the robots are out, a stoned dodo drove into me … I don’t care. 8am or you’re fired.

We need another industrial revolution but with a lot less emphasis on the industrial. The original idea was eight hours work, eight hours play and eight hours sleep. Heavy traffic, exploitative bosses, watered down tequila and barking dogs have screwed with this formula.

Anyway. I don’t care. I’m in a bar in Jeffreys Bay drinking gallons of The Bird lager. It’s made by a mob of east coast reprobates at Poison City Brewing. I see it as part of the essential refuelling process, much like what the red-faced warblers do when they stop off in Morocco for a hit on the hash pipe before shacking up with those cute Portuguese birds on the Algarve.

Besides, one doesn’t simply spend summer in Cape Town and return to Durban in winter without stopping off in Jeffreys Bay to acclimatise. By acclimatise, I obviously mean surf and drink and gird one’s loins for the hell run through the Transkei. I can’t call it the Eastern Cape because it doesn’t behave like a normal province. There’s no corruption because the entire budget is stolen within minutes of being allocated. The traffic cops are trained in new and unusual methods of soliciting bribes – “Sorry sir. On this section of road, you are forbidden from wearing seat belts”. Dogs run into the street hoping to be put out of their misery.

Look, the notion of spending summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban appeals to me on a deep and primal level. Just don’t call me a swallow. Swallows are people who have a home in London and another in Hermanus. Swallows are wealthy and generally retired. I’m neither, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this.

It’s quite simple, really. After spending seventeen winters in Cape Town, nine of them in a terrible state of marriage, I never again want to be cold. Or married.

The people shall govern – or at least boo those who do

I was hoping to make it onto the guest list for the World Economic Forum on Africa that was held in Durban last week but someone must’ve intercepted my invitation. One of David Mahlobo’s spooks, I expect, who then tried to sell it on the black market. There is a white market, too, but I’ve never been to that one, either.

The WEF’s motto is, “Committed to improving the state of the world.” Well done, lads. The world has improved tremendously since the organisation was founded by some German dude in 1971. Today there are only 800 million people living below the international poverty line.

If you are reading this and wondering whether you’re one of them, it is safe to say that you’re not. Unless, of course, you are spending your $1.90 a day on a newspaper or a few miserable megabites of data instead of a bread roll and half a rat.

The people who set international poverty lines are those who, at the age of four, lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when their pocket money was reduced to $5 an hour because Daddy’s seventh wife was taking three properties, nine cars and one of the islands.

I want to see the poor setting their own poverty lines, if only to avoid conflict between the poor themselves. I imagine this artificial construct causes ructions among the needy.

“You can’t sleep on my pavement. Fuck off.”

“What? Why?”

“Heard you’ve been earning above the international poverty line.”

“Oh, come on. I got $2 for weeding a garden.”

“Don’t care. You stepped over the poverty line. Go sleep up-pavement with the other larneys.”

Later, at around 3am, a fight breaks out over the rand/dollar exchange rate and a bottle of wine. A man walking his dog is stabbed in the leg. That’s all I know.

The World Bank, staffed by some of the most oppressed people in the world, sets the international poverty line. It only seems fair, then, that they should also set an international wealth line – a line beyond which nobody may go without having to subject themselves to a range of nasty challenges. A financial Fear Factor, if you will.

Sure, earn R60 000 a month, but if you want to go higher you have to subject yourself to public humiliation and … oh, wait. That’s called parliament. To be fair, your average MP isn’t rich, relatively speaking. They are sleepists and sheeples, sure, but they aren’t particularly wealthy. They might have their little fingers in the odd pork pie here and there, but they aren’t up to their elbows in opulent diamond encrusted pies drizzled in crushed rubies and served on platters engraved with the Gupta coat of many arms.

So. We are called upon to worry about the poor when they drop below a certain level of income. Get them up to $2 a day and we can sleep easily. But let it fall to a point where they can’t afford sherry or crack and we have to hire extra security, crank up the voltage on the electrified fencing and get a fresh pack of dogs that are more interested in killing than they are in eating. Better yet, dogs that kill the poor and eat them. Two birds etc.

Clearly worried about the consequences of the docile poor becoming the violent poor, the World Bank came up with two goats in 2013. No, they didn’t. They came up with two goals. Having a spot of finger trouble at this point. There are, though, people who would come out and vote if their government had to promise them two goats. Zimbabwe, for one. Probably Britain, too, at this point.

Two goals, then. The first was to reduce the percentage of people living in extreme poverty worldwide from 10.7% to three percent by 2030. That’s a lot of numbers for one sentence and I imagine most of you will be struggling to grasp what’s going on here. My cat just looked at me and smiled as if to say, “You’re projecting, mate,” which is weird because I don’t own a cat and even if I did it’s unlikely that it would use a word like mate. More chance it’d say bru or bro. Or, knowing cats, arseface.

So 2030 rolls around and the World Bank sends out its inspectors. Senseless takers. The lowest of the high. Men with bruised egos and basic martial arts skills inveigle their way into the poorest areas of every city around the world.

“Evening, sir. Would you describe yourself as a. comfortable or b. living in extreme poverty?”

“You’re standing on my face.”

“Oh, I see. Now you need a face to talk. You’re doing alright then, aren’t you?”

“I haven’t eaten since Tuesday …”

“It’s only Thursday.”

“Tuesday last week. Please. I need …”

“I’ll mark you down as one of our successes. Well done. You’re in the top three percent.”

“Do I get something?”

“Of course you do. You get to bask in the reflected glory of the World Bank reaching the first of its goals.”

“Some vodka would be nice.”

That’s the thing about those who loiter on the fringes of the international poverty line. They don’t see that they are dragging down global averages and ruining it for the rest of us. All they want is alcohol and a seat in parliament. Wouldn’t say no, myself.

The World Bank’s second goat is to “promote shared prosperity in every country in a sustainable way”. As far as weasel words go, these are right up there with, “In sickness and in health”. Not to mention “radical economic transformation”, Jacob Zuma’s penultimate straw which continues to be grasped by the rats blindly refusing to abandon the rotten ship Patronage.

Finance minister Malusi Gigaba, parachuted into the ministry without the benefit of a parachute, has recently taken to referring to his boss’s latest vote-catching phrase as “inclusive growth”. Fortunately, the international investor community is easily fooled when it comes to dressing up heavy words like “radical” in soft synonyms like “inclusive”. Now that I’ve given the game away, I fully expect to be shot at dawn. Or, given the speed at which our government works, 3pm. Unless it’s a Friday, in which case I’ll be executed on Monday. Unless the firing squad calls in sick.

Thing is, we don’t have anyone remotely approximating a Castro or Guevara in this country. If any of our politicians ever threatened to take to the bush, we’d have Gert from Brakpan calling in to a radio talk show saying, “Howzit boet. Ja, listen, I fink I found these rebel okes. They lekker dronk here by Kosi Bay.” And that would be the end of it.

We’re not going to take up arms because most of us earn so little that we’d have to choose between bullets or a gun. I’d rather have the gun because you can at least throw it at someone. I don’t know anyone who’d run away if you started throwing bullets at them. I probably would but that’s because I react badly to having anything thrown at me. Two marriages will do this to you.

For a long time, terrible things happened in this country before America allowed us to have proper elections. Now, confronted by our adversaries, we boo them.

As we all know, Zuma wasn’t able to address Cosatu’s rally on May Day because people wouldn’t stop booing. This is a good thing. Booing is free and there is little chance of being arrested for it. Your house might be set slight and you’ll never get a government tender again, but booing is almost always preferable to detention without trial and certainly an improvement on torture.

The ANC Youth League’s porcine president, Collen Maine, subsequently threatened to boo deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa, who had addressed a rally in Mpumalanga without being booed or, as far as I know, even saying the word boo. I don’t know when exactly this mini Hindenburg plans to boo Squirrel.

I am relieved, though, as I’m sure are many of you, to hear that the fight for power will be conducted through booing and not the traditional African method of machetes at dawn.