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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Helen of Troyeville – The face that launched a thousand tweets

Dear Madam Premier Helen Zille the First, Grand Panjandrum of the Western Cape and Lady of the House,

When I read your tweets suggesting that colonialism wasn’t an entirely bad idea, I immediately suspected your phone had been stolen by an erudite thief whose idea of fun was to hijack politicians’ social media accounts and destroy their careers. On closer reflection, this seemed unlikely. Our phone-snatchers are of the common or garden variety who wouldn’t recognise erudition if it bit them on the bum.

A more plausible explanation was that you had succumbed to the curse of the legendary Singapore Sling and, finding yourself hysterically drunk inside an opium den at 3am, you went berserk and tried to call for help via Twitter but somehow ended up defending colonialism.

Apparently, though, you weren’t off your well-preserved face or even temporarily insane when you implied that were it not for the Europeans of yore popping over for a spot of the old rape and plunder, the natives would still be hacking paths through the bush, drowning people who claimed the earth was round and relying on lightning strikes to start the cooking fires because even cannibals enjoy a hot meal now and then.

You’ve had a chance to have a bit of a think and hopefully understand by now that there wasn’t a benevolent bone in colonialism’s bloodless body. Those early invaders brought guns and disease, slavery and Christianity. Sure, they also brought tobacco and alcohol. But is this enough for us to condone their war-mongering, land-grabbing ways? Almost, but not quite.

On the other hand, your ability to look on the bright side of one the most organised crimes ever committed is commendable. A lot of bad stuff happened in the past. It still happens. And it will continue happening. But is it really all bad? I’m sure if we dig a little deeper, we can find a silver lining around the most gloomy of clouds. Let’s give it a shot.

War. On the surface, war appears to be a negative thing. Particularly for those who get shot or blown up. But did war ever really hurt anyone’s feelings? No. Being told by an airline that you have to pay for two tickets because you’re massively fat is a lot worse than being on the Syrian frontline. War also gives people a chance to travel for free. And who doesn’t like free travel? I certainly do. Without war, thousands of Americans would have been denied the opportunity of a lifetime to visit exotic countries like Vietnam, Haiti, Guam, Iran, Afghanistan and even, for a lucky few, Somalia.

Hitler. A monster or simply misunderstood? Have you heard Germans talking among themselves? Not even they understand what they’re saying. It’s just one of those languages that sounds like everyone is planning a weekend of genocide. Hitler had his bad points, sure. For a start, his art sucked. But he did bring people closer. Or, in the parlance of his times, “rounded people up”. Then he put them on trains and sent them off to concentration camps, which, according to historian David Irving, were treatment centres for attention deficit citizens. Also, large parts of London were flattened during the Blitz, which saved on demolition costs when it came time to put up fancy new buildings.

Stalinism. Forget, for a moment, the millions of people Uncle Joseph ordered executed in the purges and focus, if you will, on the enduring magnificence that is the Moscow Subway. Let us not even speak of the glories of Stolichnaya vodka. Ah, yes. Socialism. What’s not to love?

Apartheid. Millions of black people were spared the indignity of having to go to school and the army. The benefits of this policy didn’t end there, either. There were also laws keeping black people safe from whites, a surly tribe isolated in their own suburbs with their own facilities. With the end of apartheid this protection was withdrawn and black people today still risk being abused by caucasoid neanderthals everywhere from public beaches to Spur restaurants.

Paraplegia. One word – wheelchair. No more walking means enormous savings on shoes. Also, no more sitting down and standing up hundreds of times a day, something that leaves non-paraplegics drained and miserable.

Hijacking. In a country that desperately needs employment opportunities, every bit helps. The man pointing a gun at your head and stealing your car is doing a job. He is self-employed and showing initiative. He isn’t hanging about the robots with a piece of cardboard covered in illegible scribbles, making you wind up your window and feel like a tight-fisted bastard until the lights change.

Alcoholism. The body’s way of letting you know that you’re still alive. Well done on not being dead. Alcoholics and their “social drinking” cousins keep the breweries ticking over nicely. Countless jobs would be lost and millions of lives destroyed if everyone had to stop drinking.

These, Helen, are just a few examples that tie in with your refreshing new way of thinking. Feel free to use them at your disciplinary hearing. Well, I say hearing, but it’s really going to be more of a medieval scheissesturm of monstrous accusations, desperate denials and multifarious explanations. You’re going to need to suppress your inner Attila for this one. Avoid stamping around the room barking at everyone. Your enemies in the party smell blood in the water and they’re not going to let an exposed flank go unsavaged.

If you do get fired, there are plenty of other opportunities out there. Afriforum, for instance, would be keen to have you. Their reputation as a coven of white supremacists is improving, thanks in part to that prosecutorial pit bull Gerrie Nel, and you will be among like-minded folk who believe that “speaking while white” is not, in fact, one of the deadly sins of democracy.

Your days at the Leeuwenhof palace do seem numbered, though. It’s a good thing you have mastered the power of positive thinking. You’ll probably need to leave Cape Town for a while. Property is dirt cheap in Orania, a town where “critical race theory” relates to strategies in the wife-carrying event on their annual sports day. You’d like it there.

As for that leadership baton you passed to Mmusi Maimane not even two years ago? There’s a good chance he’s been whittling it into a sharp point all this time. Watch your back, madam.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

Why is it that the Irish have all the fun? To be sure, there was that nasty business with the potatoes in 1845, but if it weren’t for the Great Hunger, Boston and New York wouldn’t be the same today.

Apart from the potato famine, the Irish have always had nothing but a rollicking good time. Well, apart from the potato famine and 200 years of sectarian violence.

St Patrick’s Day is full of fun traditions. The colour green plays a big part. After a day of eating green food and drinking green beer, many people go to bed with their faces suffused in many interesting shades of green. This happened to me after one particularly robust St Paddy’s Day with friends in Durban. My girlfriend at the time said it wouldn’t have happened if I had listened to her and had my stomach pumped. But where’s the fun in…

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An open letter to the Minister of State Security

Dear Honourable Comrade Mahlobo,

I have been meaning to write to you for some time to congratulate you on your meteoric rise from humble ANC deployee in the department of fisheries to the exalted glory of the cabinet in just a few short years.

Truth is, though, I’ve always been a little afraid. One doesn’t simply write to the minister of state security as one would to, say, the minister of sport. You have proper powers. Other ministers only get to follow people on Twitter. You get to have them followed in real life.

I can’t say I envy you your job, though. It must be a nightmare trying to ensure the security of a state as berserk as South Africa. Keeping us all under surveillance can’t be easy. And yet it must be done. We can’t be trusted. Half of us would happily spy for the Russians in return for free cocktails and the other half would think nothing of plotting a coup if it meant skiving off work for a few days.

Hang on. It’s not the Russians you’re worried about at all. They’re still mates of ours, right? And it can’t be the Americans, either. Not with Donald Trump in the White House. I might be wrong, but I get the feeling that our much-loved president has taken note of Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing and has decided to emulate him. In other words, take no notice of mounting scandals, ignore calls to step down and blame foreigners, the judiciary and the media for everything. Also, never confirm or deny anything. As Jacob Zuma so eloquently put it in a message to his senior people, “The lesser you talk, the better.”

Comrade minister, who are these foreign intelligence agencies you say are working with “negative domestic forces” to undermine the state? Which country has so few problems of its own that it can afford to get involved in the affairs of another, particularly one with an economic growth rate of one percent and a second place ranking on the global Misery Index? Could it be Zimbabwe? We should just buy them out. Make Mad Dog Mugabe an offer he can’t recognise.

I know who the “negative domestic forces” are and I am prepared to identify them for a modest fee. It doesn’t have to be cash. I’m happy to stick with the dop system. Should we say one name, one case of beer? I’m open to negotiating group discounts. A family for a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt, for instance.

No, I didn’t think you’d fall for it. You know as well as I do who the negative domestic forces are. They’re everywhere. And yet nowhere. Sorry. I didn’t meant to make you paranoid. Like you, I am a huge fan of conspiracy theories. Unlike you, though, I don’t get paid to disseminate them. I don’t mind. Walking into crowded places wearing a hat made of tinfoil and whispering to strangers, “We know where you live” is reward enough for me.

The other day you scornfully referred to people who “run to court on political matters to undermine decisions taken by the government”. I sympathise with you. This is not my idea of a democracy, either. The solution is simple. Get rid of the courts or get rid of the people. I apologise. You’re the boss. You obviously know what the solution is. The courts can be stacked with judges quick to show their appreciation for what the ANC is doing, but it gets trickier when it comes to the people. Luckily, South Africans, and not just the police, are easily bought off. All 50 million of us must be put on the payroll as soon as possible. The finance minister will have to be drugged.

I commend you on your ability to learn from history. In 1985, then state president PW Botha said in parliament, “The tragedy is that hostile pressure and agitation from abroad have acted as an encouragement to militant revolutionaries in South Africa.” Your words might be different, but the sentiment is the same. I like to think that Botha is looking up at you from hell, nodding approvingly and twisting those squabby lips into a grotesque approximation of a smile.

If social media had been around in PW’s time, I have no doubt that his boys from Boss would have pulled the plug in no time at all. As you so succinctly put it a week ago, “We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space.” Are you talking about democracies like China and North Korea? Of course you are. When it comes to putting up roadblocks on the information superhighway, they are hard to beat. For example, thanks to Beijing’s grip on things, we can safely discount Western propaganda about events in Tiananmen Square, where two protesters were slightly injured in a minor scuffle with a policeman. Barely worth reporting on. And Pyongyang is such a paradise that the country had to close its borders to stop people trying to get in.

By “regulating” the internet – in concert with your sock puppets over at the Film and Publications Board – you will also be able to prevent information on covert operations from leaking out. You were obviously in deep cover on a top secret mission when visiting the Jinxu-Chinese Massage establishment in Nelspruit. You said you were there to get your nails done, which is exactly what I would have said had I come home looking deeply relaxed and smelling faintly of exotic Oriental unguents.

Thanks to that nest of neo-liberal vipers over at al-Jazeera, there was no happy ending for you. Not this time. They caught your parlour owner friend and suspected rhino horn merchant, Guan Jiang Guang, on camera saying things like, “(Mahlobo) came to my massage parlour every week or at least twice a month. I know him very well.” Upon broadcast of the documentary, Guang disappeared faster than a bottle of poppers in a gay club. What a shame. Another few months of manicures, pedicures and facials and you would have had him. Bloody media. Damn their selfish eyes.

Guang also said he did business with your wife. How were you to know? It’s impossible to keep track of a wife these days. They have their own cellphones and cars, for a start. Remember your predecessor Siyabonga Cwele? He was surprised to learn that his wife Sheryl had been running cocaine with the Nigerians in her spare time. She’s still in prison, which doesn’t seem fair because cocaine is way more yummy than rhino horn. Or so I’ve heard. Comrade Siyabonga was subsequently punished by our president for being the minister of state security and not knowing his wife was a drug trafficker. He is still serving penance as minister of telecommunications and postal services, both of which are listing sharply to starboard.

By the way, did you ever find the R17-million that was stolen from your offices just over two years ago? Probably not. We would have heard about it by now. No matter. These days, anything under R20-million is considered petty cash and if it goes missing someone might get around to asking the cleaner if she’s seen it, but otherwise it’s no biggie, really.

I was wondering about something. Do you and the minister of police ever get together at, say, the Saxonwold shebeen and compare notes? I only ask because there seems to be a tremendous amount of organised and disorganised crime happening without either of you knowing about it. Sure, most of it happens inside the government, but still.

Hey, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but did you hear about the R200-million heist at OR Tambo International? It’s been in all the papers. I first heard about it on social media. Isn’t it awful? A crackdown is urgently needed. Once the internet and independent press have been shut down, nobody but the bandits and their victims will know about the terrible things that are going on. In effect, crime simply wouldn’t exist. Imagine a deaf, blind one-handed man clapping in a forest while a tree fell. He’d make a pathetic witness. What? Good heavens, this stuff is strong. Where was I?

Oh, yes. My point is that bona fide intelligence is hard to come by in South Africa these days, so there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t know what’s happening. None of us do, either. Have you ever considered using informants? These are people who live in the community and tip you off about crime. Hire me. I’ll tell you anything if the price is right.

Your priority now, though, is to control the internet. Please hurry. I am addicted to Twitter and Facebook. My intellect and concentration span are rapidly approximating those of a pigeon. With your help, we can all be liberated from this heinous electronic prison.

I, for one, long for a return to the days when men would sit around the fire sharpening sticks and telling tales of bravery while the women gave birth and foraged for berries.

If all else fails, follow Donald Trump’s lead. Nothing can go wrong.

mahlobo