Tag: ANC

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

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

Data is the curse of the drinking class

If my column makes less sense than usual, you can blame MTN. I am currently without a landline, you see. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get one but everybody I talk to wants proof of address. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to prove anything without eyebrows being raised. These tedious muffin-eaters insist that a photo of me at my desk accompanied by a hand-drawn map is not the kind of proof of residence they’re looking for.

So I have spent the last few months accessing the internet via a hotspot on my phone. Don’t worry. This was also gibberish to me the first time I heard it. Data is a bit like beer. One minute you think you have loads and suddenly there’s nothing.

Until fairly recently, I wasn’t aware that you could buy data over the phone. I’d get a message in the early evening telling me that I had run out. During the day, no problem. I’d drive 10kms to the shops and buy more. But after hours? What the hell was I meant to do? I’d pace anxiously or

lie awake for hours twitching and sweating and clawing at my skin. I’d often be the first person at the mall, hanging around the entrance pale and trembling, unable to make eye contact with the car guards.

Then I discovered you could punch in a few numbers on your phone and buy data, just like that. I could lie in bed and within seconds be returned to that magical, diabolical realm where something could happen anywhere in the world and I’d instantly know about it. I don’t have a fear of missing out. I have a fear of not knowing. It’s unlikely to become a thing because Fomo is so much more of a catchy acronym than Fonk.

On Wednesday at 1.45pm I ran out of data. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was due to deliver his budget in parliament at 2pm. This is a man who is fighting a rearguard action on all fronts. Actually, his enemies don’t often come from the front. Being the craven curs they are, they’re far more likely to come slinking up from the back.

I needed to watch this speech. Anything could happen. It was probably Gordhan’s last stand. This was a major public test of loyalties and if I missed it, I’d regret it forever. Also, I’d have nothing to write about.

Then, at 1.47pm, I had a moment of great clarity. “Fuck that!” I shouted, scaring a couple of idiot doves who had wandered into my lounge looking for food. I don’t know why they think they’ll find birdseed scattered all over my floor.

“I’m not giving those MTN robber barons R260 for two miserable gigabytes so that I can watch the budget speech.” The doves blinked at me. Then the bigger one tried to climb onto the smaller one’s back. If ever there was a sign that I should go to the nearest bar and use their free wifi, this was it.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. MTN is forcing me, and who knows how many other decent God-fearing citizens, into daytime drinking in bars with free wifi.

Thanks to MTN, I am a fairly familiar figure in this particular bar. They know what I want. This is more than I can say for myself. On Wednesday there was a newbie behind the bar. A puce-faced callow youth who did a rubbish job of not showing signs of panic at the sight of a red-eyed unshaven possibly homeless man setting up what appeared to be a crude office in the corner. I despised him for not instinctively knowing what to bring me. Do I have to spell it out? Beer, I snarled, lashing a pair of cheap headphones to what little remains of my head.

I was just in time for Pravin to take the podium. He got a standing ovation, even from members of his own party. This was a good start. I quickly worked out a system of drinking, taking notes, eyeballing the talent and flicking back and forth between the speech, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and Pornhub in case something happened that I needed to know about.

Look, the finance minister’s delivery is positively electrifying compared to Jacob Zuma’s, but put him in Nuremberg in 1938 and I dare say people at the back would start drifting off, even if it meant risking a bullet from one of the marshals.

I made it thirty minutes in before suffering my first neurological collapse. Fortunately it was gradual and the glass never shattered against my forehead. It seemed to affect my already frosty relations with the moron bartender, though, and he stopped asking if I wanted another after that. I wasn’t about to ask him for one, either. I have my pride.

Anyway. The entire speech was not only available online the moment Gordhan started talking, but a menagerie of civic-minded journalists were live-tweeting the entire affair. I’d hear him say something and seconds later 15 reporters would repeat it with varying degrees of accuracy. There was no point in me being there. I downloaded the speech, bought nine cases of beer and went back to my shack for some serious political analysis.

When I regained consciousness the speech was long over. That’s the nice thing about Cape Town in summer. You can take spontaneous naps and when you wake up it’s still light at 7.30pm and you don’t feel you’ve wasted the entire day.

I saw clips of the end of the speech. It seemed to go down well. Another standing ovation. Apart from a handful of ministers who pointedly drew the nation’s attention to their undying commitment to the Gupta family by being the only people who didn’t stand up and applaud. To be fair, our top-heavy social services minister Bathabile Dlamini was possibly unable to get to her feet by that stage, although she did show signs of life when Gordhan announced an increase in alcohol tax.

I don’t know what people are complaining about. If another 12c for a can of beer is going to devastate your family, perhaps you shouldn’t be drinking.

Gordhan told us that 10% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. Why give us this information and then withhold their names and addresses? How are we meant to send them begging letters or even petrol bomb their homes? Don’t taunt us, Gordhan.

The speech is littered with references to millions, billions and even a few trillions being allocated to this, that and the other thing. Lest we forget, R46-billion was stolen or squandered by civil servants in the last fiscal year. That’s enough to fill every swimming pool in the country with single malt whiskey. At the next budget speech, I expect to see thousands of white collar criminals paraded outside parliament in leg irons so that we may hurl abuse and other things at their loathsome heads. If there’s one thing this country needs, it’s catharsis.

Meanwhile, there’s good news for the country’s 17 million spongers – I beg your pardon, social welfare beneficiaries. Child support has rocketed to R380, which is more than enough if your child doesn’t eat and prefers walking around naked. Pensioners will be getting a whopping R1 600 a month so no more clogging up the aisles listlessly checking prices on every item. You’re getting in the way of the really poor – the shoplifters. You’re rich now. Load up your trolleys and get out. Also, drive faster.

My best bit was when Gordhan announced a 45% tax rate for people earning more than R1.5m a year and then, to a deathly quiet house, urged people to clap. The sound of the country’s top wage earners looking for their passports was louder than the applause.

But it wasn’t the only reverse-Machiavellian backflip with half-twist that he deployed, either. Breaking into a poorly rendered indigenous language followed by the English translation, he managed to look at Jacob Zuma without actually looking at him and said, “If lions work as a team they will bring down even a buffalo.”

Deputy president Squirrel Ramaphosa wasn’t sure how to react. On the one hand, he is really fond of buffaloes. On the other, he really wants to be president. Tough call. He settled for his inscrutable comrade capitalist smile.

Suffering from terminal holidayitis

One of the biggest drawbacks of being self-employed is that you’re never really sure when it is that you’re no longer on holiday.

“C’mon! It’s the festive season. Let’s party!”

“Go home, Ben. It’s March.”

People with proper jobs don’t have this problem. They know exactly when their holiday ends, although the dread probably sets in two or three days earlier. I imagine it’s a bit like being on death row. Knowing the exact time your execution is scheduled to take place quite likely ruins your last couple of days of being alive.

Employers should factor this in when calculating annual leave for their exploited. Everyone gets an additional two free Dread Days which they can spend sighing heavily, doing the laundry, deforesting various body parts and mentally preparing for another 48 straight weeks of misery.

Some people couldn’t survive without a job. And I don’t just mean financially. It gives them purpose. While they’re behind their desk tomorrow morning, I’ll be surfing with dolphins. They give me porpoise.

Anyway. It could be worse. You could be among the 151 830 matrics who did well enough in their exams to spend the next three years getting harassed, teargassed and vilified at the university of their choice. After this, they will spend another three years looking for a job. Perth, London and Auckland are already bracing themselves for another wave of whiny privileged South Africans.

Of the 458 348 pupils who, like me, were too stupid, lazy or distracted to get a university pass, 21.5% will become substance abusers, 11% will try their hand at housebreaking, 3% will kill their parents to get an early inheritance and the rest will join the ANC in the hope of getting a tender. Two will become newspaper columnists and earn less than everyone else.

Around 550 schools achieved a 100% pass rate. This is a filthy lie. I can’t imagine this country having even one school where nobody who wrote Grade 12 failed. If it’s true, then there must have been cheating on an industrial scale. Or results were manipulated. Every village has an idiot and every school has a moron. Perhaps times have changed. My matric year was awash with morons. I don’t know if they passed or failed. When I walked through those gates after the final exam, I burnt my uniform, walked home naked and never looked back.

I also find it hard to believe that the Free State recorded the highest pass rate in the country. When I was growing up, the Free State was home to people directly descended from Neanderthals. The bloodline was virtually pure. This isn’t to say they were bad people, but they were. Of course, these days black people also live there. I can only assume they had a big hand in pushing up the pass rate. I still don’t understand why anyone would choose to live in the Free State, though.

Well done to the Eastern Cape. They are consistently the worst performing province and if there is one thing this country needs right now, it’s consistency. We have a president with the consistency, albeit a moral one, of Spongebob Squarepants and a government that is as inconsistent as its position on Taiwan.

Quite frankly, the worst thing of all is that we now have to look at pictures of the top performers. Performers? Perhaps that is the right word, considering the circus our education system has become. There they are, the last of the Rainbow Nationists, faces full of smug, all teeth and shiny eyes, smiling at we millions who never got a single distinction, let alone seventy-twelve of them.

Well done, boys and girls. Clap clap clap. Are you going to use that massive brain power to change the world? No, you’re not. You peaked too early. You’re going to insert yourself into the machine and your clever little cogs will help generate more white monopoly capital or black monopoly capital and the world will get worse, with or without your help. Some of you will end up in sheltered employment or psychiatric hospitals.

Most of you will make terrible wives or husbands because your parents forgot to socialise you as they relentlessly pushed you to accomplish everything they didn’t so they could brag about you at the golf club and bask in the reflected glory until such time as you are led away in handcuffs or a straitjacket, at which point they will say, “But we did everything we could.” Yes, you did. Now look.

This is going to be the year of the unconfirmed sweeping statement. The streets will run red, white and blue with conjecture, assumptions and hypotheses. Opinion is the new sheriff in town. Guns will be jumped and chickens will be counted. There shall be prognostication and prophesies to fit your wildest fantasies and a shot in the dark will always be better than a harbinger in the bush.

It’s started already. Researchers from the University of Limerick say they’ve discovered a new organ in the body. The mesentery, a silly name for an organ, connects the gut to the … oh, who cares.

“The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect,” said a professor of surgery. What else have we been getting wrong? Are we perhaps descended from goats? Is heroin, in fact, good for you? We don’t need this kind of malarkey. Those researchers need to be rounded up and burnt at the stake. I’m offering a prize for the person who comes up with the best limerick about the new organ.

Also in keeping with this new era of brazen balderdash masquerading as Something Significant, scientists say that powerful radio waves, lasting no more than a millisecond, seem to be coming from a dwarf galaxy more than three billion light years away. They’ve heard seventeen in ten years and have spent the last six months studying a single repeated burst. And you thought your job was tedious.

Then there was the ANC’s 105th anniversary rally at Orlando Stadium. Making as much sense as usual, party organiser and minister of fun and games, Fikile Mbalula, said, “For what we have gone through, (Sunday) is that platform from which we rekindle ourselves and at the same time we get our marching orders about what needs to be done.”

Yep, standing in the rain listening to fat men make speeches is all the rekindling the ANC needs.

Then, in twelve days’ time, Donald Trump and his repulsive family moves into the White House. Things are about to get deeply weird.

Our time to eat

Twice, in the space of a single day this week, people have mistaken me for Richard Branson. The first time was in the street. “Hey!” shouted the female half of a heterosexual couple. “There’s Richard Branson!” I laughed and waved, casually running my hand through my thick blond hair, then pretended to get into a conveniently parked Porsche. The moment was ruined when an advertising executive with a cocaine moustache darted from a coffee shop and shouted at me to step away from his vehicle.

The second time, I was in a bar that shares a boundary wall with a rehab in the deep south of the Cape peninsula. A grizzled bag of rags and his ravaged buddy shuffled in. I thought they might have been looking for the rehab. The grizzly turned to his sidekick. “Check it out, bru. That Richard Branson oke’s here.” They laughed. Well, they made a hacking, gurgling sound. They were either laughing or dying. I didn’t particularly care. At this point, I was tired of being mistaken for Branson. It seemed cruel and unnecessary. Yes, we share similar hair and, obviously, a penchant for extreme sports and beautiful women. Or, in my case, extreme women and beautiful sports.

By an odd quirk of coincidence, Branson actually was in Cape Town this week. He was here to relaunch something called Virgin Money Insurance. On a moral scale, the insurance industry is one rung above human trafficking. Branson partnered with Telesure six years ago but, like all unequal relationships, it ended in tears when one found the other in bed with a hotter company.

Now, older and wiser, Virgin has entered into a relationship with a boy called American International Group. They sound more streetwise and savvy than the sweet, naïve Telesure, and we’re all hoping this time it lasts. When corporate hearts get broken, we all get broken.

Virgin Money’s Rob Campbell said that when Virgin and Telesure broke up (I bet they still stalk each other on Facebook) they had to “reengineer” the business. They now have the “capacity needed to develop customer-centric insurance products and services”. As opposed to previously, I expect, when the business focused solely on itself. One evening they had the talk.

Telesure: “You know what, Virgin. With you it’s always me me me. This may come as a surprise, but I have feelings, too. And by the way, my eyes are up here. You only ever wanted me for one thing. I’m leaving. And don’t think I don’t know what’s been going on with those Americans. And another thing, you lied about being a virgin.”

There’s no record of Virgin’s response. I imagine it involved a fair amount of sighing and rolling of the eyes.

Branson said he was delighted that the NPA had decided against prosecuting finance minister Pravin Gordhan after learning that Hawks head Mthandazo Ntlemeza had discovered the evidence inside a fortune cookie.

Here’s the really cute bit, though. Branson said, “I wish it had happened in a week’s time, because of the low rand … I’m on holiday here at the moment.” Branson has a net worth of only five billion dollars, so it’s understandable that he’d have wanted to capitalise on a weak rand. It’s horrible how the vagaries of politics can so brutally affect someone’s vacation.

Being something of a nautical type, he also said, “South Africa needs somebody at the wheel of the ship, to steer it into safe waters.” Thank you, Sir Richard, for confirming what many of us have suspected for a long time. The bridge has been abandoned.

I saw an old quote from Branson on Facebook today. “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” Please don’t encourage this sort of thing. This is how our president got the job in the first place. He is one of those people who spend years revelling in the amazing opportunity bit without bothering to get around to the learning bit.

I saw something else on Facebook. “Michael Burry made $8.4bn using common sense. Most people don’t realise how easy it has become to profit like he did.” I might have clicked on the link if it had said that Michael Burry had made $10 000 using common sense. That’s a number I can understand. I can get a picture in my head of what I could buy for R130 000. Just over a thousand cases of beer and seventy bags of salt and vinegar chips. Because I lack the gland in my brain that understands maths, I have to convert everything into beer.

I don’t want to know how to make $8-billion, and not just because my brain would explode if I had to attempt a conversion. I don’t want that kind of money. If I had it, I’d make a lot of people very happy in a short space of time and then I would die spectacularly.

Do you know who does want that kind of money? The brothers Gupta, that’s who. Just over a year ago, deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas found himself in their opulent home in Saxonwold. There, a certain Mr Ajay Gupta mentioned that his family made R6-billion from the state. Understandably, this wasn’t enough. It’s a big family to support. Jacob Zuma’s, I mean.

So, Mr Jonas, they said. Would you mind terribly if we asked you to help us bung the number up to R8-billion? We’d be awfully grateful. Obviously we’d make you finance minister. Did you perhaps bring a bag? We’re quite happy to give you a little something for your trouble. Should we say R600 000? That’s just for the car guard, ha ha. The real money – the R600-million – would go into an account of your choice. May we recommend the Bank of Baroda? Or perhaps you’d prefer something in Zurich? Your colleague, mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane, says Switzerland is lovely at this time of year.

As if that’s not bad enough, supermarkets have begun playing Christmas carols. The psychology is similar to that used by the CIA in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. They play Christina Aguilera and The Barney Theme to get the prisoners to crack and confess to blowing up shit. Checkers plays Jingle Bells and The Little Drummer Boy to get the pensioners to crack and start buying up shit. Because, you know, we idiot consumers might be under the impression that we’re coming up to Easter. Awaaay in a manger … only 49 days to go folks! Hurry! Specials on toxic Chinese dreck in aisle seven! Ding-dong merrily I’m high.

But there’s sad news, too. Whitey Basson, CEO of Shoprite, has reached his sell-by date and is retiring at the end of the year. His salary last year was a meagre R49.7-million. Luckily, the board took pity on him and gave him a R50-million bonus. How sad it would have been if some of his relatives hadn’t found a Ferrari beneath the tree on Christmas Day. The board said he deserved it because he hadn’t received a basic pay increase since 2013. Poor bastard. Nor have I, come to think of it. Where’s my goddamn Ferrari?

So, yeah. Right now everything appears to be revolving around money. It’s either too little or too much. Has anyone, since the Industrial Revolution, ever put up their hand and said, “No, thanks. Really. I have enough money.” Of course not. But you’ll politely recoil when someone passes around the plate of cream scones or bong for the seventh time. “No more for me. Honestly. I’ll explode/vomit/kill everyone in the room.” Why not money? Is there really no limit to how much a person can have? Apparently not.

Speaking of gluttons, I was surprised to hear that Weekend Special a.k.a 2-Minute Noodle a.k.a minister of cooperative governance David ‘Des’ van Rooyen spent so much time at the Guptas house. Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found he’d made at least 17 calls from the Saxonwold compound. They obviously didn’t have time to get their story straight because Atul Gupta told Thuli that the minister had never even been to their house. I suppose it’s possible he was calling from the street outside.

“Atul, open the gate!”

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, David.”

“Who?”

“David, man. Dave. Open up. I think the cops saw me.”

“Dave?”

“Yeah, Dave.”

“Dave’s not here.”

“What the hell? No, man. I’m Dave. Open up.”

The saddest part is that Van Rooyen spent Valentines Day with the Guptas this year. Maybe it’s not sad at all. When you consider that Eskom CEO Brian Molefe visited the Indians 19 times in four months and in six made over forty telephone calls to Ajay, the oldest, sugariest daddy of the family, you have to wonder if there wasn’t perhaps something else going on here. Atul, Ajay and Rajesh. That’s a ready-made threesome right there. Just add malfeasance. Perhaps all this talk of coal mines and contracts was just a smokescreen to cover up what was really happening at Sexonwold. The platinum-plated Jacuzzis, the late-night nudity, the discreet oral favours in return for information. Leopards on leashes and a blindfolded jazz quartet in the corner. A subtle reminder that goodies will be provided but you should bring your own bag. For the sake of the environment, of course. And also fingerprints.

So here we are. I can’t help feeling Thuli didn’t go far enough. I was hoping that by now Radovan Krecjir and Oscar Pistorius would be picking teams for the afternoon game. I don’t know if Zuma, Molefe, Zwane, Van Rooyen, Eskom’s board of directors, the Guptas etc even know how to play soccer. I don’t suppose it really matters. They’d just make up the rules as they go along.

It somehow seems fitting that, at the lowest point of his political career, President Jacob Zuma chose to visit his appalling counterpart in Zimbabwe. Well done, Jake.

Meanwhile, bring on the judicial commission of inquiry. If that gets hijacked, let’s give Dog the Bounty Hunter a call. I’ll put up the first thousand bucks.

Of course, none of this matters if Donald Trump wins on Tuesday. Start building your nuclear bunkers, people. You just never know.

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A letter to Hillary Clinton

My darling Hillary,

Well done! I wanted to be at the very front of the queue to congratulate you on becoming the first president of the United States of America to have lady-bits. How refreshing! Your election to office, I mean, not your lady-bits. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m sure your lady-bits are delightfully refreshing. Oh, dear. This isn’t going well at all. Let me start again.

Well done! Yes, I’m aware that you haven’t won the election just yet but you are going to win and I will then be able to legitimately lay claim to being the first person in the world to congratulate you. I’m rather impressed with myself, actually. It’s not often a South African gets a world first in a category other than alcohol abuse, rape, murder and so on. We take what we can get. Quite often we also take what we can’t get. It’s the politics of liberation. You want it, you take it.

But that’s enough about me. How are you feeling? Exhausted, I bet. Power is a tremendous aphrodisiac and I’m sure Bill hasn’t been able to keep his hands to himself during this final sprint to victory. I only hope he hasn’t been bringing his tawdry harlots home this time around. It’s bad enough you having to listen to the grunting mental exertions of your political rival without also having to contend with the trumpeting of sundry strumpets spreadeagled in the sun room.

Oh, I almost forgot – happy birthday! A little belated, sorry. We’re all a bit belated in this part of the world. So you turned 69 on Wednesday. That’s quite an achievement. I do hope Bill didn’t ruin the occasion by making rude jokes about the number. You know what men are like. Of course you do. Obviously I’m not talking about Donald Trump. He’s not so much a man as he is a giant mango-faced cockwomble.

Isn’t it going to be weird moving back into the White House? And I don’t mean just because darkies have been living there for the last eight years. I mean because of all the history that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue carries with it. The Oval Office alone has seen everything from Abraham Lincoln’s glass eye to Monica Lewinsky’s vajayjay. I hope your first act as president is to hire a strapping young intern and abuse him in the worst possible way. Treat him real bad. Know what I’m saying? No, Hillary. I don’t mean put him in the White House press office.

Are you disappointed to be rated the second-most-unpopular presidential nominee ever? After all, to a fighter like you, second place means nothing. If only Donald hadn’t set the bar so low that not even bacteria could slide beneath it, you would’ve been the most unpopular. He might have cheated you out of the title, but he damn well won’t cheat you out of the election. If there is any cheating to be done, you’ll be the one to do it.

You lie with such grace and charm that one finds oneself falling a little in love with you. Most of the women I’ve dated have been out-and-out compulsive fabulists with no appreciation for the timeless political arts of fabrication and mendacity.

As for all that nonsense about endangering American lives through a careless attitude towards confidential emails. I see it as a refreshing devil-may-care attitude. Truth be told, nothing turns me on more than a woman who has her own private email server. Hell, I get excited when I meet a woman who has her own car. Or even her own teeth.

Some of your staff recently called you “nuts” and “secretive”. So what? Show me a woman who isn’t nuts and secretive and I’ll show you a man.

I was pleased when you gave up that secretary of state job. I’ve gone out with a few secretaries in my time and it never ended well. Also, you really don’t want your resume to reflect that you were secretary to a Kenyan-born Muslim who might very well prove to have been the Antichrist all along.

People close to you say you’re a workaholic. Me too. No, wait. Alcoholic. Not much difference, though. It takes as much commitment and dedication to reach the very bottom as it does to reach the very top. In South Africa, nobody has ever reached the very bottom. Our leaders in particular sink to exciting new depths every day. This is a bit of a Wonderland country where it is often difficult to tell up from down, right from wrong and why the president isn’t in prison.

People have always said the world would be very different if it were run by women. By people I mean my first ex-wife. She knew everything there was to know about anything and I had no reason to doubt her. So my question is this. Do you think having boobies and a bobcat rather than moobs and man-giblets will make a difference to the way the most powerful country in the world is run? If so, what will you do differently? Once you’ve colour-coded the Situation Room and redecorated the Dog Box (Bill’s bedroom) and after replacing the kitchen utensils “borrowed” by Michelle, what then?

You will be striking a big blow for women and millions of eyes will be on you. Feminists have, however, set you up for failure with their demented cries of “Whatever men can do women can do better” and “Men should be castrated”. Do they expect you to chop the goolies off all your male staff? And how could you possibly bomb terrorists and anyone who might be inadvertently standing near terrorists any better than Barack Obama? Or, for that matter, George W Bush?

I suppose you could send flowers to those who qualify as collateral damage. That would be a nice, feminine touch. And maybe insist that warships are painted in cheery pastel colours in summer and warm earthy tones in winter. Or, and this is a big or, you could unleash your soft, gentle, sensitive, nurturing side that all women possess. Or so I’ve heard. Tap into that and stop the bombings. Ground the drones. Stop the slaughter of innocents. Stop invading countries on the flimsiest of pretexts. Instead, start talking. Hang on. I might need to rethink this. My second wife was a talker and it only seemed to make things worse.

You know what worries me? Virtually everything. But in the American context, I worry that almost as many people will be voting for Donald Trump on November 8 as they will be for you. What in the name of baby Jesus happened to your people? What terrible calamity struck your country to create such a powerful voting bloc of intellectually-challenged race-baiting morons who think the ginger pussy-grabbing cockwomble would make a good leader? Aren’t these people going to be ungovernable after their man loses? Or will they simply go back to stuffing cheeseburgers into their misshapen faces and breeding with their cousins? Why aren’t you answering me, Hillary? Why? Oh, right. I thought this was an email.

Another thing I don’t understand is how you actually conduct your elections. Where I come from, we wake up on polling day, get drunk and vote for the same bunch of corrupt, pot-bellied pigs over and over again. Then we go home, drink some more and spend the next five years complaining.

You people, on the other hand, have a system so complex and convoluted that I’m surprised voters with miniature Trump-like brains can even grasp it.

We don’t have the equivalent of Donald Trump in our country. The closest we might come is a fat kid called Oros, but he lacks Donald’s charisma and is not so bright. Your doppelgänger is probably Helen Zille, the former leader of our official opposition. Like you, she talks a good game but doesn’t have your superior dress sense and salacious spouse.

I read somewhere that you genuinely have America’s best interests at heart and aren’t in it for the money. Is this true or just another smear campaign to make you look bad? You see, our politicians are revered for their ability to steal as much money as they can while in office. It’s become something of a competition, actually, with the different provinces vying between themselves. We also have individual and team categories to see who can loot the most without being arrested. It’s great fun. The game never ends, either, because our prosecutors are kept busy charging the honest ones who try to spoil things for the rest of us.

Anyway. We can chat in person after the election. I expect to be at your inauguration as South Africa’s new ambassador to the US. First, though, I will have to commit fraud or perpetrate some or other crime in defence of our president. It’s the only way to get an ambassadorship these days.

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Your turn, Mr President

Dear Comrade Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the First, by the Grace of God President of the Republic of South Africa, Head of the Household, Defender of the Faith, Pastor of the Flock, Defeater of the Mbeki, Unifier of the Nation, Msholozi of Msholozis, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Conqueror of the Apartheid Regime and Owner of Property in Nkandla, greetings in the name of the third democratic revolution.

I say third because, as you may have heard, the second has been hijacked by students and the less said about it the better. In fact, you’ve had less to say than anyone. Do you even know there’s trouble at the universities? Perhaps you don’t get the papers any more. If I were you, I wouldn’t. You have enough on your plate, and I’m not talking about that kudu haunch drizzled with warthog jus, either.

Some say democracy and revolution make uneasy bedfellows. That’s rubbish. Uneasy bedfellows would be Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr. As you probably know, democracy is a Greek word invented by Plato. ‘Demo’ means ‘the people and ‘cracy’ means ‘are crazy’. An example of this is how 62% of the electorate voted for you and your party to remain in power for another five years.

And what a party it’s been. Especially for you. Not everyone gets the chance to travel the world, meet interesting people (Asians, mostly), play Monopoly with real money and chess with real pawn-people. If there’s one thing you do have, it’s time to spare. That’s the beauty of rule by collective. You take the money and the overseas trips, they take the responsibility.

Perhaps I’m being a little unfair here. I’m sure you’re very busy. A man in your position must spend at least six hours a day with his lawyers. That only leaves 18 hours for the wives. It sounds a lot, but it’s not really. Not when you have four wives. What does that work out to? Just over four hours per wife? No, wait. You dumped one of them after she tried to poison you.

Anyway, whatever time you have left in the day is probably spent helping your kids with their homework, tender applications and impending lawsuits. I can’t work out what that is divided between 22 children. That’s why I’m not your finance minister. Although if you had your wits about you, you’d dump that tight-fisted Gordhan and appoint me at once. I’m a reckless fool when it comes to money. You could take me out for lunchtime drinks and the Treasury would be yours by sunset.

I appreciate, though, that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to snatching the organs of state. I don’t even understand what I’ve just written, that’s how much of an idiot I am. This is starting to sound like a job application. I do apologise.

I admire you for having the intestinal fortitude to continue going through the motions as head of state. For instance, early last week you addressed something called the South African heads of missions conference in Pretoria. Who are these people? No, wait. Don’t tell me. Upstanding citizens like Bruce Koloane who allowed friends of the Guptas to land at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, Mohau Pheko who lied about having a PhD and Sibusiso Ndebele who is facing corruption charges.

You told our diplomats a side-effect of democracy was that “processes tend to be slower”. This must be very frustrating for you. Progress is not achieved through committees. It is achieved through seizing the moment, the state-owned enterprises and, ultimately, the Treasury.

I am reluctant to quote you back at yourself, but this one has a special place in my heart. “Democracies go through difficulties, precisely because they are democracies. Only in the autocratic dictatorships … there are no problems. When the ruler says they want a bridge here, there is no debate, the bridge will be constructed. No one says there is no money.”

Precisely. Take, for instance, the bridge over the River Kwai. If Pravin Gordhan had been in charge of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942, things would have been very different. Emperor Gordhan would have said there is no money for a railway and thousands of British prisoners of war wouldn’t have died building the Burma-Siam line. Thank god for autocrats like Hirohito.

And let’s not forget North Korea, one of our brightest stars in the firmament of autocratic dictatorships. Kim Jong-un might have had his hairdresser’s eyes plucked out so the commoner could never gaze upon the Loinfruit Leader’s glorious countenance, which is only right, but one cannot deny that the man gets things done. Despite selfish western sanctions, his nuclear programme continues apace. When he feels like launching a rocket to see if it is capable of reaching Washington DC, even factoring in the added weight of a nuclear warhead, he doesn’t ask permission. He doesn’t ask if there’s money. He just does it. This is why we love Kim.

The other alternative to democracy is, of course, a benevolent dictatorship. This is my personal favourite. Wikipedia says “a benevolent dictator portrays himself as compassionate and altruistic, allowing for some decisions to be made by a democratic process. A benevolent dictator remains in power only while the people allow him to.”

This, comrade president, describes you perfectly. If we ignore words like compassionate and altruistic, naturally.

Your final option – and this is where it gets interesting – is the military dictatorship. We had that under PW Botha. No reason it can’t work again. On the other hand, it’s not exactly the same army, is it? There are no pilots for our jets and the submarines are up on bricks. Also, the infantry is on sick leave. Perhaps the MK Veterans’ Association can prop you up.

You’re right, though. Things move painfully slowly in a democracy. You’re a fast mover – a man who likes to get things done. Look how fast you moved the other day when Thuli Madonsela sent you that list of questions. In no time at all, you were off to Kenya on a state visit.

You told our diplomats, “When people say to you, what is happening in South Africa, why these protests? Tell them it is democracy. When they say why does it look like the ruling party is fighting? That is democracy.” I suppose it could work. It might be better, though, if, faced with difficult questions, our diplomats simply exercised their right to remain silent.

We spend R3.2-billion a year on 122 diplomatic missions abroad. The only country better represented on foreign soil is America, with 126 missions. We need to beat America. Can’t you open a few more embassies or have we run out of countries? They don’t have to be fancy. Perhaps something along the lines of our least expensive embassy, which happens to be in Belarus’s glittering capital Minsk and costs a mere R5-million a year.

Anyway. Good luck with your court application to prevent the public protector’s report on state capture from being released. If the judge asks any awkward questions, get your lawyer to blame democracy. The same goes with Pravin Gordhan. If ratings agencies want to know why your boys in the Hawks are prosecuting the finance minister, tell them that’s democracy.

If things get too hot, you can always take another trip. I hear the weather in Dubai is lovely at this time of year.