Tag: ANC

Tuesday’s Great Confidence Trick

Dear Honourable and Dishonourable ANC Members of Parliament,

So, a big day for you on Tuesday. You get to tell the nation that you have confidence in Jacob Zuma as our president. At the same time, you’re also allowed to express your real feelings. That’s the beauty of democracy.

So I hope you’re all feeling strong and healthy and ready to do your bit for the motherland. It would be a terrible shame if some of you – 51 should do it – fell violently ill on Monday and called in sick on the day of the vote, thereby allowing the opposition to unseat the greatest leader the world has ever seen.

Nobody in their right mind would vote against a president who is one hundred percent committed to destroying the country, presumably so that it may be rebuilt stronger than ever. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get the destroying part done first. Our leader is under enough pressure as it is without his representatives in the legislature joining the counterrevolutionary proletariat in their irrational demands. There is a natural order to these things. Visions aren’t accomplished in a day.

Many of you have worked long and hard to help President Zuma succeed with Project Destroy. This is to your eternal credit and you will be richly rewarded, on top of the rewards you have already received. This is a project that never runs out of rewards. It’s like having timeshare in the Treasury.

This is your turn to eat. Unless, of course, you’re one of those MPs who weigh more than 150kg. In which case it’s your turn to buy a new car. Hell, buy two. Three. Spoil yourself. You’ve earned it. You have shown remarkable loyalty to a leader who works so selflessly and tirelessly to take money away from taxpayers to save them from themselves. Taxpayers drink and smoke and take drugs. They have casual sex and park on yellow lines. They gamble on the horses and in the casinos. They cannot be trusted with money. This is why our noble president must do what he does. Take their money and put in safekeeping. Not here, obviously. Large sums of money are best kept outside South Africa. Fortunately, the United Arab Emirates has made special provisions in this regard.

A vote of no confidence in the president would be a vote of no confidence in his humanitarian project. What kind self-respecting nationalist would do such a thing? American President Donald Trump has a similar plan, but he lacks our benevolent commander-in-chief’s intellect and ambition. Trump only wants to repeal Obamacare. Zuma wants to repeal the entire economy. I like a man who dreams big.

A massive 33% of voters approve of Trump’s performance in office. With the exception of one or two renegades who have clearly gone insane, every one of you slumped on an ANC bench approves of our noble president’s dream of uplifting the poor, even if it is only an impoverished family of humble Indian immigrants squatting in a shebeen in Saxonwold. Small steps.

Members of parliament who don’t have a blesser for a leader will vote against the president on Tuesday. This unpatriotic behaviour must be condemned. And when I say condemned, I mean they must be taken outside and shot. It’s the only language liberals and democrats understand.

At the time of writing this, Speaker Baleka Mbete was still trying to decide whether she should allow a secret ballot. I think voting should be open. Secrets are for governments with something to hide. Ours is a firm believer in transparency, even going so far as to loot and pillage in broad daylight right under our noses. We, the people, appreciate that kind of openness.

It’s only been 45 days since the Constitutional Court ruled that Mbete had the power to make the ballot a secret one. These things are not to be rushed. I once took a year to decide whether I should give my second marriage a third shot. The answer, of course, doesn’t lie in the decision ipso facto. It lies in the consequences.

Speaking of lies, ANC secretary-general Greedy Mantashe has made it clear that none of you is allowed to vote according to your conscience. And rightly so. Your membership fee entitles you to a T-shirt, a cap and unlimited access to the party’s free website. Also, if you know the right people, wealth beyond your wildest imaginings. It does not entitle you to a conscience. You are lawmakers and the business of making laws would be severely compromised if you had to start differentiating between right and wrong. That nonsense is the exclusive preserve of bong-puffing philosophers, kiddie fiddler priests and judges of the high court who spend more time on Tinder than on writing up judgements.

Mantashe emphasised that the ANC is not a party of free agents. It is a party of captured agents. And also travel agents, because you guys are always somewhere else. The DA is a party of bloody agents. The EFF is a party of secret agents. The Freedom Front Plus is a party of estate agents (willing buyer, willing seller or death). And so on.

By the way, have you heard about this new coalition called FutureSA? Members include – Sipho Pityana, Sydney Mufamadi, Kumi Naidoo, Terence Nombembe, Zac Yakoob and Bruce Fordyce – now apparently running against the comrades. Heavy hitters, but not as heavy as you. They get to bring Cape Town to a standstill on Tuesday, but if you vote as I expect you will, the entire country will eventually grind to a standstill. That’s what I call real power. And, as they say in Cuba, with real power comes real money.

Our angelic president has survived at least six votes of no confidence. This makes him a winner in anyone’s book. Don’t spoil his unblemished record. He will still lead us to the promised land. Maybe keep some money aside for a visa. Dubai charges R1 370 for 30 days. And, remember, no singing, dancing, drinking, swearing, gayness or public displays of affection. It’s not that kind of promised land.

 

Dirty, rotten scoundrels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A letter to our next president

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Dear President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re standing on my face.”

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

“I haven’t eaten since Tuesday …”

“It’s only Thursday.”

“Tuesday last week. Please. I need …”

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

“Do I get something?”

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

“Some vodka would be nice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.