Tag: Corruption

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.

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.

bread

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.