Tag: South Africa

A letter to our next president

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Dear President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To not swallow or split

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re standing on my face.”

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

“I haven’t eaten since Tuesday …”

“It’s only Thursday.”

“Tuesday last week. Please. I need …”

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

“Do I get something?”

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

“Some vodka would be nice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir, we’re sorry

Dear Comrade Vladimir, Putin of all Putins, Ruler of Russia, Emperor of Eurasia, Capturer of Crimea, Nemesis of the Balkans, Vlad the Impala and Brightest Tsar of All, I throw my unworthy self at your feet.

While I am down there, allow me to apologise for this week’s disastrous court ruling that dashed Russia’s hopes of covering our countryside with nuclear power stations. Yes, I know we had an agreement, but what happened is not our government’s fault. None of us wanted to have to rely on the filthy wind or stupid sun for power. The problem lies with our courts. Unlike your country, we are still struggling to get the right people into the judiciary. Give us time.

If you are going to bomb us, please aim for the courts. The Western Cape High Court in particular is a hotbed of anti-nuclear, pro-marijuana snowflakes. If your missiles can’t reach Cape Town, send in the navy. Your men can come ashore at Camps Bay under cover of lunchtime. The police there have been trained not to question white people about anything.

I expect that our president is deeply embarrassed by the latest turn of events. I don’t just mean financially embarrassed either, although it will take some explaining to the wives why they might have to wait a bit longer for their R50-million apiece.

When Comrade Zuma got his men with pens to sign a cooperation agreement with your Rosatom heavies, he wasn’t to know it was unconstitutional and unlawful. For him to know that, he would’ve had to ask someone. He is a very busy man, our president. He doesn’t have time to go around asking people for advice. Also, he had to fire his finance minister for refusing to make duplicates of the keys to the treasury. So he got a combination lock and a new minister who can’t remember the combination. We’re not even back to square one. We’re just going in circles.

Our then idiot energy minister Tina someone-or-other – who is undoubtedly still an idiot but has since been fired and her name expunged from mortal memory – signed the secret deal with your guys last year. No problem there. Secret deals are good. However, we have a handful of people in this country who haven’t emigrated to Australia and for some reason they think they are entitled to question what the government does. This often leads to court cases and red faces in high places. You don’t have this problem. If anyone questions the Politburo, or whatever you call your inner circle these days, you get someone to cut their legs off. Not personally, obviously. You can’t be spending your days despatching brutes with chainsaws to sort out every unhinged bolshevik when you have a royal flush in a high stakes game of political poker in Syria while simultaneously toying with that kandy-coated tangerine-flake unstreamlined warbaby in the White House.

I have a confession to make. “What?” I hear you shout. “Without even being tortured?” Sorry. This is no time for jokes. Thing is, I stopped following Russian politics when Yeltsin stabbed Gorbachev in the forehead with a broken glass. A waste of good red wine if you ask me. So you’ll forgive me when I say I thought the Communist Party was still in charge. You won’t? I didn’t think so. You are not a man to whom forgiveness comes easily. Not your fault. That’s what happens when you’re breast-fed up to the age of 16.

Anyway, you probably stopped following South African politics on … what was it? Wednesday? When the nuclear deal went arse over kettle, to coin a phrase popular with the bleeding-heart liberals who sprawl across our judicial benches sucking on bongs and quoting from the constitution as if it were a real thing.

Your Communist Party got 13% in the last elections. Ours didn’t even stand. Hell, the general-secretary can barely stand. I see your party, United Russia, is firmly in control. Well done. Our ANC is very dominant, too, even though President Zuma is still looking for his machine gun and doesn’t ride horses with his shirt off. Not while on duty, anyway. We don’t know what he rides while he’s on holiday. He might not even wear trousers, for all we know.

I hate to quote Wikipedia but they have proved marginally more reliable than tea leaves and bone throwing, and they say that United Russia “has no coherent ideology; however, it embraces specific politicians and officials with a variety of political views who support the administration”. It’s uncanny how similar this is to our ANC. The only difference is that we embrace anyone with a variety of ways to launder backhanders and … oh, right. Wikipedia knows about the chainsaws.

I have to ask you something, comrade president. Does United Russia also rely heavily on the support of the benighted proletariat and failed agronomists less familiar with the Dow Jones Index than they are with the goat/chicken exchange rate? We call it the rural vote. I suppose in your country you’d call it the Ural vote. It doesn’t matter. The point is, we’re both big fans of a multi-party dictatorship based on ignorance and fear.

But let us return to matters nuclear, since it is quite likely the only interest the Kremlin has in us. Or rather, had in us.

I was shocked when Judge Lee Bozalek – if that’s his real name – ruled in favour of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute. Shocked because two shadowy organisations nobody has ever heard of succeeded in depriving me and my friends of 9.6 GW of nuclear energy. I don’t know if that’s a week’s worth or what. I don’t know what a GW is. VW, I know. And 9.6? That’s a low number. It doesn’t sound like a good deal for one trillion rand. For that kind of money I’d expect at least 75 000 GWs per person, per day. With a free bag and maybe a T-shirt.

Comrade Vlad, perhaps you’re looking for answers and nobody at the Union Buildings or even at the head office in Saxonwold is taking your calls. This seems likely, especially if you’ve already paid the bribes. I think I know what happened here. The case has been dragging on for 18 months and Judge Bozalek shut the whole thing down because he had to get home and start the braai. Also, he might be Ukrainian.

Apparently the whole shebang was meant to be debated in parliament long before those agreements were signed with invisible ink in an unlit room on a moonless night in the middle of the darkest month of the year, thus “flouting democratic processes”. Oh, please. I can’t speak for Russia, but we are a nation of flouters. We flout at the drop of a cat. I fully expect a Floutist Party to contest the next election. I’d certainly vote for them.

Besides, aren’t parliamentary debates more for the benefit of the international investor community than the great unwashed? After all, United Russia has a 76% majority in parliament and the ANC – which can’t be called united in any sense whatsoever – has 62%. With those odds, it’s not even gambling. The house is guaranteed to win every time. The game is rigged and that’s how it has stayed ever since the Ancient Greeks invented democracy and sodomy.

It is even more saddening that this kangaroo court of ours jumped to its rabid conclusions on Chernobyl Day, a day the world sets aside to celebrate nuclear power and tries to forget the men and women who died doing whatever it was they were doing when the number four reactor reacted badly to a late night safety test. We all react badly to being tested late at night. It’s no reason to be anti-nuclear.

Comrade, I urge you not to give up on us. We have other things we can give you. Would you like an elephant? I see you on the cover of GQ magazine wearing nothing but a pair of armadillo boots and ivory spurs, urging a giant tusker into a full-blooded gallop. Maybe heading into a fight with a Zimbabwean riding a hippo. I don’t want to tell you what to do. You have your own fantasies.

I’ll pop in for vodkas next time I’m in Moscow.

Do svidaniya!

VladImpala

No stress please, we’re Zulu

A study done last year by Bloomberg found South Africa to be the second most stressed country out of 74 surveyed. The title is currently held by Nigeria. Anyone who has driven through Lagos will understand why. It was damnably close though, with us missing the top spot by a mere point-one percent. Hopes are pinned on Jacob Zuma staying in power. This would almost certainly bump us into first place.

However, our chances of making it to world number one suffered a setback when our Teflon president said at his 75th birthday party that there was no Zulu word for stress. Stress, he said, was a white man’s disease.

“I do not have stress,” he said. You know who else doesn’t suffer from stress? Megalomaniacal sociopaths. Self-serving narcissists. Avaricious scofflaws who give fresh meaning to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

“In the Zulu nation‚ stress does not exist,” he said. “You can go to a traditional healer asking to be healed from stress‚ but they do not have muti for stress.” Zuma is probably right about this. Traditional healers might not be able to give you muti for stress, but they will give you muti to turn your unpleasant neighbour into a chicken. That will go a long way towards alleviating the stress you don’t have.

I’m not sure that Zuma is right when he calls stress a disease. It’s more of just an anxious gnawing feeling, which isn’t the same as, say, cancer or tuberculosis. Sure, stress can probably cause a disease, but you have to watch your terminology. Next thing, you’re saying a virus can’t cause a syndrome and before you know it you’re slumped over a counter telling the barman that you were the president once. Sure you were, sir. I think you’ve had enough.

People who have studied for seven years and know their way around a stethoscope tell me that stress can affect your mind and body. Oh, please. So can alcohol. It’s pretty much the only reason we drink the filth. But then we get drunk and it’s impregnations and proposals and off to the magistrate’s court and ten years later a man in a white coat gives us six months to live. That’s stress for you. It’s not the alcohol. It’s never the alcohol.

As someone who has studied medicine for a number of decades without ever having to write exams or pitch up on graduation day, I can confidently say that stress is not the killer it’s made out to be. The real killers are your boss, your bank manager and your spouse. The accessories are your children and sometimes your parents.

Stress can also be triggered by things other people might consider minor. Like getting to the bottle store an hour before it opens. Or realising that you’ve been contributing to the R550-million given to King Zwelithini and his loved ones over the last ten years while the Royal Household Trust apparently raise funds for the tribal monarchy down at the Suncoast Casino.

Conventionally, however, the top three causes of stress are the death of a loved one, a divorce and moving house. There’s no arguing with the first, but I’d say there are more stressful things in life than getting divorced and moving house. Driving, for starters. I’d rather live in a homeless shelter than do a morning and evening rush hour commute.

If you live in Cape Town, over your working life you’re looking at 800 days – nearly three years – of doing nothing but changing from first to second gear while listening to an idiot DJ and brimming with hatred for humanity. And there’s no point cursing the traffic. You are the traffic.

While a loved one’s death tops the list, death as a thing isn’t stressful at all. People we don’t know are dying all the time and we don’t get stressed about that. This is quite normal because we are, in essence, savages.

The positioning of divorce at number two on the list should be condemned and set aside. If death is qualified as stressful only if it happens to a loved one, then so too should divorce. Divorce is only stressful if you are crazy in love and the person formerly known as sweetheart isn’t. This situation usually presents itself in the space of one terrible evening.

It’s less stressful to allow your mutual hatred for one another to develop over a period of years so that by the time one of you suggests divorce, it’s a huge relief all round. Just say goodbye. Don’t get drunk and have a last pangalang. You don’t want any accidents that might entail you having to see each other, no matter how fleetingly, every second weekend and alternate school holidays for the next 18 years.

I am facing my second divorce and already I am girding my mental loins for a third marriage, which I fully expect to happen because there is little point in stopping once you’ve had two of anything. If you have ever tried two of something and never had a third, I’d like to know what it is.

Number three on the stress list is moving house. This is clearly not true. Unless you’re moving from uMhlanga to uMlazi or from Camps Bay to Pollsmoor Prison, there’s no reason to get upset. The most stressful thing about moving house is trying to stop the packing tape from sticking itself to the roll. Some people lose the packing tape altogether and end up stabbing themselves in the eye.

Then there’s something called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale and a more lucid definition: “Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise.” Or, in terms that you and I can understand, “This is fucked up and I’m running away.”

I don’t know who Holmes and Rahe are and nor do I care. They’re not politicians so there is no real reason for them to lie. That’s good enough for me. They surveyed more than 5 000 patients and asked them to say whether they had any experience of a series of 43 events in the previous two years.

Each event had a different weight for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. These events include things like jail time, sex difficulties, trouble with in-laws, trouble with the boss and minor violations of the law – in other words, stuff we all live with every single goddamn day.

Being a little drunk, I did the test and scored an impressive 393. I thought that was pretty damn good. Higher than I’ve ever got for anything. With that kind of mark you want to rush home and burst through the front door and shout, “Honey, I got almost 400 on the test!” But honey’s on the couch in front of the TV slack-jawed and drooling with 500mg of benzodiazepines ponying around the arterial racetrack. Anyway. The results of my score? “You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.”

And that’s it. They don’t tell you that you need to chuck your job, get divorced or stop drinking vodka before 10am. They simply tell you that you’re going to get ill in the near future. Like next year? In the middle of the next sentence?

To be fair, they do suggest solutions. For instance, you can acquire “conflict resolution skills”. Here, this means acquiring an AK-47. It’s a traditional South African way of resolving conflict.

Stressed? Try homicide. You’ll feel so much better.

b

 

Dear Angus Buchan …

I see Oom Angus is in the news again. Reminded me of this letter I wrote to him a few years ago. Still waiting for a reply.

 

Brother Angus Buchan

Shalom Ministries

Shalom Farm

Greytown KZN

 

Dear Angus,

The other evening I saw you being interviewed on television about your latest Mighty Men’s Conference and my first thought was, this man is a genius. You set yourself up as God’s main man in KwaZulu-Natal, write a book about proselytising potatoes, get a movie made of the book, perform a few rain-making miracles, get mobs of people eating out of your hand, get recognised as the 13th apostle, take over the presidency and then the world. What a brilliant strategy!

But then I listened closely to what you were saying and realised that I had made a terrible mistake. I do not wish to appear rude, but I got the impression you are not all that bright. Please don’t be insulted. Farmers are not generally known for their great intellectual prowess. Like most of them, you are a simple man of the soil. Tight with Jesus, undoubtedly, but simple, nevertheless.

Congratulations on getting 60 000 men to come to your farm, Shalom, in Greytown. I couldn’t get 60 people to come to a party at my house, and that’s with providing free beer and recreational drugs. Maybe you were offering imported liquor, high quality narcotics and a free car, like Oprah does. Just kidding. You are a man of God and would never stoop so low.

The first thing I thought when I went onto YouTube and saw those 60 000 men listening to you was that somewhere out there were 60 000 lonely women. Probably less, judging by the look of some of the men. Sorry about that. Sometimes the devil makes me think bad things and I have to drink whiskey to come right.

To be honest, the idea of waking up to find 60 000 mainly white Afrikaner men camped out on a field in front of my house scares the living daylights out of me. Actually, if this were to ever happen, my wife Brenda would come out onto the stoep and shout: “He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy! Now go away!”

Your wife, Jill, would never do such a thing. She knows her place. I could tell because you let her out of the kitchen just long enough for her to inform us that God needs real men. She said: “He has to reinstate the men and when he does that, the women will be very happy.” Brenda said Jill had the demeanour of a whipped puppy and I ordered her to kneel at my feet and beg forgiveness for her crass remarks. She knelt alright, but then sank her teeth into the fleshy part of my ankle and wouldn’t let go until I promised to do the dishes for the next two weeks.

Then I heard you say: “Wives, respect your husbands, submit to your husbands … if a husband loves his wife, his wife will gladly submit to him.” It’s alright for you, Angus, but Brenda is not an easy woman to love, let alone make her, as you say, “into the lady she is supposed to be”. What should I do in this case? Would it be okay if I beat her into submission? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that. The prosecutorial forces are no longer on our side.

I have another problem. My son, Clive, is overly sensitive and I was hoping you could teach him how to be a Mighty Man. I am prepared to make a considerable donation to your prophet-making organisation if you can succeed in ridding him of his irrational ideas about equality of the sexes. Let me know.

Anyway, good luck with selling the video of the April conference. If everyone who was there buys a copy, you will end up with R17.4 million! That certainly beats growing mielies for a living. And since you’re Scottish, I am sure there is no need to warn you against frittering it away on frivolous things like new clothes for Jill.

I was going to buy the first season of Seinfeld with my spare R290, but he’s Jewish and doesn’t really believe so much in Jesus so I decided to rather spend the money on your video but then I remembered that Shalom is a Jewish word and I got confused and bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Red instead.

By the way, I tried to get into your gig at Newlands Stadium yesterday but a shaven-headed thug masquerading as a man of the cloth refused to let me in. He said the mark of the beast was upon me. I tried explaining that my forehead was full of gravel only because I had fallen down in the parking lot but he was having none of it. Maybe next time, brother.

Biblically yours,

Mr Ben Trovato (Man of the house)

PS. I am enclosing a picture of me with my tractor. It needs a bit of work. So do I. Send directions and I will blow up the tyres and drive down to the farm next week.

tractorbling

Petty thefts and passion plays

Trawling through this berserk electronic mental penitentiary infested with food, cats, babies and bloodshed, I came across Robyn informing her Facebook friends that her phone had been stolen. This heartbreaking news was met by an avalanche of sad and angry emoticons. Some were sad and angry at the same time. Sangry. They wanted to know how and where this atrocity had been committed. If you, too, feel a crushing need for details, let me give you the short version.

A man claiming to be the neighbour’s gardener knocked on her door and said he needed to trim the overhanging branches. He asked if he could borrow an extension lead. Anyone who has ever owned an extension lead will know that they are never where you expect them to be. They have lives of their own. So Robyn, and quite likely everyone in the house, embarked on a search for the cable. Bored and left to his own devices, the ‘gardener’ pocketed a phone and wallet and sauntered off into the sunset.

Amid a steady outpouring of grief and sympathy, Samantha had a similar story to tell. “I went to the neighbour behind me who told me he didn’t have a gardener. This guy was well spoken, well dressed, probably the same scammer.” Undoubtedly. After all, what are the odds of two darkies being in a white suburb, both capable of tucking their shirts in and stringing a coherent sentence together? Clearly the same person.

Deborah, too, had an almost identical encounter. She was tipped off when the “gardener”, under interrogation, admitted he didn’t know the neighbour’s name. I don’t know my neighbour’s name either, but it’s only been nine years. Besides, if a white man knocks on your door and offers to do menial labour, you call the police immediately. Or marry him.

“I was only suspicious because I knew that neighbour used a garden service and that day they weren’t there,” said Deborah. “They are very clever.‬” Our president warned us about these people – these clever blacks – but we didn’t listen. Now look. They walk among us.

Given that we live in a country headed by a president with the morals of a boomslang, I didn’t think anyone still bothered making an issue out of trust. Cue Imelda. “Just proves that you can’t trust anyone no matter how decent they are. Spoils it for the ones who are genuine.” So there you have it. If any of you genuine ones are reading this, you know who to blame when we don’t trust you.

The best comment of all, though, came from Robyn’s friend Sandra. “You damn lucky he didn’t kill you.‬” Indeed. What extraordinary luck. There’s such a fine line between petty theft and murder. One minute you’re nicking a phone, the next you’re chopping someone’s face off. It’s really just a matter of how you feel on the day. I don’t mean you, obviously. I mean they. Them.

So anyway. Easter, eh? Funny old business. For the past couple of months the shops have been jammed with gilded bunnies of all sizes. If one didn’t know any better, and one frequently doesn’t, one might be forgiven for thinking that the alleged son of God was a rabbit.

Who are we meant to be remembering? Jesus or rabbits? If we were to do this properly, surely we’d be sucking on white chocolate Jesuses moulded onto dark chocolate crosses.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John don’t really have their story straight when it comes to what went down three days after the crucifixion, but they do at least agree that the tomb was empty. And that Mary Magdalene, possibly with a couple of her mates, happened to be in the area. Given the present situation, it seems likely that Mary said, “This is weird. We should make a point of remembering it. Any ideas?” After a bit of head-scratching, a woman holding a crudely fashioned clay bong put up her hand. “I know. Every year on this day, we pretend that an invisible rabbit brings chocolate eggs for everyone.” And so it was writ in the Book of Rabbits, later to be struck from the Bible by a rogue Middle Eastern rewrite man suffering from severe leporiphobia.

Easter is a moveable feast, as are rabbits. Nobody can agree on a precise date on which Easter should fall. Even the pope relies on the appearance of chocolate chickens in the Vatican gift shop to tip him off that the day is getting close. I have also heard mention of an ecclesiastical vernal equinox, which sounds like it could be contagious.

How’s John doing?”

Not so good. Picked up a nasty vernal equinox.”

From his wife?”

Nah. He reckons it was Shirley.”

Shirley from the pub?”

Nah. The other Shirley.”

This could go on for some time. If you want to know more about the other Shirley, contact me privately.

I need to fill up space so let me tell you about the Easter weekend I once spent with a girlfriend in one of our many delightfully white bread in-bred coastal towns. It was a dark and stormy night when I came across a rapidly forming mob at the old harbour. Sensing a fight, I pushed my way to the front. If you stumble upon an outbreak of hostilities between rival gangs of perlemoen poachers, there’s no point hanging about at the back. You want to be close enough to hear the crack of teeth and the splinter of bone. You want to feel that whipspray of hot blood across your face.

This was, after all, Good Friday – a day in history soaked in violence and steeped in shame. Not for everyone, of course. The Rosicrucians, for instance, treat Good Friday just like any other day of the week. Similarly, the day has little relevance to practicing Gymnosophists. Then again, so does food and clothing. For others, like the Rastafarians, every Friday is good.

Kicking street urchins out of my way and elbowing the elderly and infirm aside, I made it to a small clearing down by the water’s edge. In the middle were two burly bearded types wearing sheepskin car seat covers and carrying plastic shepherd’s crooks. They were nodding sagely at one another. The crowd pressed in. The bearded men nodded some more.

“Hit him!” I shouted. The men stopped nodding, glared in my direction, then went back to their nodding. “Use your crook!” I shouted, making hitting and thrusting motions.

Just then, a powerful spotlight snapped on. Thinking it was a police helicopter, I grabbed a young girl and, using her as a shield between the sniper and me, I tried to fight my way through the throng. It was like getting sheep to move. “You’ll never take me alive!” I yelled. An ancient person of indeterminate gender kicked me on the shin and told me to shush. I dropped the girl and she scuttled away like a giant crab reared up on its hind legs. Maybe it was a crab I’d picked up. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

A voice boomed out across the harbour. It was as if God himself was speaking. “Dawid,” thundered the voice, “Kyk daar.” What the hell was this? Does God speak Afrikaans? Surely not. But maybe the Boers were right and they really are God’s chosen people. Then where does that leave the Jews? The weight of the moment made my head spin and I had to fall down for a bit.

When I got up, I was pleased to discover that it wasn’t the Almighty at all, but a couple of out-of-work actors huddled on a grassy knoll looking more bibulous than biblical. In the spotlight, they looked like a pair of huge mutant dassies. This was no gang fight. No police ambush. My relief was tempered by the cruel realisation that I was in the middle of a Passion Play, or, in the local parlance, ‘n Passiespel.

What I needed, way more than redemption, was a stiff drink. I could see the lights of a pub at the top of the cliff but there was no way out. The crowd had closed in like pack ice. I was trapped.

Just then, the spotlight picked out a flock of faux Pharisees. One of them stood up and said, “We must stop this man before people start following him.” I assumed he was talking about Jesus and not me.

Then the lights went off, leaving everyone drenched in darkness. I was the only one who screamed. A woman with a purple tea cosy on her head and the hips of a zebra clenched me to her heaving bosom. Either she thought I was having a religious epiphany or had become possessed by demons. I put my foot down. The snapping on of a battery of arc lights drowned out the snapping of her tarsal bones.

The crowd swivelled and gasped as one. There, on the far side of the harbour, were three wobbly crosses illuminated against the night sky. The crucifixion was mercifully brief and I began applauding the moment the lights went off again. Nobody else clapped, though. They probably knew that wasn’t the end of it.

We had three minutes of nothing happening to allow Jesus to get down off the cross and prepare for his resurrection in a fibreglass cave the size of a dog kennel. In the meantime, under cover of darkness, I found a path to the pub. Hallelujah.