Tag: Sunday Tribune

Home, James, and don’t spare the wotsits

Thirty hours and three flights later, I’m back from Bali. It was 29 degrees when I left Denpasar Airport wearing what I’d worn for a month – baggies, t-shirt and slops. It was four degrees the morning I landed in Johannesburg. In between, I had spent 12 hours in Singapore’s Changi Airport, which was like being in a mall the size of a small hyper-elitist city – a city where it’s easier to find a diamond tiara than a beer.

Dozens of high-end shops, scattered among fern-fringed lakes filled with gold-plated koi bigger than bull sharks, were offering permanent buy-two-get-one-free specials. Since my bag was already full, I could only buy stuff that I could carry in my tummy. After walking for days, I came across an Irish pub in which no proper Irishman would ever set foot. I told the waitress, an Indian woman, that I was extremely interested in their three-for-the-price-of-two specials and ordered a Tiger draught. The menu said it was 19 Singapore wotsits. Idly, I googled the exchange rate. The lager I was quaffing with such cavalier disregard was costing me R180. I choked, beer spurting from my nose. I quickly put my head down, licked it off the table and called for the bill.

The waitress brought it over. I was being charged 38 wotsits, seemingly on the assumption that I was emotionally invested in the special. Apparently in Singapore a man’s word is his bond. Not in South Africa, mate. I told the waitress in no uncertain terms that all deals were off. She pointed at the bill and wobbled her head. Durban Indians don’t do that head wobbling thing, but I understand it can mean a lot of things. For me, it meant I had to get out of there as quickly as possible. You don’t get to be the third richest country in the world by allowing feral foreigners to renege on verbal agreements. Wobbling a lot more than my head, I left 20 wotsits on the table and fled.

You know how crazy people say that when you die your soul goes somewhere to be judged and then you’re sent off to heaven or hell? Airports are like that place. Nobody is inside an airport because they want to be there. You’re only there so you can be somewhere else. Free will ends where the travelator begins. Once you’ve shown your boarding pass to the human equivalent of Cerberus and passed through the gates of aviation hell, there’s only one way out. You bought the ticket, you take the ride. There’s very little difference between being trapped in purgatory and trapped in transit.

Crushed together in a confined space with restricted freedom of movement and knowing we will never see each other again, we descend to the level of ravening beasts. Common decency and social graces quickly fall away. Filthy hands are deployed to stuff toxic airport food into snarling mouths. The strong elbow the weak aside in stampedes for the toilet. The fat and the furious sprawl selfishly across seats. With every fresh opportunity for free wifi, happy loving couples set about ignoring one another with grim determination for hours at a time.

And beneath it all, bubbling like a terrible boil constantly threatening to break the surface, we are all aware that in a very short space of time we could be hanging upside down in our seat with seconds left to live. That’s why I always ask for an emergency exit. If I’m going to die, I want to be able to put my seat back and stretch my legs out.

Airports also do something truly dreadful to children. Upon realising that their parents are slack-jawed and speechless with indifference, the sugared-up urchins waste no time mutating into ungovernable savages. It’s Lord of the Flyers wherever you look.

There was one in particular I had my eye on. It was shrieking in that incomprehensible tongue only toddlers can understand and appeared to be under the impression that it could run through solid objects. The yammering gibberish was interspersed with yowling and yelping and nobody but me seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Some poor bastard is going to be sitting next to that, I thought. Yep. I was that poor bastard. Well, it was across the aisle from me, but still close enough to put me at risk of cardiac arrest or a homicide charge.

The insufferable troglodyte wept and wailed for ten minutes before we had even taken off. Then I heard a woman behind me say, “For God’s sake, stick something in its mouth!” I mentioned drugs but the mother’s attention was already locked on to the interloper in 45C. A strange woman telling a mother what to do with her child? That’s a declaration of war. There was a sudden outbreak of “don’t push my buttons, lady” and “last time I checked, you didn’t own the plane” and “you’re messing with the wrong lady, lady”.

I imagined that very soon a fight would break out and everyone on the plane would kill each other. The only survivors would be me and the brat, and I’d have to adopt it. The mother grabbed the mewling whelp from its bumbling father and stuck a nipple in its mouth. In an instant, the enfant terrible passed out. I wouldn’t have minded a hit of that myself.

As it was I had nothing to drink. I hadn’t even been able to successfully sneak a bottle of water onto the plane. How the hell did the Guptas manage to smuggle R40-billion out of the country without anyone but the president, the intelligence services and half the cabinet knowing about it?

The staff I encountered at OR Tambo International were friendly and cheerful. “Welcome home, sir,” said the immigration official, stamping my passport with a big smile. “Go right through,” said the customs guy, giving me a slap on the back. Ha ha. Yeah, right. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Bali any more. I’m going to have to get used to being in the land of the surly and home of the sullen all over again.

On my 8am connecting flight to Durban, everyone was dressed for business meetings. I was dressed for the beach, hadn’t slept in 24 hours or shaved in two weeks. Nobody made eye contact with me. I asked for a Bloody Mary but was told that this was breakfast time. I pointed out that it was lunchtime in my brain – obviously referring to the fact that my brain was still running on Indonesian time – but she wasn’t to know this and simply thought there was something wrong with me. Which there is, but it’s not what she thinks it is.

Skimming the papers during the flight, I knew I was well and truly home when I read this, “Professor Zulu told the (Moerane) commission that if politicians, especially at councillor level, had to be qualified to take up their posts, murdering for positions would be greatly eliminated.”

Viva.

President Zuma, you have mail

Greetings, Mosholozi, in the name of our patron saint Machiavelli and all those who follow the holy gospels of perfidy and artifice.

Well done on surviving yet another attack by the running dogs of … I don’t know what. Let’s just call them running dogs. They bark a lot, chase their own tails and eventually roll over and lie there panting, trying to look cute and pathetic, hoping someone will come along and vote for them.

The opposition treats parliament as if it’s some sort of clubhouse for over-achievers. For people with a conscience. People who care. Well, it’s not. It’s the headquarters of one of the most powerful gangs in the country.

How dare these shouty arrivistes come to your headquarters and demand you get impeached? When I was small I read a book called James and the Giant Impeachment. It gave me nightmares from which I have never recovered. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.

Cape Town has for years proudly hosted the 26s, 27s, 28s, the Americans, the Mongrels, the Hard Livings and the Sexy Boys, but yours is the only gang with its headquarters in a fancy building right in the middle of the city.

Sure, at something like 243 members, yours is one of the smaller gangs in the Cape Town precinct. But what you lack in numbers you compensate for in influence. The 28s might trade in crystal meth and crack whores, but your members, oh boy, your members get to make laws! That’s pretty wild stuff, my man. I apologise. That was disrespectful. You are nobody’s man. Well, that’s not strictly true. You are Atul Gupta’s man.

You should know, though, that any man of my man is my man, too. Whoops. That sounds a bit gay. I have never forgotten the time some years back when you said, “When I was growing up, unqingili (homosexuals) could not stand in front of me.” A lot of people can’t stand in front of me, too, but that’s mainly because they are journalists who struggle to get to their feet by 11am and are back on their knees twelve hours later.

What I’m saying is that I am not gay. However, if you have changed your position, so to speak, and your gang now embraces gayness, then I am with you. Not physically, of course. I lack the stamina to compete with your sturdily built wives. But if you need me to pay special attention to one of your top people, I shall grin and bare it for the cause of the national democratic revolution. And when I say top people, I obviously mean the top six. I am not a racist but I think I might be a bit classist.

Given a choice, I would rather not have to perform Catholic ministrations upon Gwede Mantashe or Squirrel Ramaphosa. They are hefty men and, despite my advanced age, I have managed to retain my snake-like hips and would prefer them not to be crushed.

Jessie Duarte frightens me, not least because she reminds me of a Lebanese biker who almost snapped my spine in a street fight 20 years ago.

And Baleka Mbete, your fighting general, is out of the question because she doesn’t recognise anyone these days and I fear that in mid-coitus she might mistake me for Steve Hofmeyr and sink her fangs into my throat.

That leaves Zweli Mkhize. He’s a bit of a dark horse, which I might rather fancy if it weren’t for his … I beg your pardon, Brother Leader. This was not what I wanted to write about. Things got away from me. You, of all people, know how easily this can happen. Oddly enough, the Guptas also got away. Late last night, I believe.

Do you have a name for your gang? Yes, I know the official name is the African National Congress. But it lacks the panache of, for instance, the Los Zetas or the Crisps. Wait, not the Crisps. That’s the posse who run the Simba operation. The Crips. And their rivals, the Bloods. Awesome names, awesome people.

Acronyms, like ANC, are not that popular in the field of organised crime. Unless, of course, you’re the IMF, a guileful gang specialising in high-octane extortion. How about something like the Aryan Brotherhood but for black people? I don’t know what’s the antonym for Aryan and, quite frankly, hazarding a guess is more than my job’s worth.

Shouting in parliament on Tuesday, Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF gang, called your gang Bloody Voting Cattle. It has a pastoral yet deadly ring to it. Cows and voting have always scared me and, quite frankly, as a vegetarian anarchist I want no part of either. That could be my gang name. Ben ‘Veggie-Boy’ Trovato.

“My biggest nephew has been named in the Panama Papers? Hehehe. Gwede, unleash Veggie-Boy.” Obviously I would need some sort of eco-friendly superhero outfit, possibly made from hemp with a high THC count so that I could really fly when push came to shove.

Even though everyone recognises you as the capo di tutti capi, the control you exerted over your members on Tuesday by doing nothing more than nodding off was breathtaking. Not one of them voted in favour of that treacherous business instigated by the gangbangers on the other side of the room. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty. Well, actually you can. And you have.

The Democratic Alliance is an even worse gang name than the African National Congress because nobody has ever been afraid of an alliance, apart from maybe a miscreant Francophobe sentenced to a thousand hours of French lessons at the Alliance Francaise.

As a patriot who hopes for great things for his country, but mainly for himself, I am very pleased that you refused to do what the enemy described as ‘the right thing’. Capitulation is for weaklings and quislings and maybe even ducklings.

Speaking of which, I see that Trevor Manuel – I’m not sure if you remember him – has asked you not to bother coming into work on Monday. Or any other day. He’s from the Cape Flats and knows his way around an Okapi knife, so you might want to be careful. Also, he’s the deputy chairman of Rothschild in South Africa, one of the richest gangs around. Watch his hands. He leads with his right and takes with his left. Go for his balls, if you must. He didn’t have any when he worked for you but it seems they might have grown back.

Comrade President, there is something that has been worrying me. Nothing to do with Nkandla – I have also used other people’s money to improve my quality of life and Comrade Jesus has always sent some of his angels to keep me out of prison, as he has done with you – but I read a report this week that said a rat carrying bubonic plague was found in Tembisa.

I don’t want to be alarmist, but my favourite book, the Bible, is full of plagues. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a fun read, and you’d probably be happier with something by Robin Sharma or some other monk who sold his Ferrari and bought a small country. Not that you’re a monk. Heaven forfend that rumour gets around town. You still have many more wives to collect.

Right now, rats are everywhere. The state broadcaster is infested with them. Even the Hawks, who actually eat rats, have been overrun. Some even made it all the way from Uttar Pradesh to 7 Saxonwold Drive, although they seem to have abandoned this particular sinking ship.

Funny things, plagues. They start with rats. Next thing you know, you’re waist-deep in locusts, covered in flies and choking on frogs. This is fine if you’re French but it’s not so pleasant for those of us accustomed to a certain standard of living.

The point is, have you done anything recently that might have offended God or any other of the multitude of supernatural deities? Think carefully. No? Nothing at all? Okay, then. It must be a coincidence.

Anyway, good luck for future brawls. Like you, I would also prefer disputes to be settled in the old ways – with pangas and knobkieries – but I guess we’re stuck with the courts. For now.

Viva the one-party democracy!