Welcome to Cadreville

Copyright World Economic Forum www.weforum.org / Eric Miller emiller@iafrica.comThe state of the nation? Why, it’s just dandy. An orgy of delights, dappled with kiffness and drizzled with nca. Yes, life in Cadreville is pretty damn fab.

You’ve never heard of Cadreville? Not surprising, really: they tend not to signpost the border in case the poor people beyond the fence in South Africa come knocking. But it’s there, a beautiful little kingdom of a few hundred people, ruled over by King Jacob the Jolly.

In Cadreville, every citizen has a senior job with the South African government, earning an average salary of about R900 000 – although “salary” implies payment for work done, and in Cadreville you don’t have to do your job to get paid. You don’t even have to go to work very often. This is the other reason why unemployment is at zero percent: you cannot be fired for doing your job badly, or for doing it only two days a week, or for not doing it at all.

Cadrevillians, however, are not layabouts. The kingdom has a thriving industrial hub and produces two major exports: hundreds of hours of speeches and thousands of hollow promises. Its factories are powered by furnaces endlessly fed with millions upon millions of banknotes harvested in South Africa, but these are not as polluting as one might suppose. In a nod to sustainability, the smoke from the furnaces is collected and used later as smokescreens. Sometimes these take the shape of Steve Hofmeyr tweets. Sometimes they look like the business secrets of Somali shopkeepers or Bafana Bafana losses. Either way, they keep the people of nearby South Africa angry and confused, and too distracted to notice that their money is being poured into a machine that gives them almost nothing in return.

The people of Cadreville are scared of the people of South Africa and live behind high walls, but their fears are unfounded. There is no crime in the kingdom, thanks to bulletproof cars and bodyguards and blue-light convoys and police and all the other things that South Africans don’t have, but mainly there is no crime because the charges always go away, and if there’s no court case how could there have been a crime? There has been only one major security scare, when some newcomers began shouting: “Pay back the money!”, but they were quickly pacified with R900 000-per-year salaries and soon, instead of talking about money, they were squabbling about the right to wear red onesies to work.

The citizens of Cadreville have never experienced load-shedding, thanks to the reservoir of diesel, paid for by South African taxpayers, that powers their estates’ generators; but they do fear power cuts. Oh yes, losing power is their worst nightmare.

Our leaders seem to pass the buck faster than a lion on laxatives.

This week, as jolly King Jacob told us that blackouts were not the government’s fault, you could hear 20 million eyeballs rolling right back in their sockets. It was the same noise we heard when our leaders told us that the crippling over-spend in the arms deal was not the government’s fault, or that the killing of miners by police was not the government’s fault, or that the widespread illiteracy of schoolchildren and their teachers was not the government’s fault.

The eye-rolling was understandable. Our leaders seem to pass the buck faster than a lion on laxatives. But was it rational? I’m not so sure. In fact, for all that we like to claim that our leaders have lost touch with reality, I suspect that we are the deluded ones. Specifically, I think we might be labouring under the delusion that government is about running a country, when, in fact, history has proved over and over again that government is simply an income-generating scheme for politicians.

Perhaps this is why the State of the Nation address is headline news; why we think we care about politicians: we are still trapped in the naïve belief that we are the purpose of all their endeavours, when, in fact, we are just their pensions. You, me, the aspirations we nurture, our painstakingly cultivated little patches of Earth: all are merely part of a financial plan for the few hundred overlords who parade at parliament and pretend they are like us before going back to live in a country you and I will never visit.

So what is the state of our nation? Parts of it seem to be collapsing in a smouldering heap. Other bits seem to be plodding along as usual. Here and there, chunks are apparently thriving. Some of the people reporting this are telling the truth, others are hiding an agenda. It’s hard to know anything for sure.

But what does seem certain is that the residents of Cadreville know even less than us. They don’t have a clue. And why should they? As long as we keep giving them a huge mandate to get richer and more clueless, why on earth would they change a thing?

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First published in The Times and TimesLive

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