The heist to end all heists

BuddiesThe alarms have all been tripped. All of them. This isn’t the familiar, daily smash-and-grab. This is huge. A heist to end all heists.

We go to our windows, careful to stay out of sight. It’s still far away, but the first reports are already flickering like sparks from a bulldozed lamppost: they’re working on an international scale; the Russians are involved; they have earth-moving equipment and engineers. They’ve even got nuclear scientists. And they’ve hit the mother lode. It’s going to take decades for them to cart off all the cash.

We know what we’re seeing because we saw a proper heist once, back in 1999. This one’s much, much bigger, but our response is the same. We just stand at the window, twitching the curtain, angrily saying that someone should do something. Not us (because what can we do?) but someone, like the police or Thuli Madonsela or foreign investors or something.

They know we’re watching, but they don’t care. We’re just scenery to them now, a fleeting impression to be remembered one day when they’re lying on their private beach, laughing about the old days when they were making their pile. “Remember when you and me and Skippy took that side road, and there was that newspaper editor standing there going, ‘Stop, thief!’? I just saw an open mouth and a wagging finger. God! He looked so angry! ‘Stop, thief!’ Shame. I wonder what happened to that guy.”

Maybe once they feared us; feared that someone would be a hero or try to get in their way. But they needn’t have worried. In 1999 we shouted and pointed but we didn’t actually do anything. Even our angriest words were polite. An arms “deal”, our newspapers called it, as if something equitable had been arrived at. As if all that money had somehow bought something worthwhile. As if a heist could be a deal.

That’s when they learned that we’re just mannequins in our windows. We’ll shout things like “Pay back the money!” and “Consult us before you pay Russia to build six new nuclear power stations!”, but they know we don’t mean it. If we meant it we’d be massing outside their fences, shaking their gates, dragging them out in their pyjamas. Instead, we’re arguing over whether Danny Jordaan is a good choice for mayor. They can relax.

they can begin the work of getting hot money to cool down

That’s the secret: relaxing. Waiting. Stretching out and letting the years tick past. That’s all they have to do to get away with it. And we’ve shown them how. We’ve taught them. All they need to do is grab the brass ring and then wait.

Even if they do the unthinkable and mortgage our future to the Kremlin, it’s going to work out for them. As the sun rises over the enormous crater in our national psyche, a trillion rand potentially signed over to one of the most corrupt countries on the planet, we’ll shout accusations and condemnations. Then there will be headlines. There might be a commission of inquiry, but even if it goes anywhere the result will just be more headlines. And then it will all go quiet, and they can begin the work of getting hot money to cool down.

The signs are encouraging. The takings from the last heist are coming along nicely. In 1999, they were called ugly things like “bribes”. Now, they’re property and educations. Left in the dark for almost 20 years, they’ve fermented into something that smells like respectability. And we’re okay with that. We don’t want to remember the origins of wealth. We love our fairy tales about beautiful people who got rich without ever getting filthy first.

No, they know they just have to wait. If you wait long enough, you never have to pay back the money. Endure five or six years of shouting from the mannequins, and you get to the keep the house and the fire pool. It’s yours forever, to hand down to your family, to create a dynasty. Some critics might remember you as a taker without a conscience. Who cares? Fuck them. In 50 years they’ll be dead and your family will be rich, celebrating your memory as a patriarch, a founder, a giver, a saint. All you have to do is wait.

The arms deal cost R30-billion. Its foulness is still washing up everywhere. If a trillion rand goes to Vladimir Putin’s personal fiefdom in return for our nuclear future, we will be buried in a tsunami of filth so deep that we’ll forget what clean air smells like.

It’s possible we’ll get six working power stations. It’s possible they will be safe. But whatever happens, the moment the deal goes through, we’re toast. We might end up with clean electricity, but the lights will have gone out on the possibility of good governance, and nothing will be clean again.


First published in The Times and TimesLive

Published by Tom Eaton

Tom Eaton is a columnist, satirist, screenwriter and sometime-novelist.

22 thoughts on “The heist to end all heists

  1. we are a bunch of lame ducks . years ago we couldnt understand why people in Zim didnt fight back to break Mugabes its as if the same thing is happening here, like being caught in a spider net.. paralysed waiting to be eaten, is it a form of hypnosis? or a numbing agaisnt whats going on? i like your ‘standing behind the curtain ‘ its very true

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Nonsense. That was the power of the state bwing exposed as a straw man. Those policemen fired because they feared the power of the people


  2. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion. When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing.

    When you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favours. When you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you.

    When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.

    Ayn Rand 1957

    Liked by 2 people

  3. From one corrupt government to another, what does it matter?
    We were never the proverbial “frogs in the pot”, we were always just frog stew, born as such, and will continue to give birth to more frog stew.
    As soon as our species decided that the needs of the many could be placed into the hands of a few, the allowance for corruption of the highest order was set. As an organism of interdependent units, if we model ourselves as brain-and-body, then as a whole we are a “drug addict”, where the brain units, responsible for supplying the body with vital nutrients, have willingly decided to ignore the festering welts in favor of their next fix. The immune system is corrupt, taking bribes at every corner. The distribution system is biased, starving the organs of life giving blood, and decay runs rife through the blood strewn streets of xenophobia. This organism is doomed. The question is, will it pass on its infectious habit? My hope is in the next few generations, they have something the old ones didn’t, a voice. A central nervous system. While the previous generation sat in front of their TV’s and complained to no-one in particular, the new generation has a direct connection to the rest of the world. All we really need now, is that part of the brain that gives precedence to this connection. So when you have a festering welt, nothing else matters until its healed. Think about it, there’s never a moment wherein you have less concerns, than the moment you feel a needle piecing your skin. Who would think the smallest violation could cause so much impact? That’s whats we need, a government who’s poorly informed decisions can be overridden by the collective views of the many. That’s democracy, not this farce we have now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zuma stole R30bn and got away with it in 1999, so now he is taking R1 Trillion. It is simply actually – just cause a massive problem, frustrate the people, then offer to fix it… And the people will beg you to go ahead, even if costs R1 Trillion. There is no real power problem people… Here is the proof. It is all a scam. Think for a second… Why is load shedding at night, when all industries have stopped working? Is a few light bulbs going to trip Escom? No, it is simply to hit you where it matters – at home.


  5. I suggest you read the following. It might give you a different perspective.

    Noseweek on ‘Big Bad Putin’ — Mockingbird Editor Gives His “expert opinion”

    The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), BRICS and the South African Connection.

    TPP, $3.5 Trillion Stolen, Gold Price Rigging, Colour Revolutions and hanging out with BRICS.

    Iran, Plasma Energy Technologies and Buzzing Donald Duck.


    1. Interesting, but whether Putin is big or bad or neither is really a secondary worry here. My main concern is big bad corruption, which doesn’t require particularly evil leaders to take on gigantic proportions. And in South Africa we’re just getting warmed up.


      1. If you are looking for corruption then read all the articles listed. You will be surprised where the root core of the real corruption lies. Get back to me…. 🙂


  6. “The Jews as we know, consider themselves to be the “chosen” people, that all non Jews are Goyim, basically regarded as cattle for their benefit”. That little gem was written by the author of these articles, so I’m going to go ahead and ignore pretty much all of them. Paranoid anti-semitic conspiracy theory isn’t really my bag.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We good at “thinking about it, talking about it, and then we do nothing about it! I’m saying South Africans are like THAT! Good Luck, because more africans wants to leave than return to the “biggest continent in the world”, as quoted by Zuma! Theories are just another excuse, why don’t we start new theories, hence take action! Say what we mean, and do IT! Why is Nike so good with advertising, because they “Just do IT” Why are the leading countries leading, because they take action! Why are we not leading, because it is a playing field, with nobody to play with, because fear has taken it place!


  8. The Mannequins have become numb staring out the window.

    So to distract themselves from their numbness, and relieve themselves of worrying thoughts, they seek thrilling gadgets apps in the strangest of places. Sometimes a thrill, sometimes a touch, but always the numbness returns.

    As Martin Luther King wrote “We have got so caught up in How we live, We have forgotten why we Live”

    Maybe the Mannequins have to first touch themselves, forgive themselves and look into the abyss of the self. Or find Love in a neighbor or go study a tree ?

    Then maybe hopefully, with the help of a mystic master, the mannequins will pick up the sword of courage. And with a shield of serenity, stand up against F..king Arrogant Gold seeking Selfish Humans who will Always deem themselves as some how like God.

    When our Presidents are Prophets, and our Prophets Presidents, Then only Peace.

    I think.


  9. You are all F@€7ed! The dream is OVER!

    If SA is not in your list of countries that can offer you and your kids a prosperous future, what are you still doing there?

    Leave now while your ZAR still buys you a box of matches.

    And get over the “SA is a beautiful country” argument, that is just obtuse. The world is full of beautiful countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have a question for you, when you sew, do you sit on that backless stool by your machine? Ever since you posted the pictures of the new sewing space, I have been wondering? Just cu.uios…r.


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