Brian Molefe

Would the Comrades make it past Polly Graph?

Comrades“They’ve jogged past Mangaung! They’ve slogged through Polokwane! They’ve sidestepped Nkandla! And now it’s the final sprint towards the Union Buildings! Bob, incredible drama here in the closing stages of the 2017 Comrades’ Marathon!”

“Steve, absolutely. “What a race it’s been this – ”

“Sorry, Bob, a correction: the Comrades have asked us not to call it a ‘race’. Apparently they prefer to keep that word in their arsenal until just before election time.”

“Well, it’s been a helluva marathon, Steve, and picking a winner is going to be a game of Russian roulette.”

“You mean it’s still wide open?”

“No, I mean the winner is going to be decided in Russia over a roulette table.”

“I think you’re confusing this with the American electoral system. But never mind, these are covfefe times.”

“Nice use of an internet buzzword to make our commentary more hip for the Millennials, Bob.”

“Anything to woo the youth, Steve. Which raises the question: does 75-year-old Zuma have what it takes to go all the way, or will Ramaphosa time his kick just right and surge past at the line?”

“Bob, Zuma has been working with some amazing international coaches. As you know, he’s been part of the Gupta stable for a few years now, and they’ve reportedly done an incredible job training him to respond to basic commands – sit, stay, roll over, appoint this person as deputy minister – but you have to say that he’s going to struggle, especially because he’s carrying Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on his back.”

“Let’s see if we can get some footage of – oh, there they are, he’s battling on, she’s got her arms and legs round him, she’s urging him on with mumbled policy statements, but Steve, he’s gotta be feeling this right now. I mean, those legs are literally going to be on fire.”

“From your mouth to God’s ears, Bob. Oh, I’m hearing we’ve got to take a quick word from our sponsors.”

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“Welcome back, folks. Some great footage coming in now, that’s, er, oh, OK, that’s Gwede Mantashe, with that distinctive way of running in a circle.”

He has never run this marathon, except for when he has

“Interesting technique, Bob. He’s always made it very clear that he has never run this marathon and will never run it, except for the times when he has run it, and might still run it. He says he’s especially looking forward to the up-run which will give him the opportunity to excel in the down-run, which is his preferred race.”

“Sounds like he’s on tik, Steve. But then most of the Comrades are, am I right?”

“Absolutely, Bob. And speaking of which, I asked a couple of them this morning about why they still call each other ‘Comrade’. I mean, ‘Comrade’ is a term appropriated from the Soviet Union, which we all know ended in total economic collapse and ushered in a new era of authoritarian kleptocracy.”

“What did they say?”

“They said, ‘Yep, sounds about right’.”

“OK, a lovely aerial shot right now of the pack heading up the Long Climb Towards 2019.”

“Bob, always a taxing hill. Although you’re aware of the current controversy around this route, a lot of people demanding that the Comrades get routed up and over Polly Graph.”

“I think we’d all love to see them tackle a Polly Graph type of challenge, Steve, but of course the fear is that nobody would get past a Polly Graph and we’d have to call the whole thing off.”

“The Comrades is tough enough as it stands, Bob. Already some big names dropping out of the running. Baleka Mbete, veering off course, endlessly repeating that she didn’t recognise the route. Brian Molefe, starting strongly, then retiring in tears, then getting dropped off by bakkie at the halfway point and claiming he’d never left.”

“Steve, any chance of an upset from an outsider? Julius Malema is looking fighting fit these days. And how about Mmusi Maimane?”

“Bob, I don’t have high hopes. Julius wants to nationalise the route and lease small chunks of it to each runner to grow potatoes on, and Mmusi, well, that story is just pathetic.”

“Yes, sad scenes at the start line. When Helen Zille got both feet wedged in her mouth we thought Maimane was a shoo-in, but who could have guessed he’d grab the starter pistol and shoot himself in both feet?”

“Bob, this is being broadcast by the SABC, which means we’ve got to cut away from the action for absolutely no reason, but before we go, any final thoughts?”

“Steve, these Comrades are going to lay everything on the line. Remember, the winner gets that beautiful gold medal, plus a blank cheque signed by Treasury. If I was a Gupta right now, I’d be on the edge of the servant I use as a seat, chewing the nails of the servant I pay to chew my nails. This ain’t over. Not by a long shot.”


Published in The Times


I bought a Kreepy Krauly for the firepool


I used to enjoy paying tax. Really, I did.

It started when I realised that I wasn’t rich enough to avoid paying tax and that I therefore had two options.

My first was to get angry. I could seethe at having to hand over a large chunk of my earnings to a state that veers between incompetence and criminality and that was giving me so little in return for my money.

The problem, though, was that the state didn’t care about my feelings, so getting angry was, as the cliché goes, like taking poison and expecting my enemy to die. The second option was acceptance; but nobody wants to feel that The Man has defeated them, and so I began to experiment with a kind of idealistic denial. Instead of imagining all the bad places my money might go, I imagined the best. And what I imagined was a small school on a hill, in a beautiful part of the country.

It had solar panels on the roof and a borehole that provided clean water. There was a vegetable garden where lessons on botany and biology produced nutritious lunches. Inside, there were books to read, paper to write and draw on, maps and diagrams on the walls, models of dinosaurs and birds and spaceships and the solar system dangling from the ceiling.

Five mornings a week children would stream there to learn and play, to be met by teachers who would grow their minds like gardeners tending a park. Every month the school would do minor repairs and buy new and interesting supplies. Every year, the school would receive enough money to keep doing what it was doing. And some of that money came from me.

That was my tax fantasy. It was idealistic, sentimental, and shamelessly bourgeois; but it worked. When I signed my tax return, I felt that I had made a contribution to something good; a small investment in a kinder, better future.

And then Thuli Madonsela’s report happened, and now the fantasy has to change, because now I know where my taxes go.

I mean, I knew before. We all knew before. We’ve known since the Arms Deal. Hell, we’ve known since Sarafina 2. But now we know that we know. It’s all written down, clearly and neatly and undeniably, and no matter how loudly the looters and their parasites protest and deflect, it’s all there in black and white. So now I have to update the fantasy.

I can still give thousands to my school, but now I must also acknowledge that a few hundred of my rands are going directly to a variety of turds floating on the top of our national cesspool. Still, I refuse to get angry about paying tax. So, instead, I’m imagining where those few hundred bucks are going. And it’s turning out to be a lot more fun than I thought.

For example, I have now convinced myself that I paid for a faulty Kreepy Krauly for the firepool. Due to a minor factory flaw, it refuses to move in a normal figure-eight across the firepool but instead keeps thock-thockthocking itself into a tangle in the shallow end and then creeps up the wall and exposes itself to the air so that it goes thock-thock-thlock-shlorp-schlorp, and the president has to say, “Sorry, Ajay, just a moment,” and puts his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and yells, “I’m on the phone to Dubai! Can someone do something about that fucking Kreepy Krauly?!”

Likewise, it was me who paid for Baleka Mbete’s latest roll of sticky tape, which turned out to be not sticky at all, so that when she wrapped a birthday present for an old friend she had to use 12 strips instead of four, and when she placed the slightly rumpled and pleated object on the gift table, her friend glanced at it and smiled, “Shame, well, at least you tried,” and she was plunged into a sudden existential gloom about how everything she touches turns to shit.

It was I who bought Cyril hat spilled meat-magma into his mouth and made him spit it out hastily and get gravy on his leather upholstery.

Next year I will dream new dreams. Perhaps I will buy Brian Molefe a malfunctioning GPS to replace his current malfunctioning one. Or perhaps I will simply buy the president a new pair of underpants, an eccentric pair that have a tendency to ride up the Crack of State, so that the next time he’s asleep in parliament, dreaming of Vladimir Putin handing him a cheque for seventy-eleven million thousand and six million rands, he is suddenly jolted awake by a counter-revolutionary wedgy and shouts, “Order!”

Yes, I used to enjoy paying tax. But perhaps all is not lost.


First published in The Times and Rand Daily Mail