South Africa

A country of no consequence

i did it my way

“I did it myyyyyyyyyy way!”

As I watched David Cameron resign, I wondered: what would it take for Jacob Zuma to stand on Plein Street outside parliament and resign?

Most of us have asked a similar question but I’m not sure how many have pushed for an answer. In this increasingly gloomy society it’s not so much a question as a statement of despair, usually followed by someone guiding the conversation somewhere else by announcing that they’re putting on the kettle and asking if anyone wants a biscuit.

But at that moment, as I watched a politician trying to keep his head above a flood of consequences, I really wanted to know: what would Zuma have to do in order for the ANC to tell him to quit?

Think about it. Anything coming to mind? No? Well, that’s to be expected. When astronauts spend months in space, their muscles atrophy. The same thing has happened to us. We’ve spent so long floating around in this zero-consequence country that our imaginative muscles have withered. We are no longer familiar with cause and effect, action and reaction. Around here, things just happen.

Which is why it’s so difficult to think up a hypothetical crime that might force Zuma’s hypothetical resignation. Nothing makes sense. Nothing fits. We’ve decoupled from the laws of political physics.

Looking back at events, each of which would have destroyed a British prime minister or a US president in a blinding flash of public humiliation, you see that bizarre upending of reality. Being on trial for rape made Zuma stronger. Dodging hundreds of charges of corruption entrenched him even deeper. When it emerged that he’d used public money to build a private palace, the faithful revealed that the real villains were his architect, Thuli Madonsela and the media. (The R7.8-million he’s been ordered to cough up is no doubt a plot engineered by our CIA-controlled Treasury.) When white-shirted goons invaded parliament and the broadcast signal was jammed, he just giggled.

By the way: if you’re one of the many ANC stalwarts who told me that you would recall Zuma the moment he stepped out of line, please get in touch. I’m eager to hear whether the fact that you haven’t recalled him yet is because you don’t feel he’s stepped out of line (in which case you’re clearly in a coma and I would like to send some flowers to your hospital ward) or whether it’s because, as I respectfully suggested to you at the time, you’re the turkeys who voted for Christmas. In which case: gobble gobble while you can.

“Listen, Jacob, we need to talk.”

Given all that completely bonkers history, let’s take a sane moment and try to imagine an event that might cause enough anger and disgust within the party to trigger a chain of events that will end with the Buthibond knocking on the bunker door and saying, “Listen, Jacob, we need to talk.”

Drunk driving? Oh please, that’s so 2013. Drowning a barrelful of kittens? An unfortunate accident, with a generous donation to the SPCA. Assault? He’d be happy to defend himself in court – if you can find a witness.

No, the more I think about it, the more I’m certain that the only way the ANC would tell Zuma to fall on his sword would be if he murdered somebody live on national television.

Not just anybody, mind you. If he shot an opposition MP in parliament, it would be a matter of hours before the ANC unearthed evidence of a plot against his life. Luckily for a grateful nation, the ever-alert Zuma saw the villain going for his gun and managed to whip a pistol off a nearby officer before blasting away in self-defence. When the media and the public started working through the footage frame by frame, revealing no assassin, the ANC would accuse them of using fake footage, of being CIA moles, of taking the pixels out of context .

Of course nobody would be listening because the country would be on fire. But Zuma wouldn’t be forced to resign. You know he wouldn’t.

No, the only way he’d go too far would be to mow down a bunch of senior ANC officials in parliament for no reason whatsoever.

People in his faction would cook up reasons – a moment of poor judgment caused by relentless psychological attacks from the EFF and DA; a Pavlovian response to finally being handed his machine gun after years of asking for it – but then, and only then, would he be required to step down.

Is this preposterous? Perhaps. But the fact that it’s not an insane leap – that we have to rack our brains to think of more likely scenarios – is evidence enough of just how far up Shit Creek we’ve drifted.

And, in the end, it’s a pretty simple equation: zero-consequence countries end up being countries of no consequence whatsoever.


First published in The Times and Rand Daily Mail


Race war for dummies

ruin“There is a race war in South Africa. It is 364 years old. Though we agreed to cease fire 22 years ago, we are agreeing to open fire again.”

It was just one of a series of tweets posted by Shaka Sisulu, grandson of Walter, and the rest revealed a less literal meaning; but that didn’t matter to the frightened white people who passed the message around. Not when there were so many other posts like it: social media, it turns out, is lousy with calls for ethnic civil war.

The white sabre-rattling is the same as always: gloomy predictions and poisonous assumptions, all masquerading as pessimism but barely disguising a nihilistic longing for Gotterdammerung.

The declarations of war by black people, however, were new to me.

Most were variations on a theme of exasperation. Penny Sparrow was the penultimate straw, but the attack on black protesters by a white mob at the University of the Free State was too much. Talking was futile with people determined not to listen. Now it was time for taking the land, the wealth, the power, and, if necessary, taking lives.

I don’t presume to know the minds or lived realities of people who feel that race war is a sensible solution to anything. But I would urge warriors on both sides to take a breath and to imagine, just for a moment, what an ethnic civil war in South Africa actually looks like.

At first it looks like a body, lying on a pavement in a blackening pool of blood. Soon, an angry mob. The police, firing rubber bullets. The politicians denounce the guilty and warn of a stern response. Then broken windows, overturned cars, fire. Then another body. Rumours spread faster than news. The police start using live ammunition; the politicians’ warnings get sterner.

Then, an appalling escalation: five bodies, including a child. The country staggers. There is a silence, and then a roar. The politicians stop denouncing and demanding, and start pleading. The army deploys but its orders are unclear. Rumour replaces news. White soldiers have fired on black civilians. Black soldiers have fired on white soldiers. New voices, cold and shrill, call for solidarity with race and culture and religion; call for revenge. Militias form. In the townships they’re called self-defence units. On the farms they’re called commandos. Rumour and news finally overlap: a self-defence unit and a commando have butchered each other somewhere in Limpopo. The footage shows black bodies, laid out in a line in the dust; white bodies, crumpled in a ditch. And we’re off.

Panic spreads like smoke. The rich fly away; everyone else drives or hitchhikes north, forming long caravans of buses, taxis and family sedans that pick the safest and fastest route to the border. There are scuffles with Mozambican border guards. Botswana announces it will take in 100000 refugees, but the rest need to go elsewhere. Namibia is swamped.

Many who stay believe that this will be a fight to the finish. Black or white, they are convinced that the land is theirs and that their enemies do not want to share it; that it is their only home; and that they will win or die trying.

Some don’t want land. They’re staying to settle old scores.

A few simply want to kill people, for no real reason.

Not everybody who takes up arms is South African. The frightened people camping at the border see them first: truckloads of meaty white men, coming south, heading for the most volatile towns. The white supremacists have arrived – skinheads from Russia, Britain and Scandinavia, Klansmen and Stormfront militiamen from the US – eager to wage racist jihad.

The killing begins in earnest, but within months ideologies begin to fracture. The struggle against a common enemy is replaced by more complex, lucrative skirmishes. Rival militias fight over control of money, drugs and weapons. The ideologues find themselves targeted as demoralising distractions, and they are murdered or flee.

Warlords, black and white, establish fiefdoms, and South Africa ceases to exist. In its place is hell, patrolled by young men armed with machetes and high on crystal meth, who divide their time between murder and recreational rape.

In the end the only people who win are racists living far away, who point and say, “See? We told you blacks and whites can’t live together. We told you it always ends like this in Africa.”

I don’t know what happens next. I suspect that there needs to be more talking and less shouting; that racists need to be told that they are ignorant rather than wise; that we need to vote the incompetents out of power and install managers who can educate us and feed us and keep the lights on. But I do know one thing for sure: if you’re calling for war, you’ve already surrendered.


First published in The Times

The revolution doesn’t want to succeed

revolution_quoteRaoul was a revolutionary. He’d been fighting for almost ten years. That’s how old we all were. Almost ten.

He arrived in my primary school class like a Molotov cocktail through the window of a bank. He made it clear that the rules of polite, bourgeois company were not for him. He swore. He smoked. He gelled his hair to look like Michael Jackson. He kissed girls. With tongue.

On the playground he was magnetic; a small, handsome boy animated by a current of discontent. These days he would probably be diagnosed and drugged by the medical-industrial complex, but back then he just seemed compellingly raw.

In the classroom, he practised both active and passive resistance. School was an oppressive regime and he fought it with everything he had. Arriving late was a moral duty; a calculated act of sabotage targeting one of the pillars of the school system. Homework was a yoke to be thrown off. Sassing the teacher wasn’t rudeness: it was revolution.

Like the great demagogues, he combined stormy oratory with brooding silence. But he also shared their instinct for playing a room, and self-righteousness never tipped over into petulance: the moment he felt his audience start to get anxious, he would crack wise and unleash his smile on us, releasing the pressure so that he could start building it all over again.

The other kids lapped it up. Superficially, it was fun: they enjoyed seeing the teachers reach the end of their tethers, the class enemy rendered helpless. But Raoul’s resistance also spoke to them of more complex victories. It injected an almost illicit realness into the classroom, a reminder that there was a wider world beyond the school gate. Most of all, it spoke of a future in which we would no longer be oppressed. A time of freedom. Of equality. Adulthood.

I didn’t buy a word of it.

Partly that had to do with my personality. I liked school and probably had an unhealthy love of order and quiet. I was, you might say, a brainwashed counter-revolutionary. But mainly I wasn’t buying what Raoul was selling because he was a complete shit.

He lied, constantly. He blamed everyone else for his mistakes. When he felt cornered, he threatened violence. He created a myth of strength around him, and used appalling language against anyone who doubted it, but when his mother scolded him after school, he crumpled and wept. He was a lying, cheating hypocrite.

people who believe in magic need to believe in magic

I didn’t understand, back then, why nobody else was seeing through Raoul. I was too young to know that people who get hypnotised want to be hypnotised. People who believe in magic need to believe in magic.

They all have good reasons for doing so, but it does create some blind spots. Consider some of our own revolutionaries, and how determined we are to overlook the non sequiturs in their rhetoric; how people preach sacrifice, struggle, blood, sweat and tears while their average day is less about AK-47s and Karl Marx than IRP5s and Johnnie Walker.

Contradictions, though, don’t matter, because no one is keeping score. Revolutionaries speak of being willing to take a bullet, but most of them are bulletproof. Theirs is a world of scathing criticism and damning judgment, but it only goes one way. That’s because the revolution (whatever its end goal) structures itself as religious movement, leading the faithful to the promised land, which means that any criticism of it is a crime against morality. Its opponents are not just deluded: they are evil.

The greatest benefit of being a revolutionary, however, is that the revolution never ends. If it fails, or is crushed, you can blame sell-outs, counter-revolutionaries, vast geopolitical odds stacked against you, and you start again. But winning? God forbid.

Why on earth would you want the messy, unsexy reality of becoming the new regime, with all those dull compromises (not to mention all the promises you’d have to break because when you made them you never thought you’d have to honour them), when you could simply go on being adored as a messianic figure, a liberator whose failure to liberate is someone else’s fault? Why would you risk losing the glamour that disguises your shortcoming? Right now, your comrades tolerate your alcoholism as a necessary outlet for the huge pressures you face, and your violent temper is interpreted as passion. But if the revolution ended you’d just be a drunk with anger issues. No, much better to find a new enemy massing on a new front, a new fight that can never be won, and keep the whole business ticking along indefinitely.

Revolutionaries are vital because they howl truth to power and they shake us out of our torpor, reminding us that alternative realities are possible. But do I want Raoul running my life? Do you?


First published in The Times

Pitch and moan

how India sees SA

Right. Hashim Amla held on heroically but we’ve been thumped, to add to our hammering in the first Test and what was probably a stay of execution in the second. We’ve lost our first away series in nine years, and we’re pretty annoyed about it, because we didn’t lose to a cricket team. We lost to whichever suits ordered the pitches and the obedient groundsmen who prepared them.

India knew they couldn’t compete player for player so they went scorched earth, preparing these wickets in the hope that, in a low-scoring shoot-out, South Africa’s batsmen would be worse against unpredictable spin than theirs.

Of course, most people have seen through it. Michael from Australia was diplomatic…

Michael Clarke

…whereas Michael from England was less so…

Michael Vaughan

Such opinions have not gone down well with Indian fans, who have responded as maturely as they often do.

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Anyone accusing India of producing rubbish wickets has been called a crybaby and presented with the following argument:

Whenever we tour South Africa, you prepare green tops and your fast bowlers massacre us. So now it’s our turn. We’re going to prepare wickets that turn from the morning of day one because fair’s fair. And stop the ridiculous double standards. When we get bombed out by your quicks you say we can’t bat, but now that you’re getting rolled over it’s somehow the pitches’ fault? Grow a pair, South Africa.

You’ll see this view splattered across most of the internet, repeated by a surprising number of semi-respected pundits. Surprising, because it’s complete bullshit.

The facts simply don’t support it. The “South Africans are crybabies who can dish it out but can’t take it” argument boils down to the assumption that Indians can play spin but are uncomfortable against pace while South Africa can handle pace but aren’t happy against spin. Fair enough, and probably true on sporting wickets. But if the wickets were half decent, playing to India’s traditional strengths, wouldn’t we have seen India’s batsmen plaster South Africa’s modest spinners all over the park? Wouldn’t we have seen at least one of them make a hundred? Instead, all we’ve seen is India looking almost as nervous and unimpressive as South Africa. Virat Kohli, their star, has scraped 68 runs in 4 innings. In fact only two batsman – Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara – have managed to average in the 40s in the series so far. Almost 600 overs of Test cricket and just four half-centuries…

Indian fans and administrators can repeat all the affirming mantras they want but the figures don’t lie. Batsmen are getting massacred in this series, irrespective of their country or their ability to play Test cricket.

And that’s because the pitches ordered by the BCCI haven’t been cricket pitches. They’ve been long strips of clay held together by the nocturnal erotic emissions of spin bowlers.

Historically, the greatest spinners, bowling in their favorite conditions against their most helpless opponents, have usually taken a wicket every 7 or 8 overs. Shane Warne made his reputation humiliating Englishmen in England, but it was in Sri Lanka where he committed some proper atrocities, striking every 39 deliveries. Muttiah Muralitharan was also more or less unplayable in Sri Lanka, claiming a victim every 43 balls at his favourite hunting ground at Kandy.

In the current series, Imran Tahir has taken a wicket every 26 balls.

Imran Tahir.

The guy who can’t buy a wicket on South African pitches has taken his sticks at twice the rate Muralitharan managed on his favourite, tailor-made ground.

The rest? Just as silly. Ravichandran Ashwin has taken one of his 24 wickets every 25 balls. Ravindra Jadeja has taken one every 31 balls. Even Dean Elgar has taken 5 for 63 in 19 overs.

So. These figures trash any claims by Indian fans that these are sporting pitches and that South Africa just aren’t any good at playing spin.

But what of their claims that this is justifiable “revenge” for the seaming monsters their team has to face in South Africa?

To check this, I looked at every Test in which India has been shot out for under 200 in South Africa, and here’s what I found.

Durban, 1996.
The bloodbath that gave rise to India’s notion that South Africa produces unsporting green tops. India was evaporated for 100 in the first innings and 66 in the second. It was pure carnage. But was the pitch impossible to bat on? Andrew Hudson seemed to manage, with 80 in the first innings and 52 in the second. Adam Bacher got 55, Brian McMillan 51. Hell, Allan Donald made 26. South Africa’s two scores of 235 and 259 (and ten wickets in the match for Venkatesh Prasad) suggest that this surface offered considerable help to good seamers, but an unsporting spitting cobra? No.

Cape Town, 1997.
India were gunned down for 144 in their second innings, but it had nothing to do with a pitch that had produced showers of runs. After South Africa racked up 529 for 7 (with hundreds for Gary Kirsten, McMillan, and 102 off 100 balls from Lance Klusener), India replied with 359, including exhilarating tons from Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin. The cause of India’s dismal second innings? Good seam bowling from South Africa and bad batting from India. Not the pitch.

Durban, 2006.
Again, India succumbed in their second innings, managing only 179. And again, it was a dismal performance on a pitch that had offered a great contest between bat and ball. Ashwell Prince had made 121 in South Africa’s first dig, backed up by fifties from Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher, while the South Africans had declared on 265 for 8 in their second dig. The culprit? Bad batting by India. The pitch? Acquitted

Cape Town, 2007
Dale Steyn took 4 for 30 to smear India all over Newlands, dismissing the tourists for 169. A spiteful pitch? Nope. Just a great fast bowler working over batsmen making bad decisions.  India had looked imposing in their fist innings, Wasim Jaffer’s 116 helping them to 414. They still managed to lose the Test though, and they had nothing to blame except themselves. Pitch? Acquitted.

Centurion, 2010.
Centurion, people. Cen-fucking-turion. The most batsman-friendly wicket in South Africa. And still, India managed to get put through the wood-chipper, dismissed for 136 in their first innings thanks to a Morne Morkel five-for. South Africa then proceeded to do the wild monkey dance all over the visitors, racking up (the following my disturb sensitive viewers) 620 for 4. Kallis made 201*, Amla 140, and AB de Villiers pulped 129 off 112. A real snake-pit, right? Just to prove there were no demons in this famously friendly pitch, Tendulkar and Dhoni then helped India to 459 in their second innings – a huge score and still an innings defeat. The pitch? Gloriously acquitted.

And that, boys and girls, is every instance in which poor, persecuted India were cruelly ambushed on South Africa’s unsportingly green pitches.

In short, Indian fans can go suck it. There is no tit-for-tat pitch war happening. There’s just South Africa, preparing pitches that reward seam bowling and disciplined strokeplay, and there’s India, preparing a steaming pile of horse manure.

*Drops mic. Onto an Indian Test pitch. Mic goes through surface, deviates by 30 degrees, spits up in a puff of dust, takes the shoulder of the bat.*

We’ve already been hit

crime sceneTwo years ago, the killing started in earnest.

Throughout the 2000s, the amorphous monster called “global terrorism” had been a creature of the shadows, stepping out into the world to kill and maim but then slipping away again. In 2013, however, it stepped out and stayed out, illuminated by fire.

The number of atrocities surged by almost 50%. In almost 10 000 attacks – an apparently endless orgy of bombs and machine-guns and swords and torture apparatus – 17 700 people were killed by terrorists.

Some might argue that that number is too low, given the fluidity of the definition of terrorism. For example, governments still insist that war and terror are different things; that killing civilians with an AK-47 because they believe in the wrong sect is terror, but killing them with a drone because they’re in the wrong tent is “collateral damage”.

Even now, the hundreds of thousands of dead in Syria are not counted as victims of terror because they were killed during something defined as a war rather than as a murder spree. (I suspect one day we’ll figure out that murder is murder and that only the motive and the punishment are up for debate.)

Anyway, 17 700 is the number you’re likely to find quoted by most reputable news sources, so that’s the one we know. It’s the number that informed our imaginations as we pictured the disintegration of a region. And the pictures were vivid and persistent.

Down here in South Africa, the 24-hour news cycle fired up our national addiction to anxiety, and, as always, we were encouraged to engage: to pray for the victims or to offer them our secular solidarity; to condemn the perpetrators and those who armed them; to appeal to those we believed might offer solutions. It wasn’t too big a leap for people already fluent in the media’s terrorism dialect. “Nine-Eleven?” “No, Seven-Seven.” “Was it an RPG?” “No, an IED”.

It seemed important to have an opinion. It still does. Every car bomb or suicide blast feels like an existential jolt, a rattle of psychic shrapnel against the carefully constructed walls of our identity. Every image of crumpled bodies scratches across our eyes, violating our picture of how the world should look.

But however much we engaged and informed ourselves, and tried to be rational and humane and hopeful, those dizzying, paralysing numbers – 17 700, with 15 000 dead in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria alone – led to one resigned generalisation: that those places are utterly, irretrievably, broken.

I am guilty of this generalisation all the time. When “Breaking News” flashes up on the screen, I am sure I am going to learn that another chunk of the planet has broken away from humanity and sunk away into the dark, sulphurous fires of barbarism. I wouldn’t visit Iraq or Afghanistan for anything in the world. I’m also not making plans to tour Pakistan or Nigeria.

But here’s the odd thing.

In 2013, the year that the current killing spree began to surge, in which the murder of 15 000 people in five countries made us all believe that those countries are now uninhabitable, another country recorded 16 000 of its own people murdered.

That country was South Africa.

At the weekend some local security experts warned that South Africa is a fairly soft target for killers. I disagree. Any medium-sized state in which citizens manage to murder 16 000 of their own (it’s closer to 18 000 this year) is not a target. It’s already been hit. It’s a bullet hole. It’s a fucking crater. Ten thousand people were killed in terror attacks in Iraq last year and we consider it a hellhole without a functioning government. We killed almost twice as many, but somehow still think of ourselves as normal.

All across Europe walls are going up and padlocks are being double-checked. Many of us might have similar urges. But countries aren’t destroyed by terrorists. They are destroyed by bad or nonexistent governments. Long before wretched places like Iraq or Afghanistan became targets for outsiders they were being hollowed out from within, by corruption or despotism or sectarian brutality. There were early warning signs.

And for me, 18000 murders a year is sort of a hint.

Yet we South Africans resolutely refuse to take the hints.

There’s a fire in the kitchen but we’re opening the windows in the lounge to let the smoke out so we can keep arguing over whether the word is “flammable” or “inflammable”.

Perhaps we always choose denial because we feel helpless. But we aren’t helpless. We can still do what people in failed states can’t. We can vote. We can demand that the basics get done right. Water. Food security. Education. The protection of democratic institutions. Policing.

And if this government can’t do the basics, or won’t, then we must vote the fools out.


First published in The Times and Rand Daily Mail.

A watchlist

ZumaOn the weekend the Sunday Independent ran a story “in the spirit of transparency and proper record-keeping” that featured a long list of names.

Each name belonged to a Member of Parliament. They had two things in common: they were members of the ANC, and they had voted Yes to adopt the report that absolved Jacob Zuma of having to “pay back the money”.

Click here to see the article, written by . It’s worth reading, not least because it highlights some notable names. Perhaps it’s even worth printing out, if you’re also into proper record-keeping.

For me, though, the list had an interesting side-effect.

As I skimmed down it, glancing at each name followed by “(ANC)”, a tired little voice in my head said, Well duh, obviously they voted Yes. Why the fuss? What were you expecting?

For a moment I almost listened to that voice. I almost let it numb me, as it numbs me dozens of times a week as I read about the latest degraded political kerfuffle. But then I realized that I was about to make a mistake. I was about to brush this story aside as the machinations of a political party – an impersonal, opaque, amoral blob – without looking squarely at the human truth behind the list.

I was ready to see the list as a catalogue of MPs, instead of what it really is: a list of names belonging to adult South Africans with free will, employed by us to lead us. Instead of doing the right thing, every single one of those MPs who voted Yes made a conscious choice, as an adult of sound mind, to endorse one of our most potent symbols of sleaze and unaccountable governance.

Some of the comments on the article see the list as a sort of “name and shame” thing. Of course it’s not that, because none of the people on this list feel real shame. If they did – if they were still in touch with themselves as ethical individuals – they would have voted No or been overwhelmed with regrets and resigned.

The article’s conclusion hinted that the list might become a kind of time capsule, beamed into our future: history, it said would decide on the virtue of those named. I have less epic aspirations by repeating the list here. I am also not presenting this as a call to action, an attempt to whip people up against this lot. I’m not speaking for anyone except myself. I suppose I’m just writing these names here as a kind of watchlist, for my personal use: a list of people I will never trust with anything, ever again.

I know that sounds extreme, but is it any more extreme than what they did by voting en masse? No, I think fairness and moderate criticism went out the window when they lined up obediently to kiss the ring of power, choosing their careers over the health of our country. If they had fought among themselves over the report, splitting into two or even three camps –Yes, No, and It Depends – I might have told myself to stay balanced. If they had unleashed on each other some of that flame-thrower rhetoric they like to use on judges and transparency activists, I might have thought, See, there are still some true democrats in there fighting the good fight.

But to present a front as united as this; not even to pretend to be interested in responsible government…I feel that I have been absolved of any responsibility to try to be fair-minded or to consider them on a case-by-case basis. Freed of that responsibility by their mass stampede towards spinelessness, I am at liberty to write them all off as invertebrate scoundrels. All of them.

Every time any of them makes a pronouncement on the state of things, I will disregard it as a self-serving half-truth or an outright lie. Every time one of them outlines a planned project, I will suspect that it is a get-rich-quick scheme for close friends, corporate funders or political allies. Every time of them attacks his or her critics, I will be inclined to give the critics the automatic benefit of the doubt.

So here’s my watchlist, without the party initials after each name. You don’t get to erase your personal culpability by hiding behind party unity. If you’re an adult in a democratic society, you are making choices for you, not your boss. And if you voted Yes to Nkandla, then you engraved your name on a monument to greed, weakness and cowardice.

You are:

Beverley Lynnette Abrahams

Freddie Adams

Patricia Emily Adams

Vatiswa Bam-Mugwanya

Kopeng Obed Bapela

Joyce Vuyiswa Basson

Simphiwe Donatus Bekwa

Francois Beukman

Phumzile Bhengu

Nozabelo Ruth Bhengu

Nkhensani Kate Bilankulu

Bongani Thomas Bongo

Mnyamezeli Shedrack Booi

Mmatlala Grace Boroto

Lynette Brown

Rosemary Nokuzola Capa

Ndumiso Capa

Yunus Ismail Carrim

Mosie Antony Cele

Lydia Sindisiwe Chikunga

Thapelo Dorothy Chiloane

Fatima Ismail Chohan

Mamonare Patricia Chueu

Jeremy Patrick Cronin

Robert Haydn Davies

Angela Thokozile Didiza

Dorries Eunice Dlakude

Bathabile Olive Dlamini

Zephroma Dlamini-Dubazana

Bongekile Jabulile Dlomo

Beauty Nomvuzo Dlulane

Mary-Ann Lindelwa Dunjwa

Cedric Thomas Frolick

Joanmariae Louise Fubbs

Dennis Dumisani Gamede

Ndabakayise Gcwabaza

Knowledge Malusi Gigaba

Nomalungelo Gina

Donald Mlindwa Gumede

Derek Andre Hanekom

Sango Patekile Holomisa

John Harold Jeffery

Mlungisi Johnson

Mziwamadoda Kalako

Hellen Boikhutso Kekana

Ezekiel Kekana

Charles Danny Kekana

Tandiwe Elizabeth Kenye

Lefu Peter Khoarai

Dalton Hlamalani Khosa

Timothy Zanoxolo Khoza

Makhosi Busisiwe Khoza

Nthabiseng Pauline Khunou

Juliana Danielle Kilian

Gerhardus Willem Koornhof

Mmamoloko Tryphosa Kubayi

Luwellyn Tyrone Landers

Regina Mina Lesoma

Dipuo Bertha Letsatsi-Duba

Fezeka Sister Loliwe

Zukile Luyenge

Sahlulele Luzipo

Xitlhangoma Mabasa

Puleng Peter Mabe

Bertha Peace Mabe

Livhuhani Mabija

Solomon Patrick Mabilo

Andrew Frans Madella

Celiwe Qhamkile Madlopha

Patrick Maesela

Mapule Veronica Mafolo

Nosilivere Winifred Magadla |

Dikeledi Phillistus Magadzi

Gratitude Magwanishe

Tandi Mahambehlala

Amos Fish Mahlalela

Jabulani Lukas Mahlangu

Dikeledi Gladys Mahlangu

Mbangiseni David Mahlobo

Moloko Stanford Maila

Fikile Zacharia Majola

Lusizo Makhubela-Mashele

Zondi Silence Makhubele

Thomas Makondo

Sampson Phathakge Makwetla

Hope Helene Malgas ,

Johanna Mmule Maluleke

B J Maluleke

Duduzile Promise Manana

Millicent Manana

Zwelivelile Mandela

Emmanuel Maphatsoe

Mohlopi Phillemon Mapulane

Moses Siphosezwe Masango

Elizabeth Masehela

Lindiwe Michelle Maseko

Kwati Mashego-Dlamini

Buoang Lemias Mashile

Nkosiyakhe Amos Masondo

Madala Backson Masuku

Tshililo Michael Masutha

Mkhacani Joseph Maswanganyi

Cassel Charlie Mathale

Dudu Hellen Mathebe

Motswaledi Hezekiel Matlala

Mandisa Octovia Matshoba

Cathrine Matsimbi

Risimati Thompson Mavunda

Comely Maxegwana

Fikile April Mbalula

Sibongile Mchunu

Mzameni Richard Mdakane

Thandi Cecilia Memela

Lindiwe Ntombikayise Mjobo

Bongani Michael Mkongi

Humphrey Mmemezi

Martha Phindile Mmola

Samuel Gaaesi Mmusi

Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe

Pumzile Justice Mnguni

Derick Mnguni

Velhelmina Pulani Mogotsi

Nthibane Rebecca Mokoto

Maapi Angelina Molebatsi

Bomo Edna Edith Molewa

Masefele Rosalia Morutoa

Itumeleng Mosala

Madipoane Refiloe Mothapo

Malusi Stanley Motimele

Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi

Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu

Nokukhanya Mthembu

Emmanuel Mthethwa

Abram Molefe Mudau

Azwihangwisi Faith Muthambi

Mamagase Elleck Nchabeleng

Claudia Nonhlanhla Ndaba

Nokuzola Ndongeni

Andries Carl Nel

Nhlanhla Musa Nene

Bonisile Alfred Nesi

Beatrice Thembekile Ngcobo

Phumuzile Ngwenya-Mabila

Mogotle Friddah Nkadimeng

Girly Namhla Nobanda

Nomathemba November

Madala Louis David Ntombela

Thembelani Waltermade Nxesi

Raesibe Eunice Nyalungu

Archibold Jomo Nyambi

Bonginkosi Nzimande

Mildred Nelisiwe Oliphant

Gaolatlhe Godfrey Oliphant

Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor

Ebrahim Patel

Elizabeth Dipuo Peters

Mathume Joseph Phaahla

Yvonne Nkwenkwezi Phosa

Imamile Aubin Pikinini

Makgathatso Pilane-Majake

Bhekizizwe Abram Radebe

Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe

Goodwill Sbusiso Radebe

Strike Michael Ralegoma

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa

Leonard Ramatlakane

Tete Ramalie Ramokhoase

Daphne Zukiswa Rantho

Deborah Dineo Raphuti

Maureen Angela Scheepers

Machwene Rosina Semenya

Cornelia Carol September

Susan Shabangu

Sheila Shope-Sithole

Mtikeni Patrick Sibande

Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu

Elvis Kholwana Siwela

Phumelele Stone Sizani

James Jim Skosana

Mcebisi Skwatsha

Vincent George Smith

Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu

Mohamed Enver Surty

Barbara Thomson

Sello Albert Tleane

Thandi Vivian Tobias

Xoliswa SandraTom

Tshoganetso Tongwane

Grace Kekulu Tseke

Rembuluwani Moses Tseli

Sibongile Pearm Tsoleli

Dikeledi Rebecca Tsotetsi

A Tuck

Nicolaas Koornhof

Sharome Renay Van Schalkwyk

Adrian John Williams

Sheilla Tembalam Xego-Sovita

Lumka Elizabeth Yengeni

Senzeni Zokwana

Please don’t touch the goat

goat_chickensLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the official Nkandla tour!

Where we prove that you have nowhere left to hide and we have nothing to fear … Er, wait, let me just put on my reading glasses … Oh. Right. Where we prove we have nothing to hide and you have nothing to fear!

Just one request before we start: the chickens are extremely sensitive to flash photography so we must ask you not to take any pictures, especially not if you work for a newspaper. But don’t worry because you’ll all be getting photos of your tour, taken by a military satellite that doesn’t officially exist. So if you’ll all look up right now, let’s give Yuri a big Nkandla hello! Hi Yuri! Yay! Yuri’s in an office in eastern Siberia but I know he can feel the love all the way over there.

Also, we’ll be sending you home with this beautiful colour print of Msholozi riding a Chinese dragon through the sky over the ruins of Wall Street. Special thanks to Chen Fu’s Photographic Joy of Little Beijing, Chinatown, New China City, Midrand, for supplying us with these.

Okay! So if you’ll kindly form a queue on the right we’ll get started. Sorry, ma’am, on the right. Yes, I know you prefer the left but we’ve all moved relentlessly right over the years, so if you have a problem with that you can write to your local ANC branch and they’ll forward your letter to the relevant shredder. Lovely! And off we go!

We are now passing through the main gates and — little boy, please don’t touch the fence, it’s got 90 000 volts running through it as part of our new Mmusi-B-Gone security system. Unfortunately Eskom isn’t producing quite enough electricity to make us 100% Madonsela-proof but we’re hopeful that if everyone keeps turning off their geysers we can reach our goal of zero accountability by late 2017.

If you look to your right you’ll see the famous West Wing of the president’s home, named, of course, for the chickens that live here. So there we have the West Wing, and just next to it is the Middle Breast, then the East Wing, and if we look down there’s the South Drumsticks and the Far South Pope’s Nose. Moving on.

…ignore that inflatable crocodile and that businessman floating face down…

Over to your left you can just see the corner of the helipad. This is a very important security feature for when the insurrection comes and the president needs to be evacuated to Russia. Oh, wait, sorry, I think I misread that … Ah, yes, here it is. For when the influenza comes and the president needs to be vaccinated in a rush. Obviously.

Oh look, everybody. The famous fire pool! Now, you’ve probably read all kinds of imperialist propaganda about how this is actually a swimming pool but I want you to ignore that inflatable crocodile and that businessman floating face down holding an empty bottle of Johnny Blue in his unconscious fingers, and I want you to understand that this is actually a vital safety feature. Why, just last night some of the copies of the constitution that were being used as kindling on the braai started burning out of control and we dumped them in the fire pool and pssh! End of problem.

And we’re moving on — Sir, please don’t touch the goat, it’s a national key point. By the way, for our Chinese guests, I’d just like to point out that almost everything you’re seeing today is for sale. Or perhaps we can interest you in a small northern province? And don’t worry about the local inhabitants, South Africans are very accommodating. God knows they’ve been accommodating this accommodation for years now. That’s just a little bit of humour to keep things light. Moving on.

What’s that, little girl? Why did none of our other leaders spend hundreds of millions on enormous, decadent, fuck-you-taxpayers homes? Not even the apartheid presidents? Well, I think they lacked imagination. I’m sorry but if you’re BJ Vorster and you don’t have a pleasure palace featuring a vast portrait of Anneline Kriel made out of cowry shells glued onto an ornamental rugby field, then you’re clearly not a visionary thinker.

And why didn’t Tata Madiba and Comrade Mbeki have Nkandla-sized homes? Gosh, I’m not sure. I suspect Tata spent most of his spare cash on shirts, and as for Mbeki, you must remember how expensive dial-up internet was in the 1990s, and what with all those Webcrawler searches for beetroot and conspiracies, he probably spent about R250-million a year on his phone bill. So …

Oh look, we’ve reached the end of the tour, so if you’ll — yes, Madam, I know we didn’t go inside but that’s the whole point of an Nkandla tour. Oh dear, you didn’t think you were actually going to see anything, did you? Shem.


First published in The Times and Rand Daily Mail.