Dear Comrade President …

PHAKAMISA MAYABA  / Dear Comrade President, His Excellency Bra Cyril Ramaphosa

It is with great indignation – by no means directed at you, Mr President, but rather at the sour grape types who dare to speak ill of our Commander-in-Chief – that I labour at this missive. Thanks to their incorrigible slander, I’ve been chain-smoking my way through the ganja plot all morning, occasionally murmuring incoherent babble like ‘damn journos’ to the cat, who looks like he’s saying, ‘yeah, sure, damn them all.’

If we were to summarise these pundits’ words, Mr President, they’re saying; surely you’re up the creek without a paddle when a pedestrian announcement of an upcoming election date generates more interest than anything you or any of your cabinet ministers – including an important budget speech by your finance guy – have said over the last couple of years. Not your fault entirely, say I, Comrade Excellency. Blame it on the Exchequer man. How could he not know that in a country where the lumpens squirm under unemployment, blackouts and crime, they wouldn’t take too kindly to the irritant of sin taxes?

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana. Image: Parliament of South Africa.

If anything, grog has become their opium, dulling their agony about the fact that our country is on the slide, edging ever closer to whatever makes our brothers north of the Beit Bridge cross crocodile-infested rivers to get here. Why not let them drink and be merry so as to forget that there are long-standing scores to be settled come 29 May? If anything, Honourable Godongwana could’ve left the libations untouched — except maybe the single malts.

The comrades are notorious quaffers of the old Johnnie Blue, so it would no doubt have won you some favour at the grass roots. Payback time for those free generators our MPs were gifted during load shedding while the rest of us were making do with candles, as well as their eye-watering pay hikes at a time when many were picketing for a ‘living wage’.

A free pre-election tipple, if you will, ‘on us, the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), cheers … ag, I meant amandla!’ because Godongwane’s budget did not toss many bones at the voting fodder. But then again, you’re known as the master of the long game, even though the elections are only three months off, and a whole bunch of people are clamouring for your job. For now, though, the Minister must take a back seat. Far more stressful matters at hand, Bra Cyril.

Packed crowds at the ANC manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, 24 February. Image: MyANC Facebook page.

Word on the street is that your party, the ANC, can kiss 50 per cent goodbye. For a two-thirds majority, I’m afraid you’ll have to pull a Mnangwaga; rig the whole thing, and beat anyone who complains within an inch of their life. Also, they say, you may soon have to bury the hatchet with Juju. Maybe you should take him to Dubai on a shopping spree in Dubai, and then ply him with liquor before he’s figured out that this is just your way of courting him into returning to Luthuli House.

Besides, what do those pundits know anyway? Around 2019, the days when they enrobed you in Messianic vestments as you traversed the country preaching the gospel of the New Dawn, they were eager disciples. Wherever you went, they followed, muttering ‘amen’ to your every word, and heaping praise on your doctrine of ‘renewal’. Not sure the exaltations were justified, though, given that your sermons were from the same old party scriptures, just read by a different evangelist.

Still, you were the Son of Mzansi personified, anointed to deliver us from the bondage of nine wasted years. To put men to work, children in school, and even – as though having ripped a page from the real Messiah’s playbook — chastising those who were desecrating the state coffers. Back then, if you’d instructed any of your comrades to turn the other cheek at Helen Zille’s tweets (Xs), even #FearFokol Fikile Mbalula would’ve let Godzille klap him twice. The images of Julius Malema and his foot soldiers silently listening to your maiden State of the Nation sermon was the stuff of miracles.

Then, barely two years into the revival, COVID happened with all the accessorial looting, followed by your testimony before Judge Zondo’s state capture commission. Suddenly, there were murmurs amongst the common folk about the president having sold us snake oil. Much like those downtown pamphlets that promise instant remedies for unrequited love and erectile dysfunction. The cheek! Comparing the Honourable President to some backdoor charlatan. Sadly, by then the horse had bolted, running all the way up to Phala Phala and into Arthur Fraser’s office.

Former President Jacob Zuma addressing a gathering of his new party, uMkhonto weSizwe. Image: uMkhonto weSizwe Facebook page.

That’s when the faithful pundits said, ‘enough,’ turned Pontius Pilate, duly washing their hands and admitting that perhaps you were not quite like the long-haired Nazarene. From there, the scumbags went full-on Judas, disavowing your leadership and penning ghastly pieces, ostensibly for their thirty pieces of silver. We’d like to think the bribes came from white monopoly capital, but given how you and the manne from Stellenbosch appear to share a taste for the finer things, our next best guess is the Radical Economic Transformation rabble.

Speaking of which, ex-guerrillas that they are, most have seemed to go to ground. Jimmy Manyi, we’ve heard, has pawned the party golfers for an EFF beret and turned his back on both you and uBaba. Carl Niehaus has used his notoriously slippery tongue to similar ends. The Red Brigade is starting to look like an orphanage for former children of the NDR. Tintswalos everywhere! This would explain Godzille and Co’s sleepless nights – to them, an EFF/ANC coalition might seem like State Capture sans the Indian flavour.

Expelled ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule has found a new home in the African Congress for Transformation. Image: IOL.

One guy who just won’t go away, though, is your predecessor, uBaba, whom you dumped in 2018, nogals on Valentine’s Day. It seems like he hasn’t handled the breakup very well. Not sure what the poets say about a man scorned, but judging by uBaba’s antics, it looks just as hellish as it would if, let’s say, you were Helen Zille trying to get rid of Mmusi Maimane back in 2019. Harsh words, and blood everywhere. But then again, uBaba is hardly the sort of guy who likes to play second fiddle, so perhaps you’ll give him enough rope to hang himself.

They’ve hardly contested their maiden national election, but already his Umkhonto weSizwe party is riddled with the sorts of power struggles that saw your erudite pipe-smoking president, Bra Zizi, a.k.a. the Honourable Former President Thabo Mbeki, served his ‘don’t come in on Monday’ back in 2008.

So politics is indeed a dirty game, but at least you have the playbook. When they come at you with the CR17 campaign records, you go to the courts and have them sealed. When they sniff around the cadre deployment committee that you chaired, aha! no minutes to be found during your stint. Foreign currency stashed at Phala Phala. Guess what? The Public Protector agrees; it wasn’t you. Mr President, you must’ve made for an electrifying midfielder, given how you dribble your way out of tight corners. In township diski – football – I’m sure you must have commanded a special name … Aceeeee! No, no … not that one. …

Rumour has it that, except for an alleged roughing up by an ANC Youth League member in Welkom, Bra Yster’s African Congress for Transformation is out with guns blazing in the Free State. Ten percent for anyone who would join his cause. Gallons of free milk from the Vrede dairy farm. Now there’s a seasoned campaigner, right there. Minister Godongwana would do well to understand that much like the promise of a plate of food to fill up your rallies, giving something in exchange for a vote is much like the ‘cooldrink’ motorists pay to traffic officers every waking day.

Take your election manifesto gig last Saturday. Busloads of supporters from all over the country, filling the 56 000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium to capacity. Party loyalists, I hear you say, but for someone from a dusty village I’ll tell you that a free bus ride to Durban with a free meal awaiting would even have someone who’s never heard of Pieter Groenewald singing ‘De la Rey’ alongside the Freedom Front Plus inside the NG Kerk in Oranje. (As dit happens, many supporters left the stadium early to go swimming – ed.)

But no, Honourable Godongwana would much rather play it bureaucratic. Not a bad idea, if you consider his sophisticated jargon and the education levels of his listeners. The only words I can remember ‘a bottle of spirits, including whiskey, gin and vodka, increases by … R5.53 … (so salimala — basically, we’re screwed). Then, true to the People’s Revolution, the Minister hinted that to drink whiskey is to be BEE, certainly no business of the everyday skollie.

Aaah, what a trooper. Some said this was a tinge Orwellian; Napoleon and his fellow pigs dining at Jones’s table as the other starving animals look on through the window. But that’s only because most of them think Animal Farm is another name for Phala Phala. Idiots.

So, these pundits – I repeat: damn them! – have been quick out of the starting blocks, some giving Minister Godongwana the thumbs up, others putting a red pen to his financial essay. Here at Toverview we just think the Minister, although he fluffed some of the terminology, was, well, not quite a Trevor Manuel. But then again, it’s common knowledge that the 1994 cadres were hungrier, and wanted it more. Now it’s just time to eat.

Well, Your Excellency, think I’ve delayed you long enough when you’ve got uBaba in KZN, Bra Ace in Free State and a slew of Model-C types who sound more like amateur rappers than seasoned politicians breathing down your neck. But nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, think of it this way: no matter what the election results might be, unlike those career turncoats who’ve been sucking up since Madiba walked out of prison, you’ll still have your billions. Fifty per cent or not, your livestock will be waiting for you at ‘that’ famous farm — Ankole steaks and vintage wine. … Your Excellency, yours is quite literally the best seat in the house, and my cat agrees.

PS: Please relay this message to Minister Godongwana. Although my 80-year-old neighbour is immensely grateful for the R100 increase in old age pensions, her first reaction was, and I’ll paraphrase: ‘Clearly, it’s been a while since this man has been inside a grocery store.’

FEATURED IMAGE: A grinning President Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch of the  ANC’s election manifesto. Image: MyANC Facebook page.

  • This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on Phakamisa Mayaba’s website eParkeni. Used with permission.
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