“A republic is a form of government where the people appoint suitable officials to bear the responsibility of taking care of their needs.” Gertruida is lecturing again. “The word comes from the Latin: res publica, meaning ‘the public affair’. Therefore, I suggest that South Africa is not a republic any more, but a monarchy.”
“Huh?” Kleinpiet is completely lost. He simply asked what the word meant, but her explanation is confusing him completely. “We have a king?”
“Think about it, Kleinpiet. The president is getting married. Again. And nobody says anything about it. We accept the fact that the leader of our country has many wives, lots of children – and dances around in animal skins. The papers are full of articles complaining about the senseless killing of rhinos, but not a single journalist will say anything about the leopard skins that adorn our illustrious leader.
“To answer your question: yes, we have a king. A president will hold himself accountable to the people. Kings don’t have to do that.”
“Who is going to pay for that wedding? I mean, we just can’ keep on building palaces for new wives every year. And you know how expensive private schools are these days. I mean, the man is certainly not naïve enough to send his kids to a government school.” Kleinpiet can’t understand that we are living in an advanced society (as he calls it), where the president is saddled with the responsibility of governing a country – and with six wives…
“The French President is having a hard time, as well.” Boggel tries to change the subject.
“Well, so is Obama, if you ask me.” Gertruida listened to her radio this afternoon.
“And they have trouble in Holland, too,” is Kleinpiet’s contribution.
“That is all happening many kilometers away from us,” Servaas reflects, “while here, we have a President marrying a harem and the state having to look after his more than twenty children. His next wife is, I think, his sixth.”
“But how is that possible? We are supposed to be civilized; a nation to be an example to others. But our police commissioner is facing a jail term, a minister of education is sacked and they are forcing people to pay toll on some roads to make up for mistakes in the past.” Precilla is quite agitated. “Our submarines are not functional, the air force does not have enough qualified pilots and the Youth League is in shambles. If you ask me, I’d say we’re part of a banana republic.”
“True.” Vetfaan takes a long sip from his glass. “In our own country, even our language is shunned. But if you want to hear Afrikaans, you can to tune in to HOSA radio, broadcast from Europe. How strange is that?”
“The only solution,” Gertruida adopts her lecture-voice, “ is to call out a Republic. Like Stellaland or Goshen in the past. We can simply say we don’t agree with this farce, and start our own state. Oudoom can be our roving ambassador and Platnees be our spokesman. Nobody can argue against a cleric and a previously disadvantaged person, after all? It won’t cost us a cent to do that. And, more importantly, we’ll spend our taxes on things that are important to us. In fact, the only salary we’d have to pay, is Sersant Dreyer’s. For the rest, we can go on just the way we are.”
Servaas smiles. “You mean to say that every cent of our tax money will be spent here – and not on the President’s wedding or his children? And we won’t have to fund soccer, the Gautrain and Robben Island’s ferry?”
“No. Our taxes will be spent wisely. We’ll be a sovereign state, independent of all the stuff that goes on outside. No corruption, no drugs or AIDS programmes and no army where everybody is on AWOL.” Servaas has a far-away look in his eyes. “It’ll be like the old days…”
“Hey, man, the old days were just as bad. You forget about the Info scandal and the Smit murders. And there were atom bombs, train massacres, Vlakplaas and BOSS, remember? The old days were as bad as the new days. I think it’s time to start over.”
“Without Helderberg and the Weapons Transactions?”
“Exactly, Precilla. The previous government and the current one are mirror images of each other. Tweak it here, poke it there, and you have the same picture. We need to get away from it all.” Kleinpiet is designing a new coat of arms with his foam on the counter top. “If they can have a Democratic Republic of the Congo, we can have a Virtual Republic of Rolbos. At least we’ll be real.”
“We’ll need a constitution,” Gertruida says. “A republic should have one.”
“Only one clause to the constitution, Gerty, maybe two.” Boggel is quite excited. “The only requirement is Kindness. With that, we guarantee everything. Without it, we become like Europe, America and Africa. So, we’ll have a one-sentence constitution. No frills, no fuss. Easy. Plus, of course, a guarantee for animal rights. No shooting of rhinos allowed. One clause for humans, the same one for animals. Kindness to all – I like that.”
“Okay.” Even Gertruida is smiling now. “We can use Precilla’s computer to post it on two sites only – the Rolbos Facebook site. And on WordPress, of course. Everybody that wants to become part of the Virtual Republic, simply has to join the Rolbos site. It’s as easy as that…”
And so, with Freedom Day approaching on the 27th (remember the long queues on that wonderful day in 1994, when we all thought things were going to get better? Silly us…), the patrons in Boggel’s Place are hammering out the details of the newest – and possibly the only – Virtual Republic in the world. So far, Kleinpiets suggestion for a coat of arms is the most popular. It is a beer mug supported on the back of a gemsbok, bearing the words ‘Kindness to all…’.
Servaas suggested they put out an advertisement in the Upington Post as well, but Gertruida said they don’t want Rolbos to become overcrowded. As small, happy republic – she said – is better than a big, unhappy one.
Boggel isn’t taking any chances. He’s carried in an extra table – in case the Virtual Republic draws in more customers.