“I think he’s gone,” Boggel says as he places the bottle of Cactus Jack on the counter. “Just a feeling, despite the president saying he’s a bit better.”
“Well, when I was in Upington to fetch that new carburettor for the tractor, everybody was talking about it. Some said it’s all a hoax, he isn’t that sick at all. Others were preparing to hold a wake in his memory. It’s so confusing.” Vetfaan gulps down his beer and reaches for a Cactus.
“But that Mac guy said he’s ill. Critically so. I heard him on the radio – and he’s the presidential spokesman, after all.”
“Ja, Precilla. Remember the little boy who cried wolf? He lied so much. nobody believed him in the end, even if he was speaking the truth.”
“My point, exactly.” Gertruida sighs. So many lies, so little to believe. “When they wanted to keep Nkadla secret, they passed a law to prevent us from finding out. They lied about the schools and the matric results. Loads of money disappear into already well-lined pockets. Our public hospitals are in such a bad shape, no minister ever gets admitted to to one. And where do you think the minister’s children gets schooled? There’s a good reason why they won’t set a foot in a government-run institution.
“And, remember, our president said – just the other day – things have never been better in South Africa. That’s while they’re considering nationalising the mines and telling the public Zimbabwe is a good example for land reform.
“Meanwhile, people are raped and murdered at such a rate that the courts can’t keep up and the jails are overcrowded. Our farmers live in fear. The promised reduction in jobless people never materialised. Our Air Force is crippled because they can’t do maintenance on the planes, and our war ships are rusting away in the harbours.
“And yet the president makes jokes about the economy, telling journalists to write nice things about our country.”
“Gee, Boggel… Give me that bottle. Gertruida is talking me into a depression.”
“No, Vetfaan, it’s not me…it’s the government. We simply cannot believe them any more.”
Servaas raps the counter and points at his empty glass. “Well, next year we’ll have an election. Things will change.”
“Sure.” Kleinpiet shakes his head. “That’s what they believed in Zimbabwe, too.”
“But is Mister Mandela dead, or better? I still don’t know.”
“He died a long time ago, Servaas. Him and the dream of the Rainbow Nation. Remember the optimism during his term as president? That was his dream, his life – and over the last ten years, it all went up in smoke. And why? Because his legacy wasn’t what the government wanted. Instead, they allowed the police force to become an ill-disciplined group of people. The army was deployed all over the show, even to he DRC, where they lost soldiers because the president – in his wisdom – decided they had to protect interests there. What interests?
“And then the Guptas? You think Madiba would have done something like that?
“No, guys, Madiba had a dream…and it was kept alive on life-support for a while. It’s time to realise the dream never made it through Intensive Care. Those entrusted with the responsibility to sustain it, failed.”
“Agge nee, Gertruida! You’re generalising now. Not all of us feel that it’s hopeless.”
“Wake up, Kleinpiet. We’ve got to stop thinking that Madiba – in spite of his huge contribution – was the only one that could save the country. No, we need a new dream, a new hope. We need to rebuild a nation of honest, God-fearing people, who respect each other. We need responsible, accountable people in parliament, who are there to serve the masses, not exploit them. We need public servants to become just that: public servants.
“And that’s why we must be open and honest in our conversations with other people. They must know next year’s election is an opportunity to get back on track. Madiba won’t be there when the votes get counted, but we can keep his dream alive by honouring the ideals he tried to establish in our government.”
“And if that doesn’t happen?” Vetfaan raises an eyebrow, his face a picture of despair.
“Oh, that’s easy. Then the dream will become a nightmare, that’s all.”