It’s been a custom for a few years now, so – once again – Vetfaan is cajoled into predicting what (and how) the president will deliver his yearly State of the Nation Address. To do this, he has to practice saying numbers the way only Number One can, which isn’t easy.
“…This year, we will spend one thousand, two million and five rands on improving the fire pool. I fully expect my cattle herd to increase by three thousand…listen carefully…three point twenty-five per cent, allowing me to pay back the money at a rate of fourteen rand and fifty seventy every month. This will prove not only my innocence, but also my unquestionable integrity…”
“”What about the seven hundred and eleventy-three cases of corruption you are dodging?” As this is only a practice session, Servaas feels free to interrupt. “#Pay back the money is nice, but #time to face the music, seems more appropriate now.” He waves a clenched fist in the direction of Boggel, who immediately realises it’s the old man telling the world he needs a new beer.
“Eish, you are a racist pig, Servaas. It’s people like you who make this country ungovernable – did you know that?” Vetfaan pushes an imaginary pair of glasses back onto his nose bridge. “Let me explain it to you – very slowly, so you may understand.” He now points a finger at his audience while he does a little hip-wiggle. “Look, Africa is the biggest continent in the world. It is so big, her rivers never reach the sea and it took Jan van Riebeeck more than sixe…six…sixteen hundred and…ah. Never mind. He took a long time in coming here, understand?
“Now, before Jan van Riebeeck, there was no corruption. Nothing. People never had to make laws about corruption because there was none. That is history. Go on, look it up: if you find a single law aimed against corruption before Van Riebeeck’s arrival, you can come and spend a weekend at Nkandla – free of charge.
“But then Van Riebeeck came and South Africa had to have something they never had before – laws. These laws governed the way the Dutch people lived at the Cape. Were they African laws?” He pauses for effect. “No. They were laws imported from Europe. Why?” Again he waits a second. “Because Europe invented corruption, that’s why. One of my reading friends looked it up: it’s a Latin word. It appeared in its current form sometime in the fourtieth…er…fourteenth century – in English. Which must have been just before Van Riebeeck bought his ticket to come here. So that, I must add, is just another argument against colonialism. The Dutch and the English – they started the problems down here.”
“But what, Mister President, about the help you received during the struggle years. Were not the Brits and the Dutch deeply involved in your fight against Apartheid?”
Vetfaans eyes flash his anger. “How dare you corrupt a perfectly good argument with facts? You must realise we had help from America and Russia as well. How could we foresee Trump becoming president? Putin, at least, is on my side. He said so, after we spoke about the nuclear powerstations. And don’t you go on believing Putin is a bad man – You’d be surprised to know how generous he was with me. He said Nkandla is nothing…for him it’s small change. The way he appreciates my friendship goes far beyond the Nkandla debt – in fact, I’ll be able to settle that score as soon as the Russian stations connect up to the power grid.”
“And the Chinese? They’re your very best buddies now? What will the Guptas say about them?”
“Servaas, you’re testing my patience here. I’ll keep my answer short. In politics you don’t have friends. Never. You have business partners, even though you’ll never admit that in public. In fact, you have to be very quiet about that. And if people start asking questions, you start talking about Jan van Riebeeck, colonialism and white monopoly. At the same time you get the illiterate vote by promising land reform, increased grants and nationalising the mines. Being president, my friend, is a question of playing the ends against the middle. Ask Donald Trump – we’ll never be friends, but I think he’d be a good African leader.”
“Aren’t you proposing more colonialism with that statement?”
Vetfaan sighs theatrically. “That’s the difference between you people and myself. You guys think in straight lines. That’s stupid.”
“…and your mind weighs up the convoluted odds of corruption, Van Riebeeck’s arrival and Putin’s generosity?”
“Servaas!” Vetfaan is so angry he almost forgets to use the right accent. “The fact that you are ignorant does not give you the luxury of an opinion, you hear? Anyway, you voted for the wrong party, so even if you had an opinion, it wouldn’t count. And what’s wrong with Putin, anyway? Trump loves the man.”
“You seem to harbour a deep respect for Mister Trump, my president?”
“Well, his forefathers didn’t come to South Africa, did they? They went west, Van Riebeeck went east. So, he’s the opposite of Oom Jan. That makes him a good man….”
Boggel holds up a hand. “Hey you guys, stop it now. You were supposed to be funny – but the way you’re going on, will have me in tears just now – or applying for a Visa to the US of A. I wonder if they’ll allow me in?”
Vetfaan sits back, relieved that his SONA is over. “Visa into America? Go there and leave Rolbos? Are you completely crazy? I’d rather have Zuma than Trump.”
“And why would that be?”
“With Trump you’re never quite sure whether he is truthful or if he sticks to facts. He makes you doubt, you see? With Zuma you don’t have that problem at all…”
“So the SONA doesn’t matter?”
“That’s right, Servaas. The SONA won’t change a thing. They’ll have the imbongi shouting the praises like in medieval times before things got a bit … more sophisticated. Then the prez will dazzle us with his ability to waltz through figures and facts without touching sides. Then you’ll have some of his friends telling you how well he manages the stress of the highest office – even though he seems to be losing a bit of weight recently. The opposition will scoff. And on Friday….we’ll all be just where we were on Wednesday, except for the surprise of the few who thought the bovine faecal level couldn’t go any higher.”