‘You really cannot talk like that.’ Vetfaan scowls over his beer glass. Gertruida has a silly way of analysing current affairs and then come up with the weirdest theories – and then expect people to actually believe her. ‘The Chinese would never do something like that.’
‘Oh Vetfaan, you can be so refreshingly naive! You must remember that those guys have thousands of years of political guile up their sleeves. When we were still rambling about all over the world while trying to figure out how to act in a civilised manner, they had already perfected the art of diplomatic horse-trading. The history of the Xia, the Shang and the early Zhou dynasties – which according to some, were concurrent political entities – date back to thousands of years before the Current Era. There can be no doubt that the Chinese are masters at manipulating others to fit in with their plans – their recent and progressive colonisation of Africa provides ample proof of that.’
Vetfaan rolls his eyes. ‘So….they tell uncle Bob to send his general to China for a nice little visit. At the same time they whisper in his ear that his vice-president poses a threat to his plans to get Grace to follow him up. With the general out of the way – so they tell him – it is the perfect time to fire the vice, not so? Uncle Bob, who owes the Chinese a lot, gets a greedy glint in the eye. Of course, he reckons, his Chinese friends are right.
‘But there’s a catch.The Chinese aren’t stupid. For years they have poured resources and money in to Zim, only to see Uncle Bob pocketing half of it all. They look at the future and see Grace as the next president. No, they argue, that’s not good. They have to get rid of both Uncle Bob and his expensive wife. So, while the general sips tea with his Chinese friends in Beijing, they tell him all. Also, they say, the time for a coup is ripe. Go for it as soon as the vice-president is fired – and you’ll have the support of most people in Zim. Oh, and don’t worry about diplomatic repercussions – the entire Southern Africa is in our pocket. We’ll tell the heads of state to sound concerned – but to let it go.’
Gertruida’s smile reaches her eyes. ‘Well, well, Vetfaan! You really did listen to my theory after all. Yes, with Zim heading to normality, the Chinese are sending a message to the rest of Southern Africa.’
Vetfaan snorts and signals for a fresh beer. ‘And what would that be?’
‘Simple. They’re reminding the politicians who is in charge, that’s all.’
Boggel slides the beer to Vetfaan with a wavering smile. ‘Okay, Gertruida, if you’re so clever: why was our bid to host the World Cup unsuccessful?’
‘That’s easy, my friend. Do you think having a few stadiums or a nice organising committee is enough? The world is watching us, Boggel. They take note of Nkandla, Escom, Petrosa, the railways, our airline, our ministers of finance, the rampant corruption. They shudder at the thought of 52 murders every day and women who get raped at the rate of 15 per hour. They read what Jacques Pauw and Ronnie Kasrils wrote.
‘And on the morning of the vote, there’s coup in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
‘Who – in their right mind – would vote for us?”
A terrible silence follows her question. It’s almost as if the shame of our government is worse than the mess on the other side of the Limpopo.
‘To divide and rule could only tear us apart;
In everyman chest, mm – there beats a heart.
So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries;
And I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.‘ Bob Marley