Category Archives: SONA

Vetfaan’s SONA and #Time to face the music.

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.”

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Vetfaan’s SONA

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North West University. Credit: enca

“Is it,” Vetfaan muses, “a privilege or a right to study?”

Gertruida sits back, deep in thought. Then: “It is one of the most difficult questions you’ve asked in all these years, Vetfaan. “Privilege” involves exclusion of some to the benefit of others. “Right” implies the opposite. I’ve often thought there should be something in between, like ‘a rightful privilege’ or something.”

“What I don’t understand,” Vetfaan continues, “is that students are burning down universities – while they’re there to study. It makes no sense at all.”

“That, my friend, is smoke and mirrors. Have you heard the president admonish the students? Has the government made an unequivocal statement, condemning the destruction, the torching and the disruption happening on campuses?” She hesitates before answering herself. “No! The government is worried like never before. They’re going to take a whipping when the municipal elections come about later this year. They simply cannot afford to alienate the youth of the country.”

“Afford? Afford? My foot, Gertruida. That means we have to foot the bill with our tax money.Can I afford it – that’s the question?”

burning-train.jpg“I wonder,” Servaas lets the words dangle in the air before completing the sentence, “what these protests cost us every day. I mean: the prez says they’ll host fewer parties in the coming year, and that’s great. But in the meantime the country is burning. Busses, trains, libraries, municipal offices…you name it and the vandals are there with petrol and matches. This isn’t a mere Nkandla we’re talking about – the totals must be staggering billions, not millions.”

“It’s the old story, Servaas. Remember the saying:You become your parents? How you were brought up will determine who and what you’ll be as an adult. If you see your parents and leaders acting in a certain way, you naturally assume that’s  the accepted norm. Look at our political leadership – and then ask yourself whether the youth, alone – are to blame.

wpid-s_africa_protest_0723“Whenever some political parties hold marches, destruction follows. It doesn’t end there, unfortunately. What is worse, is that politicians create expectations with promises they know they’ll never deliver upon. The destruction we should be talking about, isn’t about buildings, roads and vehicles – it’s about lives being wrecked by the absence of proper leadership.” Gertrida sighs. “I so wish the politicians realised that.”

“Okay, then I’ll make the State of the Nation Address I would have liked to hear.” Vetfaan gets up, tries to laugh like the prez, and adjusts his imagined glasses with his middle finger. “Compatriots, fellow South Africans and countrymen. Today I’m going to tell it like it is.

“Hehehe…destruction of property is unlawful. It’s a criminal act. No matter how angry you are, two wrongs don’t make a right. By burning down universities, you are not creating a better future, are you? From now on, all individuals who cause damage of any sort to property – governmental or private – will be liable to compensate for that loss. Let me remind you that we have laws in place for exactly that. The fact that I’ve been reluctant to prosecute perpetrators in this regard, is shameful to say the least! In fact, it was downright stupid to allow the situation to deteriorate to this level, and I take full responsibility for the lack of proper leadership and discipline.

“Furthermore, I realise that I’ve lied about many things – even right here in this parliament. I expected you to believe me, just as the many, many people that’ll still want to vote for us in the upcoming elections. To those faithful followers, I want to say thank you, but no thank you. Do not vote the same way you did before. That’s a sure way to destroy even more buildings and cripple the infrastructure  worse than in the past. We are on a certain road to self destruction and we have to make a sharp U-turn or face the consequences.

“Then, fellow countrymen, I have instructed the police to have no mercy with murderers, rapists, molesters, and other corrupt officials. Planning for a high security prison in the most inhospitable area of the country is in advanced stage. Prisoners will in the future have no voting rights either. Forget about medical care, nice overalls and a bed. Prison isn’t a hotel. The ablebodied will be put to work wherever we need them – twelve hour days with no minimum wage – cheap labour. If you took part in any activity that harmed society, you will be forced to contribute to society again before you are allowed back on the streets. In this way, we can maintain and service roads, railways, sewerage farms and other infrastructural elements in need of work.

“Also, my friends, we are declaring a war on rubbish and litter. How can we expect our countrymen to be proud citizens who want to protect their environment, when government never does anything to educate the masses? Throwing rubbish in the streets, scattering plastic bags all over the veld and heaping up trash everywhere is certainly not conducive to a civilised society. From now on, if you throw your KFC box out of your car’s window, you’ll be forced to help clean up the shanty towns around our cities.

“That brings me back to education. Children must be able to attend schools where they are efficiently and properly educated in not only the basics of reading, writing and maths, but where a sense of responsibility is instilled into them. They must learn that all actions have reactions. If they boycott schools, they’re the ones who suffer – and society is only the poorer for that. Ubuntu isn’t just a word, compatriots. We cannot sit here in the luxury of parliament while the children out there are being neglected. If they are disadvantaged, my fiends, we are disadvantaged, too. We’ll leave a legacy of shame if we don’t make a stand on this.

“You’ll notice that I haven’t said anything about our economy. It’s not necessary. Once we repair the fabric of our society, the economy will correct itself. What that means, is this: it’s no use making laws and promises when the average man in the street has no hope, no pride and no sense of responsibility.

“It’s about freedom, you see. Freedom doesn’t mean you are free to do anything or say anything. Freedom comes at great cost, compatriots. It’s an expensive luxury – and I’m not talking about money here. It requires us to embrace responsibility – something that’s been sadly lacking in these chambers ever since I’ve taken over the reins. And responsibility will cost everyone of us something: some will have to own up to corruption, others will maybe have to admit to lacklustre performances and still others may have to vacate their seats due to incompetence. These are harsh words, my friends, but absolutely necessary.

“And lastly, I have taken a firm decision to lead by example. In the words of the opposition, I now bid you all goodbye. I’ll retire to the nice house you’ve kindly built for me and from now on laze in the firepool or tend to my chickens. Bye bye…”

In all the years Boggel has been running the bar, he’s never heard an applause like the one that follows when Vetfaan sits down.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…

On Political Correctness, Racial Awareness and Honesty.

IMG_4985 copy“So the Emperor displayed his new clothes for all to see.” Servaas tosses the newspaper aside and signals for a drink. “Not that there was much to hear.”

“On the contrary,” Boggel smiles, “never in my entire life have I seen an obese parade with so much evidence of affluence. Did you see the size of some of them? My gosh! Our trade deficit must be huge – as a result of the yards and yards of material necessary to cover up the wobbly backsides. Maybe that’s why the prez is cutting down on catering – the cost of installing extra-outsize chairs in parliament would finally convince the rating companies that our economy deserves junk status.”

“That,” Gertruida scowls, pointing a finger at the little barman, “is not politically correct. You are in fact insinuating that some of the ladies and gentlemen in our government are fat. Now…’fat’ isn’t a word to use when describing somebody. That’s insensitive and uncalled for. It’s as bad as saying we are optically  challenged to observe the extent of their circumferences. No, it’s unkind, to say the least.”

“Like calling somebody ‘white’ or ‘black’?” The smile on Servaas’ face is without humor. “Come on, Gertruida – when something is obvious for all to see, why play the Elephant-in-the Room game? Should we now be so sensitive that we are forced into denial?”

“That’d be following the government’s footsteps, Servaas..” Boggel sighs. “They insist we’re a non-sexist, non-racial society with equal opportunities for all. The way I see it, is that they’re fooling nobody. Black empowerment isn’t an equal opportunity policy. Enrolling in an university is far more difficult for white kids than others. The only situation where the prez favours whites, is when he has to defend himself in court – then the advocate is white. Why?”

“That would be horribly politically incorrect to speculate about that, Boggel. You’re at rsik of being labeled a racist.”

“But being racially aware, doesn’t make me a racist, Gertruida! Are you suggesting that I should renounce my heritage? Of course I’m what is called European, or white, or whatever. But I was born in Africa and I have the right to be called an African.” He arches an eyebrow. “Am I American? No! Spanish, French or German? No! I am a proud citizen of South Africa and that’s who I am. I happen to have a different skin colour than the majority of the inhabitants down here, but why does that put me at a disadvantage? Because of a history I had no control over?” He lets the question hang in the silence. “And what about the rest of the world? Their histories are even more tainted by oppression, extermination and xenophobia. South Africa has had her share of these horrible things, but nowadays it is used to sway the mood of society to pro-black and anti-white. I am forced to acknowledge the fact that I am currently disadvantaged and they hold me hostage to what has happened generations ago – the government rubs my lilly-white face in it every day. Am I happy about it? No! But I have to live with it – in shame, if the ruling powers had any say in t. The very government who claims to be non-racist, is using racism to deny me equal opportunities based on performance. If I open my mouth about this, a chorus shouts:’ Racist!’, simply because of my skin colour..”

Boggel shrugs. “The government is only trying to retain their voter base, Servaas. They cannot very well say they have ruled fairly and justly over the last 20 years, can they? They have to play the race card to keep their support secure. With so many state-owned enterprises in trouble and service delivery as bad as the corruption we read about every day, they have no choice but to unite the majority of voters by emphasising race. It may not be politically correct, but it is politics. United we stand, divided we fall, remember?”

“So ‘Black’ – the word – is given special  significance? If you say something about black – like it’s a Black Friday, or black magic, or blackmail, black market, blackout,  black box, black eye – then the first thing we must think about, is race? How absurd is that? Anyway, who started calling people ‘Black’? Nobody’s ‘black’ – we’re all shades of brown and beige and cream.Moreover, we are suddenly  so sensitive about the blackface phenomenon that students get expelled for having purple faces  when they portray aliens?

“No, being proud of who you are, doesn’t make you a racist. It simply means you identify with your individuality, your identity and your culture. You’re a racist only when you put these attributes above all others. If I think white is superior to black, then, sure, I deserve the label. But if I respect somebody else’s right to be who he or she was born to be, that makes me a humanist. Racism in South Africa would have died a long time ago if the government hadn’t insisted on reviving it all the time.” Vetfaan shakes his head – it’s all so horribly wrong!

“I still think there are too many heavyweights in the parliament,” Servaas tries  to change the subject to something more humourous.

“You’re a racist, Servaas.”

They all laugh at Gertruida’s remark, but it’s the type of laugh you laugh when you get your tax assessment in the post – a despairingly sad laugh, without real humour and tinged with a dose of sadness.

“Being politically correct means you insist on living in a bubble, with no own opinion and certainly no insight. That’s the thing, isn’t it? You may think something, but saying it is wrong. That means you have to pretend all the time and you end up fooling everybody except yourself. What that means, is: you constantly have to put the sensitivities and preferences of others higher than your own. In other words, you have to view yourself as inferior to others.” Boggel spreads his arms wide. “Now that, my friends, is as bad as racism where you think you are superior to others. Thinking yourself to be inferior, is just as bad.

“Which brings me to justified reverse apartheid. The very words imply that only whites can be racists..which is certainly not the case.

“Why can’t we just be people – whether white or green or yellow or the B-word – and get on with the joy of living together? The longer we insist on pigment – or the lack thereof –  defining ability, efficiency and opportunity, the worse our society will fare. And, mark my words, pigment maketh not the man – what is needed is a deep-seated desire to contribute and build.”

Gertruida nods slowly. “You better keep that talk right here, in the bar in Rolbos, Boggel. If you dare say things like that in bigger places like Prieska or Springbok, you’ll have to see a lawyer.”

“Okay then, Gertruida. Like the rest of the country, I shall say nothing about the elephant in the room. It doesn’t exist, does it? Just a figure of speech…like ‘efficient government’ or ‘united nation’.”

The night the Emperor went naked…

Emperor_Clothes_01_edited-1“Promises, statistics and other lies – not much else.” Gertruida sits back, eyeing Servaas critically. “I mean, what else? The man is under siege, his reputation is shattered and his support base is shrinking. He’ll have to create the illusion that he’s in control and that everything is rosy. Oh, he’ll acknowledge things like global warming, the drought and the state of the world’s economy, blaming them for the country’s problems. But will he be bold enough to state that he’s at least partly responsible for the chaos in the country? I don’t think so. He’s far too clever for that.”

“It must be terrible to address a nation, knowing your popularity is bouncing about in the basement. If he has the guts to appear at all, pretending nothing is wrong, I’ll have to tip my hat to the man.” Vetfaan smiles at the surprised glances he gets. As an outspoken critic, his statement really makes them sit up. “On the other hand: maybe he just doesn’t understand these things. Maybe – in his own mind – he’s a real Jimmy Do-good; you know, as innocent as can be and only doing his best to govern the country fairly….But even he, despite his academic background, should be nervous right now.”

“Reminds you a bit about Hans Christian Andersen’s story, doesn’t it? When everybody watched the parade through the city and pretended to admire the emperor’s clothes – but only he believed he was, indeed, attired most gracefully. The naked king actually believed his advisors after they mimed dressing him up – but he was as naked as the day he came into this world. Shows you: putting all your trust in the people you’ve appointed can be a dangerous thing! They must have been so fed-up with his overbearing attitude, they decided to parade him through town for everybody to see him as he really was: a real clown.

“He embarrassed everybody but himself, that king! That, I suppose, is only possible when somebody is so vain, he believes himself to be right all the time.” Servaas has always said there is much more to children’s stories than meets the eye (or the ear).

“Could be megalomania, Servaas. Even a sign of being intellectually challenged in the most severe degree, if you asked me. Why would the king in the story believe he’s dressed when, very obviously, he’s not? Still, he must have enjoyed his little parade, even if he was only mentally dressed.”

“So there we have a vain king, a terrified populace and nobody said anything?” Kleinpiet arches an eyebrow. “That is the most stupid thing ever! Being a king shouldn’t be reason for the people pretending he was dressed. You can’t fool all the people all the time, for goodness’ sakes!”

“The story doesn’t end there, Kleinpiet.” Anxious to add to the story, Servaas answers quietly. “You see, all the faithful citizens tried to prop up the charade by applauding the naked emperor’s new clothes. But…Andersen already had the manuscript at the publishers  – and then he changed the ending. He added a child to his plot – an innocent, honest little boy cried out that the emperor was naked. And then the population took up the cry and ridiculed the emperor’s new clothes. You know what? Despite that, the emperor continued with the procession.”

“Yes, I knew that.” Gertruida, of course. “It is said that Andersen himself – as a little boy – joined the throng to see King Frederick pass bay. And, according to his recollection, he said: ‘Oh, he’s nothing more than a human being!” His mother then tried to silence him by crying, ‘Have you gone mad, child?’  That incident, according to some, made him change the script.”

“So it’s business as usual? An Imbongi singing the prez’s praises, the whole parliament listening in quiet admiration while the emperor speaks, and the rest of the country in awe?” The sarcasm in Vetfaan’s tone is unmistakable.

“Only if he’s honest. Confesses to the fact that he violated the constitution, that there is more fire than smoke in the many accusations flying around, and that he’d be willing to step down.”

Boggel laughs so much that he almost drops the bottle he has ready for the next round.

“Fairytales!” He eventually manages. “Oh, how we love them!”

“…You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive…”

Swan Lake – the Kalahari Tragedy.

swan-Lake-on-Ice-4“They’re doing Swan Lake in Cape Town – on ice, nogal!” Gertruida sighs as she puts down the newspaper and stares out of the window. Oh, how she longs for the days when she could waltz in to the State Theatre in her best evening gown, excited about another excellent performance of ballet or opera! Out here in the Kalahari, she seems so far removed from those moments.

Servaas frowns at this. It doesn’t make sense! “I though global warming was melting everything down there.”

“It’s a ballet, Servaas. With skates. On ice.” Gertruida tries her best to be patient, but old Servaas really gets to her when he’s so ignorant.

“It’s sinful, then,” he retorts. “Short skirts and those tight-fitting pants! I don’t like ballet.”

“Oh, shush! Shut your trap! Ballet is the most graceful of all the performing arts. And to do it on ice, requires years of experience and practice. It says here that the troupe is one of the best in the world.”

“Ja, maybe, whatever. But I’ll have you know that our troops used to be the best, way back then. Nothing lasts forever, I suppose. Look at our cricket team.”

Vetfaan comes to the rescue. “It would have been nice to see it, Gertruida. I agree.  But we can only dream of it, can’t we? Cape Town is too far and the tickets seem a bit pricey, don’t they?”

“Ag, I don’t know. Travelling all that distance for a show is way above my budget. And my sheep needs shearing.” Kleinpiet sips his beer, thinking how nice it would have been. “Tell us about the ballet, Gertruida?”

“Well, it’s a fascinating story. Odette is a beautiful girl, transformed into a swan until she meets a man, falls in love with him…somebody who’ll remain faithful to her forever. This almost happens when she meets Prince Siegfried, but he is tricked into declaring his love for Odile, who he thinks is Odette. This is, of course, a major mistake and banishes Odette to swanhood forever. When Siegfried realises his mistake, he is devastated. The only way he could be with Odette, is to die with her. So they decide to drown in the lake and live happily ever after in the hereafter.”

This doesn’t improve Servaas’ mood. “Who thinks out such farfetched plots? Huh? Swans and suicide? It’s ridiculous.”

Even Vetfaan gets upsets with Servaas now. “Look, it’s only a story. And a good one, at that, I’ll have you know.” He remains silent for a few moments, lost in thought. “It’s much like our politics these days, Servaas. Think about it.”

Serfaas knits his bushy brows together, shakes his head and grunts. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s like this. We have a country that wants the most beautiful future for all. Then a prince comes along – in the form of our beloved prez – and everybody wants him to love them. With him at their side, the people thought they’d have a chicken on every table, every Sunday. For a while it seemed as if was going to work out just fine. Then a certain Mister Gupta comes along and upsets the apple cart. The prez, it seemed, didn’t love the country as much as the new admirer in his life. So prez teams up with Gupta, see, and the people are left grieving the loss.

“Well, one shouldn’t underestimate the Guptas of the world. He’s just using the prez for free landing rights at Waterkloof and the business contracts he can wrangle out of the system. Well, by the time the prez finds out he’s made a mistake, he – and the people who kept him in power – will realise they’ve committed political suicide. So they drown in a sea of corruption and crime, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never be able to put them together again.” Vetfaan raises his glass in a mock salute when Gertruida offers a modest applause.

“Oh.” Servaas brightens. “So it’s a true story? No short skirts and tight pants?”

“Yes, Servaas, with rumpled suits and extra XXXX size  long pants. About the skirts I’m not sure, but probably nothing above the knees. As for the troupe: you’re actually part of it, as well. A minor part, but still…you did vote, didn’t you?”

The old man contemplates all of this while he finishes his beer. “It’s a tragedy, isn’t it?”

“Yes Servaas. It’s a sad, sad affair.”

“I think –  after having given it some thought – that I’d rather prefer the version on ice.”

That’s the nice thing about Rolbos: the townsfolk tend to think along the strangest lines, come up with the most ridiculous ideas and somehow manage to be convincing as well as entertaining at the same time. Tchaikovsky would have fitted in quite nicely, come to think about it.

(Only watch the video if you understand South African humour – and the art of exiting the political scene gracefully…sort of!)

The Porcupine and the Coconut

154768913“So now the president is offering to pay back the money – at last? After all those commissions and enquiries he simply ignored and laughed away in parliament?” Servaas puts down the paper with a sarcastic smile. “I’d say that’s mighty big-hearted of the man to eat humble pie for a change.”

“Ag, Servaas, you’re being your old facetious self again!” Gertruida throws her hands in the air in mock horror. “It’s all about not fighting the battles you cannot win. The Constitutional Court is about to hear the case and the municipal elections are just around the corner. He’s performing plastic surgery on the wrinkled face of the governing party -even though he knows it’ll leave lasting scars. Better to cut your losses than to erect a house on sand.”

“He’s good at that,” Vetfaan smiles. “Erecting things, I mean.”

They giggle about that for a while. Then Gertruida tells them of the porcupine and the coconut…

***

One day, she says, Porcupine found a coconut in the desert. Now, this was a strange thing, for the coconut was completely out of place: it simply didn’t belong there. Porcupine wondered about this, but when he shook the coconut, he heard the milk swill around inside.

“Now this thing may be very precious,” the porcupine mused, “I shall take it to my home to prove how farsighted I am. Nobody else has one like this – they’ll all admire me for being so clever to own a coconut that’ll benefit all. I’ll wait until it starts germinating, then I’ll plant it. It’ll become a huge tree, with fruit and shade.”

images (20)Oh, and how the other animals admired Porcupine’s new object! Zebra liked the hair on the surface, while Gemsbok thought it resembled the tsammas that fed him during dry seasons. Elephant sniffed at it, thought it was foreign, but still said it was a nice thing to have.

But in all communities you’ll find that not everybody accepts what others admire. Hare, for instance, asked what good does the coconut do, sitting there on a shelf in Porcupines house? And Owl, wise as always, remarked that such a thing could only bring bad luck if it were to start growing.

“Keep it on the shelf – don’t try to do anything with it. As a showpiece it’ll be okay, but if you really think planting such a tree will be useful, you’ll only be disappointed.”

And so the coconut stayed in Porcupines house, where the other animals  could see it. Although some maintained that it underlined Porcupine’s powers, after a while others started doubting it. They asked owl to explain.

“It doesn’t belong here, see?” Owl shrugged. “We are used to living in the desert. Our world is a harsh one, where you survive because you understand the circumstances. Now that coconut…well, when it starts growing, it’ll need water and nourishment and lots of care. More importantly, if Porcupine really tries to grow here, it’ll steal our precious water. And, mark my words, it may survive a good season or two – but when times are tough, or it becomes too big and thirsty,  it’ll die. And to what avail, I ask you? If anything out here can’t contribute to our well-being, it’ll simply be a thief and a scoundrel that’ll rob us of our livelihood. No, it might be a nice thing to look at, but in the end Porcupine will regret taking it home.”

Porcupine ignored such remarks, of course. Instead, it watched as the coconut sprouted a few little roots and started growing a stem.

“Oh, how beautiful my coconut is!” Porcupine was  very proud. “In all the desert, this will be the most beautiful of all things. I shall care for it, make it grow, and the others will see my powers.”

To keep the coconut alive, Porcupine had to water it every day. Whenever its roots became dry, its fragile leaves drooped and hung limp. No longer was the coconut able to sustain itself with its own milk and oil – Porcupine had to spend his days carrying water from the little fountain that supplied water to all the animals in the desert.

One day, the animals gathered to discuss the situation. Coconut was using so much water, there was almost nothing left for them.

“Let us get rid of Coconut,” Hare said. “Coconut must fall!”

Many of the other animals simply nodded, because their mouths were too dry to speak.

When Porcupine heard this, he became exceedingly angry. “We,” (Porcupine loved using the royal plural), “have brought this wonderful thing to the desert. If you do not revere Coconut for it’s beauty and power, you’ll regret it. Moreover, Coconut provides shade for you to protect you from the sun.”

“Protect? Protect!?” Hare was furious. “It has grown so high that even the birds cannot nest in its silly things it calls branches. As for us down here, it only provides shade for you. Coconut has left us with no water and no shade. You, Porcupine, have brought great hardship upon us.”

For a long time the animals only complained like this, but nobody dared face Porcupine with his terrible quills. And then, at last, the fountain dried up completely. It was no longer possible for Porcupine to sustain the tree he had planted. Some animals died. Some animals sought for a new home.

In the end, all the animals suffered.

Ever since then, Porcupine had to hide from the rest of the animals, and had to search for food at night. His wonderful Coconut had ruined his reputation as a powerful creature. Walking around in daylight, proud of the object of his power, became impossible. Instead, he became a shadowy figure of the night, causing the other animals to scorn him as he dug around for roots in the moonlight.

It took a long time, but in the end Porcupine secretly wished he had never found the coconut.

By then it was too late.

***

“Well, that’s a nice story, Gertruida. I don’t understand why you felt like telling it now, but I’m sure there’s a moral  hiding in it somehow.” Servaans beckons for another round of beers. “But to get back to the point: do you really think the prez is going to pay back the money?”

Vetfaan shakes his head. “The fountain, Servaas, has dried up. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a heavy thud one of these days. Tall trees do that when they crash to the ground.”

The Greatest Show on Earth…or not?

Zuma Satire

There’s a kind of hush in Boggel’s Place today as they wait patiently for the Honourable President to deliver his State of the Nation Address. It should be a stately affair to showcase the immaculate vision and excellent leadership we as South Africans are proud to present to the world at large. Servaas remembers the days when Oom Blackie Swart was the president and went about in his humble ways. Surely, he maintains, subsequent presidents will try to surpass the standard of honesty and quiet humility our first president set. After all, parliament is the example of the finest men and women in the country and we should be extremely proud of how they rule over us.

Gertruida reckons it’s all a dust storm in a tin mug, but Vetfaan can’t wait. He says some presidents might stumble, but it’s time for others to run…

Kleinpiet has been busy all day researching the perfect State of the Nation Address. He says it’s been invented a long time ago by a gentleman called David Davies, who used to broadcast on LM Radio, If our esteemed First Citizen could say something like this – after bidding us all a fond goodbye and final farewell – he’d be a happy man.