Since the December Nasrec Congress, chalk has become cheese and some shadows of the
past have become forces of the future.
– Evita Bezuidenhout, Daily Maverick, 7 February 2018
Kitchens are strange and wonderful places of mystery and magic. I have always found
the attraction of warmth, food, comfort and work appealing. We could not afford a
domestic worker in Bethlehem where I grew up, so my mother did everything: baking,
cooking, cleaning, washing up and setting traps for the mice, which I disarmed behind
her back. As a mother and wife, I tried to keep the kitchen neutral territory. There
was a big table where we could all sit together and eat, read newspapers, talk or
just look at the flames in the fireplace. That dream became a nightmare.
“Madam must sit in the dining room!” was the instruction from our chief domestic
supervisor. It sounds now like a television series where words like “maid” and “servant”
are deemed politically incorrect. I would often slip into the kitchen of my embassy
in Bapetikosweti and ask the workers what was really happening on the ground. The
truth was shattering, and yet, thanks to those sunset sessions, I could prevent things
from going from bad to worse in my homeland. We never had a coup, unlike some former
homeland leaders recently departed.
I remember my visit to Tel Aviv when Golda Meier was prime minister. I had to deliver
a secret document for her eyes only from our minister of foreign affairs to her minister,
Moshe Dayan, for his one eye only. It probably led to South Africa taking ownership
of half a dozen nuclear warheads, which eventually ended up in my garage in Laagerfontein,
because we didn’t admit to having them. But that’s another story. Just be grateful
then-president FW de Klerk sent them back to Israel, or else the ANC would have sold
them to North Korea via Saxonwold! Golda was proud of her Kitchen Cabinet. She would
call her ministers together on an evening in her house, lead them into the kitchen
and over bagels, coffee and other delicious Jewish treats, she would sort out the
sheep from the goats and send her army off to invade Egypt or Gaza or both.
My kitchen in the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg is not a powerhouse of intrigue.
The building itself takes on that epithet. At least I have kept a feeling of neutrality
so that when any of the top six come in for a koeksister or a plate of boerekos,
they don’t feel like a traitor when they criticise what needs to be fixed. That list
is endless and I think every NEC member could add to it. Since the December Nasrec
Congress, chalk has become cheese and some shadows of the past have become forces
of the future. It has helped hopes that the new president of the ANC does not belong
to that same club in the Saxonwold shebeen. Rumours, gossip, fake news, silly stories,
breaking secrets and just plain rubbish have been bandied about in Luthuli House
like in a school hall during preparations for the matric dance. As a member of the
ANC, I of course cannot comment on party policy as my loyalty lies with the collective.
Meaning nobody says anything until someone is told to blame apartheid.
“Comrade Evita? What should SONA sound like on 8 February?” I was dreading that question.
It has always been a point of disorder trying to imagine what the opening of Parliament
would deliver. Since it has become a reality television show, most South Africans
record it and then watch with fingers on the fast forward button. This year’s 8 February
would be no different, and yet it could be unique. For the first time the President
of South Africa will be the elephant in the room, not just by the smell of his corruption,
but the noise of his trumpet. Since Nasrec the ANC has stumbled into a divorce where
both aggrieved parties refuse to leave the marriage bed. Two presidents in a democracy
don’t make sense, and in our case, will make cents out of rands! It is now obvious
that President Zuma will not step aside. He will be making that speech if not upstaged
by an unexpected downpour outside Parliament which would be seen as an act of God.
Let us not be squeamish here: all hell could break loose in the National Assembly.
The EFF Teletubbies have been rehearsing their song and toyi-toyi for some time now.
Police will enter on cue and all the mess will become prime time viewing on television
and viral garbage on social media. Moody's, S&P and the other witches will cackle
and stir their pot of junk.
So what if President Zuma surprises everyone by surprising himself? He could go up
to the podium and wait for the catcalls and boos from the kindergarten. Once Head-teacher
Mbete allows him to start, he will welcome all and sundry as usual. But in this case,
he doesn’t just mention the headings, but also the details of the lists. Let him
mention every name in the National Assembly. That will add enough minutes to avoid
his speech being called a non-event. Then he can smile, adjust his glasses with the
right finger, and say: “The deputy president will now present the SONA. I’m off to
A simpler solution would be for the First Citizen to reclaim the presidential moral
high ground by resigning for health reasons. With four wives, any senior citizen
needs to slow things down. No shame in that. By arrangement he will get full amnesty.
Nkandla will be a farewell present from the nation and the JG Zuma International
Airport in Upington will be so renamed. However, a more complex stalemate will emerge
if he just sits there like a big frog on a lily leaf. He knows he doesn’t have to
move. He can just smile and giggle, because as the former ANC Head of Intelligence
during those years of struggle, means that Jacob Zuma has every secret of all members
of the ANC.
Pushing him out against his will could unleash a Twitter storm that would put Trump
and Zille to shame.
Then someone pulled the plug and SONA 2018 has been put in deep freeze till a later
date. Hopefully before the expected Budget speech on 22 February, although that will
not help all the food I prepared for the big night. Besides the main dishes that
probably cost the taxpayer a few million rand, there are all the lovely Zuma mosbolletjies
and Cyril beesbiltong that will go to waste. I'll pass them on to Juluis Malema to
go feed the poor. So what do we ordinary people do? Stop believing all the blah-blah-blah.
Sort out your families and your job. Your children’s access to good education and
safety. And makes sure that you know what to do when your tap runs dry. Don’t worry
that your government might run dry. They’ll just say: “It wasn’t me!” and go off
to Dubai to join the others. Maybe then we can start from scratch and heal our hurting
land. Hopefully Comrade Cyril has brushed up on his standby speech, just in case
he becomes the new Number One still standing in the old one's Number Two!
The winds of change are blowing, we said. Some politicians are here today, but will
be gone tomorrow, we promised. And yet the blue light brigades rush past. This government
for the people of the people by the people must start caring about the people! Some
have shown that they won’t, so let us name them before they elbow their way into
a new Cabinet: Mosebenzi Zwane, Malusi Gigaba, Sfiso Buthelezi, Bathabile Dlamini,
Des van Rooyen, Lynne Brown, Nomvula Mokoyane, Faith Muthambi, Lindiwe Zulu, Nathi
Nhleko, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane and Jacob Zuma. Our 2018 SONA message when ever it
is presented to the nation should include: “Comrades? Go to jail. Go directly to
jail. Do not pass a Gupta. Do not collect a few billion.”