23. Brother Jacob.

I am not a political animal. I vote my conscience at election time, but I’ve never joined a party or attended a meeting. And I’ve tried to avoid writing about politics on this blog. This has not been easy. While I’ve been tucked away writing about Aardvarks and two-minute noodles, things have been happening. Amazing things. Tragic things. Funny things. And I’ve set them on one side and soldiered on with the noodles.

I like to focus on the important things.

I like to focus on the important things.

Why? Not because I’m sensitive about these things, or even because I think you would be bored. You wouldn’t. It’s just that every time I set out to do so, and I try to give the story some context, I find myself writing a book. And not a short one.

But no more. This week, I’m going to talk about politics. I’ve worked out how to do it. It’s actually pretty easy. All I have to do is get you to understand that you will never understand. And the easiest way to do that? I’m going to tell you a little about our president. No explanations, no examinations or analyses, just some facts. I’ll even number them for you.

While I do so, remember one thing. South Africa is a democracy. Not a dictatorship, or a banana republic, or a puppet state. This man has been chosen because he is the best of our leaders. Or so the theory goes.

No more chitchat. Here are 7 things you need to know about Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

 

1. He has no formal education.

And I don’t mean he doesn’t have a degree. I mean he did not finish school. His stepmother taught him to read and write. While you and I were sitting in a classroom, he was standing out in a field, looking after cattle. And now he leads a country.

Don’t take this to mean that his party, the ANC, is made up of ignorant farm boys, either. It is not. It is the country’s ruling elite, littered with degrees from some of the world’s most prestigious universities. Think, instead, of how smart this makes him.

2. He’s a spook.

DonAdamsPicture

Like Putin in Russia, Zuma was a spy boss. While the ANC was in exile in the 80’s, he became Head of Underground Structures and then Chief of the Intelligence Department.

Remember that the ANC was an underground revolutionary movement. They were at war. An underground war. Dodgy things happened. And Zuma knows about all of them. He knows where the bodies are buried.

3. He’s been married a few times.

Six. Zuma has been married six times. One of his wives committed suicide. Another divorced him. And the other four? He’s still married to them. He’s a polygamist.

Our President. And his wife. And his wife. And his wife. And his wife.

Our President. And his wife. And his wife. And his wife. And his wife.

If you think four is a crazy number of wives for the president of a modern democracy, don’t worry. He’s engaged again. He’s seventy.

4. He’s a father.

An estimated 22 times over. And yes, I did say estimated. Our president, you see, is a rather virile man. Six wives have not proved equal to the task of keeping him satisfied. So he gets around a bit on the side. Every now and then, illegitimate children emerge from the shadows. The latest one being the daughter of one of the country’s top football coaches.

He no longer names them. He just gives them numbers.

He no longer names them. He just gives them numbers.

If you haven’t started getting an idea of how different our political landscape is, maybe I can help you out here. Close your eyes and picture an American election. I know you’re not all American, but we all follow American elections on TV like we’re watching a game show.

Now picture one of those endless debates on CNN leading up to the election, with grey haired and patrician-looking pundits from both sides leaning forward on their elbows while one of them casually drops the sentence “We think Obama might have about twenty two children, but no-one is sure.”

5. He nearly went to jail for corruption.

This one gets complicated. But it boils down to this. While Zuma was deputy president, a man called Shabir Shaik was charged with, tried for, and found guilty of corruption. Specifically, he was found guilty of soliciting a bribe for Zuma. He went to jail for 15 years. And then the prosecutors turned on Zuma. There was much toing and froing, but to cut a long story short, the charges were dropped when it was found that there had been political interference. Zuma was made president soon after. Shaik stayed in jail though.

For two out of his fifteen years. He was paroled on medical grounds. It turned out the poor man was dying. Of high blood pressure. That was in 2009. He’s still dying. On a golf course in Durban. Luckily, for the integrity of our nation, no-one suspects for even a second that Zuma had anything to do with his release.

Crime doesn't pay.

Crime doesn’t pay.

6. He’s been on trial for rape, too.

Soon before Zuma came into power, the daughter of a struggle comrade spent the night at his home (she was a friend of his daughter). The next day, she laid a rape charge against him. It went to trial. He was acquitted. It turned out the girl was emotionally unbalanced, so her testimony was unreliable. He was no rapist. He just had consensual sex with one of his daughter’s emotionally unbalanced friends while she was a guest in his house.

Just as an aside, the girl was HIV positive. Zuma knew this. She was a prominent AIDS activist. And he was head of the National AIDS council. He was careful, though. He didn’t wear a condom, but he made sure he had a shower when he was done.

zuma

Don’t even try to fit this into that CNN scenario. It will give you a headache;

“Sure, Romney boned his daughter’s friend in his living room. But the judge said she was into it. I don’t see what this has to do with the elections…”

7. His house has a very nice fence.

South Africa’s ministerial handbook says that ministers may make improvements to their private homes to the tune of R100 000 of taxpayers’ money. Zuma’s private home is in a place called Nkandla. It’s been improved. To the tune of R206 000 000. If that looks suspicious to you, don’t worry. Zuma’s home has been declared a National Key Point, under an old apartheid law that was never revoked. And the money was all spent on security.

That’s right. 24km down a dirt road from a tiny rural settlement is a collection of thatched huts surrounded by a R206 000 000 fence. We promise. Our government told us.

It is, you must admit, a very nice fence.

It is, you must admit, a very nice fence.

I have barely scratched the surface here. This is a complex, interesting, and many-facetted man. I find him terrifying. How do we find our way back to normal after this guy?

I haven’t given you much detail. But I hope you’ve seen enough to know that my land is nothing like your land. We follow our own set of rules here. They will make no sense to you, but they do have their own internal logic.

So If I tell you tomorrow that a provincial minister bought a R15 000 artwork in a Macdonald’s with his government credit card, and still has a job, go with it. If I tell you that the ruling party has a lucrative investment arm that is allowed to do business with the government, accept it. If I tell you that thirty billion rand goes missing in the hands of our government every year with no consequences, just smile and nod, and keep on reading.

There’s lots to see. It’s a madhouse. And you’ve seen who’s running the asylum.

zumab

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22. South African toilets and the Swazi Navy.

There was a lovely story doing the rounds this week. A report appeared in a few of our local papers saying that our neighbours, Swaziland, had enacted a new law making it a criminal offence for witches to fly their brooms at a height of over 150 metres. Should they do so, they could get arrested and fined up to R500 000.

It seems crazy at first. It isn’t. The law was announced by Civil Aviation Authority marketing and corporate affairs director Sabelo Dlamini. It is not some arbitrary assault on the rights of free flying witches. The law has been enacted for the protection of the country’s airspace. It also prohibits people flying radio controlled helicopters or children’s kites at 150 metres. See. It’s all very sensible. And fair. Witches are free to do whatever they please below the magical 150 metre cut off point. It might be prudent of them to get their broomsticks kitted out with altimeters though.

Do you think we should tell them about this guy?

Do you think we should tell them about this guy?

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21. Three Weeks.

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I’m trying to write a hundred posts in a hundred days. This is not a particularly dramatic thing to be doing. The whole of WordPress seems to be full of people doing things like Postaday or Post Every Day in May. If everyone is doing it, it can’t be that difficult, can it? It can.

First of all I set myself the target of getting 60 000 views in those hundred days. Hah! Secondly, I didn’t take into account quite how tricky it is to do something like this every single day. And do it properly. No “quote of the day” or single paragraph update. Five hundred words at the very least.

Except Sundays. On Sundays, I get to ramble on for a paragraph or two and pretend it’s some kind of progress report. And anyone interested gets to vote on important issues concerning my blog.

So how’s progress? Getting better. I covered the singles scene. And Aardvarks. I wrote about crocodile botherers. And the magic penis tree. I did a post on car guards. And one on unconventional love. Two weeks ago I was getting just under half the views I needed to achieve my arbitrary and unreachable target. Now I’m getting just over half. Basically all I have to do is double the number of views I get a day and I’m there. No worries.

An aardvark. Just because.

An aardvark. Just because.

This week was tougher though. As I said, blogging every day can be tricky. My offspring have been ill, and since I happen to sleep closest to the door, night-time shenanigans are my duty. Also, my wife frightens me when she doesn’t get at least eight hours a night. The only night this week that my daughter has not come through and treated me to an extended rendition of “An Ode to an Asthmatic Walrus” in the middle of the night, my son rushed in to fill the gap. He ambled through to the lounge and turned on the TV at full volume. At three o’clock in the morning.

Funnily enough the lack of sleep has not made the writing any harder. It’s thinking up things to write about that has been a bit of an ordeal.

Thinking in general is an ordeal.

Thinking in general is an ordeal.

But fear not. I’ve got that covered for next week. I’ve decided to write a little about politics. I can hear you groaning already. Fear not! I will be writing about South African politics. South African politics is fun. I’ll tell you about our president. And his four wives. And his rape charge. I’ll tell you about our minister of education. And her panties. I’ll tell you about the leader of the communist party. And his million rand ($110 000) car bought with taxpayers’ money.

And that’s just about it for this week. I’m a fifth of the way there and going strong. ish. Chronologically. I’m a tenth of the way to hitting my arbitrary 60 000 views. Hope to see you next week. Bring a friend. Or twenty. Force your cheese of the month club to log on at gunpoint.

Oh. I forgot about the democracy thing. Here you go;

I kid you not. There really are naked pictures of the president involved.

20. Some unpleasant creatures. And some wildlife.

When I was young, I used to love watching wildlife documentaries. My best were the ones narrated by Sir David Attenborough, but most of them followed a fairly similar formula. A large, dedicated team of wildlife photographers would go out and, with incredible patience, over a period a year or two, collect hundreds of hours of film. Film of nature in its natural state. This would be pared down to a few hours of incredible footage which would be clearly and exhaustively explained by Sir David in his sensible, well-modulated, and inimitable voice.

The wise old grandfather of wildlife documentaries

The wise old grandfather of wildlife documentaries

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19. All The Single Ladies

I have never really mastered Facebook. There is an immediacy to it that isn’t suited to people like me. By the time I get around to checking it, my head filling with pithy retorts and interesting little snippets, the world has moved on, and everybody is busy with something else. So I don’t really check it too often. But I will do so more often in the future. Because when I logged on this morning, I made an interesting discovery. There are, apparently, some single girls in my area. And they are dying to meet me!

Literally. This one has already collapsed to the ground.

Literally. This one has already collapsed to the ground.

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18. The Sausage Tree.

I feel a little guilty. On Tuesday, I put up a post that claimed to be about magic. But it wasn’t. It was about car guards. So today, I’m going to write about real magic. Just as soon as I’m done telling you about Sausage Trees. This is a Sausage Tree.

SausageTree

Its proper name is kigelia africana. It grows down in the Lowveld. It’s one of the bigger trees down there, about twenty metres tall, with a spreading canopy of thick green leaves that provide a dense, cool spot of shade. It has bright red flowers that look like they should be carnivorous. They’re pollinated by bats. Continue reading

17. Unconventional love

I woke up this morning at about 3 o’clock with a pounding head and a throat full of razor blades. We don’t really have the time for man-flu in our household. Children need to get taken to school, beds need to be made, dogs fed, dishes washed. Lying around groaning and talking like Yoda doesn’t get you sympathy. It gets you bitter resentment.

Tissues you will pass me, young padawan.

Tissues you will pass me, young padawan.

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16. Everyday magic.

Every now and then, I like to read a little bit of fantasy (no, not the Nancy Friday kind, you dirty buggers. The Tolkien kind). As in most genres, some of them are brilliantly original and compelling. And as in most genres, most of them are pretty formulaic. There are gruff dwarves with huge axes, grumpy magicians and elves in impractically tight tights. And magic, it always seems, is dying out in the land, a sad echo of a bygone golden age.

Elf-girls don't need tights because their bikini-armour is electrically heated.

Elf-girls don’t need tights because their bikini-armour is electrically heated.

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15. Creatures of the Night.

The night has always been a time of terror for us. We are not built for it. We can’t see. We swapped our night vision for the ability to see all the bright, shiny colours that fill our days. When we were new in this world, we must have spent our nights huddled together in frightened little groups, hiding from the monsters that haunted the dark, praying to see another dawn, wondering if it was all worth it just to be able to see a really vivid shade of blue.

Seems like a reasonable trade-off.

Seems like a reasonable trade-off.


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