Afraid to say I never made it to dinner with President Jacob Zuma last night.
The family budget simply wouldn’t stretch to R500 000 for a seat at his table, which was what the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum were asking from those who wished to share his jovial company at the Johannesburg banquet, coinciding with the first day of the party’s four-day policy conference.
I am sure that conversation at the table would have provided me with wonderful column material, which for purely financial considerations I must now forgo.
But I can at least imagine the scene, and give you some idea of the sort of questions I would have put to him, had I been there.
My first would have been: “Mr President, what exactly is this second transition that you seem so keen on? I wasn’t aware of the first one, and neither apparently was your deputy, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, who said it all smacked of Marxist jargon.”
I already know what the president’s response would be. He would giggle. He is a pastmaster at giggling when he doesn’t know the answer to a question, or is too embarrassed by the answer even if he does know what it is.
That giggle is part of his innate charm. I believe he has giggled many a woman into his bed.
Which brings me to my next question: “Sir, how many more wives do you have in mind? The four you already have cost taxpayers R15m in the past year, and we need to prepare ourselves financially for additions to your harem. Who is your favourite by the way, and who normally emerges from the tunnel first? I see that Thobeka Madiba has lost some weight. Will this make any difference to your marital preferences?”
Okay, I concede this is a multiple question, and parts of it are quite personal. But by now I assume we would all have had a few drinks, enabling us to become more familiar with one another.
I won’t even mind giggles for answers.
To ring the changes I might ask: “By the way, Mr President, did you ever get that machine gun you were always calling for?” My respect for his high office would stop me adding: “An infinitely more frightening weapon than the spear.”
This time I would expect a hearty “ho, ho, hee, hee” in response.
Then, to make polite conversation, I would venture: “Gee, it was lucky you had to fly off to Mexico when you did. Otherwise who knows what names they might have called you at the Youth Day function you managed to escape. Even your opponents were impressed by your fancy footwork.”
Perhaps by now the president would have become aware that he and I were not on the same political flight-path. I would therefore come clean and confess: “Though it has been an honour to share a table with you, Mr President, albeit at the cost of taking out a mortgage on my house, you should know that when it comes to the election of the next president, I am an ABZ supporter – Anyone But Zuma.”
But before effectively ending our one-sided conversation, I would ask him what he thought about the ANC discussion document listing 15 characteristics of the perfect ANC leader. They insist he or she be, among other things, “competent, honest, ethical, exemplary, respected, principled, self-sacrificing and having integrity”.