President Zuma’s name is being blamed for the Gupta wedding fiasco.
It’s a bit like those magic words Open Sesame or Abracadabra. You mention his name and suddenly doors are opened, air force bases give the all-clear for civilian aircraft carrying wedding guests to land, and police provide the same people with VIP blue-light treatment.
The point is that Zuma is not to be blamed for his name. That is what he was born with. It’s not his fault that underlings used it to curry favour with the president’s very good personal friends of Indian origin who also happen to be fabulously wealthy, in anticipation of his approval.
Had he known, he might well have said to the Gupta brothers: “No Ajay, no Atul, no Rajesh, you can’t just sail your guests through Waterkloof Air Force Base without immigration and custom formalities, no matter how much I may owe you.
“Naturally I understand their unwillingness to mingle with ordinary South Africans, many of whom earn less than a million a year. I also understand that because of your wealth and high standing in Indian society, you are entitled to special privileges that ordinary South Africans don’t deserve.
“Don’t think I am not grateful to you for gracing our humble country with your esteemed presence and choosing us as a venue for such an international event.
“But tongues may wag. I really would prefer that you land at OR Tambo. They have a lovely red carpet there that we roll out for heads of state, which the bridal party practically are in the sense they are entering the marital state.”
But according to his presidential spokesman, he didn’t know. In fact like Manuel in Fawlty Towers he knew nuttin’, even though he came from KwaZulu-Natal and not Barcelona.
He knew so little that he shot off to the Congo, leaving one of his wives, one of his sons, and one of his nephews to attend the wedding on his family’s behalf. Sometimes it’s better not to know too much.
None of his ministers knew until afterwards, either, even those who were also at the wedding. They were all totally innocent, as ministers are inclined to be these days, unless their boyfriends are caught with their hands in the cookie jar. But government fingers did point to the chief of state protocol, Bruce Koloane, who thought he was doing the right and loyal thing.
Fingers were also pointed at three major-generals and a colonel, in the hope that this would do the trick, though Koloane has most of my sympathy. He’s obviously headed for the chop.
The Guptas would go up in my presently rock-bottom estimation if they offered him a job. If he can mastermind such a massive operation in South Africa without the president or any of his ministers knowing about it, he has a talent that would flourish in India, a country where anything or anybody can be bought.
Let him organise weddings there and any other sort of celebrations that require smoke and mirrors, including funerals. To demonstrate his loyalty he could throw himself on the occasional pyre, in an act of hari curry.
Meanwhile, let this episode be a lesson to the Guptas and all fellow Indians that they don’t have a sole mandate on South Africa. We also have very good Chinese friends who would be offended if they thought they were being outbid for the soul of us all. firstname.lastname@example.org
Naturally I am opposed to the scrapping of Boxing Day and Easter Monday, both recommended by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (whose name alone tells you it is the same committee entrusted to design a horse and ended up instead with a camel).
Boxing Day is an essential holiday, enabling one to recover from the excesses of Christmas, though my old colleague Gerald Shaw always held a “Boxing Day Bash”, and you needed most of December 27 to get over that. And what sort of Easter weekend would it be without the Monday off, as well?
Tokyo Sexwale provided a nice postscript to our English holiday. I found him one row behind me on the flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Monday. “I’m surprised to see you sitting among us plebs,” I said, shaking his hand. “Why aren’t up front in business class?”
“You know, I grew up poor in Soweto…” he said, with that famous twinkle in his eye.