Conrad Koch and his puppet, Chester Missing, are balancing precariously on the rooftop of The Star building. He looks across to The Star’s neighbour, Chief Albert Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters, and says: “If Jackson Mthembu looks out of his office window now, I am in trouble!”
That’s how popular he and Chester are among the ANC big-wigs. The two are on the rooftop for a photoshoot to celebrate the launch of the puppet’s first book, which is titled Chester Missing’s Guide to the Elections ’14.
The initial plan was to do the shoot on the street outside Luthuli House, but apparently the zealous security have hissy fits if The Star’s photographers take pictures of the building, like it’s a national key point or something.
Chester has gained much popularity through eNCA’s TV show, Late Night News (LNN) with Loyiso Gola. He has also taken to attending the big political launch bashes for parties like the ANC, the DA and even donned a red beret when he attended a launch of the EFF. Julius Malema was delighted to see him and as Chester was wrapping things up, the controversial leader ran up to him and gave him a tickle and ran off again, chuckling to himself. The moment was captured on camera.
Now, Chester has stepped up the madness by writing a book.
Over dinner that night Koch said Chester had asked him for his help with the book.
“There are no humorous books on the total political situation in South Africa,” explains Koch.
“And the elections are something that happen only once in a while. Chester is opinionated and I had to help him find the middle ground. Hopefully, this book will get people thinking about politics.”
So just where did he find this puppet who has politicians shaking in their boots with his ferocious questions?
“I found him lying in a road. I know nothing about him. I took him to a police station and they said he was lost property and that p****d him off. So when the police asked him what his surname was, he said he was ‘missing’ and that’s how got his name.”
After dinner Chester is taken out of his suitcase and comes to life, complete with his tie from Malusi Gigaba and tiny shiny shoes.
I giggle at the sight of him. Chester tells me he thought he was possibly the first puppet to write a book.
“I have a rock-star ego,” the puppet announces.
So what was the hardest part about writing this book? “I’m a f***** puppet. I don’t have motor skills! Actually, it’s not really a book. It’s a wall for a toilet in the Western Cape. It’s a building block for an RDP house. It’s a tissue for Oscar.”
Chester is now on a roll and there is no stopping him.
“Actually, we have a good distributor. It’s Angie Motshekga. The Limpopo potholes are the only place you can find this book.”
How does Chester plan to promote his book?
“By talking to you,” he replies pointedly. “No, we’re going to release a sex tape with Vavi.”
Chester starts shaking about: “Oh, Vavi, Vavi, Vavi!”
Koch calms him down. Chester listens and then turns to me: “It was difficult to write about the top six in the ANC because who knows if they are still going to be there after the elections, like Jesse Duarte, the little tokolosh that she is.”
On the chapter about the top six, Duarte gets all of three lines compared to the others. The book is a micro step-by-step guide to Chester’s views on all things political, from the Constitution to Liberalism to the political parties. Of course, there are those perceptive jabs that we love so much (“The ANCYL is a training camp for sugar daddies in waiting”).
However, it is also balanced by Koch’s strong sense of logic and what is right. This is perhaps why the politicians are generally amenable to the puppet and his quick, incisive wit, politicians like Malema.
Chester gets excited: “I love him. I love him. We’re getting married, well, as soon as they legalise marriages between puppets and humans. The ANC Woman’s League believe there is no woman good enough to lead the country and that’s like the EFF saying there there is no black person good enough to lead them.”
What will the book do for his career?
“I don’t have a career. I’m a puppet. I live in this suitcase and get pulled around by a white guy.”
While I’m laughing the short attention-spanned-puppet says: “You know what the difference is between Dewani and Pistorius? Dewani outsourced.”
While I am laughing yet again, he moves on: “This book is a chance for South Africans to talk about politics in a relaxed and fun way.”
Looking at the back cover I notice his tiny, shiny shoes.
“Well, I don’t really walk a lot and I don’t sweat a lot.” He turns to Koch and says: “He sweats a lot in my head. Do you know how it feels to have Axe deodorant in my head?”
The conversation moves to the book launches. The first is on Wednesday at 6pm at Sandton City’s Exclusive books. Chester will be interviewed by LNN director, Kagiso Lediga. On April 29 the launch will take place in Cape Town at the Book Lounge in Roeland Street with Stuart Taylor.
Suddenly Chester shouts out: “You can appropriate these books without compensation!”
Koch looks alarmed: “No, don’t say that!”
Chester glares at Koch: “Why not?”
Chester will broadcast from IEC headquarters from May 7 to 9.