In the bad old days before the dawn of our glorious democratic republic, South Africa had only four provinces: the Cape, Transvaal, Natal and Free State.
We seemed to manage reasonably well with just four provinces. The roads were maintained, the education systems produced matric pupils, hospitals treated patients reasonably efficiently and the railways carried people and goods safely.
SAA was rated among the world’s safest and most passengers arrived at the same destination as their luggage. I heard rumours that SAA might even have run at a profit in those days.
Of course, we realise now that the four province set-up was not ideal. What’s the point of interprovincial rugby when there are only four teams?
How do you reward all your loyal political pals when you have only four provinces to share among them?
Obviously things had to change. With the new system we could have nine provincial legislatures, each employing a highly-paid provincial premier and a couple of hundred plump politicians.
Instead of just four provinces calling for tenders for the supply of X-ray machines, road graders, computers, ballpoints and long black cars with official flags, we could now spread the largesse more widely.
Many political pals who couldn’t tell the difference between a front end loader and a filing cabinet were able to go into the tendering business and become rich without having to supply a single item.
This would have been frowned upon in the bad old days, when there were only four sets of politicians to blame when money disappeared.
Now things are much safer and there are so many corrupt entrepreneurs under investigation that it’s a pretty safe bet none of them will ever reach the courts.
In rare cases when the public (those who missed out on the largesse) do raise embarrassing questions. there’s a simple system for calming down anger - we appoint a commission of inquiry.
There! That will show the world we are not going to take corruption lightly. Commissions of inquiry require premises (well, obviously they can’t meet out in the street, can they?) as well as official secretaries, chauffeurs, caterers, computer suppliers and research assistants, not to mention bodyguards.
Multiply all these by nine provinces and one can’t help wondering why people complain about a lack of jobs in the country. All we need do is to add a province or two and we’d have full employment.
Archaeologists carefully unwrapped a 3000-year-old mummy and began examining it. After testing the fabric and the human remains and studying every part of it, one of the learned scientists declared: “I think I have ascertained the cause of death.”
“How did he die?” asked a colleague.
“He died of a heart attack.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I found a betting slip in the man’s pocket and it said: ‘5000 shekels on Goliath to win’.”
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.