An unhappy New Year's in Nkandla

Andrew Donaldson says Cape Town will be the place to be, or Dubai if you are Fikile Mbalula


THE American satirist PJ O’Rourke once suggested that a state of inebriation was proper for the festive season. 

“This drunkenness,” he said, “culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.”

O’Rourke was once widely regarded as an expert in these matters. But that was in another age, one that has been hastily forced onto the back foot in the post-Harvey Weinstein cataclysm. 

The #MeToo backlash against sexual assault and harassment hit the Mahogany Ridge in no uncertain manner in time for the holidays. Presence, the Zimbabwean barmaid, drew up a manifesto of sorts which the regulars had to sign before they could expect any service.

By doing so, they formally recognised that Presence was to be treated with respect and dignity as she performed her duties behind the bar. Under no circumstances would any “colonial” nonsense with mistletoe (or any plastic facsimile thereof) be permitted. 

It has accordingly been a peaceful, if dreary fortnight in these parts.

There remains however a certain wistfulness about the old days, when such matters were not beset with modern perplexities. 

This was a time, according to The Spectator agony aunt columnist Mary Killen, when making a pass “was not seen by women as harassment or assault” but as “par for the course”.

Writing in the magazine’s Christmas edition, Killen noted that “lunging for kisses without invitation and even pressing girls against the wall” were once considered normal behaviour.

“The perma-passion of the dance floor, where women and men moved in rhythm, held in each other’s arms, allowed for swifter interpretations and conclusions than any other flirting method,” she said. “Indeed, some men were even taught by their mothers that it was ‘rude not to have an erection’ when dancing a slow waltz with a woman.”

Such talk, of course, is bound to make any hot-blooded millennial ill-at-ease, waltzes being so old-fashioned and out of favour these days. 

(Presence, on the other hand, maintains she is capable of all manner of dance but insists that Ms Killen’s “advice” will only find favour with British imperialists whose chins are weak and who are weaker still in other departments, and certainly not with the men in her world.)

Which brings us, alas, to Jacob Zuma, allegedly our very own kiss-lunger and chief wall-presser, and the year ahead.

According to the economists, we are all in for some nastiness and must tighten our belts even further. 

As Debt Rescue CEO Neil Roets told the Cape Argus, “With major price increases for food and other essential commodities on the cards as well as a continued sluggish growth rate … South Africans are in for a rough ride in 2018. 

“Unemployment is now at 27.7%, and key jobs sectors, including mining and the industrial sector, are expected to continue shedding jobs at unprecedented rates.”

We may then console ourselves with the fact that it will probably be grimmer for the lame duck President.

Yesterday the Constitutional Court ruled that Parliament had failed to hold Zuma to account over the Nkandla scandal and now must begin proceedings that could remove him from office. This is in addition to all the other upsets and challenges, legal and otherwise, that he is likely to face in the new year.

When it comes to the courts, it seems that Accused Number One has been unwilling to learn from previous setbacks. He was on a losing streak in 2016, one which continued this year, and will almost certainly come to a spectacular head in the months ahead.

Forgive us, then, for imagining that tomorrow evening’s festivities at Nkandla — and Saxonwold, for that matter — could be rather subdued affairs with half-hearted dancing and less than enthusiastic wall-pressing.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, CNN has helpfully suggested the world’s best places to see in 2018. 

They include Sydney, Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Moscow and Cape Town — all cities that have a reputation for throwing what the news channel quaintly referred to as a “great New Year’s Eve shindig”.

Somehow Dubai was also included. And it must be fab there, too. Because that’s where Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and his family are spending the holidays. 

And what’s to do there besides shop? (And, in the case of Mbaks, send out defensive tweets justifying one’s choice of vacation destination?)

According to CNN, revellers there will gather at the base of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and gaze upwards at its splendour. Oh, and maybe check out some fireworks as well. 

Hold us back, we say; we’re taking our chances with Presence.

And all the best for 2018.

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.