Bamboozled by love and Zuma

Jeremy Gordin on the President's performance in parly regarding his ranch at Nkandla

It was 1981. My father wasn't rich, but for her age my mother was pretty good-lookin'. I was working then at the Financial Mail; Steve "Muldoon" Mulholland was the man. Caroline Southey was there; Sha-Sha Robe was there; Roy Isacowitz was there; Jim Jones was there; Howard "bar-el" Barrel was there. Irwin Manoim was in the building, dreaming of better things to come. The fish were jumpin', the cotton was high, and I was 29 years' old. Frank Zappa, on the LP Tinseltown Rebellion,cut a song called Bamboozled by Love. I loved that song ...

Bamboozled by love,
Oh lord, the shit done hit the fan
The way that girl been carryin' on
I swear I just don't understand
Don't you know I treat her nice and kind
The way no other lover can
I came home the other day and she was
[censored] some other man ...

... and so forth.

Of course, as with almost everything Zappa did, it was a masterpiece of pastiche, a brilliant take-off, of hard rock electric blues that you might hear in Chicago or just off Green Street in San Francisco - yet, at the same time, FZ, Ike Willis, Warren Cuccurollo, Vinnie Colaiuta, and the rest, were such fine musicians that the number ended up being a prime example of its type - while, as I have just said, simultaneously taking the piss out of the genre.

Now then, someone who is bamboozling me at the minute is that leader in the field of ... what shall I call it? ... Vagary? Inarticulacy? Confusion? The good ol' red herring?  ... That master of the informal fallacy or ignoratio elenchi ...?

I am referring of course, ladies and gentlemen, to none other than [drum roll, please] the president of the beloved republic, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

And I am referring in particular to his performance in parly last week regarding his ranch at Nkandla. It was a brilliant take-off of Westminster-type parliamentary debate, wasn't it, full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing, while at the same time a prime example of the JGZ approach?

The leader of the opposition, Lindiwe Mazibuko, aka the tea girl, came out firing, asking JGZ to explain why R238-million, or whatever it is, is going on the refurbishments of his ranch.

Oooh-hooh, the boss huffed and puffed and lost - or pretended to lose - his temper (I say "pretended" because he doesn't easily lose his rag).

"I take exception" to this stuff, he kept saying, you guys make me into a "first class corrupt man" (which I am of course not) while talking about stuff of which you have no inkling. The state, he continued, had nothing to do with building his house - and all the building that is presently going on at Nkandla is a state-issue related to security concerns and is going on outside his fence [his emphasis].

It was passionate stuff. He almost had me convinced. Trouble is: I think he had himself convinced. This is scary stuff: there are times when Zuma sincerely and unquestioningly believes what he himself says, no matter what the deviation is from fact or reality.

For no one said the state had built his house or footed part of the bill. The question was: for what, in heaven's name, is the 238-mil? What kind of an upgrade, security or otherwise, costs that kind of boodle?

JGZ did not answer these two questions. (I don't think he has any idea of the answers anyway - I don't think anyone does. I think some builders/contractors went ape Seffrican-style and got away with it, as I think Andrew Donaldson said the other day. Eish, someone/s is/are gonna be so pissed that this issue came up -s/he's probably busy building a little villa in Cannes right now.)

Talk to the ministry of public works, JGZ said. It's got bugger-all to do with me. Of course Zuma must know that, alas, Thembelani Thulas "Thumbelina" Nxesi, the minister, a refugee from the SA Democratic Teachers Union, that home of intellectual giants, clearly doesn't know his brass from his oboe or his public from his works.

Question: why, by the way, so much silence from Nxesi's next-in-line Jeremy Cronin? (Pity poor Cronin, in one office he has Nxesi; in the other, he has Blade Nzimande; in the pub, there's Rob Davies. Some okes have to go home to their boisterous and nosiy families for a bit of peace and quiet and intelligent conversation).

I'll tell you why Cronin is being so quiet. It's because he knows the whole thing is a massive balls-up par excellence. Same as the e-tolling business, about which he also kept mum - and was consequently dumped from the ministry of transport by the boss. From the frying pan into the fire and all that. Poor Cronin, as I said.

I imagine him having discussions late into the night with Nzimande ... "Listen, Blade, I have to get outta there, everything's rotten to the core." "No, no, Jeremy," says Blade, "we commies got to keep our hand in, you shmuck. You got to do it for the party. Just zip your lip and hang in. How else do we organise a national undemocratic revolution?"

Anyway, inter alia Zuma said he had a bond. Lo and behold, the City Press popped up on Sunday morning - "pat on cue like the catastrophe of the old comedy" (King Lear?) - to say that its crack investigative team couldn't find a bond registered for Nkandla or Zuma. You could imagine the self-satisfied look on St Ferial of the Spear's little punim, the meaningful pursing of the lips, over breakfast.

But it bothered me - so much so that I wrote in my Citizen column, early yesterday morning, that, notwithstanding Zuma's vagaries, he simply couldn't have told parly that he had a bond if he didn't. (Could he?) I mean, he's weird but he ain't that weird. The names Vivian Reddy and Schabir Shaik crept into my mind, but I couldn't quite figure out why ...

Let me explain. I might remember FZ ditties and the whole of Byron's Don Juan (16 000 lines of verse) but, when it comes to remembering Shaik's trial, there ain't no one to compare with Sam "Shmulik" Sole of the Mail&Grauniad. He dreams of it every night. And he of course remembered that Zuma does have a bond - it came up in the trial - and that it had originally been financed by Reddy signing a surety and so on ...

But none of this answers Mazibuko's question. And in fact we know - or at least those of us in Gauteng know - precious little about the details of this refurbishment. I say "we in Gauteng" because Donaldson (in his column) seemed to know about R3-million for glass and Mazibuko seemed to know about other items - none of which I have seen in any of the newspapers here.

And talking of Mazibuko's questions ... she and the boss just kept talking past each other. It was gorgeous.

I suppose it would be moronic of me to suggest that someone sit down with Thulas Nxesi and look over the accounts? ... Yeah, it would be moronic. Thulas is clearly as bamboozled as I am ... the way that president's been carryin' on, I swear I just don't understand.

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter