Everything you need to know about the state of the nation

Jeremy Gordin says Zuma's intervention in Tlokwe tells you exactly where the ANC's priorities lie

So, poepkeles, according to the government information website, on Thursday evening President Jacob Zuma will present the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) to a joint sitting of parliament. Whoop-de-doo.

"SoNA," we learn from the website, "is an opportunity for the President to take stock of the country's domestic and foreign situation and to chart a common direction enhance our efforts to achieve a better life for all. ..."

Are you excited? What do you scheme the chief's going to talk about?

According to the learned staff reporters [more than one? shurely shome mishtake?] at the Pretoria News, now being edited by my old china, the Budgie [Val Boje], according to the "reporters," "swifter service delivery, better infrastructure, heightened awareness and faster prosecution of rape cases and action on rhino poaching are some of the suggestions put to President Jacob Zuma for inclusion in his address."

Budgie, I'm not sure that it's entirely "appropriate" (as the academics and shrinks say) to write about rape cases and rhino poaching in the same (figurative) breath. There is one or another grouping or radio personality that you and your staff reporter/s are going to offend, as sure as God made little green apples.

What do you think Zuma thinks is the state of the nation? He is doubtless going to touch on so-called service delivery and better infrastructure and I'm sure his minders are making a feverish and last-minute interpolation about the rights of women.

He'll also touch on Trevor Manuel's national development plan - which, one suspects, is a bit like my unwritten novel on gerontological sex: it is simply never going to get the attention it deserves - because everyone related to it, involved with it, or described in it, is going to be dead by the time attention is properly paid to it. In short, Zuma will take some time, a few hours or so, to bore us all to tears of boredom, rage and frustration.

But, hey, let me not be a nay-sayer - let me, like the journalists of the New Age, consider the cup to be half-full - and ask this: what is the state of the nation?

I'll tell you what ... Crank up your music machine, fire up your dhurry, and come with me on a magic carpet ride - to a place called Tlokwe.

Tlokwe Local Municipality (before February 2007, Potchefstroom Local Municipality) is a local municipality in Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, North West Province. The seat of the local municipality is a dismal place called Potchefstroom - or, to its friends, Potch. (used to be an infantry camp there; maybe there still is.)

In November, Tlokwe elected a Democratic Alliance mayor. This was pretty interesting because, as you might imagine, the DA held 19 seats only to the ANC's 30. (FF+ held two seats and Cope 1.) Anyway, in November the town council passed a motion of no confidence in the mayor, one Maphetle "Andy" Maphetle.

There was the result of infighting in the run-up to good ol' Mangaung - a split between warring factions aligned to suspended provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge and chairman Supra "Clark Kent" Mahumapelo - and it seems too that Andy had been accused of "corruption".

No offence to Stephen Crane, but I once read somewhere, I forget where, that for poets in the latter part of the 19th century, having gonorrhea or syphilis was a "red badge of courage". Seems to me that the red badge of courage for ANC officials is being involved in corruption. You haven't done it, you're no one, dude.

The no-confidence motion passed 37-13 and, after the motion passed, Mr Maphetle and his ANC buddies left the council. The 20 opposition folk left behind had a 20-19 majority. So they elected a new mayor of Tlokwe: the DA's Annette Combrinck, a former rector of North West University's Potchefstroom campus.

Now let's take a short break and consider the finances of Tlokwe during 2011/12, under the leadership of Andy Maphetle. I didn't do the audit myself but this is what has been reported by the usual reliable sources.

The Tlokwe municipality in "irregularly" spent R143 million in 2011/12; another R152 million was spent without authorization; and a further R2, 8 million was wastefully spent. These were the findings of the Auditor General's report on Tlokwe. Two things worth noting: first, Tlokwe under spent its budget by R48 million and "as a consequence service delivery was negatively affected"; second, in most cases 60% of the delivery targets set for the municipality were too vague for the AG to verify.

Now then, Maphetle Maphetle seems to be a pretty cool dude, with good taste to boot. He doesn't buy paintings at McDonalds or what-have-you. During his tenure he ordered himself a R736 000 Mercedes Benz; it's not clear if he'd taken delivery of it by the time he was rusticated because he'd ordered some luxury customizations - and, well, these take time.

I think the so-called customizations were rosewood interiors and beige leather seats. Pretty cool, hey?

But anyway, this stuff was not going down well with the brass in HQ. A DA mayor in Tlokwe? No way, José. Perish the bloody thought. So this week the big man and his handlangers swept into good ol' Potch to bang some heads together.

Gedleyihlekisa and the fellows apparently commandeered the Tlokwe municipal buildings and a nearby hotel - where Zuma held individual interviews with ANC councillors. Councillors were also told to clear the council parking lot so that the Zuma entourage (did he bring his wives and bodyguards?) would have somewhere to park.

A DA councillor was apparently threatened with arrest if the lot wasn't cleared pronto because Zuma's business was "in the national interest" - the national interest being ANC party political business.

Not surprisingly, all the ANC councillors apologised for their shoddy behaviour and the orthodontically-challenged [thanks, Bullfinch] Jackson "just one more tincture before I go-go" Mthembu could issue a joyous press release: "A council meeting is scheduled on 26 February, 2013, to reinstate the ANC mayor to correct the wrongs that were created by the ANC councillors," said Mthembu.

"We believe that this will go a long way to restore the confidence of the community in our councillors."

To summarize. In the week just before the SoNA, when you might be excused for believing that there're some serious issues with which to deal - service delivery, infrastructure, the plight of women and children, maybe even rhinos - the president of the beloved country goes to Tlokwe, where he and his buddies push everyone around like a bunch of tinpot potentates.

Why? Because we can't have a DA mayor in Potch. And who does he go to support? Who does he go to micro-manage (and you need to know that Zuma never micro-manages) ...? Some tangibly incompetent buffoon with a rosewood brain and beige underpants...

What do you mean you want to know what the state of the nation is? I just told you.

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