Guptagate: Why Zuma didn't need to know

Jeremy Gordin says that there are always enough bozos about who, above all, want to please the big boss

Let's pretend that, during the reign of PW Botha, the aforementioned Groot Krokodil made friends with someone from overseas. It's quite a difficult scenario to imagine but hey, let's give it a shot.

Who could it be? Let's say it was some B-grade Israeli general who, having commanded his tank company with distinction during the 1973 war, had gone into the manufacture of electrified fences. Let's call him Brigadier-General Haim Ben-Poepchik. So Ben-Poepchik comes to the ol' RSA where he meets the then Minister of Defence, Papa Whiskey Botha - and tries to flog some fencing.

PW doesn't bite (as it were). Never mind. Ben-Poepchik loves it here. Cape Town is so much nicer, in every conceivable way, than Gaza or even (in those days) Tel-Aviv. So Ben-Poepchik settles in the Cape while setting up a factory in the Ciskei for the making of electrified fences and other "security" goodies. And it amuses PW to have this ex-Israeli general over for the occasional braaivleis at the Tuynhuys.

Are you buying this story? I'm not sure that I am, really.

A quick (true) story. My friend Peter Wilhelm - who, like the new editor of the FM, Tim Cohen, is not Jewish - once went to Wilderness to interview PW during his final years. He was accompanied by the photographer, David Goldblatt, who is, mirabile dictu, Jewish - and also one of our national assets.

At some point in the proceedings, Goldblatt needed to use the loo. PW appeared nonplussed for a second because, it seemed, the downstairs toilet was out of order. "Well, never mind, never mind," said Botha to David, "go upstairs man, go upstairs ..." and he ushered him up the stairs.

Then he turned with a wicked grin to Peter. "You see Mr Wilhelm," he said, "I'm actually a bit of a liberal, hey, letting a Jew use my private toilet ...heh heh."

You understand then why I'm having difficulties believing my tale about PW and General Ben-Poepchik. Never mind; we need the story. At some point, Ben-Poepchik's daughter, Chava, who was living back in Israel, decided to marry the man of her dreams, the magnificently handsome and red-bereted Menachem M Shneerson, a second-lieutenant in the Yerushalmi paratroop brigade. (And they don't come much better, let me tell you, than the Yerushalmim.) Ben-Poepchik decides to give the couple - and all the members of their families, who will wing their way to Seffrica - the wedding of their lives.

So he immediately hires the Groot Constantia estate for the nuptials and he also tries to hire Clifton's fourth beach for the afternoon. But he has hassles with the city council who tell him he can't do that, but he can have first beach, which most people don't like as much anyway.

He also phones his buddy, a former major in the Israeli air force, but now a pilot in El Al, and asks if he wouldn't mind, when he next flies to Cape Town - and if that's the flight on which the Ben-Poepchik and Schneerson are flying - whether he wouldn't mind putting down at AFB Langebaanweg just for a few moments before carrying on to DF Malan. Penultimately, Ben-Poepchik hires some speed cops to escort the guests to Groot Constantia from Langebaanweg.

But then of course he's got to ensure that the flight can land at an air force base. I mean there's the issue of national key points and what-have-you; Ben-Poepchik understands this, obviously. So he phones the local Langebaanweg head honcho and asks for permission ...

Now then - pay attention, please, this is a crunch moment - you have to put yourself in the shoes of the brigadier who commands the base.

He knows that Ben-Poepchik is buddies with PW. And he knows too that future felicity and salary increases are directly related to pleasing Papa Whiskey. What's more, if you don't please PW, you could well be attending your own uitkak-parade - and this is just no fun. He knows too that he can't bother PW over every little thing; after all, the man is very busy plotting the fall of the communist empire and how to oppress the local dark-hued citizens.

So, contrary to the still small voice in his head, the brigadier goes ahead and okays the landing of an El Al jumbo at the base.

Is julle by, troepeJacob Gedleyihlekisa Z didn't know about the Guppy Gupta shenanigans. He didn't need to know. Just as in the days of the previous rejeem, there are enough bozos hanging around who want above all to please the head honcho - and who want to ensure that things will go the way they think he'd want them to go. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. It's not rocket science. Sycophancy, my friends, suck-asses in the ranks, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern at the Danish court, Williams (Moegs) & Howa (Nazeem) at The New Age, and so on and so forth.

This being the case, I don't know why some folk are trying to connect this Bollywood soapie to poor ol' JGZ. Hasn't he got enough troubles as it is?

And, geez Louise, the vitriol. You don't believe in my protagonist Haim Ben-Poepchik, do you? But do you believe in Neeshan Balton? Well, Balton exists; he's the spokesman of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and, to judge by his pictures on the Net, he's a nice enough looking fellow.

But, goodness me, his writing style makes Cosatu's Patrick Craven and the ANC's Jackson Mthembu seem like girl scouts.

"The unauthorised and brazen use of the Waterkloof military airbase for private purposes by the Gupta family is a matter of national concern and warrants the widespread condemnation and careful attention of all democrats in South Africa." [Emphases mine, as the academics say.]

That's telling ‘em. "The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation welcomes the fact that this sordid saga is being investigated by the security cluster in government. ...We likewise welcome President Zuma's statement that this incident should not impact negatively on South Africa's historic relationship with India."

Hmm, according to a surprisingly good article by Justice "the sky is falling" Malala, just the other day, ol' JGZ's relationship with the Indian government is not too good. As for a historic relationship, as far as I know all we ever did was to import India's people to work in the sugar plantations.

"South Africans will recall that not so long ago, this same family used the Zoo Lake as a private landing strip for its helicopters." No, come on, Neeshan, be fair: they might have landed once but after that they were sent packing. You can mess with the SANDF, but you mess with Parkviewans at your peril.

"The lavish and extravagant nature of the wedding ceremony in the face of widespread poverty, unemployment and inequality in both South Africaand India is distasteful. The tens of millions of Rands spent could better be used on the well-being of the poor and distressed in society." Yeah, right, what do you think we are here? A bunch of bleeding heart liberals? You spend your money the way you like, and I'll spend mine the way I want. Okay? 

"Our leaders in the liberation movement, among whom were - Oliver Tambo, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Dr Monty Naicker, Moses Kotane, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Professor Jakes Gerwel, Johnny Issel, Joe Slovo and so many others that have left us - led simple and principled lives."

Oh, give me a break, would you? This is worse than a Sunday Times editorial or a Cosatu press release.   

"South Africans need to understand why and how a single family has come to wield such enormous power and influence over sections of government and its administration."

I'll tell you why and how. They have lots of boodle, noodle - and money, as Bobby remarked, doesn't talk, it swears. I'm off now - to sit in the shade of the umbrella tree and Angie's palumas ..

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