A disturbing squeaking sound

Andrew Donaldson says we have a govt in urgent need of protection from itself


WE were thinking of our dolphin names, here at the Mahogany Ridge … and you do know how you get your dolphin name, don’t you? 

It’s a silly trick, one that amuses the kids — which is just as well, because it goes down a treat at their birthday parties. Basically, you paw an inflated balloon with an open-palmed hand. That skreek-skreek sound? That’s your dolphin name.

It was Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who reminded us of all this when he unveiled — if that is the correct term — the new government-issued condoms in the National Assembly on Thursday.

We were unaware of this, but many South Africans had complained the old condoms made a noise when they were used.

Ramaphosa did not say what sort of noise. But those balloons came to mind and we agreed there could be problems. 

Imagine: just getting into your stride and, next thing, your bits call out to Flipper to join the fun. That certainly could ruin a chap’s game.

No such dampeners, though, with the Max, as the new rubbers have been dubbed. The strong silent type, they offer “maximum pleasure and maximum protection”.

“And it doesn’t make a noise,” Ramaphosa said, waving about a couple of Max packs. “If you want a grape flavour, you can get it. If you want an apple flavour, you can get an apple flavour.”

Cue much amusement at this. Not only did the old condoms do the dolphin-speak — for what porpoise, we can only guess (groan) — but they also smelt bad. The new fruit salad jobs went some way in countering such unpleasantness.

And speaking of which, is there perhaps not a scent out there strong enough to mask the foul and corrupt vapours swirling around our public life? The undiluted glandular secretions of a musk stag, maybe? 

The ravening and blatant pillaging has now grown so shameless that more and more ruling party members and their allies have finally decided to rear up on their hind legs and say something forceful about that old elephant in the room.

Take Jeremy Cronin, for example. The first deputy general of the SA Communist Party has taken a while to find his moral compass. Years, in fact. 

He’s apparently in line to lose his job as Public Works deputy minister in an expected cabinet shuffle because he and his SACP chums have been urging government to distance itself from the Guptas. He has claimed that such a dismissal would be honourable; as a disciplined communist, he won’t shut up about the looting.

Beg pardon, but Cronin has served in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet from the get-go, May 2009. Why have the scales only now fallen from his eyes? Where has he been all this time? Asleep? 

There have been others. But despite the timorous dissent, the Zumanaut juggers ever onwards, with the Guptas still firmly in command. 

This seemingly would explain why an inter-ministerial committee has recommended a judicial commission of inquiry probe the South African banks’ decision to terminate professional relationships with the family’s Oakbay Investments.

It is bullying, of course. According to the DA’s David Maynier, the shadow finance minister, it amounts to a political assault, not just on the banking sector, “but also on the National Treasury and the SA Reserve Bank.”

And it smacks of desperation — rather like Zuma’s brazen decision to install himself as head of the clunkily-titled and hastily-assembled Presidential State-Owned Enterprises Coordinating Council, thus allowing direct access to the coffers of Transnet, Eskom, the Land Bank and other parastatals.

It is unsurprising therefore that asset management companies have suspended loans to these SOEs. They need to look after their clients’ tom. Not feed it into the Zuma maw.

More will follow, according to Rune Hejrskov, senior money manager at Denmark’s Jyske Bank, which has pulled the plug on Eskom.

“I see no other way,” Hejrskov was quoted as saying. “With the discord between Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, more and more governance issues are showing up [and with the] Gupta family having a much larger influence than previously expected.”

The response from the SOEs to this staggering vote of no confidence from the corporate sector has been one of denial. All’s hunky dory with us, they have declared. A-okay. No problems. 

So much so, that cabinet has re-appointed Zuma’s good friend, Dudu Myeni, as chairwoman of the train smash that is South African Airways. 

It is a move that beggars belief, the surest sign yet that government was in need of protection from itself. And condoms won’t work here. Even if they smell of apples.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.