Andrew Donaldson on the dangers of going to Putin's Russia for your medical treatment
A FAMOUS GROUSE
THE deputy president, David Mabuza, was supposedly dealt a setback at the weekend’s belated Mpumalanga ANC elective conference. He has reportedly lost control of the party in the feudal backwater said to be his stronghold and this, commentators have inferred, will strengthen Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to retain leadership of the ANC come December.
But could it be as simple as that?
Mpumalanga last held a leadership contest in 2015, as factional violence and assassinations put paid to the 2019 meeting — according to one whistleblower, at least 37 political killings were carried out during Mabuza’s tenure as premier of the province.
Interest in the conference, which survived a last-minute legal bid for further postponement, was always going to be high — especially as there were now two candidates vying for the top position whereas previously, in accordance with customary gangster practices, the incumbent was unopposed.
In a further, potentially fatal departure from tradition, Mabuza’s ally and preferred choice for provincial chair, the unfortunately named Lucky Ndinisa, was defeated by one Mandla Ndlovu, who has indicated he will be supporting Squirrel’s second-term bid. A blow to the RET faction, then.
The result, pundits claim, makes it difficult for Mabuza to launch a campaign to be re-elected as ANC deputy president. This, however, is based on the assumption that he would now want to deputise for anyone, least of all Squirrel.
As it is, Mabuza has yet to declare any interest in standing for re-election as party 2IC. Which suggests it’s probably the top job that he wants, as the man dubbed “The Cat” for his survival skills has tired of playing second fiddle.
We may know nothing of Mabuza’s leadership plans, but we recognise the dismissive tone he has adopted in response to recent questions in the National Assembly. It smacks of Big Man Leader. While there is little of merit in his answers, his paternalism and contempt for the concerns of opposition MPs suggests that, as far as he’s concerned, he’s already the chief.
Last Thursday, for example, Mabuza responded to a question from the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Zandile Majozi about problems in local government with a claim that “foreign tendencies” had corrupted the public service over “a period of time” — and those tendencies now threaten the “moral standing” of the entire country.
Corruption, he admitted, was a problem everywhere — not just government — and the way to deal with this was through good parenting:
“The point I’m driving at is that to seek to correct these problems, we must attend to the family as a basic unit. A unit that a society is built upon. It is only at home where a child is taught to behave in an ethical way. It is only at home that a child is taught to live among society members, to respect.
“Now, all that is an indication our family unit is no longer strong as we expect it. Now, these children, these young people that are working in our institutions, they are from families. If they are well brought up, they are going to frown at corruption. They are going to frown at maladministration.”
Such folksy hokum may readily be ignored. Especially by parents. But what are we to make of Mabuza’s assertion, also on Thursday, that there was nothing untoward about his month-long trip to Russia last year on medical grounds?
This is not the first time Mabuza has faced such inquiry. In December last year, speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula protected him from answering a question on whether the doctors he saw in Russia were toxicologists and whether he met with anybody there in connection with the multi-billion dollar nuclear deal that Russia and South Africa signed in September 2014.
No such protection, however, was necessary when, in relation to a query about renewable energy sources and the closure of coal mines, the National Freedom Party’s Munzoor Shaik-Emam told Mabuza: “Deputy president, we are a very suspicious nation. Your visit to Russia and our neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict is making people very suspicious about this gas deal.”
Mabuza replied there was nothing suspicious about his trip. “It’s purely a medical,” he said. “A medical process. Purely. Purely a medical process. There is nothing sinister, there is nothing hidden. From here I go to hospital. And from hospital, I come back. Okay? I’m sure honourable members will respect the choice of an individual [to go to] a hospital, to choose.”
Much heckling from opposition MPs followed, which seemed to amuse Mabuza. “Oh,” he smiled, “I have excited you now.”
We still don’t know what illness or condition Mabuza had suffered, or what kind of treatment he had received while abroad — and that is perhaps none of our business.
What we have been told, however, is that Russia’s top medical professionals have been kept fairly busy of late.
According to Proyekt, a Russian investigative journalism group, many of the country’s specialists have been spending a great deal of time with Vladimir Putin in recent years. And it seems all is not well with the war pig.
Proyekt’s report, released ahead of the president’s 70th birthday, was based on publicly accessed government procurement documents. These records reveal that, between 2016 and 2020, “brigades of doctors” from the presidential clinic in Moscow were accommodated in four different hotels used by Kremlin staff near to Putin’s summer residence near the Black Sea port of Sochi at a time when the leader was either officially visiting the city or during periods when he had controversially disappeared from public view.
The specialists included one Yevgeny Selivanov, an oncology surgeon who specialises in thyroid cancer. He has allegedly visited Putin 35 times at Sochi for a total of 166 days over the four years. Another was Alexei Shcheglov, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who visited Putin 59 times for a total of 282 days between 2016 and 2019. Other medical team members included anaesthetists, a neurosurgeon, an infectious diseases specialist and an intensive care doctor.
More alarmingly, Proyekt claims that Putin has also resorted to a bizarre “alternative medicine” treatment that involves bathing in blood extracted from severed deer antlers. As they explain:
“In spring, Altai red deer horns, or antlers, grow at an enormous rate of several centimetres a day. At this moment the antlers are not yet ossified, they are soft and full of blood. Extract from these horns is said to have a therapeutic effect (people supposedly benefit from antler baths), so there is a whole industry for the extraction of pantocrine. For this purpose, red deer are tied or clamped on a special machine, lifted so that they hang helplessly, and the living horns are cut off — often with an ordinary hacksaw. Animal rights activists compare the experience of animals to the torture of pulling out a person’s fingernails.”
Pantocrine, according to one flakey “wellness” website, is a drug used to “treat various disorders which include ageing, decreased sexual drive, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, low mental alertness, myotrophy and extreme fatigue”. Even so, hacking the stuff out of living animals does seem extreme, even for woo-woo shit.
David Mabuza may wish to spare us the vampiric details, but I feel taxpayers should be told if he has been lolling about in bathtubs of deer blood at some Putnik’s dacha or even slapping poultices made from minced bear on his chest.
Ordinarily, this would be considered a private matter, one that enjoyed shaman-patient confidentiality. But our next president is no ordinary person. He should be open with the people and tell all, if only to prepare us for the inevitable shock when he starts growing horns.
Meanwhile, in other Vlad news… ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
A British artist, Dominic Murphy, is raising money for Ukrainian refugees by selling portraits of Vladimir Putin painted with dog faeces. One recent work, Poo-tin’s a Shit, was created by mixing excrement with mud and then then varnishing the finished product 30 times to keep it from smelling. Murphy has admitted the concept is “quite immature and childish. But it’s the inner child an artist should never lose.”
Fair enough. It’s art, and it may or may not stink, but each to his own and, between ourselves, it’s not going to be hanging on any walls we know of anytime soon. What’s more, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), a casual remark about a “turd world war” was considered in such poor taste that the lout who first uttered it was severely sanctioned: a round of aged sporran sap for the house on his tab. Cheers.
We tend to think of the children of the rich and powerful as being exempt from life’s hardships, leading charmed lives and wanting for nothing.
But, and however glamorous their privileged existence may seem, in matters of the heart they are no different to you and I: they long to be loved and love in return. Who then among us would fail to be moved by Duduzile Sambudla-Zuma’s determined quest to regain romantic fulfilment?
A telling video of Dudu apparently revealing to her father her fears about being left on the shelf while all around her couples nestle down in connubial bliss has gone viral on social media. “You’re my lunch date today, daddy,” she tells the former president. “It’s not good. It means your daughter is not getting married any time soon.”
Her candour seems to startle Pops, and Jacob Zuma can barely manage to steer another forkful of stew around his plate prior to despatch before suggesting Dudu could just stay at home. This is an instinctive response from a doting parent, and we should not begrudge Accused Number One for wanting to keep his daughter out of trouble.
Readers will recall that Dudu’s first marriage, to ANC-linked businessman Lonwabo Sambudla, ended in acrimony after a few years. Their glittering, “Parisian-style” wedding reception, in which more than 600 guests were wined and dined at the Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve near East London, may have been the social event of 2011 but, all too soon, the rumour-mill was grinding overtime with chatter of affairs and illegitimate children.
Such, sadly, is the lost lustre of Gupta-gilded fairytale romances.
Dudu now wants a second crack at it. A cursory rummage through her Instagram account suggests a pronounced desperation and while it may be unkind to talk of mutton undressed as lamb, there is, it must be said, a fair bit of backside on display.
However, and lest we judge, behaviourists do suggest this presentation of one’s fleshy orbs is now essential to the modern courtship ritual.
Eligible bachelors should be advised that, due to ongoing legal matters, the family does not enjoy the financial security it once glibly took for granted. Gentlemen who come calling at Nkandla therefore run the risk of being touched for a hefty loan upon introduction to the paterfamilias.
Moreover, be warned that much Dudu date time may be spent in earnest discussion on Cyril Ramaphosa. Screeching is practically guaranteed and suitors run the risk of being bitten in the heat of a tirade.
Should this happen, urgent medical attention may be in order. But remember: no horny stuff. Leave that to mad Russians.