Forget Greenland, buy KZN!

Andrew Donaldson provides some real estate advice to US President Donald Trump


THERE are moral limits to markets and, accordingly, some things should just not be for sale. This was much the consensus here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) after learning that a London homeopathic pharmacy is flogging a “remedy” containing bits of the Berlin Wall.

The Times reports that Murus Berlinensis, as it’s known, is a heavily-diluted water and alcohol-based solution with minute particles of wall dust.  This, the quacks claim, gives the treatment a “spiritual force” that can help people with problems overcome or break down barriers in their lives.

It’s worth recalling, cynicism aside, that the wall’s “spiritual force” was of little use to the 200 or more souls who had attempted to cross into the Western sector of Berlin in the Cold War era and were unfortunately shot dead for their troubles by East German border guards. 

Besides, at R1 300 for a 100ml bottle of what is 96% alcohol (“medicating potency”, it says here), the stuff is certainly not cheap and there was some drollery at the Lamb about pints of scroat roarer with large gins on the side being more effective in breaking down barriers — and friendlier on the pocket.

Which brings us neatly to the week’s other great brain fart: Donald Trump’s stated interest in buying Greenland from Denmark. “Strategically,” the US president said, “it’s interesting. Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal.”

It doesn’t take rocket science to understand what he means by “strategically” and “interesting”: the world’s largest island is literally opening up for what can crudely be termed “business” and the man-child wants not so much “in” as “all”.

About 80% of Greenland is covered by an ice sheet that is almost three kilometres thick. Due to global warming, this is disappearing at a rate of about 285 gigatonnes a year. Think of this as the equivalent of 112 million Olympic swimming pools draining into North Atlantic every summer. 

More importantly, the loss of the ice means opportunities to exploit previously inaccessible natural resources are growing hand over fist. And there is much there to exploit, including an estimated 31 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, more than a billion tons of iron ore, and large deposits of the rare earth elements necessary for sophisticated, high-end technology. 

Of course, it’s not only Greenland that is melting. Bluntly speaking, most of the Arctic ice cap is toast and, as a result, new shipping routes have opened and traffic there is increasing as economic opportunities emerge from beneath the ice. Accordingly, there is much excited prattle in Moscow about competition with the Suez Canal.

The big thaw up there has however significant drawbacks, as the Russians are discovering. The melting permafrost is damaging Siberian infrastructure, including roads, buildings and vital gas pipelines. Scientists also warn that a warmer climate could release anthrax and other prehistoric diseases from the previously frozen earth. Vladimir Putin’s administration is naturally in denial over such forecasts.

The Chinese, meanwhile, are also frantically busy in the High North and, in particular, are working with the Russians to develop the Arctic gas fields. But if they are mapping a “polar Silk Road”, as it has been described, then Beijing will obviously want it to swing by Greenland. 

There are, arguably, valid geopolitical considerations about all this. 

However, where Trump is concerned, any Chinese economic activity anywhere is like a red rag to a rather truculent orange bull. Hence, the preposterous bid to buy Greenland. 

Admittedly, it did seem a joke at first, and Trump initially played down reports of what the Wall Street Journal labelled a “pet project”. He told media that his proposal that the US buy the island was not an immediate priority: “It’s just something we talked about … so the concept came up … but it’s not number one on the burner. [Denmark’s] losing $700 million a year carrying it.”

The Danes certainly did not think it a joke — and neither had Trump. After prime minister Mette Frederiksen dismissed his plans as “absurd”, it emerged that the proposed “real estate deal” was very much on the president’s burner, and a spectacular meltdown followed, with Trump promptly cancelling via Twitter a September state visit to Denmark. Then, amping up the petulance, he labelled Fredrikesen’s comments “nasty” and “inappropriate”.

In the diplomatic churn that followed, it was briefly suggested that the cancellation may have been due to the fact that Barack Obama would also be in Denmark later in the month, and favourable publicity surrounding the former president’s trip would overshadow that of Trump’s. Which, you know, is obviously a bad thing and just another fake news opportunity.

More prominently, though, Trump supporters did argue that this was, in fact, not the first time that an American president had wanted to buy Greenland: according to confidential documents unsealed in 1991, Harry Truman’s administration had, amid mounting Cold War fears, secretly pitched a sale to Copenhagen in 1946, and was quietly turned down.

But the two governments did agree on other ways that Greenland could be incorporated into the US’s security plans. The creation in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was one such development. 

Bilateral agreements with Denmark also allowed the Pentagon access to Greenland. The air base at Thule, for example, was a major US outpost on the northwest side of the island in the strategic contest with the Soviets and it remains an integral part of America’s ballistic missile early warning network.

“Buying” territories, it should be noted, was one of the modi operandi of American expansionism, and in this respect the US remains a significant colonial superpower with several overseas dependencies. But historical precedent is no excuse for this current nonsense.

Trump, incidentally, is not the first New York tycoon to want to buy the place. When he was vice-president in the 1970s, the late Nelson Rockefeller also briefly proposed that the US buy the island after learning of Denmark’s administrative difficulties from a New York Times report. 

One big difference here, though, is that Rockefeller actually read newspapers. 

Another is that Rockefeller, a liberal Republican of towering intellect, did suffer the odd atavistic slump in his public life. With Trump, barely verbal and definitely not a rocket scientist, there’s now a wallow in the swamp on an almost daily basis, and it should come as no surprise that Americans increasingly talk, however wishfully, of the 25th Amendment. [1]

The Greenland affair, for example, was followed by an anti-semitic rant in which Trump declared that Jews who vote for Democrats are either uneducated or “disloyal”. An estimated 70% of Americans Jews are registered Democrats, which is a whole heap of disloyalty. 

A few hours later, he was back on Twitter, retweeting claims that he is “the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world,” that “the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel” and even that “They love him like he is the second coming of God.”

“Wow!” Trump tweeted, adding these were “very nice words”. 

And very similar to the sort of messianic affliction that has been bothering our own Jacob Zuma.

My own feeling is that if this particular Chosen One wants a large real estate deal then perhaps he should have one. As I understand, from the scholarly writings of RW Johnson, there is a good chance, thanks to the ANC’s mismanagement of the economy, that South Africa will shortly break up into little pieces. [2] 

There will then be no reason why Trump couldn’t put in a bid for KwaZulu-Natal. The place is of not much use to anyone, although it certainly has enough golf courses and the weather is admittedly much better than Greenland’s. 

Besides which, now that the Ngonyama Trust is coming under some scrutiny, much to King Goodwill Zwelethini’s displeasure, large swathes of the province could be included to sweeten the deal as a bargain basement bonsella.

Which brings us, lastly, to the ruling that the gratuitous display of the old South African flag constitutes not only hate speech but also harassment, and could be interpreted as an expression of white superiority, divisiveness, and severe racial prejudice. Such rulings are of course mere sideshows to a far deeper malaise, and serve no real purpose in the long run. 

But it’s worth noting that the flag is a composite of four other flags: the Dutch colonial era Prince of Orange standard, with those of the Boer republics and the Union Jack arranged in the middle. 

It is the latter’s display that, in the words of the Johannesburg high court deputy judge president Phineas Mojapelo, “does much more than merely cause emotional pain and stress to black people”. 

It was an Act of the British Parliament, you will remember, which threw together the colonies of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal together with the former Free State and Transvaal republics in 1909 and thereby set in motion the events that led to our present difficulties. 

But, and until we fall apart, there could be financial relief in the offing. After discovering it had greatly benefitted from the slave trade, Glasgow University has agreed to raise £20-million as part of a “programme of restorative justice”. It is the first such gesture by a British institution and a “bold, moral, historic step” that will no doubt inspire many others to dig deeply into their pockets and throw money at those who have suffered as a result of the imperial pursuit.

We should not be shy in forcing our way to the front of the queue when the colonial reparations start.



[1] The 25th amendment to the US Constitution allows for a president to be removed under extraordinary circumstances, such as being “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of office. Given his erratic behaviour, and the alarming signs of an increasingly malignant narcissistic personality disorder, there are indications that deploying the amendment may have been discussed within Trump’s own government. 

[2] This is to be welcomed. Along with David Bullard, I believe there is a good case to be made for the Western Cape’s seccession and accordingly propose the new country be called Spesbonia. Because there is nothing as eloquent or as authoritative as a name mangled from Latin. If it works for useless homeopathic remedies, it’ll work for our new motherland.