The joys of living in SA

David Bullard writes on the country's glorious abundance of political weirdness


One of the many joys of living in South Africa (apart from guessing the date when the national grid will completely collapse) is that gloriously surreal feeling you get so often when one of our politicians says something really dumb.

I’ve often compared living in SA to being trapped in a Gary Larson cartoon with talking cows and dogs with cowboy hats playing poker but actually it’s much weirder than that.

Last week, with impeccable timing as the worst set of youth unemployment figures were released, Pres Frogboiler expressed great sorrow at the lamentably low wages (R1.1 mln) paid to back bench members of parliament, stating that they were “struggling to make ends meet”.

In ‘wokist’ lingo this would be described as a ‘problematic’ statement but we normal folk just snort with derision and suggest it is a tad insensitive.

The Pres went on to point out that our worthy back-benchers (many of whom we have never heard of) have to keep two homes going; one their real home and another near parliament. This apparently is a costly exercise and necessitates the purchase of two pop up toasters, two 60 inch flat screen TV’s and an identical set of suits in Malusi Gigaba’s case. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Any of those white privileged multiple home owners will know the problem and will no doubt feel deeply for the plight of our struggling under-remunerated politicians. I had a flat in Cape Town years ago in addition to my rambling stolen land estate in Parktown North and I remember the financial burden of having to buy a separate vacuum cleaner just for the flat.

I knew a man (white and privileged obviously) with several homes who went one better. Or several better actually. When he thought it was time for a new car he bought three identical luxury German models to leave at his various homes.

When I asked him why he said that he liked to get into a car with which he was familiar so if, for example, he bought a Merc for Joburg and a Ford for Cape Town he would have all the confusion of having the indicator stalk on the wrong side of the steering column and would spend a lot of time flicking the windscreen wipers on and off. Oh the problems of the white and privileged.

I really did try and work up some empathy for the poor dears who struggle by on a mere R1.1mln a year but to no avail. I even rushed down to my local Checkers to buy some onions to peel but still the tears didn’t come.

The fact is that, in a country with world record high unemployment numbers, anybody earning over a million rand a year is doing very nicely thank you. If you happen to be a member of parliament you have accommodation near parliament provided by the state plus an allowance of R250 000 for ‘security upgrades’. Water and electricity is paid for by the state as are any improvements to the property.

You don’t need to worry about paying for your cellphone, you have much of your travel paid for, either in an official car or you receive remuneration for using your own vehicle, medical aid is provided and swanning around the country in Business Class and using VIP lounges is encouraged.

This is all the legit stuff but once you factor in those heavy hints for free chicken and premium booze deliveries in return for ‘favours’ it’s hard to see how you could possibly get through a net income of around R50 000 a month.

Of course, the obvious response to complaints that the R1.1 mln backbencher’s salary is impossible to live on is to respectfully suggest that the sensible course would be to resign and seek better paid employment and similar perks in the private sector.

I’ve been out of the corporate world for some years now but, offhand, I can’t think of too many companies willing to pay that sort of money to somebody who has no obvious skills to offer. Only when the government eventually runs out of money and is unable to pay members of parliament will our freeloading politicians understand that.


Last Friday Pres Frogboiler addressed a gala dinner to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the formation of the Black Management Forum. The theme was “Celebrating 45 years of Driving Ethical Leadership and Transformation in South Africa” (You can’t make this stuff up can you?)

So how do think it’s gone chaps? Nearly half a century in and the President in his keynote address noted that there hasn’t been nearly enough transformation. In fact, things are so bad that we’re going to need a whole new raft of BBBEE legislation to make sure that white run businesses don’t pocket all the profits in the future. So an epic fail on that one then I’m afraid.

But it’s the Driving Ethical Leadership claim that really concerns me. Driving it where pray? Into a ditch? Have you chaps not being paying attention these past ten years and even before that? Did you not notice the power going out on a daily basis? Did you not smell the rot at so many state institutions? Did you not read any business publications?

I’ve checked your website and noted with delight that, despite the misleading name, you are a non-racial organization and that makes it even more surprising to me that we’ve heard so little from you as the economy has been collapsing around us.

You obviously must have noticed because last year you urged your members not to send their resumes to state owned enterprises because black professionals were “under siege”. Whether that refers to them having too heavy a workload or being caught with their fingers in the till who knows?

During his address the President said that the manufacture of COVID vaccines must be led by black people and the government had already handed over R18 billion to black industrialists in the past year. This might come as something of a shock to those citizens in parts of the country who were hoping for running water, houses and sewage free streets. As for the vaccines…. well, don’t hold your breath on that one.

The President also said in his address that funding institutions must be bold in their support for black business but for that to happen certain conditions have to be met. Unless you believe in the magic money tree theory any funds lent by a financial institution don’t really belong to them.

They are, broadly speaking, either deposits, shareholder funds, funds under management, people’s pensions or loans from other financial institutions. That means that just chucking money around like chicken feed is unlikely to happen.

Any investor in any business, of whatever colour, is hoping to see a return on his or her investment. But that’s called capitalism and it seems that we may soon be abandoning that which leaves only the government left to support black business and they, by their own admission, are a busted flush.


Described in 2019 by an alleged former lover as a “tiger in bed”, not known for his sartorial elegance after his tailor got the measurements badly wrong for one of his suits leaving his trouser bottoms flapping over his shoes and his sleeves absurdly long and internationally famous for promoting our vast reserves of the fictitious mineral ‘Hazenile’ in front of a mining conference in Australia, poor Gwede Mantashe hasn’t always been taken seriously by fellow South Africans.

That must all change now because Mr Mantashe has been awarded an MBA from MANCOSA at the age of 65. It may not be Harvard or Le Sorbonne but it’s still an MBA and the honourable minister undoubtedly studied very hard to get his degree, juggling his time between government, party and school work. This may possibly explain why we don’t yet have a viable alternative to our collapsing electricity grid but all is not lost.

One of the skills Mr Mantashe will have acquired according to the MANCOSA website is the ability to “evaluate and solve problems using strategic critical and creative thinking”.

Rumours that Mr Mantashe is planning on buying eleven million exercise bikes from China in a final desperate attempt to generate electricity and will encourage the terminally unemployed to “pedal for power” remain unconfirmed.