The used cow salesman meets King Brian

Andrew Donaldson writes on Ramaphosa’s commonalities with the new British monarch


IT is perhaps an honour that Cyril Ramaphosa will be the first foreign leader to be hosted by King Charles III, and the president appears to be rather chuffed with Buckingham Palace’s invitation; recent images in my news feed reveal the used cow salesman to be less glum-looking than in previous weeks, and in some photographs he’s smiling so broadly it’s almost as if Eskom is still operational and everyone has a job. 

The scheduled visit, from Tuesday, November 22nd, to Thursday, November 24th, comes at an opportune time: a mere three weeks before the ANC national conference. It’s likely that time spent with the new monarch will give Ramaphosa statesmanlike credibility and boost his re-election campaign. By comparison, all his hapless opponents can hope for is Fanta and fried chicken at Nkandla. It really is not the same. 

I have been thinking, however, about the sort of conversations that Squirrel and the king will be having during their time together. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Brian, as Private Eye has referred to Charles, obviously wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and do one’s bit for the Commonwealth. One is duty-bound to entertain and interact with such people if the cherished fraternity of former colonies is to flourish and prosper. 

This ideal should be borne in mind by those who hold the Frogboiler in poor regard and are perhaps wondering about the motives behind the royal invitation. There is, I suspect, a plan here. Squirrel’s failings are legion and his popularity among South Africans may be tanking fast but outsiders, oddly enough, do consider him a leader of some influence among African Union members.

If Brian was thus able to draw Squirrel to one side and show him the bigger picture behind the velvet curtain and somehow convince him the future is rosier within the Commonwealth than without, well, maybe he’d then have a quiet word with his African peers about their dalliances with the Russians and the Chinese and perhaps even put an end to this constant chatter of one’s government poking around in the affairs of the former colonies. 

This may seem naive and fanciful but that’s my thinking at present and I’m sticking with it.

There could of course be other matters to discuss. It’s quite obvious that these guys hail from different worlds. The one, for instance, has inherited his furniture; the other uses furniture to store what could be his progeny’s inheritance. But Brian and Squirrel may have more in common than we realise.

There is the uncomfortable matter of illegal immigration. Both the UK and SA governments appear to share a loathing for foreigners who are destitute and in straitened circumstances. The Tories have not yet abandoned a commitment to their controversial Rwanda resettlement scheme. But perhaps asylum seekers should instead be transported to KwaZulu-Natal. Once there, supporters of Operation Dudula may offer a lasting solution to this tendency to seek a better life.

Then there is this bizarre habit that the extremely wealthy have of getting into trouble with their money. Both Brian and Squirrel have been embarrassed by the disclosure that large amounts of dubious tom have in all innocence come their way. 

In Charles’s case, it was the £2.5-million in cash stashed in a suitcase and carrier bags that was handed over to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund between 2011 and 2015. The folding money was from a former Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. It was felt the “optics” of the donations were not good, seeing as the sheikh, as head of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, enjoyed a reputation as “the man who bought London” after investments in such landmarks as Harrods and The Shard.

ANC leaders have no such scruples. Over the decades, they’ve shamelessly accepted large sums of money from all manner of ratbags and tyrants and in a whole variety of containers, including black garbage bags, brown envelopes and designer luggage. Squirrel, however, is now vilified simply for keeping the stuff in a Gommagomma at Phala Phala. 

He continues to insist the dosh is the proceeds of the sale of posh cattle, but many find the explanation unconvincing. This sort of thing would not have happened at Nkandla. But then that is a goat farm and they do not sell cows there. 

What’s more, both Brian and Squirrel have been bullied by rough women. 

Liz Truss, Britain’s disastrous new prime minister, has reportedly barred the king from attending next month’s UN climate change conference. Brian was apparently hoping to deliver a speech at Cop27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, but was “advised” to stay away by Truss when the two met at Buckingham Palace recently.

This was a bitter disappointment. The king has played an active role in previous environmental summits. In 2015, for example, he delivered the opening speech at Cop21 in Paris, calling for a “vast military-style campaign” to fight climate change and urging world leaders to commit “trillions, not billions, of dollars”. Last year, at Cop26 in Glasgow, he called on world leaders to adopt a “warlike footing” to deal with the threat of climate change. He is, in a nutshell, quite gung ho about this stuff.

But his Neo-liberal PM is of the opinion that, like taxes, polar bears and rain forests are bad for business and impede “growth”. She wants to tear up agreements on climate change about as swiftly as she U-turned on her fiscal policies this week. So, sorry for that, Brian: no plant whispering this time round.

Consolation may be drawn from the fact that Truss’s tenure in Downing Street is going to be a very short one. 

Last week, the joke doing the rounds was: “Only four more prime ministers until Christmas!” This week, it seems like a prophecy. All around her, Conservative MPs openly moan about the drubbing the party will receive at the next elections. They fear for their jobs, just as young couples now fear losing their homes. But still Tin Lizzy drones on, making strange algorithmic noises with her face: “I am committed …  I have a plan …  I will ensure … I will succeed … I have made tough decisions … I have demonstrated … I have resolved …” The wooden vacuity is relentless. All guff. No stuff.

Squirrel’s bête noire, meanwhile, is the cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister, Nkosazana Virodene Lockdown Sarafina “The Clarice” Dlamini Proxy Zuma. Readers will recall her draconian lockdown measures and her mutterings about the new world order that will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes once the country had been reduced to smouldering rubble.

Quite why Squirrel could not rein in the Prime Minister and put a stop to all her Pol Potty Year Zero nonsense remains a mystery. Perhaps his reluctance was due to the fear of an ANC Women’s League backlash. Which, admittedly, is probably not as serious as it sounds, and probably no more terrifying than a drunken hen party that has run out of lady petrol. Nothing, in other words, that cold water couldn’t put right.

Happily, The Clarice’s campaign to replace Squirrel and be the party’s new North Korean-styled leader has come, resoundingly, to nothing. This is despite the enthusiastic endorsement she received from her ex-husband, Accused Number One. (I can almost hear the gratitude straining through her clenched teeth: “Gee. Thanks. A bunch. For nothing. You dancing fool.”)

On a happier note, there could be some after-dinner banter concerning mineral and energy resources minister Gwede Mantashe and transport minister Fikile Mbalula. It has been centuries since the kings and queens of Europe last relied on preposterously short jesters for amusement at court, and Brian may be curious as to why Pretoria still retains the services of such entertainers. This may or may not present Squirrel with an opportunity to regale his hosts with folk tales of the tokoloshe.

Animal welfare

Three Malawian villagers have been killed by elephants following a translocation of the animals. Two bull elephants have been put down as a result. According to a recent report in the Guardian, more than 250 elephants were moved from the country’s Liwonde national park in July to the Kasungu protected area. Community leaders say the elephants went walkabout after finding an unfenced section of the park. Malawi’s national park service adds that, in all the deaths, people strayed too close to the elephants to take photographs. 

The news has saddened regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”). There is some astonishment, though, at the failure to recognise common danger signs such as huge beasts with ears pinned back, trunks curled and, of course, charging directly at one with heads lowered. Cynics here, old Africa hands, suggest more Instagrammers should spend time with the animals, getting real close to them, to produce educational material on their body language and unpredictable mood swings.

The truth is that elephants have grown weary of having things pointed at them, particularly by American gun nuts. The botched elephant hunt by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre in the Okavango Delta in 2013 is a case in point. LaPierre has boasted that he is a “skilled” marksman, but his initial shot failed to kill his target. Three subsequent shots at the wounded elephant, at a range of about five metres, failed to put the animal out of its misery.

This hunt recorded for Under Wild Skies, an NRA-sponsored TV series hosted by the gun rights lobbyist Tony Makris. According to the PR spiel, the show promised to take viewers on “an adventure across the splendour and mystery of Africa” with celebrity guests as they “go on excursions across Africa's most dangerous and notorious regions in search of big game hunting and trophies”.

LaPierre’s abominable episode was shelved by producers who deemed it “a public relations fiasco”. It’s not hard to understand why; a dying animal struggling to breathe does not make for comfortable television. Footage of the hunt was uncovered by The New Yorker and made public last year. Readers with a strong stomach can watch it here

Under Wild Skies itself was dropped by its network broadcaster in September 2013 after Makris moaned about “animal racism” and compared those who stood up for elephants rather than other animal butchered for sport to Adolf Hitler.

One hesitates to accuse animals of racism. But there is a case to be made that elephants should be more discriminatory when they go on the rampage. Rather than humble villagers, they should trample the wealthy narcissists who wish them great harm. This, I feel, would restore order to the universe and make for excellent television.