Who's an April Fool?

Swaziland closing its borders with South Africa? Michael Jackson seeking asylum in Zimbabwe? Jean-Bertrand Aristide appointed Minister of the African Diaspora in the South African Cabinet? Composer and pianist Christa Steyn moonlighting as a page-three girl?

It’s that time of the year when gasps of disbelief are quickly replaced by a collective slapping of the forehead—April Fool’s Day.

The Mail & Guardian Online had readers believing that an enraged King Mswati III of Swaziland had decided to close his country’s borders with South Africa, starting on Friday.

“The shock announcement followed severe criticism by the South African government over the king’s latest extravagant expenditure: the purchase of R32,5-million-worth of Lamborghinis for his wives,” the M&G Online reported.

The Sowetan had Wacko Jacko holing up with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, planning to take over an expropriated tobacco farm, safe in the knowledge that he would probably not be extradited back to the United States for his sex abuse trial due to poor relations between the US and Zimbabwe.

Mugabe also featured in The Herald, which revealed that a statue of his likeness would form part of the city’s Pyramid of African Enlightenment.

The Star, playing on the recent furore over the renaming of Pretoria to Tshwane, announced that a secret committee had shortlisted new names for Johannesburg and particularly favoured the acronym SiSumaslota, based on a combination of names of liberation leaders Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and Oliver Tambo.

Beeld reported that the Voortrekker Monument would be renamed the Tshwane Museum of Oppression and the roof would be restyled to make the symbolic shaft of light shine on a newly installed Amandla memorial stone on June 16 instead of December 16. The current cenotaph would be auctioned off.

According to Business Day, ousted Haitian leader Aristide’s Cabinet appointment would be to help boost the repatriation of Africans with hopes that the resultant cash inflow could lead to a 3,5% point boost to South Africa’s economic growth rate.

The Citizen scooped a picture of a Limpopo farmer who wrestled a rhino to the ground. The rhino had been miffed by a tourist who scraped its horn for shavings to use as an aphrodisiac.

The Daily Sun ran a big yellow “Watch out!” warning readers of practical jokes and pledging that it always keeps its readers safe.

Durban’s Mercury newspaper said that Dlamini Park, next to the Workshop shopping centre, would be turned into a lake with houseboats for the homeless.

The Daily News revealed that its series of articles on a mystery life raft found off Umhlanga was part of an exercise designed to showcase the skills and expertise of various organisations that played a critical—and yet largely unpublicised role—in KwaZulu-Natal on a daily basis.

The Daily Dispatch reported that filling stations would start charging for individual services such as water top-ups and oil checks.

“I think we’re the winners,” said reporter Lew Elias, explaining that when the paper initially received the idea from a reader, even he was fooled at first.

The Cape Times declared that President Thabo Mbeki’s jet and some of the arms deal corvettes would be sold off in a radical move to beat poverty.

But regular readers of Die Son were astounded to see composer and pianist Christa Steyn baring almost all on its page-three spread, saying she wanted her grandchildren to know what she looked like on April 1.

According to Die Son‘s Nardus Engelbrecht, one of their reporters is friends with Steyn and convinced her to play along.

“It’s actually a young stripper’s body,” he said.

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