Let them eat chicken

It has been suggested that Sylvester Chauke, the Nando’s marketing marvel who drummed up the Julius Malema TV ad, be recommended for the Order of Mapungubwe.

After the ANC Youth League threatened ”militant action” against the chicken outlet for making the youth leader appear mathematically challenged, guess who the government hired to feed the masses at President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration?

About 32 000 portions of idla nathi — a Nando’s quarter chicken, chips, roll and a cooldrink — were distributed to amazed citizens who had assembled at the foot of Union Buildings to cheer the new prez on his big day.

Best of all, while the commoners wiped chicken grease from their chins, Malema himself was starving up on the hill with the rest of the toffie guests. I know; I was starving too.

When my friend, Dr D, whose almost new husband was out of town, invited me to be her partner on the great day, I found myself rubbing shoulder pads with the rich and famous in the VIP seats with a complimentary blanket and umbrella. The blankets proved a bigger hit than Helen Zille’s floor-length gold brocade coat, which seemed to have been inspired by a large curtain. Helen of Boy looks so good racing round the Flats in jeans and takkies I don’t know what got into her. But perhaps I’m being unkind, I was so hungry and caffeine-deprived by the time I spotted the upholstered Western Cape premier, I might have been seeing double.

There was absolutely nothing to eat or drink. For hours and hours. Unless you were Robert Mugabe or a similar head in a state, you had to take your seat by 8am. Having left home at 6am to make it to ­Pretoria to catch the shuttle bus, most guests hadn’t eaten anything since the night before. It was like going to hospital for a general anaesthetic without the anaesthetic to look forward to.

By 9am, thanks to a solid downpour, everyone from me to Patrice Motsepe was wet, weak, cold, ­hungry and stealing envious glances over the edge at the masses below who were having a fantastic time blowing vuvuzelas and tossing chicken bones over their shoulders.

By the time the clouds parted, our seats were sodden, our blankets dripped and our Very Important bottoms — which we had no choice but to plonk down — steamed damply.

At 10am the resourceful Dr D went fishing in her handbag and triumphantly hooked an apple, a pen knife and a miniature bag of SAA mixed nuts which, having worked in banks, she divided equally between us.

By then the whole experience felt a bit like being on a long-haul flight in SAA economy: jammed into the armpits of strangers for a long time with nothing edible to speak of. The charming man on my left politely accepted the single Brazil nut I reluctantly offered him in the spirit of ubuntu. Even before I Googled him and discovered that Oyama Mabandla was a former deputy CEO of SAA, I could tell he would turn left on a plane and get free fizz and a copy of FT before take-off.

Speaking of nuts, we had to cheer twice for Brother Leader Moammar Gadaffi who ended his boycott of the inauguration only after making our new president beg him in person. At midnight. Gadaffi arrived in Michael Jackson military fancy dress, his mad black curls competing with oversized Aviators for face-space.

Ah, the punishments of Pallo Jordan: first the arts and culture minister pulls the short straw and is dispatched to meet ‘n greet Gadaffi. Then he gets rejected by the Libyan leader for not being a minister of sufficient importance to say hello. For an encore he gets booted out of the arts and culture ministry! Please tell me, what did Pallo Jordan ever do that was so terrible apart from letting the Robben Island ferry get stolen on his watch?

By the time 5 000 VIPs finally got to fall upon the post-inauguration buffet in a ravenous, well-dressed pack, it seems everyone was avoiding the grumpy Libyan drama queen. One minute Buyelwa Sonjica was our friendly lunch table companion, the next she was redeployed to the heads of state tent.

Apparently not enough people had pitched at the VVIP marquee. Could the room-clearing abilities of Gadaffi, ably assisted by other prima facie donnas like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uncle Bob, have had something to do with it? Wailing that she was going to miss the Afro Tenors, who were about to entertain us, the outgoing minister of minerals and energy did her duty and departed.

The inauguration of Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s fourth democratically elected president was really quite wonderful. Everyone was in a good mood; the sun shone just in time; the formalities were short and snappy. Zuma’s inaugural speech was clear, smoothly delivered and stirring. This was no Thabo Mbeki special, leaving the audience to wonder: is that the collected works of William Shakespeare in his pocket or is he just pleased to see us?

Most of all, it was a relief. If the past seven years have been hard on Jacob Zuma, they’ve been hard on us all. Did he or didn’t he? We may never know. But the time for asking about his right to be our president is over. Let’s stay on our critical toes to be sure, but to echo Zuma’s words, cynicism won’t help. He is our president. Let’s congratulate him, cross our fingers and get on with it.

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Charlotte Bauer
Guest Author

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