Note from the pros: Grab them by the purse strings

Dear Donald,

Fraternal revolutionary greetings, comrade!

Okay, we realise claiming brotherhood with Most Powerful White Boss Man seems like a calculated insult. But if you have just a moment before you go off to heroically build walls, we can make it worth your while, Donald. We South Africans have walked this road of seizing power through insurgency and dealing with the consequences.

Also, we know you, Donald. Not, like, personally, but we know your type. You’d be surprised how well we know your type.

We can help.


We’ve been closely watching the way South Africa is governed for a long time now, and we’ve learned some things. Things we may not always like, but things we have to admit work for the man in charge. Now that you’re the man in charge in waiting, we feel it is time to share.

We see you’re having trouble with anti-you protests on campuses around your soon-to-be-great-again country. Here’s what you do: let them shout until they’re nice and hoarse, then feed them teargas, right down their revolting young throats.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about your three big problems. You have democratic institutions to thwart you in your rightful exercise of imperial power, you have a party that for some reason thinks you’re bad for it and for the country, you have all these enemies – foreign and domestic – just looking for an excuse to criticise you.

This is where you’ll see just how good we are, Donald. You have three problems, but you only need two solutions. You can fix everything with patronage, confusion and a mixture of patronage and confusion.

We can tell you with absolute certainty that a watchdog institution is only as good as the person at its head. If you can’t replace the head, or if the technocrats in place are recalcitrant, why, that’s what suspensions and criminal charges are for. Prosecutors and police won’t do your bidding? Get new ones. You already have the FBI in your corner – just work from there.

(Tip from the pros: don’t leave the treasury to last. You’ll find you need a reliable piggy bank, not a pig-headed one.)

Your party, they’re harder to get rid of – though a few “intelligence reports” won’t go amiss, if you know what we mean. But the real key, Donald, is money. You can be at the top of a pyramid that decides where all the money goes. You keep your people in the money, they keep their people in the money, and everyone stays docile.

Don’t even wait. When you’re on top, they let you do it. Grab them by the purse strings.

To deal with criticism, you’re going to need a whole lot of confusion. You are going to be tempted to take a shortcut and establish your own media empire. Don’t do it! An army of fake Twitter users is better. At a pinch, have a buddy set up a “foundation”.

Confusing the leaders who might want to challenge you is only a little harder. You need to start straight away by at the very least doubling the size of that puny Cabinet of yours. You need a secretary of women, and Hillary needs a job. You need people to run sport and arts, and at least three to do economic planning.

This is the clever bit. Once you have people in all those expensive new Cabinet posts, you hire and fire at random. That way, everybody knows they have to keep sucking up to you – hard – all the time.

Confusion is great for foreign policy, too. If nobody knows what your foreign policy is, nobody can criticise you for it. Vote for Libya to be bombed, then complain because Libya’s been bombed.

When all else fails, just apologise to black dog owners or for accidentally building yourself a nice house with state funds, or whatever.

See? Told you we could help. – Your friends at the Mail & Guardian

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