Life’s a beach when you’re Daddy

Wednesday. My body’s coated in a thin film of sweat and red dust. It’s humid and airless, even with the ocean 50m away.

We’ve spent the past two hours driving up and down Umgababa beach looking for a place that seemingly no longer exists, We’re close to giving up. Accepting defeat and heading back up the coast to Durban.

The ocean is still slightly grey from the mad tides over the weekend but it’s inviting. I can almost taste its cold saltiness on my skin. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve been in the water. I’m gagging for a swim.

I have a challenge, to borrow a term from the governing party. I didn’t bring any baggies. I could swim in my underwear but there’s an additional challenge. I stopped wearing underwear years ago. Nasty, perhaps, but the less clothing one wears in Durban, the better, especially at this time of year.

I could drop my pants and sprint into the ocean, bare-ass naked. I’ve done it on beaches up and down the east coast. Got arrested for it once. It’s always been worth it. There’s an intense sense of freedom about plunging into the ocean totally naked.

There’s fewer than five people on the beach. The contractors building the municipal swimming pool behind us are too busy taking their lunch break to notice. Likewise the lifeguards. They’re murdering bean bunny chows for lunch in their hut.

I’m about to unbuckle my belt and step out of my shorts when the cellphone goes. I’m tempted to ignore it.

It could be the boss, chasing up on my past-deadline copy. Then again, it could be yet another of my mates with the inevitable question: Has Daddy resigned yet? Has the ANC fired him? Is Daddy going to fire Cyril Ramaphosa and make Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma president? Are the amabutho really going to go to war if Daddy is recalled?

I’m in no position to answer those questions. Neither are my less-fortunate colleagues who have spent the week camped outside Luthuli House, Parliament and Tuynhuys. I don’t think the ANC is either, judging from the whole lot of nothing coming from its new spokesperson, Pule Mabe, and from Ramaphosa’s office.

The ANC leadership has told Daddy that they don’t want him using the photocopier, let alone running the country. No signing any 3am nuclear deals. No drafting immunity-from-prosecution proclamations for himself, Duduzane and Atul.

The only thing the ANC wants Daddy’s signature on right now is on his letter of resignation. Or on the employee section of his “don’t come Monday” letter if he doesn’t go by himself. Until he signs either, Daddy’s been told to keep his pen in his pocket, even when Mr Delivery arrives in Forest Town with his butter chicken and garlic naan.

There’s not much they can do but give Daddy a deadline and wait for him to meet it. Daddy will. Eventually. Perhaps even by the time this is printed.

I understand Daddy is dragging things out till the last possible minute. There’s nothing else he can do. It’s not just about Daddy’s inability to go quietly. Daddy has run out of options. All he can do is delay the inevitable. Try to get as many concessions as possible out of Ramaphosa and company in the process. Keep that pension payout growing. Another day, another dollar and all that.

Every day in office is one less day as a potential accused. Every day of Daddy’s presidency has been another day out of jail, when one thinks about it, so why abandon that philosophy now?

Once Daddy’s out of office, the game changes. Completely.

I wonder what Daddy plans to do when he finally retires, apart from trying to stay out of jail. I don’t see him sitting at his pozi, playing chess with his grandkids. Daddy’s not that kind of timer.

Daddy’s spoken about writing a book. I’m sure he’ll have time between court appearances.

Maybe Daddy will take up acting. Get a role in Uzalo as a villain. Daddy can sing and dance.

A maskanda-meets-gqom collaboration between Daddy and Babes Wodumo would sell like a bastard. I’d pay good money for the music video of that. Daddy could start a church. Muscle the Naija cats out of the market. Put the squeeze on the Brazilians. Give Pastor Ray the shove. The sky’s the limit.

I’m considering giving Daddy a shout and offer to be his manager, when I remember the mobile phone.

It’s not some muppet wanting to know about Daddy. It’s business.

Mike Mabuyakhulu, the ANC provincial task team convener in KwaZulu-Natal, has been arrested for alleged corruption over R28‑million the department of economic development paid to businessperson Mabheleni Ntuli for a jazz festival that never happened in 2012.

Mabheleni organised Daddy’s inauguration party at Nxamalala. It was a serious shindig. I was hung-over for about a week.

Mike, Mabheleni and company are all at the commercial crime court in Durban, waiting to get bail.

The swim — and Daddy — are forgotten. We turn the car around and head for Durban.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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