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Bliss was it in the dawn to be alive

Thursday morning. There’s no sliver of light around the blinds in the bedroom. The insects and birds haven’t started yet. I claw my way out of sleep. My head’s reeling. My eyes are burning. My tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. I’m half-drunk, not from the demon drink, but from lack of sleep courtesy of Daddy’s late night resignation announcement. And the two week night-vigil-meets-soap-opera that started with the ANC’s decision to boot Daddy’s two-headed ass out of the Union Buildings.

I fight the urge to roll over. Allow my body to shut down again. Sink back into the pool of sleep.

I can’t afford to. Like the rest of the country, I have been focused on Daddy’s rather drawn-out withdrawal from the highest office in the land for the past 10 days. Deadlines have piled up like the coffee cups in the kitchen sink and the uncleared emails in my inbox. There’s a mass of copy that needs to be sent away well before Daddy makes his final appearance in Parliament to hand in his long-awaited resignation letter, dangerously close to deadline time.

I have been fixated on whether Daddy’s going to sign the “don’t come Monday” letter from the ANC or take his fight to the streets. Daddy and his supporters had been threatening to do since before his proxy for the ANC presidency, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, got whipped at Nasrec in December. They all have a lot to lose, if Wednesday morning’s arrests for the Estina dairy scam in the Free State are anything to go by.

There are also some crazy fuckers involved, so the best policy is to expect anything. The bodies have been piling up in KwaZulu-Natal for the past three years because of competition over council seats. There’s way more at stake here than a councillor’s salary or a school feeding-scheme contract. Same game, but way higher stakes.

I switch on the TV. Daddy’s on the screen. I have seen it all the day and night before but I can’t help but look.

I have been waiting for this moment for almost a decade. Daddy conned me, like he conned most of South Africa, that he was a necessary evil for the ANC and the country. Seduced me with that Uncle Badman laugh while turning the fiscus into a slush fund for him and his bras.

Daddy’s seated in a chair in the presidential guesthouse. Daddy looks awful. Daddy’s face is ashen. Coated in sweat. Daddy is all long-sleeved patterned white shirt and glasses, blathering away to the SABC camera. The interviewer, Mzwandile Mbeje, is forgotten as Daddy rambles on about the ANC’s failure to give him reasons for firing him.

As if the ANC gave former president Thabo Mbeki any when they turfed him out. Or Daddy gave former finance minister Pravin Gordhan any reasons when he fired him. Or his deputy Mcebisi Jonas. Or KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu, for that matter …

Daddy turns his face to the left. Spits. On national TV. Protests his innocence. Again. Threatens the ANC that it will “regret” treating him this way.

The Timer’s clearly lost it. His mind’s gone. Melted. I guess the strain of the past two weeks has pushed him over the edge. Melted the contents of his double head. Watching the cats you have sold the country to getting arrested, too, while you stand by and watch, powerless and emasculated, after a decade of turning the state into a criminal enterprise, can do that I guess. Along with the knowledge that your son may be next.

I’m expecting him to start drooling when the footage changes. Daddy’s ditched the bad shirt. Swapped it for a black suit, red tie and white shirt. Daddy almost looks presidential. Daddy’s a far cry from the afternoon’s enraged despot. Somebody must have sat him down and got through to him.

Daddy cracks the odd joke before stumbling his way through his stunningly schizophrenic statement. Daddy’s more lucid than earlier in the day but he’s battling.

Daddy’s the closest to breaking as I have ever seen him as he meanders this way and that through his statement. Daddy’s still adamant that he’s done nothing wrong. Daddy’s up for a fight in Parliament. Daddy doesn’t care about losing his perks. Bring it on.

Daddy changes tone. Daddy doesn’t want to divide the ANC. Daddy doesn’t want the comrades to stomp each other (read Black Land First) over him. Not in my name and all that. Right.

Daddy gets to the money shot. Mumbles the “I resign with immediate effect”. Wanders off with a “we’ll meet somewhere”.

I almost feel sorry for Daddy. Almost. For about a third of a second. Then I remember the events of the past decade. All sympathy goes out the window, like the billions of rands from state-owned enterprises his buddies and family members have looted over the past decade.

I head for the kitchen and my first coffee of the post-Zuma era.

It tastes good.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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