This is the house that Daddy built

Tuesday. The heat in Nxamalala is horrendous. It’s barely 10am but it’s already murder.

I’ve been up since 4am, courtesy of a mountain of deadlines and the three-hour trip from Durban. There may or may not be a meeting to discuss Daddy’s pending court appearances. There’s a 5pm gig waiting when I get back, so either way it’s going to have to be quick. We’re expecting to get booted out if the meeting is on. One does what one has to do when it has to be done, but it’s a strange business, nonetheless.

There’s no hint of movement around Daddy’s personal Sun City. The road running from Nkandla to Kranskop, past the former president’s family home, is empty. There’s a tractor and a small truck on the side of the road, next to the school built with donations from the Motsepe Foundation. A few empty taxis stand at the rank below Ntolwane Primary.

Daddy votes at Ntolwane. There’s a plaque on the wall thanking Daddy’s family for donations. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. I cast my vote in the same box as Daddy in the last general election. It must have been the only X for the Workers and Socialist Party in the entire district. A bit of a waste but I couldn’t help myself. It had to be done.

There’s a white bakkie parked next to the reception area at Casa Msholozi. Two sedans in the grounds of the police quarters, on the Kranskop-facing perimeter of the complex. No humans. In the field below the Zuma homestead, even the livestock have taken cover.

The clubhouse above the empty basketball courts funded by the KwaZulu-Natal social welfare department appears to have caught alight recently. The walls and windows to the right-hand side of the building are blackened by the flames. The fire has clearly been contained, stopping it from engulfing the entire single-storey structure.

I wonder if somebody used the fire pool to put the fire out? Ran a hose across the main compound, through the cop houses and over the side road and doused the flames. Perhaps Daddy can get a partial refund on the money he paid back to the state for the “non-security” component of the quarter-billion rand upgrade to the pozi. Perhaps.

From the looks of things, Daddy’s gonna need every cent he can hustle if he wants to stay out of jail. Or at least drag things out for another decade. Things are bad this time around. Thus far it’s only a crew of seemingly dodgy Durban undertakers who are offering to pay Daddy’s legal bills.

Back in the day, the punters were lining up to cough up cash. The bras were only too keen, knowing that Daddy was either going to jail or to the presidency. The potential for payback was large.

Now? Daddy isn’t much of an investment, if one is to be frank. If I were Daddy, I’d send Cyril a claim for the fire pool. Every cent counts.

I missed last Friday’s announcement by Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions, that Daddy was going back to court over the R1.38-million in “seen rights” he got from Schabir Shaik before becoming president. It wasn’t my intention. I’d settled on the couch about 30 minutes ahead of Shaun’s big moment. Put my feet up. Handed the remote to my 11-year-old, Uzoks, so he could watch cartoons while we waited.

Next thing the mobile’s ringing. It’s the boss. “We need a reaction story.” For a moment I’m tongue-tied. Reaction to what? It’s Friday. The paper’s out. Are you mad?

The penny drops. I’ve fallen asleep on the couch. Missed the moment. Stitch-Up Shaun has reinstated the charges against Daddy while I was dossing. Uzoks is fast asleep still, lying on the other end of the couch.

I mumble apologies to the boss. Get my ass in gear.

My luck. I’ve been following this story from the beginning, way more than a decade ago and I miss the big moment.

I’ve had my phone confiscated by Judge Hilary Squires after my man Genghis called to say “wakkine” (hello) during the Shaik case. I’ve been sworn at, pushed, threatened and abused at Daddy’s early appearances in the Durban Magistrate’s Court. I’ve listened to Vavi, Blade, Zweli, Juju pledge their eternal love for Daddy during his non-trial in the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

I’ve spent nearly 10 years watching President Daddy rob us blind while selling us to his fancy bras. Watched Daddy split the ANC. Three times. Sat around like a Muppet for a week at Nasrec in December, waiting for the ANC to finally do the right thing. Witnessed Daddy’s look of sheer terror when he found out Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma hadn’t won the ANC presidency. Watched as Cyril methodically tightened the screws on Daddy’s thievery. Missed the moment when Shaun — almost — turned the clock back 10 years.

Back to Tuesday and Nxamalala. There’s no convoy of shiny black 4x4s. No cats in black suits. No Cuban shirts. No blue lights.

Daddy’s clearly not home. The family meeting clearly isn’t taking place here. Perhaps it’s happening in Forest Town. Perhaps it’s in Dubai. Either way, Daddy’s not home.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.
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