Pappi takes on Guru for Daddy

Thursday.

The sun has made it up before me for once, the legacy of Wednesday’s late-night Arsenal fixture and an overly enthusiastic dose of the full-plant cannabis oil shortly before kick-off, keeping me in bed a few minutes longer than usual. I had made it as far as half-time before the oil took the wheel, as it were, and ushered in that deep, dreamless sleep, from which I emerged, smiling and refreshed, to the news of a 2-2 draw and another game added to the unbeaten run.

It’s time to get serious, with the ever-present spectre of deadlines hovering over me. I power up the laptop and start checking out the news websites. I’ll clear emails later, after a coffee and once I’ve read last night’s match reports.

Something catches my eye before I get there.

It turns out that Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, the KwaZulu-Natal preacher who has been mobilising the faithful here in the kingdom to come gather in support of former president Jacob Zuma at his court appearances on corruption charges, has decided to launch a political party to contest next year’s elections.


The bishop is a seemingly holy guy — his English name is the rather biblical Timothy, after all — and he’s a leader of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa, which has, rather faithfully, been marching in defence of Zuma for some years now.

Last Friday the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership banned the good bishop and Black Label First from addressing the handful of punters who pitched up at the high court in Pietermaritzburg for Zuma’s appearance. They weren’t allowed to sit next to Zuma either, which, it appears, upset the bishop.

Ngcobo, who has been threatening to tell all seven of his followers to vote against the ANC for dumping Zuma, then decided to call the governing party’s bluff and start the People Against Petrol and Paraffin Price Increase, or Pappi, for short.

Pappi, it seems, will be launched on Friday, in Durban of course, where its manifesto will also be unveiled.

I wonder why the bishop chose the name Pappi? Is this some kind of homage to uBaba (Daddy), as Zuma is still known among the faithful, as in “I love you, Pappi”? Or is it some secret Zululand Illuminati codeword, known only to true believers in the Gospel of Saint Jacob, through which to mobilise?

Other issues raise themselves in my head.

Why petrol and paraffin? What about diesel? Did the bishop forget about ethanol, or doesn’t that count? What about cannabis oil, while we’re at it?

A thought hits me.

Perhaps the reference to paraffin is another swipe by the bishop at Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan? The Zumarites down here refer to Gordhan as Paraffin, some because they can’t pronounce his name, others because they think it’s funny.

Perhaps Pappi is all about stopping PG, as the comrades called him in the struggle days, from getting a salary increase, or from increasing in political stature? The Zumarites reckon Gordhan is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s prime minister and hate him with a passion, perhaps even more than they despise the man who replaced Zuma.

That must be it.

The bishop is this big, burly cat who, despite his taste for purple dresses, looks like he can handle himself when the shit kicks off, kinda like a heavier version of the African Christian Democratic Party’s Kenneth Meshoe, albeit with a knobkerrie. But if I were him I’d tread carefully while gunning for Gordhan. Guru, as some of the comrades still call him, is a heavy dude, a survivor, politically and otherwise, a streetwise operator in a business suit who was organising boycotts, strikes and stayaways when the bishop was studying Inkatha as a subject at school.

My mind continues to wander.

In seconds, in my mind’s eye, Gordhan and the bishop are going toe-to-toe, circling each other silently, about to engage in a deadly dance of death. The bishop, a younger man, has a height, weight and reach advantage, and makes his move, eager to land the first blow, but swings a little wildly.

The Guru blocks with his left forearm and steps inside, driving for the bishop’s throat …

The mobile goes.

It’s time to get serious.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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