Dear Mr Mbeki
You will have noticed, I am sure, that when you dismissed Mr Zuma from his post as deputy pres of our country, I did not presume to give you any advice. Nor did I join the ranks of that phalanx of cheeky buggers who insisted on telling you what to do when you fired the deputy health minister, sacked Mr Prosecute-Jackie-and-be-Damned Pikoli or when you didn’t tell your country, your Cabinet and not even me just what made you do it.
But now, looking at that most demeaning, insulting, career inhibiting and downright damning picture of you in the newspaper a week or so ago, I feel obliged to come out of the closet of silent diplomacy and warn you that this kind of public display will kill your political career and result in you walking like a biblical lamb to the slaughter.
The newspaper photograph to which I am referring, of course, was that taken during your recent trip to the United States where you are pictured standing behind none other than George “Nuke the Bastards” Bush, who was seated but nonetheless managed to somehow grab you around the neck and plant a bigger than Texas kiss on your cheek. In spite of your talent for diplomacy and tact, I must say that your body language was quite clearly screaming: “Yeeeuch … a shower, a shower, my third term as ANC president for a shower …”
I am sure I am joined by all of the roughly 40-million-odd South Africans, and even those few who are not odd, in hoping that you did not catch anything from being Bush-whacked with a kiss that could well go down in history as coming a very close second to that imparted by Judas Iscariot.
I trust you made a hasty but dignified beeline for the United Nations travel clinic to get yourself checked out for all those diseases to which Gung-Ho George seems prone. Afflictions such as arrogans superba or bellum mongera, not to mention odius arabus and that worst disease of all, slisus chronicus colfum.
If you have not yet been vaccinated against these, I urge you to check yourself in at Groote Schuur Hospital’s incredibly infectious diseases unit without delay and not be misled by certain of your colleagues — who shall remain nameless but who are commonly known as Manto — into believing that a clove of garlic or a dish of fresh veg will protect you from anything you might have picked up from your visit to Bush.
My advice, and I would presume that Tony Blair would offer the same, is to try to avoid kissing, hugging or indulging in any other acts of intimacy with the current US presidential incumbent. It is not good for your image nor for that of non-aligned South Africa. I would further suggest that if you are cornered into having to do something, then a brief but firm handshake and disdainful expression would be OK.
Now, however, I do wish to give you some more advice. My apologies for taking this liberty, but as you know, advice is rather like political power in Zimbabwe: once you start it’s very hard to stop.
In simple terms, sir, I encourage, nay, beg of you, to consider the prospect, in these few months before the big succession election, of quitting while you are ahead.
I must admit that it is a complete mystery to me why you would want another term as president of the ANC, the country or even frankly the SPCA? You seem to so enjoy travelling the world and indulging in things global rather than local that I cannot for a minute believe you actually get your jollies off having to listen to Cabinet ministers and police commissioners whining about being bullied all the time.
Just look at old FW, for instance. There he was with the world giving him uphill about apartheid, you guys in the ANC giving him an almighty hard time and generally having a miserable life with his only positive thing being that he was the pres and had the power.
But, he quickly discovered that apart from a few faithful bowers and scrapers, a free car and a troop of bodyguards to look for his golf ball in the rough, there really wasn’t much more he could look forward to when he woke up in the morning.
Clearly he sat down one day and thought to himself: “Hierdie president-besigheid is kak,” and then released Mr Mandela and handed everything over to you guys and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in the bargain. Now he has far more people bowing and scraping than he ever had as pres, he is still picked up at the steps of an aircraft by a limo courtesy of the state, and he generally has a great life with his new wife, swanning around the world and being paid obscene amounts of money by all sorts of people who want to hear him talk about how to save the world, the whales, the Bushmen and par with a long downhill putt.
You too can have all that. Maggie Thatcher has this sort of lifestyle, and do you know she often gets paid upwards of R500 000 for an after-dinner talk, including first-class airfare and accommodation for her and Dennis ?
If you quit now, apart from being made head of all sorts of nice United Nations things, you could easily command a quarter of a million rand for a 30-minute speech to a bunch of Brits or Americans. And with that kind of money you don’t have to give a damn about them insisting on calling you Mr “Mabiki”.
However, if you go ahead with your desire to retain the ANC presidency, the consequences will be dire, should you lose.
The best you could then expect on the international lecture circuit for a half-hour talk would be about R1,75 including VAT and an introduction as “Mr Tarbow Mabiki who will talk on the virtues of his good friend and only ally in the world, Mr Bob McCabe”.
Talking about Mr Mugabe — with whom, incidentally, I agree completely when he blames Britain for leaving him in an inescapable lurch and with whom I disagree completely with regard to his policy of systematically destroying his country — I have a distinct sense of unease about you becoming as irascible and cranky as he is.
Especially when you had e.tv tossed out of that press briefing for asking you the question half your Cabinet as well as all 44-million-odd South Africans and three not so odd ones were dying to put to you.
I have been asking myself recently: Where is that nice, charming, philosophical, clever, intelligent and thoroughly jolly Mr Mbeki I met all those years ago in a suite at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg? That fun-loving Mr Mbeki who stood face to face with me with a twinkle in his eye as we puffed away at out pipes, which drove all the other guests out of the suite leaving the snacks and best seats for us. That compassionate Mr Mbeki who bet me that Zambia would beat Bafana Bafana in an upcoming clash, and agreeing that if I won the bet I could choose any diplomatic post in the world and if I lost he would post me to the South African consulate in Siberia. And if there wasn’t one he would create one for me without any heaters, 3 000km from the nearest pair of woolly underpants.
Bafana Bafana lost and so did I, but the kind Mr Mbeki chose to take pity on me and presumably the people of Siberia by conveniently forgetting about our bet. For which I am most grateful, given my dislike of cold weather to the extent of getting the chills if someone puts ice cubes in my whisky.
So, your presidency, I beg you with my hand on my heart and for your own well-being not to mention the chance of creaming a quarter of a mil for a 30-minute chat. Please quit while you are ahead.
Yours (except for the hugging Bush bit) faithfully,