A SMAC in the Face #52: Catch Me If You Can

Thabo Bester put the con into convict.  The convicted rapist and murderer, led a fantastic (using the original meaning related to fantasy) life until now.  While serving his life sentence at the Mangaung Correctional Centre, he managed to first ensnare the beautiful Dr Nandipha Magudumana and inveigle her into his conman lifestyle.  He then proceeded to create a fake persona, one Tom Mosepe, a fake business empire, 21st Century Media, and successfully run a massive scam from a zoom studio within the prison!  This starts to put the original ‘Catch Me If You Can’ protagonist in the shade.  He then went one step further.  He escaped without anyone knowing about it.

By bribing several prison officials and getting his beloved Nandi to do the grunt work, he managed to get a dead body burnt in his cell in the dead of night and slipped out unnoticed into something more comfortable on 3 May 2022.  I can just imagine the advert that Nandi would have placed in the Jobs section of Gumtree.

WANTED:  Body double wanted for a remake of The Crypt which is about the undead.  A once in a lifetime opportunity to make easy money.  No experience required.

CONTACT:  dr_strangelove@nandi.con

That was part un of the greatest South African pantomime ever.  Part duh is what the official organisations did about it.

The next 9½ months witnessed a bizarre dance between the DCS (Department of Correctional Services), G4S (the private security company who ran the prison, oops, correctional centre), the SAPS (South African Police), JICS (Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services) and the DoJ (Department of Justice).  All that was missing in the mendacious menagerie was the DOOS (Department of Officious and Odious Supernumeraries).

On 11 August, SAPS provided JICS with a copy of the autopsy stating that the body did not die in the fire and that it’s DNA did not match Bester’s.  Did SAPS open a case?  No! 

The buck passing by the five groups involved, and the failure by any party to admit that Bester was actually dining out with Nandi’s at home enjoying her hot sauce, is too Byzantine to relate.  Suffice to say, it took the investigative team of GroundUp to elicit routine denials when they published their first article on 8 November.  The official response was a profound insouciance (the antidote to Nandi’s hot sauce), if not outright denial.  This laissez affaire attitude continued with GroundUp grinding them down until 15 March 2023 when the DCS finally admitted that Bester was in the wind. 

The silly saga was not yet played out.  After Thabo and Nandi were captured in Tanzania, another three-letter acronym had the final say.  During the subsequent parliamentary inquiry, the DHA (Department of Home Affairs) revealed that far from being undead, Thabo was, in fact, unborn as they have no records of him!

A SMAC in the Face:  The Resurrection – a Cautionary Tale

And so it came to pass on 3 November 2020 that the Orange Jesus was hung out to dry.  First Georgia, then Arizona denied him his divine right to rule until Jesus comes.  All the while King Biden and Pontius Harris lorded it over him.  He was cross and he couldn’t bear it.  He had been beaten by a barely sentient Zimmer frame.  He did however have his faithful dogs, the only ones allowed into his House, Rudi Giuliani and Sidney Powell, to fight for him amidst his deniers and enemies. 

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A SMAC in the Face #51:  The DNA of the ANC

Inside every living cell is the key to life, the template.  This is the DNA and it defines all the characteristics of the organism in which it is embedded.  It is surprisingly simple in concept.  It consists of two helical antiparallel strands, each of which have a sequence of bases namely T, A, C and G.  The two helices are intertwined and crosslinked but only T can link to A and C can link to G.  This unique structure can be unzipped and replicated to form two new DNA molecules and, in that way, the complete organism is built up.

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A SMAC in the Face #50: Mr Fix Fokol

The ANC is riven with fools but if there’s a court jester then that title belongs to Fickle Mbalula.  Ten days after the Russians invaded a sovereign Ukraine, Fickle tweeted to his groupies that he had just landed in the Ukraine.  Pray tell, what macabre joke was that coming from a supposedly responsible cabinet minister?  Well I suppose it’s only to be expected from a manchild who styled himself as Mr Razzamatazz in a previous incarnation.  A more recent persona which he adopted was Mr Fear Fokol* when he was made Minister of Police.  This is from the manchild who had such a hard on for Beyonce that he kept on wanting to invite her to perform at the annual sporting awards at eye-watering cost.  His most recent falter ego is Mr Fixit which he anointed himself with when he was appointed Minister of Transport. 

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A SMAC in the Face #48:  The Orange Jesus

Someone described Trump as a sentient naartjie, although I think he was stretching the sentient bit.  This self-proclaimed ‘stable genius’ actually brags about aceing a comprehension test which is really designed to test for Alzheimer’s.

This week saw Liz Cheney reveal another cutting description of him by a Republican Representative who muttered, “The things we do for the orange Jesus,” when asked to sign a petition on 6th January objecting to the outcome of presidential election.

Let’s see how well this description fits him.  Orange he undoubtedly is.  In fact, his overuse of fake tan has probably indelibly stained him for life.  Isn’t this delicious irony for a man who routinely accuses anyone and anything of being fake while he is the mother of all fakers – the ultimate motherfaker.  Enough of that – on to the Jesus bit.

Jesus performed many miracles in his short life.  With just the laying on of hands he cured blindness, got cripples to walk, and if he lived today, he would have cured Covid.  He also prayed to his dad for a bit of help which I found a bit confusing as he would be talking to himself if the Catholics are to be believed. 

Trump also needed the helping hand of his dad when he inherited his fortune but is quite impressive in his own right.  Just by talking about Chloroquine as a cure for Covid he managed to help the planet rid itself of some idiots who took his word as gospel.  Powerful stuff, idiocy.  He further advanced the cause of reducing world population with his daily unhinged sermons, proselytising against all scientific advice and exhorting people to praise him and worship him in that parallel universe – the Church of Trump (let’s hope he’s not resurrected in two years time).

Where Jesus promised heavenly riches by believing in God (himself, I suppose), Trump promised investors, who believed in him, fantastic earthly returns when he magically inflated the value of all his assets manyfold to show what an astute businessman he was.  This ability to conjure up things out of mid-air was matched by Jesus with his bread and papsak trick.

But where Trump trumps Jesus is that he doesn’t have to pray or say anything to get a result.  In a sycophantic interview with Sean Hannity on Faux News he mansplained that he didn’t even have to say anything but just think about it and highly secret documents, privy to only a few cognoscenti, would be mystically declassified and, I suppose, become public documents and could be distributed to the masses to cogitate on.

As I said before, powerful stuff, idiocy.  Really, really powerful stuff.

A SMAC in the Face # 47:  ERII’s Final Progress

The British have lost their pre-eminence in just about everything except for their self-effacing humour and, of course, pageantry.  Both of these featured in Queen Elizabeth’s life.  Who can forget her Jubilee sketch with Paddington Bear or temporarily becoming a Bond girl for the opening of the 2012 Olympics.  Now her funeral is probably set to eclipse everything with, at least, the possible exception of Diana’s funeral in terms of the tears.  Maybe even that other queen, Elton John, will be moved by the lure of lucre to rejig one of his songs for her as well.  I suggest Funeral for a Friend suitably modified.  Of course, during the Prince Andrew scandal, he could have re-released an old hit as Don’t Let Your Son Go Down On Me and the royalties could have paid for the legal settlement.

Enough of that.  Back to the Progress.  In the days of yore, most people never travelled more than a kilometre or two from where they were born and if they didn’t WFH, they WFNH (Work From Near Home).  They didn’t have TV, Instagram or Tickle Tockle and so it was important that the Regent routinely do a Grand Tour to remind the common folk of their splendour, power, strength and divinity.  These were called Progresses.  They were large affairs as the Royal party still had to be kept in sumptuous luxury and there were tournaments, hunting and entertainment organised along the way.  It was also a good excuse to get out of the pestilential London which stank in summer with its open sewers.  But the grandest was Henry VIII’s Grand Progress all the way to York in 1541 with a retinue upwards of 4000.  Henry wished to dazzle the rebellious northerners with his royal bejeweled codpiece and his latest acquisition, the comely 19-year-old Catherine Howard amongst other things. But all good things come to an end as she was too comely and was beheaded within months of their return for infidelity.

Fast forward nearly 500 years.  ERII’s majestic 70-year reign has finally come to an end and after 96 years she‘s kicked the bucket, she’s shuffled off ‘er mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible*.  Only two things remain.  She will lie in state at Westminster where an estimated 1 million people will try to pay their final respects.  Afterwards she will start her final earthly Royal Progress, starting at Westminster Abbey and ending at Windsor Castle, 35km away, in a lead casket for posterity.

There will be much lamentation.  I just hope there won’t be some crazy Muslim or Irish terrorist to rain on her final progress.

*From Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch.

A SMAC in the Face #46:  The GOAT is Dead – The End of an ERII

Of course, ERII does not refer to season 2 of that long running soapie, ER, but rather to an even longer running reality show, namely the reign of Elizabeth Regina II with all its plot twists, infidelities, deaths and scandals.  After 70 years on the throne, she bowed out this past week with the quiet dignity with which she lived her life.  The Queen is dead.  Long live the King. 

I don’t wish to make many comments on her reign as small-minded people like Julius Malema have already taken their cheap shots at her.  The only time Julius takes expensive shots is when the EFF High Command toasts their latest trashing of Parliamentary rules with Johnnie Walker Blue.  All I can say is that South Africans have had a schizophrenic relationship with her.  The Afrikaners hated her, my generation of English speakers by and large had a soft spot for her, and the Blacks lived with her as much as one lives with piles.

The UK is the only country where the country’s name has never appeared on its stamps.  They merely bore an image of the current monarch. The number 8 must be bad luck for the monarchy.  In between jousting, King Henry VIII went through 6 wives trying to produce viable male issue.  King Edward VIII abdicated in 1937 after less than a year after insisting that his jousting with the divorcee, Wallis Simpson, be made a more permanent sport.  The result was that his brief reign is only marked by the issue of 4 basic definitive stamps and no issue to trouble the royal genealogists.  

By contrast, Queen Lizzie set world records – she appeared on 736 definitive and commemorative stamp sets.  The commemorative sets ranged through British history, achievements, current events and art and literature.  Apart from the classic writers like Shakespeare and Wordsworth being celebrated, the Queen also lent her profile to two sets in 2010 that celebrate the stories of A.A. Milne.  I am talking about one of the nicest bunch of literary characters ever conceived – Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends in the hundred acre wood.  These comprised 10 stamps made from the original 1926-8 illustrations by E.H Shepard which are as classical and timeless as the lovely, innocent stories which we could have far more of in these dissipated times of fatwas, elementary school massacres and narcissistic presidents and selfies.

Until 1966, the Queen’s head appeared as a photo (or a woodcut version of it) looking to the left in a ¾ view.  Since then, she appeared as a side-on view, either as a marble bust with a crown on the definitive stamps, or purely as a silhouette without a crown (maybe a tiara) on the commemorative stamps.  

Some people would not care a groat for her.  In the philatelic world, she’s the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

Oh well.  Time to turn over a new leaf in my neglected childhood stamp album.  My last British stamp was from about 1974 so I’m missing more than 600 sets of stamps.  Maybe I’ll keep up this time.

A SMAC in the Face #44: Alex Jones and The School of Doom

The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of 2012 ranks as one of the worst in America with 20 kids and 6 staff killed by weapons that would make a SWAT team proud.  This uniquely American pastime was soon matched by that other favourite American hobby – the conspiracy theory.  In fact, they mainline conspiracy theories.

America seems to pander to the wacky.  There are the countless UFO sightings and it has the distinction of creating two new religions.  There is Mormonism, loosely based on Christianity but elevated to flaky status by the addition of the Book of Mormon inscribed on mystical golden discs.  Joseph Smith translated them using Urim and Thummim and seer stones (whatever that means) which only he had access to.  Hmmm.  Then there is Scientology founded by a science fiction writer and solely based on science fiction that invokes an extra-terrestrial life-form, Xenu.   What about all the sects and wacky evangelical churches with some services looking like a cross between a Britney Spears revival concert and a political rally.  One could possibly argue that they have also created a third religion – the Lore of the Gun – with the NRA being the higher power.  America, it seems, is fertile ground for the charlatan, hoaxer, conspiracy theorist and peddler of fake news.  With the exception of Mormonism, they are all mercenary.  But I digress.

Sandy Hook was grist to the mill for a number of people with a fertile imagination and wilful disregard for the facts.  The arch villain was Alex Jones who has made it his life’s work to promote alternative realities.  Sure, he is far-right but I don’t think that he truly believes in all the disinformation he peddles.  What he undoubtedly does believe though, is that it sells.  He’s a grifter at heart.  After a minor career in community radio and cable TV in Austin, he created Infowars in the early 1990’s which proved immensely popular among the disaffected right.  Although banned from most social media websites, he shoots his own video content for his website which attracts up to 10 million views per month.  The business model is simple, push the hell out of fake news and then sell his own branded merchandise and products.  For instance, he milked the Fukushima nuclear disaster to sell anti-radiation pills.   Sandy Hook came along and it was time again to elevate his image by cynically turning a tragedy into a conspiracy.  He claimed that this was a false flag operation carried out by actors.  For once he miscalculated and he pushed too hard for too long – after all you have 26 grieving real families who can prove that a loved one had been murdered.  He carried on pushing his disgusting false narrative irrespective of the harm he was causing them by trusting in his first amendment rights.  Wrong!

The day of reckoning finally came for Alex on 5 August when the families were granted a total of $49.3million plus costs.

A SMAC in the Face #43:  I Came, I Saw, Iran

In 47BC, Julius Caesar famously summarised his conquest of a minor potentate in Turkey as veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered.  Fast forward 2000 odd years and another despot with imperialist dreams, Vladimir Putin, thought that he could update this to Vladi – veni, vidi, vici (in Cyrillic of course) and get rid of that joke of a country with its ex-comedian President that was a painful reminder of a lost Empire.

This was going to be easy-peasy.  After all, using surrogate forces, Russia had conquered two important regions in eastern Ukraine in 2014 without any blowback from the West.  Also, Russia had three times the population of Ukraine and the second largest military arsenal in the world.  Following a massive build-up of forces, Russia invaded Ukraine from the east as well as from the north courtesy of his Belarusian stooge who had given Putin usufruct over the south of his country.  These were meant to be lightning strikes reminiscent of the German Blitzkriegs (Lightning Wars) of WWII – rapid and deep penetration by armoured columns, encirclement and the grinding of the demoralised troops into dust.   QED (Sticking with the Latin references, QED = quod erat demonstrandum.  I shall leave the actual translation as a tutorial exercise for the reader.  I might just note that I prefer the cynical student version of Quite Easily Demonstrated or Done after cracking a simple problem.)

But the Ukrainians hadn’t been sitting idle since 2014 and, with the help of American experts and Intelligence, they had prepared for a modern battlefield that involved the intelligent use of drones amongst other techniques.  They also knew their Latin and with a battle cry of Illegitimi non carborundum – a mock-Latin aphorism, translated as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” – they devastated the Russian armoured thrusts.  They reversed the northern assault and stalemated the eastern one with appalling Russian losses in officers, men and materiel.  The vici part of veni, vidi, vici bit the dust to be replaced by cessi, loosely translated as I ran.

Putin has been forced to bring senior officers out of retirement including a 67-year-old ex-Spetsnaz General who’s the poster child for gastric sleeve surgery.  Their mercenary arm, the Wagner Group, has also been doing the rounds of prisons recruiting cannon fodder.  But where could he get his hands on modern drone type weaponry.

While Putin was mulling this problem, he realised that the Mullahs of Iran could help him if he spent a bit of moolah.  It seems as though the mulish Mullahs haven’t only been sitting around declaring jihads and issuing fatwas to all and sundry, but have also been busy beavers developing sophisticated drones.  So it was off to Iran he ran on 19 July.  Yes, there is talk of solidarity, of creating a single fortress and blah, blah, blah, but actually he is there for the drones. 

Quite embarrassing really for a superpower.  Almost as embarrassing as Biden fist-bumping Mohammed bin Salman who had ordered the vivisection of Khashoggi.

A SMAC in the Face #42:  Oh Shit!

There’s a famous poster showing a steam train engine most of the way out of an elevated train station window with the saying, Oh Shit.  That is how Hlaudi ‘with a chance of millions’ Motsoeneng must have felt when the AFU (Asset Forfeiture Unit) came to attach his assets.

Hlaudi is a little man who was brought up in the arse end of the eastern Orange Free State.  This was Qwa Qwa, a little Bantustan of a few hundred thousand people scrabbling a living.  Not an auspicious start but what this man had in spades was ambition, self-belief and the will to kiss the arses of important ANC personalities.  These qualities took him all the way to the top with his ultimate blesser being Zuma, Mr Big.

As a freelancer for Radio Lesotho, Hlaudi managed to ingrate himself with the Chief Minister of Qwa Qwa with puff pieces.  Sensing the wind in 1992, he moved to Lesedi FM in Bloemfontein and cosied up to ANC heavyweights, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and his ace in the hole, Magashule.  He soon found himself in Mshini Wam’s orbit and landed a top job in the SABC as COO – not bad for an uneducated man from the foothills of the Drakensberg.  He now enjoyed the patronage and protection of uBaba himself, and his ambition knew no bounds.  He dispensed largess like a king throwing sweeties to his subjects and this extended to himself when he upped his own salary by 32% in 2015.  There were unwarranted promotions and appointments and at one stage, he gave R25million to artists.  Yes, part of SABC’s remit is to promote indigenous art and culture, but it is not a SASSA pay point.  It is supposed to nurture and promote them, not give them money out of hand.  Another one of his outlandish schemes in May 2016 was to insist on 90% local music content on radio stations.  When asked whether that was a bridge too far, he stated he would force it to be so and his ego couldn’t resist adding that I am “Hlaudi Motsoeneng, baby! I am in charge.”  But he committed his biggest sin when he sold off the family silver – all the SABC archives – to Multichoice for R650million.  Stupid or not and perhaps that was within his ambit as COO, but he claimed a ‘success fee’ of R11.5million for just doing what he was paid to do.

However, his Tata My Chance (a lotto slogan meaning, take a chance) has become Ta, Ta My Chance when he lost his job and the protection of Zuma who was by now powerlessly gnashing teeth on the sidelines at Nkandla bedevilled by paranoia while plotting revenge.  First his assets were attached, and then, in December 2021, the SIU (Special Investigative Unit) won their court case in the Gauteng High Court for the ‘success fee’ plus interest to be handed over.  Hlaudi applied for leave to appeal but that was turned down on 15 July with costs.

Like Zuma, Hlaudi is an appealing fellow, but only in the legal sense, so I don’t think this is the end of the legal route much trampled by unrepentant ANC apparatchiks.  Another case perhaps for the irrepressible Dali Mpofu and his grandstanding, misdirection, insults and dubious legal arguments.