Mr President, I am filled with dread. I saw on the news the other day that you have an acting spokesperson. That’s awful for you as our bundle of joy. You deserve all the presidential toys, including a permanent spokesperson. As far as I am concerned, the Presidency is not an Idols competition open to wannabe actors. Don’t hesitate, appoint me: now. What the Presidency needs is a person of my reputation and qualifications. For instance, I possess a Standard Five certificate issued by the erstwhile KwaZulu Bantustan, oops! I’m sorry, government. There aren’t many people with such rare skills left in SA.
I also have a matric certificate complete with Biblical studies as a major. Just like you, in my youth I leaned towards “decency and Christianity”. I am a serial university drop-out, not once but thrice. I dropped out as a law student, among others. But my dropping out as a master’s student still fills me with pride. If required, I can prove that I have a struggle name, Stalin, which may or may not mean anything, but is a start. I also grew up in exile, as in the KwaZulu homeland, battling the combined might of the KwaZulu Police, South African Police and Caprivi trainees. By birth, rather than choice, I remained in exile until Nelson Mandela’s release. During my exile years I read banned literature (mostly the Clarion Call Inkatha magazine). I hope that this counts.
At one time in the past, I threw stones at the police, they shot back with live ammunition. I forget what happened next. I once organised a march of 100 pupils at high school, demanding a right to wear red shoes. Somehow, I also went underground (mostly to bath by the river) and listen to the ANC exile gossip emanating from that famed national debating committee. Eeh, maybe it was from the National Executive Committee. Never mind, I must say it was fun.
At some stage I owned an ANC membership card back in the days when this prized commodity was freely available. You are free to consider me a veteran of the student movement because in 1996 I graduated from such revolutionary organisations as the South African Students’ Congress (SASCO), the South African Technikon Students’ Union (SATSU) and the South African Students’ Press Union (SASPU), to name just a few.
Obviously there’s no stellar academic record to accompany this astronomical performance in the student movement, but that alone puts me ahead of your acting spokesperson. As an adult working mostly as a washout columnist, reporter and spokesperson, I have mastered the art of taking leave of absence, resigning, and re-joining organisations.
I would do well in a political office where sometimes hard-working officials are required to step aside to attend to tender matters. As a spokesperson, I didn’t do shabbily as I have a history of shouting down nosy journalists with my classic Schabir Shaik line: “When I fought for your freedom you were in your nappies.” This line shuts them down for at least 48 hours and boom, they join the Sunday Independent and one is left scrambling to invent new lines. You see, Mr President, I understand the government communications typography, it requires more grit, less glamour. If not, I can do glamour and grit — all in a day’s work.
Mr President, I speak fewer languages than you, so we can never speak in tongues. This may work against me, but my mother wasn’t a kitchen girl, and my father was never a garden boy, so I am not a communist. Neither have I ever worked in someone’s garden. I must confess that I have not been a member of any ANC executive committee at any level since 1995. This is, of course, to avoid conflict of interest. If it helps, I had lunch once with former president Nelson Mandela. Although I once met Thabo Mbeki, no lunch was served; hence I was happy when he was disposed of. I also had lunch with uBaba, and we shared a struggle joke and had a good laugh. True story. All this, of course, is not cast in stone.
My credentials are as flexible as my working hours. My bank balance is in the negative territory, but I don’t have a nation to feed like her Royal Highness, your one-time spokesperson. This means that in the highly anticipated event that I stumble upon an instant tender, which may be due to my proximity to you or not, I will decline it. Perhaps Till next week, my man, please appoint me as your communications aide, and let’s get the ball rolling. “Send me.”
This Letter to Mahlamba Ndlopfu is written by Bhekisisa Mncube, a hopeful presidential spokesperson who speaks on behalf of special envoys, advisory, and inter-ministerial committees.
This opinion piece was first published in the Witness.