One beeeellion barrels spoiled Cyril’s Sona after-party
The French had hit paydirt in Mossel Bay and he felt like chopped liver - then uBaba phoned
Cyril Ramaphosa wasn’t expecting a 10-minute ovation when he walked into the Sona after-party – that hadn’t been compulsory since the day Thabo Mbeki left office, leaving behind a 450-page thank-you note and a soggy pipe-stem so that his saliva could be used to clone him once humanity was ruled by philosopher-kings – but some muted oohs and ahs, and perhaps a smattering of heartfelt applause might have been nice. Except now the goddamned French had found a billion barrels of paydirt in Mossel Bay, and Cyril felt like chopped liver.
He paused for a moment, hands on hips, chin jutting out, hoping that a regal pose in the doorway might jolt the comrades away from their phones. But all were hunched over their screens, Google-ing property in Hartenbos and frantically trying to work out what a 10% kickback was on a trillion petro-dollars. He wanted to scream and throw his sausage roll at the wall, but then he remembered Jacob Zuma doing both those things when the nuclear deal was cancelled, and how wretched it had looked.
Fikile Mbalula appeared at his elbow, doing jazz-hands and softly humming Despacito as per his new brief as party morale officer. Thank God for Fiks. You could always rely on him and his old-world sycophancy to pep you up when you needed a boost.
“That was amazing,” said Fikile, accelerating his jazz-hands until blobs of humus were flying off his fingertips. “I especially loved the part about ... ”
“Shhh!” hissed David Mabuza, materialising out of a shadow with his palm over his cellphone. “I’m on the phone with Mosc … er … mosque, yes, the mosque up in Bo-Kaap, they, er, wanted to say hi.” He scurried away into the far corner, into the shadow of the vast bulk of “uBaba”, a modern art installation that endlessly flushed small maps of SA down a golden toilet. “Comrade?” he whispered. “Are you still there? Yes! One billion barrels! What? You want me to say it like a movie villain? OK, er … one beeeellion ... What? You want me to say it as if I’m a little girl? OK, er …”
“So I thought it went quite well,” said Ramaphosa.
“If you stroke me I’ll purr,” said Mbalula. “Seriously. Rub my tummy and I’ll vibrate.”
“Thanks, I’m good,” said Ramaphosa.
“Yes,” murmured Mbalula. “Yes you are.”
“Obviously I couldn’t go into more detail about our policies on land, because we don’t have any,” said Ramaphosa. “And business isn’t going to be happy until ... ”
“My president!” Oh Jesus. Jesse Duarte was approaching fast, leaving a trail of ink behind her and excreting the skeletons of small fish.
“Comrade Jessie,” he clenched. “How do you think ...?”
“Comrade President,” she said, “I’ve got Msholozi on the phone and he’s dying to ask you something.”
Ramaphosa sighed a long, shuddering sigh. The last time Zuma had phoned he’d wanted Ramaphosa to pretend to be a naughty goat trying to break out of Nkandla while he, the brave herder, Handsome Jake, stopped him at every turn.
“Give me the phone,” he said softly. He could hear the heavy breathing as he put the phone to his ear. “uBaba?”
“Hello,” said Zuma. “It is really me! Jacob Zuma!”
“Yes,” said Ramaphosa. “You wanted to ask me something about the speech?”
“My question” said Zuma, “is this. How many barrels is one billion barrels?”
“S-seriously? It’s one billion.”
“But how many is that?”
“Oh, right,” sighed Ramaphosa. “It’s one hundred, ten thousand, and – listen carefully – a thousand.”
There was a small, damp sound on the other side of the line, and then a low, slow chuckle.
“That’s a lot of barrels,” said Zuma.
Ramaphosa nodded and rubbed his eyes. It was going to be a long year.