The SA Cabinet Stakes for the Worst Minister of the Year Cup

Johannes Wessels

The last-rounds-of-the-year-get-together at the local oog last Monday stimulated discussions on several topics:  Covid 19, lockdown, loss of jobs, closing businesses, no sport to watch, matric exams, the Zondo commission and Ace Magashule.  

It was the normal crowd:  Dooswyn Dekker, Paleface Mokoena, Trevor Emmer the Second, Koos Kwadraat and several other characters that each in themselves would warrant a David Kramer song.  We ended the evening with a toast to our wives whose curfews were not as strict as those introduced by the National Corruption Coordinating Committee of the Republic of the State of Disaster.

Back home, I sneaked in and decided it would be better to settle on the couch which contributed more to peace than the antics of numerous winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. I was still mulling over the last discussion about what we have missed most this year. The weeks without sales of liquor and cigarettes were brushed off with a “we never were without the goodies”. Of the things caused by the Religion of Lockdown, the shortage of key sport events and the abundance of walking around being muzzled by damn masks, were the two things that generated consensus in our group as being the worst.

I was still struggling to decide which of the two things irritate me most, when I dozed off…

The Bookmakers’ Betting Board

Suddenly I find myself at Greyville Race Course where the SA Cabinet Stakes are about to be run.  The trophy – Worst Minister in a Bad Cabinet – is on display in front of the main stand. It’s the final few minutes for placing bets. Looking at the Bookmakers’ Betting Board, the favourites (jockeys in brackets) are at:

  • 2 – 1 Burning Trucks (Fearfokol Mbalula), Disruptive Governance & a Disastrous State of Affairs (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) and The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses (Bheki Cele);
  • 5 – 1 State Control & Umpteenth Regulations (Braampie Patel), Cutting Tender Corners (Antie Patricia);
  • 8 – 1 Snailpace Digital Transformation (Stella Foot-in-the-mouth Ndabeni-Abrahams) and Flattening the Curve (Zweli Mkhize).

They are followed at 10 – 1 by We’re-more-productive-when-we-strike (Senzu Mchunu), We can Riot but not Write (Angie Motshekga) and Unemployment is Our Pride (Walter Nxesi).      

The horses that are clearly not favourites are To Hell with the Taxpayers (Pravin Gordhan) at 33 -1, No-Abalone but Polluted Rivers (Dallas Creecy) and Forward to the Fiscal Cliff (Tito Mboweni) at 50 -1 and My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’ (CR) at 80 – 1.

See who are the sponsors

At odds like that, a punt on the absolute outsider promises a very slim prospect of a future of fortune and I decide to take the plunge. Making for the stands and sipping on a nice amber fluid on ice, I experience a thrill that has been missing for a long time: no extended tie-breaker of a fifth set at Wimbledon this year, no simultaneous touch of the kerb in a swimming pool, no play-off for the Claret Cup.  Hopefully we’re in for a photo finish.

The commentator comes on:

“Ladies and Gentleman, as far as I can see all the jockeys are now in the saddle with several horses already in the starting stalls. Antie Patricia is looking quite calm on Cutting Tender Corners that today dons a pair of blinkers. The horse is turning around and around not keen on entering his stall. In the middle one of the smallest jockeys in the race Braampie Patell on State Control & Umpteenth Regulations can be seen. He is wearing a T-shirt in the colours off his proud sponsor Very Thankful Mr Price.

“On the outside Gordhan on To Hell with the Taxpayers can be seen in the faded colours of FlySAA with Fearfokol on Burning Trucks donning the colours of his sponsors: Taxi Mafia.

“All the horses bar two are now in the stalls. The one is Cutting Tender Corners that looks quite frightened and still resists entering the stalls.  I see the jockey is pointing to something that appears to be bothering her and her horse and yes, there are now two of the groundsmen removing the sign Zondo Commission that was just above the starting gates. Cutting Tender Corners now moves in and it seems that all is clear for the start of the race.

“They are now under starter’s orders. The flag is raised.

“And they’re off! 

“First out of the gates is Snailpace Digital Transformation with Nadebi-Abrahams in the saddle, sporting the colours of SABC-without-cash. On the outside Flattening the Curve is spurred on by Zwelirance Mkhize who is wearing a face mask sponsored by the WHO.

“Now in the lead but only by a nose is Disruptive Governance and a Disastrous State of Affairs with Dlamini-Zuma’s kopdoek flying the colours of Alcoholics Anonymous. Right at the back is My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’ with its sturdy jockey CR17 sponsored by Bosasa and B4SA, several lengths from the lead.

“Approaching the first bend The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses takes the lead. Cele has traded his jockey cap for a black fedora and he lays in the horsewhip. Wait, it’s not a horsewhip, it’s a police baton and he’s hitting The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businessesferociously with every stride.

“Neck and neck to The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businessesare We’re-more-productive-when-we-strike with Unemployment is Our Pride hot on their heels.On the outside Forward to the Fiscal Cliff with Mboweni in the saddle is gaining ground. He is sporting the colours of Lucky Star Sardines after Moody’s could no longer find any value in their sponsorship.   

“Approaching the 1 200m mark it’s still everyone’s race except for My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’that is now about four lengths off the leaders. 

“This is the tactical part of the race.  If one can get the inside close to the rail, the corner will provide an advantage of a stride or two.  But one can easily become boxed in and lose the rhythm that’s so important to maintain.

“Creecy on No-Abalone but Polluted Rivers is starting to fall back. Mapisa-Ngakula on No Defence and the Carl Niehaus Old Boys Club decides to position her on the outside. A fierce battle for position closer to the fence is developing. Fearfokol on Burning Trucks is well placed. On his inside against the collapsing fence is Antie Patricia on Cutting Tender Corners. Cele on The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses stays in contention.

“The field is spreading somewhat out over the width of the track with Stompmes Nzimande also deciding to give University-Standards-Must-Fall a clear track when they take the last corner. Just on his inside and a neck behind is Lindiwe Sisulu on Shack settlements and pit latrines. She’s on her cellphone.  What the heck is she doing? I pick up from a fellow commentator that she’s phoning her consultants Menzi Simelane and Mo Shaik for advice on how to best position herself.

“In the middle Quota teams, Gumboot dancing and rock paintings (Sport, Culture & Art) is tearing ahead. Its jockey is clear-headed Nathi Mtethwa. But Mining Charters and Hazenile with Gwede Mantashe takes the lead. He’s attire is that of a court jester sponsored by the April Fools’ Society.

“They are reaching the final bend with No Defence and the Carl Niehaus Old Boys Club on the inside, closely followed by Cutting Tender Corners.

“Coming in for the home run Fearfokol’s Burning Trucks and Braampie’s Umpteenth Regulations are running in synchronism. In the middle To Hell with the Taxpayers is breaking through, opening the bundle like the Red Sea before Moses. The horse is clearly in agony but Gordhan, wearing the colours of Bankrupt SAA, cuts his spurs so deep into the flanks of To Hell with the Taxpayers that one can hardly see his boots. He really is trying to get a final turbo boost out of a dead horse. 

“It’s going to be close. With 300m to go there’s nothing to choose from the front six horses.  It’s Mining Charters and Hazenile, Burning Trucks, No Defence and the Carl Niehaus Old Boys Club and a fraction behind them University-Standards-Must-Fall, The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses with Disruptive Governance and a Disastrous State of Affairs clearly lengthening her strides.

State Control & Umpteenth Regulations joins the frontrunners. It’s State Control & Umpteenth Regulations, it’s The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses, State Control & Umpteenth Regulations, The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses, Disruptive Governance and a Disastrous State of Affairs, To Hell with the Taxpayers no, it might be State Control & Umpteenth Regulations.

“It’s going to be a photo-finish in one of the hottest contests in years.

“LIKE A ROCKET FROM NOWHERE My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’ APPEARS.

“They are over the line and there’s no way to tell which of these frontrunners got its nose ahead. It can be any of the leaders. The difference between the first seven horses can be measured in nano-seconds.

“We’ll have to wait for the digital images…  Wonder which horse and jockey will get their names engraved on that Worst Minister in a Bad Cabinet Cup?

“Ladies and Gentleman, we have confirmation.

“First over the line was My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’, followed by State Control & Umpteenth Regulations in the 2nd place with To Hell with the Taxpayers and Disruptive Governance and a Disastrous State of Affairs in joint third position with The-beach-is-banned-and-SAPS-can-close-businesses coming in at number five.

“What a finish!  What a surprise. The complete outsider My Fellow South Africans aren’t all ‘Our People’ with proud jockey CR in the saddle is led to the winner’s podium by sponsors Bosasa and B4SA.” 

I was still counting my massive returns on a meagre bet when the phone rang…   It was Dooswyn Dekker who asked whether I would still go to Knysna now that the beaches have been closed…

I was gatval. Not only did my fortune disappear with that call, but also my holiday.

But the jockey deserves the Cup…

Johannes Wessels is CEO of the Enterprise Observatory & a member of the Advisory Panel of @EndLockdownSA

To receive an email alert of new blogs, scroll to the link on this page and insert your email address

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s