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A return to the land of More

This month we are leaving the company of splendid regulars in the local pub and grill for a historic tour of our unbelievable – and sometimes it really is – country.

I was launched on this nostalgic trip of ineptocracy-in-action by our current Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. When asked in Parliament why we were sending our pilots to Russia and Cuba (sic) for training, she explained:

“We have a problem. Sometimes these young people train and they run short of flying hours before they can get their wings. We can’t give them those flying hours because there are no aircraft …

“I tell you that some of the aircraft were taken by some of the people who left the Air Force and they belong to them in their museum.

“Actually it started ages ago and some of the people stole some of the assets of the people and left with them. So when you talk about shortages it has to do with the fact that some of the assets were stolen.”

This is all fantasy, as you and I know, Dear Reader, but those were her words, look it up in Hansard.

So, in honour of Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, here are the chronicles of the Republic of More for the first month of the year 2005. Please note, I am not making this up.

  • On the 13th day of the month a brave (as later described by the responsible minister) posse of military policemen, backed up by a crack squad of police officers, stormed the South African Museum of Military History near the centre of Johannesburg, the Republic of More’s biggest city. The scene of the crime was an internationally renowned military museum, which has been maintaining and exhibiting items of military interest for many decades.

Members of the public have full access to the museum.

Three arrests were successfully executed by the land of More’s brave warriors: two of the perpetrators being curators and the third a director of the museum. These seemingly harmless suspects were arrested for being in the unlawful possession of “suspicious, stolen military vehicles”.

The warriors confiscated four military vehicles they found on display at the military museum. These were to be destroyed, they announced at the scene.

When asked to produce documentation for the exhibits, Ms Susanne Blendulf, one of the curators, asked for time to find it as there were more than 40,000 items in the museum. Shortly afterwards she was handcuffed and led away. Mr Richard Henry, the other curator, was similarly handcuffed and arrested.

Major John Keene, a director with the museum for some 37 years, was in bed at home recovering from a retina replacement the previous day. When he heard of the raid on the museum, he went there to assist his colleagues. He was also handcuffed, arrested and locked in a police cell.

Major Dan Mashaba of the military police said he did not need warrants of arrest. Lt.-Col. Louis Kirstein, spokesman for the Department of Defence, denied that anybody was arrested.

Dr Pallo Jordan, then Minister of Arts and Culture, and the director-general of his department, Prof Itumelang Mosala, were at the scene during the raid. Mosala commented that they did not know what was going on and could not comment.

The three museum executives were locked up for the night.

Major Keene’s daughter Justine, 20, took his medication and eye drops to the police cells but was refused permission to administer these to him. When she explained that he could lose his eyesight, the military policeman in charge responded that it was not his problem.

  • After midnight, at about 1am on the 14th day of the month, permission was obtained for a doctor to examine Major Keene in his police cell. After the examination, the doctor arranged for an emergency operation to be performed on his patient.

Later in the morning Major Keene’s two colleagues were released from custody after the public prosecutor in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court refused to prosecute them.

Lt.-Col. Kirstein, on behalf of the Department of Defence, still insisted that nobody had been arrested.

By that time Major Keene was recovering in a Pretoria eye hospital from his emergency operation. He was kept under police guard.

The executive officer of the body responsible for the museum’s management, Mr Makgolo Makgolo, was puzzled by the events. “Everything in the museum belongs to the state. How can the state be guilty of the possession of stolen state property?” he asked.

  • On the 15th day of the month, a Johannesburg newspaper editorialised that someone somewhere was suffering from persecution mania and that the whole business might have been the consequence of scandalous incompetence. It hoped Minister Jordan would provide an explanation sooner rather than later.

The minister presumably still did not know what was going on as an explanation was not forthcoming.

Lt.-Col Kirstein said the Defence Force was continuing with its investigation and was considering the confiscation of more museum pieces.

Ms Sandi McKenzie, the museum’s acting director, noted that the weapons systems on the confiscated vehicles were inoperative and that school children had regularly been taken for rides on some of them. “It’s not as if we were hiding them,” she added.

On the 16th day of the month Major Keene learned that he would have to undergo a follow-up operation some six weeks later.

Mr Helmoed Römer-Heitman of Jane’s Defence Weekly described the invasion of a military museum as “medieval.” It makes the Defence Force look like a gang of fools, he opined, adding that in any other country the minister of defence would resign after such an embarrassment.

Then Minister of Defence of the Republic of More, Mr Mosiuoa (“Terror”) Lekota, gave no indication of any intention to resign.

  • On the 17th day of the month Maj. Gen. Mohato Mofokeng, head of corporate communication in the Defence Force, declared that the military police who had carried out the confiscations and arrests had acted in line with “the new crime prevention strategy of the Department of Defence.”

The military police had followed standing, prescribed procedures after receiving reports of alleged crimes, he asserted, adding that the investigation was continuing.

  • On the same day, a military museum in Bloemfontein, a provincial capital in the Republic of More, was refused permission to obtain rusty military vehicles dating from World War II.
  • On the 18th day of the month, the responsible minister, the Hon Mosiuoa Lekota MP, responded. He expressed his appreciation for the brave actions of the military police, who had tracked down “weapons of war” and “neutralised” them. He was grateful for the quick and efficient actions of the military police.

Lekota added that he did not wish to say anything more as he did not have all the facts.

Welcome to the land of More, home to the Morons.

  • We have Beeld columnist Lood to thank for chronicling another ineptocratic episode. It transpired in the gilded halls of gambling casino Caesar’s Palace on the East Rand. The occasion was a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee tasked with aiding the countries of South-East Asia after a recent tsunami disaster.

Captains of industry leading South Africa’s major companies were representing the private sector. All were waiting for the meeting to end and a scheduled information session to begin. As is usual when the government of the land of More is involved, events were running behind schedule.

First to appear from the meeting, some 40 minutes late, was the land of More’s then Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Obviously aware that time was of the essence, she made an urgent beeline, arms flailing, for the buffet table.

She was not concerned, possibly not even aware, that she was the only person in the conference room with a plate full of food. As the other participants shifted uneasily from one leg to the other, waiting for proceedings to begin, she devoured her ample meal. Even her colleague Sydney Mufamadi looked somewhat perturbed.

After long minutes of observing the minister’s healthy appetite, the captains of industry concluded that the decent thing to do, in order not to appear rude, was to follow her example. So they made their way to the buffet table and started to dish up.

But before they could start eating, Manto had emptied her plate. Storming towards them in her ever-growing obesity, she declared: “You people are always only here for the food!”

Finally it was time for the information session to begin.

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