ANTHONY BUTLER: Filling Santa’s big boots is a tough ask
Who is this new Santa in whom the hopes of all the little children reside? Surely not Mark ‘questionable career move’ Barnes
14 DECEMBER 2018
Yo ho ho! We have once again reached that time of the year when little boys and girls across the land dream about a visit by a fat man in a red suit carrying a sack of shiny presents.
Our brand new Santa has such a tough job. He has to manage the workshop where the toys are made, oversee the elves who do the work, and train the reindeer who pull his sleigh. Finally, he has to deliver millions of gifts to poor boys and girls who will otherwise have nothing. And all this has to be done to near impossible deadlines.
Who is this new Santa in whom the hopes of all the little children reside? Surely not Mark “questionable career move” Barnes, with his Backlog Bag full of yellowing magazines and overdue utility bills? “Don’t worry”, Postman Barnes exclaims. “You can always open this year’s presents next Christmas!”
No, the new Father Christmas is Santa Cyril. But some silly folk say Cyril won’t stay Santa for long. Santa has to be extremely fat but Cyril has been seen walking early in the morning in a so-called fitness regime — something a real Santa would never do.
Some local dwarfs claim he swims too often in the bubbling Chinese waters of Bruma Lake, next to the suburb of Cyrildene that has been named after the new Santa by his Eastern goblin friends.
When Santa stands next to the Keeper of the Empty Holes in the Ground, Gwede “low centre of gravity” Mantashe, ordinary elves complain that Santa Cyril looks too skinny by comparison.
Cyril doesn’t have to worry about Malusi the Load Shedder any longer, but he still has enemies to contend with. “Yo ho ho”, he greeted the banshees Smallanyana and Nomvula last week. “Stop calling me ‘ho’,” they both wailed in return.
The adorable toddlers of the Elf Freedom Front (EFF), Floydinia and “Doc” Mbuyiseni, think their class medals and paper certificates make them wise. They have written with their crayons that Julius has to be Santa because he has increased the EFF’s share of Christmas letters from 8% to 10% in just five years. Doc calculates that “by 2358 we’ll have a majority of the vote” (but then he is a political studies graduate).
Movie and television watchers know that Santa — like Jesus and other superheroes — is actually white. How about Santa Johann then, with his triple chins, witty banter and sack full of title deeds and cigarettes for distribution to the poor?
No, all things considered Santa Cyril is here to stay. He has some excellent helpers, too. The new Keeper of the Golden Chest is Tito, formerly the benevolent dictator of another magical country ultimately destined for collapse.
A previous Keeper of the Golden Chest, Pravin “the good goblin” Gordhan, is evicting the trolls from the workshop’s generator room. “I’m sending the managers to fix the generators themselves,” he insisted last week, which is probably not such a good idea. “Also let’s re-employ members of the rogue unit,” he mystically added, “even though they don’t exist.”
All across the land, the little boys and girls in the “branches” of the mystical movement are busy writing lists of presents with their crayons. All signs are that this “list process” is going as well as can be expected for the new Santa.
There is lots of other good news. In the magical kingdom, paying the elves more money from January 1 will actually make unemployment go down. More roads and houses can now be built with fewer engineers. The National Development McPlan Meal is warming up in the oven. And Vlad the Impaler is selling his nuclear powered vacuum cleaners to Argentina instead.
We should all remember that Santa exists only because the little children believe he does. Nobody can simply drive Santa out of his job — so behave yourselves, little DD and Paul!
If a naughty Santa is appointed in Cyril’s place, the little boys and girls across the land will lose faith. Then the mystical movement that Santa leads will simply vanish into thin air.
• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.