Santa Cyril’s year

ANTHONY BUTLER: Poor Subordinate Clauses, bereft of Santa’s crafty leadership

First published in Business Day and Business Live

 18 DECEMBER 2020

Ho ho ho! After a few trials and tribulations, we have finally arrived at the time of year when the little boys and girls across the land begin to gather outside their local bottle stores — at least from Monday to Thursday — to access their holiday spirits.

Those little children who can still dream are dreaming of the arrival of a dangerously overweight man dressed in a garish red suit and bearing seasonal gifts. Could this be minister “Hazenile” Mantashe, who has promised to bring a sack of magical materials down a specially widened chimney? Or perhaps Mark “Delivery” Barnes, who it transpires is still the CEO of the SA Post Office, because he erroneously sent his resignation letter to the board by “Fast Mail” in August 2019?

No, let us not be Claus-trophobic at this Happy Time. After all, the jolly old man is now “Matamela”, he who evokes speechless wonderment. 

Santa Cyril has a very tough job. Luckily he has a Special Book to help him, called The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus (also known to the goblins as The Strategy and Tactics of Father Christmas).

Santa runs a complex operation. He has to choose a reindeer cabinet, manage the workshop and the elves who work there, and deliver millions of gifts inside tight deadlines.

Sadly, all of the smartest of Santa’s reindeer, such as Ebrahim “pointy ears” Patel, can’t help steering relentlessly left, which is taking the sled round and round in circles.

But there is good news for elves and children, says Pravin the Good Goblin, because we possess “a great fleet of metallic birds” which can be used to deliver presents to the poor. “Everyone can have free flights,” he proclaimed, “perhaps starting with MPs, for now.”

“Doc” Mkhize likewise says we can still afford National Elf Insurance. But how can we pay for presents for all the little children when we are driving the sled over the edge of the fiscal cliff?

“Never fear,” the little imps “Doc” Gilad, “Dotty” Duma, and “Noisy” Neil, all piped up together. “It’s not a real cliff, it’s only mystical. We can print toy money and go shopping for gifts at Eastgate Mall, close to the bubbling waters of Bruma Lake from whence we like to drink!”

Santa Cyril says we must submit to the rule of law, especially when it comes up with the right answer. “Yay!”, he observed recently, “the magical court says we don’t have to pay the elves after all!”

“Sanity prevails,” agreed Judge Dredd, also known as the dreadful judge, “although not necessarily for me.”

“Lord God almighty,” he judiciously requested, “send your angels, send even your angel of the media, send all the angels of fire, the angel of judgment, the angel of the wings of the Lord, to enforce your will.” (He really did.)

Cyril, at least, is sane, for which the little girls and boys should be grateful. He is not a Lost Claus, and he is not a lame duck Santa like his predecessor, Jacob “Christmas Quacker” Zuma.

The year ahead will reveal whether he is Mbokodo, a stone that slowly grinds, or simply a slow-moving Santa, who will be mown down by the delivery vans of history. Today’s Subordinate Clauses, such as DD, Doc Zweli and Gauteng’s Sainted Paul, are finding out that no matter how hard they work the guy in the Santa suit tends to get all the credit.

Nonetheless, Leadership Secrets reminds us that an ANC Santa exists only because the little children believe he does. If Santa lets them down, boys and girls across the land will stop believing in him, and the mystical movement he leads will vanish into thin air.

Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

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