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Short report

SA's henchpuppets are waking up and smelling the coffee

22 November 2017 - 12:57 By tom eaton
Speaker Baleka Mbete. File photo.
Speaker Baleka Mbete. File photo.
Image: AFP

What should African leaders learn from the fall of Robert Mugabe? For ANC Speaker and Deputy Enabler-General‚ Baleka Mbete‚ the answer is dark and aromatic.

“Lessons for all of Africa is that‚ when the coffee is brewing‚ you need to smell it‚” she told an audience on Tuesday evening.

It was an enigmatic thing to say and no doubt journalists had questions. Did this also apply to leaders who used Nespresso machines? Instead of smelling the coffee should they listen for some sort of warning psssht?

But before they could raise their hands‚ Mbete was done. “That is all I want to say‚” she concluded‚ and the conversation was dropped like an empty Starbucks cup with ‘Robbert Moogarbi’ scrawled on the side.

It was a good attempt by Mbete. As we enter the ‘It Wasn’t Me’ phase of South African politics‚ where senior henchpuppets pretend they never rubber-stamped any of the stuff they rubber-stamped‚ there’s going to be a lot of this sort of pro-democracy‚ anti-authoritarian rhetoric. Mbete’s coffee soundbyte was particularly elegant‚ offering nothing obviously confrontational but still implying a faint warning to the elderly kleptocrats who squat on international politics.

The problem is‚ we know it’s pure hypocrisy because we’ve watched and her colleagues operate for a decade. We know exactly how the coffee smells.

The only difference‚ of course‚ is that it’s not brewing. It is cold‚ abandoned on the counter by Head Barista Jake because he’s too busy emptying the till into a sack for Honest Vlad from Honest Vlad’s Vlad-Tastic Vodka Emporium down the road‚ who has offered him a 1% commission.

Assistant Barista Baleka and her team are doing their best to reassure the customers that they’ll get their coffee‚ probably within the next five years as long as they shut up and don’t write bad reviews on TripAdvisor‚ but they are distracted. They’ve smelled coffee‚ too‚ a heady‚ warm aroma drifting across from the building next door: Silent Cyril’s Home For Lost Invertebrates.

They want to go there‚ to take off their aprons and deny they ever worked for Head Barista Jake‚ but they have to time their run just right.

Oh yes‚ they’ve smelled the coffee. And they know exactly what’s brewing.