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Mandela’s podiatrist-turned-media ‘mogul’ decoupl...



Mandela’s podiatrist-turned-media ‘mogul’ decouples himself from reality

Iqbal Survé. (Photo: Wessel Oosthuizen / Gallo)

Doc’s relationship with Mandela’s feet continues to the present day. Actually, it’s only a tiny part of one toe of Mandela’s left foot, but that makes this fact even more remarkable.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

It’s an extremely well-known fact (because he has told the world so many times) that Dr Iqbal Survé was once Nelson Mandela’s podiatrist. It was not an easy job, because of course Mandela had feet of clay, but Iqbal – “Doc” – didn’t let that stop him.

What is less known, in fact it’s a secret that we are only now able to reveal, is that Doc’s relationship with Mandela’s feet continues to the present day. Actually, it’s only a tiny part of one toe of Mandela’s left foot, but that makes this fact even more remarkable. For Doc possesses a fragment of one of Mandela’s toenails – and he’s in conversation with it almost as we speak.

What happened was that, one day, after he’d given Mandela’s toenails a trim and a polish, Doc noticed that a little piece of one toenail had fallen on the carpet.

Now some may say that it was just a speck of dirt, or some piece of something someone had had stuck to their shoe, but Doc knew at once what it really was.

It was a tiny piece of one of Mandela’s toenails, and Doc knew at once that this history-changing moment was his – he would take that fragment, keep it safe, wrapped in cotton wool in a little reliquary, for posterity.

And he did. But he didn’t realise, or only after a while came to realise, that the fragment of toenail had a message for him. Specifically, that message was: “What am I doing in this box?”

That’s what Doc heard the fragment saying, not quite out loud, but loud enough for Doc’s ultrasensitive ears to hear.

He immediately opened the reliquary and asked the fragment: “Are you talking to me?” And the fragment said: “Yes, I’m talking to you.” Thereafter followed a brief explanation by Doc, telling the toenail fragment why it was in the box, and so forth; the fragment nodded (virtually) and indicated it understood why Doc was keeping it, and promised to help Doc in his quest to rescue South Africa from the grip of White Monopoly Capital, Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Dawn and the conspiracy of the CIA against Jacob Zuma.

Now Doc is able to open that reliquary at will and consult the toenail, which is what he did just this week as the controversy over the Pretoria News decuplets story went viral, then got infected, then got covered up, then went viral again.

It’s a bit like the Covid-19 pandemic, really – it comes in waves. And there might be a bit of relief as one wave dies down, but you know that controversy is just waiting to surge upwards again.

Now, at least, Pretoria News editor – the “People’s Editor”, as his dear friend Dali Mpofu dubbed him, and Dali knows The People – has apologised for bringing the titles of Doc’s media empire into disrepute, or at least for inconveniencing all the employees of that media empire by expecting them to loyally defend his decuplets story without a leg to stand on.

So Doc, just the other day, went to his safe and twirled the dial. When the safe opened, he took out the reliquary and carefully placed it on his coffee table. Then he opened the reliquary and looked at the toenail fragment nestled comfortably on its bed of cotton wool.

“Are you awake?” asked Doc.

“Hmm, yes,” said the toenail fragment. “Well, I might’ve dozed off for a little there, but that was just so I can get my 30 minutes’ beauty sleep a night. Mostly I don’t sleep. I just sit here listening out for any messages from the outer reaches of the cosmos. Eternal vigilance, you know.”

“Yes, yes,” said Doc. “That’s why I call upon you. Oh, fragment – you know so much! And I’m a little confused by this decuplets thing and what Piet said.”

“Ah, I see. Yes, it is a tad confusing. Go ahead. I’m listening.”

“Okay, well, so Piet met the happy couple at church, of which they’re all members – probably the 10 little babies too, by now. And they told him their extraordinary story. Which of course he believed, because I mean, really, if you’re all members of the same church, of course you believe them! That’s what church is about, right? Believing stuff. It’s not like they were part of Shepherd Bushiri’s church or anything, not that there’s anything wrong with Shepherd Bushiri’s church. Except that it makes more money than I do.”

Doc paused to sniff back a tear that had mysteriously found its way into his right nasal cavity. After a moment in which he collected himself, and the tear, he went on.

“Now it’s all been covered up by the Gauteng Department of Health, White Monopoly Capital and the CIA, and everyone’s calling Piet a liar, a bad journalist, and all sorts of things!

“Someone even suggested Piet might’ve been lying in the job interview I did with him when he said he thought I was a great genius! I can’t bear it. What should I do?”

The toenail pondered this. “You put out a media release standing by the story, right?”

“Oh, yes, I stand by the story. I always stand by our stories. Like I stand by all those stories in which Adri Senekal de Wet told the world what a wonderful guy I am, how I’m so much more than a mere media mogul, a billionaire businessman and the greatest philanthropist the world has ever seen.”

“Okay,” said the toenail. “You stood by the story. And you know that anything you say must be absolutely 100% correct and truthful because you’re a genius, etc. So what’s the problem?” “Well, now Piet has apologised, saying he’s sorry he put the staff at the paper through this. Which is great. Leadership must be humble, no? I remember the great leader’s foot, from which you came – it was humble. But, in his apology, Piet now says there were eight babies – not 10.”

“Ah! And you’re concerned that that blows his credibility sky high?”

“Yes, that’s exactly it! How could he get it so wrong? There have to be 10 babies, or we don’t break the world record!”

“I see the problem,” said the toenail fragment wisely. “You didn’t hand over that R1-million to them, did you?”

“No, no, I just said that to show what a great philanthropist I am. I can’t get that R1-million, anyway, until someone gives me more money. Or until I sell one of my luxury apartments, and you know I don’t want to have to do that.”

“Quite right. The property market is rather depressed right now. But I don’t think the eight or 10 babies is too much of a problem. If you can’t prove the existence of 10, you can’t prove the existence of eight, so what’s the difference? Two imaginary babies, that’s all. Don’t let your resolve falter over two imaginary babies. You’re a bigger man than that.”

Doc sighed a huge sigh of relief. “Oh, toenail,” he said. “You are so clever. You have all the answers.

“And you’re so right – 10 imaginary babies, or eight, or even just two imaginary babies, what’s the difference? They’re all imaginary!”

“There you go,” said the toenail fragment comfortingly. “It’s not a problem. After all, I myself am imaginary, and that doesn’t bother me at all.” DM168

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


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  • One has to admire the doughty news professionals at IOL – faced with declining newspaper circulations they have adopted a strategy of, “If the news isn’t exciting enough then just make it up”. Particularly if it involves vast conspiracies against the group’s noble and selfless proprietor.

  • Delightfully irreverent ! BUT i do have some questions – why is it kept in cotton wool instead of a formaldehyde solution ? I forgot to mention … shortly after I started road running some 25 years ago as aform of fitness, I also ended up with the same podiatrist with a leg problem. It was in the (good old) days when he practised in my ‘backyard’ here in Lansdowne. The consultation brought no solution … but another podiatrist recommended a simple change of shoes … which solved everything ! Unfortunately I was not required to leave a nail sample in the first instance. Should I just be indignant or curse myself for not being so ‘smart’ then, to have acquired the madiba beneficence … even if twice or probably thrice removed?

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