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Phala Phala steaks, Digital Vibes biryani, Zuma-Sambudla burgers – branding opportunities to dine out on

Phala Phala steaks, Digital Vibes biryani, Zuma-Sambudla burgers – branding opportunities to dine out on
Left: Schabir Shaik. (Photo: Richard Shorey / Gallo Images) | Right: Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

After Zuma dances at a posh restaurant called Zuma, branding opportunities beckon for other has-been politicians.

How cheering it was to see Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik dancing together at a restaurant named, entirely coincidentally, Zuma. How those old fraudsters must have valued that time spent together! I can’t imagine they’ve had a cheek-to-cheek since they were plotting to extort money from a French arms dealer, back in their glory days.

Clearly, though, those glory days aren’t over. There are still mountains to climb, long walks to financial reward to be walked. Let it not be said either of them have simply given up and retired to their gilded cages.

And it’s amazing, really, that they overcame their terminal ailments long enough to go dancing. It must be very hard to suffer from a mystery illness for years, nay, decades, without actually reaching the terminus – so stressful! So wearing on the nerves!

But Zuma and Shaik have shown the nation that they have nerves of steel, getting up to dance for the people even as the Russian cortisone surges through their wrecked and raddled bodies.

And to put such a brave face on it, too – looking at the two of them boogie the night away, big smiles on their faces, you’d never have thought they had ever seen the inside of a jail cell, or even been to court to face charges of bribery and corruption. Or been declared terminally ill by one of the Arthur Frasers of the world.

Fraser being, of course, a most distinguished medical scientist, specialising in the mystery terminal ailments that get convicts paroled, so his view on matters counts. He’s practically the Dr Fauci of Correctional Services. To get Fraser’s imprimatur on your fatal illness is surely an achievement not easily won by us ordinary mortals suffering from ordinary mortal ailments, or even by those ordinary convicts dying of Aids, Covid, cancer or indeed the septicaemia induced by untreated stab wounds.

I was still a bit disappointed, though, to read that the name of Zuma Restaurant has nothing to do with Jacob G Zuma, former president and present convict-on-the-run, or even to do with his daughter, the fiery riot-instigator Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, she of the mega-hair-extensions and wetly revealed kardashians.

No: apparently Zuma is a Japanese chain, and it has restaurants in Doha, Istanbul, Bangkok and doubtless Vladivostok too.

Luckily the South African branch has a website that tells us the restaurant serves a “contemporary Mediterrasian cuisine”, and no, that’s not a string of typos: it’s the fusion of Mediterranean and Asian. So you can get some noodles with your Caprese salad, right? Oh, it’s “flambéd sushi”! How tasty that must be, if perhaps a little chewy.

The name is apparently drawn from Arabic and Aztec, two languages that have hitherto been seen as entirely unrelated. This is obviously a major breakthrough in historical linguistics, and one in the eye for those Western scholars who believe the Aztecs were overly fond of sacrificing prisoners of war by chopping out their hearts while they still breathed (heavily) on the altar.

For the word “Zuma”, we are told, means “peace” in Aztec-Arabic. In Spanish, it means “juice”, which you’d have thought was more appropriate for a restaurant, but at Zuma Restaurant the emphasis is on “sharing food in a peaceful, soulful environment”. There was a time when South Africans could do that at home, but perhaps it’s best that it is now outsourced to fine-dining establishments like this one. Peace is for the rich.

All this made me think that the notion of a Zuma restaurant, even if it’s wholly unconnected to the actual Zuma family of Nkandla, KZN, South Africa, is a good idea that really should have legs for more of our high-flying, high-living political celebrities than just one family. It’s a branding opportunity that should not be left to slide into oblivion like a Zuma-era minister or head of a state-owned enterprise trying to live down his or her track record of funnelling money to an immigrant crime family.

Zuma-Sambudla, already nicknamed Zuma-Sambuca for reasons as yet unclear to the alcoholic general populace, could surely develop a fast-food chain of that name. Fast food with free sambuca shooters! Or a Black Russian with your bean burger, maybe?

Please note, readers, that I’m not calling Zuma-Sambudla a bean burger, however lush her kardashians. I just think that, given her history of extremely quick, up-to-the-minute interventions in looting and rioting situations, she’d be more suited to running a fast-food chain than a “Mediterrasian” restaurant; I doubt she has the patience for all that fusion cookery, though she certainly has a taste for anything flambéd – especially shopping centres.

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If Lindiwe Sisulu is at a loose end after being fired from her latest ministerial post, which we all hope will happen soon to free her up from those onerous constitutional vows and the rule of law, she can go into the restaurant business too. Or perhaps she could look at a chain of chisanyamas – upmarket ones, naturally. She could add some class and style (see her elbow-length pink gloves, see her MK stilettos) to the local township favourite.


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Thus she could, when she makes her next stab at the presidency of the ANC (in 2022, 2027, 2122…), claim she has done something – anything! – to uplift the impoverished people of South Africa.

She may not have been able to provide them with clean water, or to have cleared the housing backlog, or even to have made South Africa safer for those darn European tourists who keep getting murdered in charming out-of-the-way places, but her chain of Lindiwe’s Upmarket Chisanyamas would have introduced the nation to the joys of pink gloves, crazy hairdos and the hard-won ability to kiss Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma with a straight face.

Good Vibes

I’m thinking that Zweli Mkhize, another ANC presidential hopeful, could set up a stylish little venue called Digital Vibes in, say, Melrose Arch. At such a venue, apart from overpaying for a biryani or the like, which you will happily do for the sake of sitting on such well-padded couches, you could have digital connections at each table.

You could plug in your phone, if there’s no load shedding, and check on how your Spotify account is doing (what did I listen to this year?), or otherwise participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is slowly working its way across the Atlantic.

Otherwise you could simply drag deeply on your hookah and contemplate the lovely, multicoloured vibes swirling digitally around the venue.

Mention of well-padded couches brings me, with a natural segue, to our President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was just the other day planning to resign but then changed his mind. If he changes his mind again, or if he’s just wondering how to fill his post-presidential time while his billion-rand investments tick over, he might well see the sense in a Phala Phala Eaterie.

There’d be some confusion with his game farm, but you’ve got to develop and extend a franchise idea, and the Phala Phala brand is very much at the forefront of the citizens’ minds right now. Patrons could tuck into some thick buffalo steak, or perhaps nibble on some springbok carpaccio, as they ponder their next money-laundering venture or forex scam.

I was going to say that the Prez shouldn’t miss out on this key branding moment, but then I rethought that. There is every indication, as we stand, that this opportunity to develop, elaborate and roll out the Phala Phala brand will drag on for some time, perhaps till he’s finished being President. Slow food, anyone? DM168

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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