King Cyril the Boneless has no magic wand for Eskom or his falling apart Kingdom of WakaBanana

King Cyril the Boneless has no magic wand for Eskom or his falling apart Kingdom of WakaBanana
Composite image. (Photos: Gallo Images, Pixabay and Unsplash)

Nothing the cynical press said about King Cyril's reshuffle could make the slo-mo monarch break out in a sweat.

King Cyril the Boneless reclined upon his royal couch, bolstered by large brocaded cushions and fanned by slaves – one on either side deployed great shaped leaves made from recycled newspapers, especially The Star, to keep him cool. Sweet music tinkled in the background.

“So sorry to interrupt, Your Majesty,” came a calm but urgent voice, “but it’s time for your briefing on the press reaction to your reshuffle of the King’s Council.”

“Ah, very well,” sighed the king, hoisting himself up a little. It was always time to work, work, work in this falling-apart kingdom over which he ruled, the Kingdom of WakaBanana. “Go ahead.”

Before him stood his closest advisers, the trio known officially as the Right Hand of the King, the Left Hand of the King, and the Other Hand of the King. Their given names were Gog, Magog and Cheryl, not respectively. They were the only people the king trusted (besides, of course, the Slaves of the Bedchamber and one or two of his wives).

“First, Your Majesty,” said Gog, “before we start, may I just congratulate Your Majesty on doing the deed, getting it done, and so on, after so much dith – that is, delay… And you also managed to take a short and we’re sure much-needed break in the middle of all that tedium! Looking at a few expensive cattle and so forth was, one is certain, wonderfully refreshing – and helped to clear Your Majesty’s mind just before those truly difficult last-minute decisions.”

“Yes, yes, thank you. Some marvellous cattle, really – it was truly worth going to the fair. No talk of King’s Councils and things like that!”

King Cyril settled back into his cushions. “You may proceed,” he said.

“Okay,” said Magog colloquially, “pressing on. Press reaction has been, er, mixed – as we and Your Majesty expected. In fact, the general view is that this was just a tweak to the King’s Council, not really what you may call a proper reshuffle, and Your Majesty knows we have always deplored the use of that gambling term in the hallowed halls of power. We would prefer the term ‘round-about’, to give an air of fun to the reordering of the King’s Council, which we’re sure would play very well with the press…”

“We’ve had that discussion,” said the king. “And I rather like the gambling reference, actually. I don’t say it’s a crapshoot, but there’s something risky, a bit arbitrary about this in-and-out of ministers and princes and aristocrats who claim they’re helping me to rule. It’s a dive into the unknown, isn’t it?

“I don’t know if any of these useless blathering popinjays can run anything – well, it’s almost certain they can’t – but we cannot be defeatist. Go on.”

“Some of our foremost commentators regret you were not able to shift the ministers they call the Obstacles to Progress, of course. The Baron Harkonnen of the Coalfields, for one, or Big Chief Cele of the Cops ’n’ Robbers, or the Dowager Duchess Enteezee of the Ahreetee…”

“Of course she is now minister of women, children, etc,” interjected Cheryl smoothly. “So, technically, she has shifted. Hopefully to a place where the powers of the Turban of Doom will be diminished.”

King Cyril nodded. “Well done,” he said.

Magog rode on: “And the Layabouts – pity you weren’t able to get rid of more of them…”

“Well,” interjected the king. “The flagpole guy – what’s his name? He’s gone.”

“Lord Nathi. Yes, he’s gone,” said Magog.

“Right, Nathi. Nobody likes Nathi. He’s gone,” said the king with a little smile of satisfaction. “Can we make him Ambassador to Antarctica, perhaps?”

His councillors laughed, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. Then they fell silent.

“And Princess Lindiwe?” asked the king. “Are they happy she’s gone?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, very happy. You might say they’re crowing. And that’s a well-done to Your Majesty, you know how we have been counselling your – ”

“Yeah, yeah, fire her, they said that a lot. Well, I wanted to. And I did. Eventually. They don’t know what it’s like to be at the receiving end of that woman’s bad vibes. And let’s all just hope she doesn’t rush off and reinvent herself as The Dark Amazon or something and raise an army of orcs to come and try to usurp the throne.”

The advisers shivered as one. “Your Majesty, we are watching very closely to see what the Princess does next. And bear in mind she tried to ingratiate herself with some bunch of insurrectionary ruffians a while ago and they just laughed at her high heels.”

“Good,” said the king. “She’ll be angry, though. Very angry.”

“That is true,” said Gog, “but if she gets up to any shenanigans of a rebellious nature we have the Great Cyborg Warrior Thandi Modise on our side, and she has the powers of Muscovy infiltrated into her very bones – like Wolverine and the adamantine, really.”

“Good reference,” said Magog, pressing on. “So, yes, thank goodness the Princess is gone, and, really I think we must all be thankful that Don DD is also fading into the background.”

“Yes,” murmured the king. “Though that was none of my doing. He’d reached a ceiling. He was always going to have to go back to Mpumalanga to run his operation there.”

“And there, too,” said Cheryl, “we should keep watch. The situation does seem rather unstable. If the Don can’t keep a lid on it –”

“I thought we’d agreed,” said the king testily, “that the official policy was Don’t Even Look.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” said all three advisers at once, bowing slightly. Their dark mantles brushed the floor around the toes of their feet with a whispering noise.

“So, generally,” said Magog after a short silence, “the reaction we expected from the press, Your Majesty. We can pat ourselves on the back and move on.”

“Oh, just one more thing,” said Gog. “Sorry. The new High Priest of the Temple of Eskom you appointed?”

“Yes? What was the press reaction to him? Surely they loved the idea of a new High Priest!”

“Er, well, no, I think the reaction was mostly cynical, Your Majesty. Can a new high priest stop the temple falling down, they ask, when it’s practically a ruin already and is bringing the whole country down with it?”

“That’s a harsh way to put it,” said Magog. “Let’s just say the press is generally cynical. But we’ll show them. That’s not what I wanted to say. I was asked to convey a message from the new High Priest of the Temple of Eskom to Your Majesty.”

“Yes?” The king gazed benignly upon Magog.

“Well, Your Majesty, he requests that we send over the magic wand with the greatest possible speed.”

The king sighed. “There is no magic wand.”

“What? What?” the advisers wittered among themselves. “No magic wand?”

“No, and you know it. That’s just an image we conjured up to give the people some hope. There is no magic wand. We’re merchants of hope, remember. But there is no magic wand.”

Silence fell. The advisers barely dared to breathe, and the king stared pensively into the future. Or it might have been into the richly embroidered curtains hung over one end of the chamber.

Eventually one adviser, it may have been Cheryl, asked in a low voice: “So what shall we do?”

The king paused thoughtfully for a moment, then smiled. “Lunch?” DM168

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

DM168 11/03 FRONT PAGE


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