The President’s dilemma*

By Rafiq Raji

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‘Good morning, Mr President.’ Thabo made sure to steady his voice as he exchanged pleasantries with his boss. This morning, especially. As Chief of Staff, it was his job to broach difficult subjects with him before they became issues.

‘Morning, Thabo. How are you this morning.’ Why the heck does he want to know how I am? Sh*t f*ck! Does he know? Thabo was in a panic. He finally ran out of patience with his drinking buddy at the bar last night. The doctor said the stitches wouldn’t be obvious. Wasn’t the make-up supposed to do the magic. Thabo knew he should not have trusted that sweet-talking baldie. His security detail hushed things up, of that he was sure. But the president had spies everywhere.

‘Thabo?’ the president said. ‘Yes, very well, I’m quite fine this morning’ the flustered Chief of Staff answered.

President Tshabalala was always in good spirits. To the ignorant, he came across as exceedingly charming. To those in the know however, that charm masked a very steely temperament. The man was a survivor. After the umpteenth scandal, you’d think he’d be licking his wounds in his village compound by now. It was only a matter of time before he was kicked out of State House, the Deputy President said then. The other grandies thought so too. He was still here, old wily fox that he is.

When the president first told him he had nominated him to lead his staff, it was almost too good to be true. Not that Thabo Njoko was not ambitious. After all, that was the only reason he joined politics during those heady freedom-fighting days back in Varsity. It was ambition that drove him to run for the presidency of the University Students Union. He’d always thought his fellow students were a little naïve. What power did a student president who hoped to graduate have against those with the means to stop him? He’d always longed for real power to do things, change things. Top on his agenda was to change the racial mix of God’s Own Country’s economic system. This was supposed to be easy under a President Tshabalala. Well, at least so he thought. The President had been unusually slow in announcing a replacement for the outgoing Governor of the Central Bank of God’s Own Country (CBGOC).

‘Mr President, I say this with all due respect. But you need to get off your a** and appoint a new central bank governor’

President Tshabalala raised his head slowly and stared at his Chief of Staff. The boy had some guts, you had to give him that. He’d always been irritated by how easily his ministers jumped on his every word like he was the messiah himself. Bloody wimps! But on this morning, Thabo surely didn’t choose a good time to be courageous.

‘What did you just say, Thabo?’ The president was clearly irritated, Thabo thought.

‘My apologies, Mr President.’ The Wand depreciated by 5% again yesterday.

This appointment cannot be delayed any longer.’

The president’s indecision on the matter was still a mystery to him. Surely, the president was not about to throw away this opportunity. Thabo had thought about what he was going to make sure the press secretary said when the appointment was finally made. They were going to rid those communists of their favourite talking point. With the finance minister and central bank governor both black, it would be difficult for the president’s opponents to continue to say God’s Own Country was still under economic subjugation. At least, so Thabo thought.

‘Tell me, Thabo. Those pair of shoes you are wearing. It is leather, isn’t it?’ ‘Why do you think it is priced so high it could buy you a hundred cows? It is made of cow hide after all, is it not?’

Thabo pondered about the right answer. The old man usually went philosophical before a dress down. Best to keep quiet. ‘It is a simple question, Thabo’ said the President.

‘I’m not sure I see your point, Mr President. ‘Take a seat, boy!’ This was not going well. Thabo prepared for the worst.

‘Why did that bank appoint two co-CEOs, one white, one black? ‘Better still, do you think they could ever appoint two white co-CEOs?’ Thabo had many shortcomings; dullness was not one of them. President Tshabalala hoped the boy would finally learn something. After all, he could be President himself someday.

‘Oh, I see. You need to replace Dr. Kruger with another Dr. Kruger. Crickey!’

‘Now you understand the dilemma our great father faced’ said the president.

Thabo was astonished at how politically immature he really was. God’s Own country could not afford the two guardians of the country’s economy to both be black. Not yet, at least. It all made sense now. When markets worried about Dr. Kruger’s upcoming departure, it was not really because they’d miss him. Of course, he’d done a fine job. In spite of the ratings downgrade and labour unrest, global market participants’ confidence in the Central Bank of God’s Own Country (CBGOC) remained unwavering. Dr. Kruger’s fine stewardship was a major factor, of course. The old fox knew that although Dr. Kruger’s deputies were more than qualified, market participants would remain jittery for a while if any one of them were appointed. The administration needed some reprieve on the economy. Not with all the other problems the president was still grappling with.

‘I’ll prepare a list of suitable candidates right away, Mr President.’

***********

*The President’s dilemma is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

*Photo credit: http://www.missouriskies.org

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