#FakeNewsFriedman: Parliamentary pot plants outrage opposition

#AloeGate, some analysts say, is just like Nkandla, only on a much smaller scale.

DISCLAIMER: #FakeNewsFriedman is a satirical column. That means it’s not particularly real. 

The decision of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to deliver his maiden budget speech while holding a pot plant – specifically, a succulent – has not gone unnoticed, and already some uncomfortable questions are being asked.

The plant has been confirmed by botanical experts – and Mboweni himself – to be an aloe ferox.

But this was no ordinary aloe. According to the minister, it was a metaphor too, and not just any metaphor: An elaborate one.

“A few years ago, Madam Speaker, one of my predecessors [Trevor Manuel] handed out succulent plums to the members of this house, to demonstrate the times of plenty we were in,” Mboweni said.

“If we look after what we sow, and what we have ploughed and laboured over so tirelessly, since the founding of our democracy, it will grow and the seed will bear fruit. However, if we abandon our fields, the seeds we plant will wither,” he continued, in what analysts have called an impressive display of his commitment to the metaphor.

“Despite our best efforts, sometimes, ravages and risks such as pests or rot could attack our green shoots, but we must persevere; we must prune and pluck away at the rot, until there is growth,” Mboweni said, still riding the metaphor.

“It is time for us to sow the seed of renewal and growth. But for the seed to be prosperous, as Zachariah enjoins us, we must first cultivate the soil. As a part-time farmer, I know that in order for the people to possess all these things, we have to plant anew,” he added, providing persuasive evidence that while some people may not know how to explore a metaphor to its limits, he was not one of them. [NOTE: While this article is satirical, these are actual quotes from Tito Mboweni]

According to the opposition, however, Mboweni’s metaphor may have come at a high price to the fiscus.

A prominent member of the DA, who chose to remain anonymous, has called for the Public Protector to investigate where the pot plants came from.

“Who paid for those aloes? Probably the taxpayer,” he said, adding that under a DA government everyone would have two jobs each and diamonds would rain down from the sky.

“Today, South Africans get to chew on a bitter aloe leaf with more promises that the sweet taste will still come,” said Good’s Patricia De Lille [NOTE: This is an actual quote from Patricia De Lille].

According to a prominent member of the EFF, who also asked to remain anonymous, the aloes offered proof that the media only focused on the party’s role in the VBS scandal as a way of deflecting from President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet’s corrupt use of aloes.

The BLF’s Andile Mngxitama described the aloe as a “racist, anti-black” plant, adding that Mboweni’s decision to use it was undeniable proof of the fact that he was a “foot soldier of white monopoly capital (WMC), who was installed as finance minister by Johann Rupert and the Oppenheimers to prevent radical economic transformation (RET) and leave the majority of South Africans landless” [NOTE: This is not an actual quote].

AfriForum, meanwhile, released a statement saying that while its organisation had no problem with succulents and it was in no way plantist, the mere existence of these particular aloes amounted to “hate speech” and they would be appointing a legal team including Barry Roux, Gerrie Nel and Harvey Specter to take action.

The Citizen spoke to a leading horticulturalist, who chose to remain anonymous. A good aloe ferox plant, according to her, can sell for up to R300.

Pictures taken at the budget speech suggested that at least three aloes were present at the 2019 budget speech. Mboweni’s metaphor may therefore have set the taxpayer back as much as R900.

To put that into perspective, this is what that money could have bought:

  • Almost 1% of an RDP house
  • 0.0000015% of Eskom’s debt
  • About nine textbooks
  • Four Woolworths avocados
  • Five Nando’s family meals.

A Treasury source – who asked to remain anonymous due to fears this reporter may recently also have had exposure to a different kind of pot plant – attempted to deflect on the spending by pointing out that they’d actually tried, quite badly too, to patch the plastic pots up with tape to save money.

The department of finance had not yet responded to requests for comment.

Concerned citizens, particularly the author of this article, have started the hashtag #AloeGate. It has not yet trended on Twitter.

The Citizen digital news editor Daniel Friedman. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

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