Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS

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FM Edition:

What a country! One minute we hold a free, fair and fabulous election and you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, we are about to become a world-class destination. The next minute you are tightening the seatbelt and considering your options.

All because Uncle Jacob has been handed the cockpit key and you don’t know what in the world he will do next.

I know many Financial Mail readers who, just last week, were hailing the strengthening of the rand and planning their holidays in some far-flung destination. It was all looking good.

Then along came Brother Jacob, nose bloody from the DA and EFF taking away the crown jewels of Jo’burg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay municipalities in the local elections. We should all have seen the flashing lights when the ANC national executive sat for four days and came out of its meeting saying no-one was to blame for its electoral decline.

Then, as if that act of blindness was not enough, the party told us it would tell government not to increase university fees this year. Oh dear. What was going on? The ANC was talking Left economics, but what’s scary is that it was not walking centre-right as has been its wont. It was trying to head off the EFF by appeasing the students.

Then the cabinet lekgotla sat for another four days and we were told a committee would report to Zuma on all decisions on state-owned enterprises! So if finance minister Pravin Gordhan wants to reconstitute the SAA board, as he should have done years ago, Zuma can tell him to take a hike. So, too, at Eskom, where the Guptas get paid half a billion rand — just like that.

I know you are chuckling at my jokes — or weeping, which is about the same thing — but here’s some cold water over your head, my dear reader. Zuma’s assault on national treasury has now virtually guaranteed that we will be downgraded to junk status by year-end. In the space of seven years the man has taken us from a decent, mid-tier country with prospects to basket-case status.

Will the ANC do anything about it? The party can’t do it and it won’t do it because Zuma has ensured most of its leaders have their snouts in the trough, too. Those who start whimpering that things are going wrong get swiftly reminded that they have apple crumble around their mouths. Ho hum.

Which is why, when we needed to eat, my good friend Christiaan Vorster and I went for the best restaurant in East London. We walked there. The Tourism Centre on the promenade is empty. Shut down. Buildings are empty. Dustbins were tipped over. When I went to the promenade for a run earlier, the place was being used as a car wash. I had hoped to see young lovers swooning over each other. Or tourists. It is depressing. This should be a major tourist destination.

No matter. I have been going to Grazia for years now. It is an oasis of calm and service whenever I am in East London. I am not the only one who thinks so. On a Tuesday evening, it was full of businesspeople, young couples, families and even some national treasury officials.

The menu is in the form of an inventive little book, with everything from starters to mains and the wine list, all with an Italian bent to them. We knew exactly what we wanted. I had the garlic snails to start with while Christiaan had the springbok carpaccio. Washed down with a Spier sauvignon blanc, it was very good.

Christiaan had a steak. Gino, the enthusiastic waiter, had said the farmed kabeljou was good, and it was. Though it was a grim week, things didn’t seem too bad after that meal.

**** Grazia Fine Food and Wine
Upper Esplanade
Beach Front
East London
Tel: (043) 722-2009


***** Pravin Gordhan
**** Excellent
*** Good
** Poor
* Zuma