The 99 Days of the Commercial Dictator


The Republic rose from his bed this morning with the knowledge that this is not just an ordinary Monday. This – and the string quartet hits a few quick notes – is the First Day of the 99 Days of the Commercial Dictator!

Even though the morning was glorious and the day pregnant with possibility, it did not take long for a bit of turbulence to hit the Council Chambers. The COM-DIC wanted to start his administration with a little “house cleaning,” and asked the Writer to please lend a hand. The Writer indignantly flashed the COM-DIC a glance and said everyone knows he never touches a broom, to which the COM-DIC retaliated with, “No wonder the place looks the way it does!”

The New Leader then took it upon himself to touch a few spots in the Council Chambers with a broom and duster, while the Writer listlessly paged through a photo album. (This then almost resulted in a second altercation, because the People wanted to know whether time can be spent on photo albums during the New Time. The Secretary considered this matter for a moment. Then he declared that it had been permissible during the Time of the Writer, and because the New Time is based on the Dedication of the Writer, it should also not be a problem under the current regime.)

During the press conference that followed shortly after the cleaning session, the question arose as to who is technically responsible for writing the text that you, the reader, are currently reading.

The Secretary grabbed the microphone, and firmly announced that such questions, especially after the unpleasantness with the broom, will not be tolerated. He glanced sideways at his tea that was getting cold, and muttered to himself, “The last thing the Republic needs right now is a New Identity Crisis.” He snatched the microphone from its stand and roared, “This New Time will be remembered as a time of unity! Strife has no place in times like these! After all, does the Honoured Writer not stand for such noble principles?!” The Secretary realized the question forced a pensive mood on all present, then added, “And everyone ought to know better than to sling a broom in the Writer’s direction …

“Anyway,” he continued, “during the next 99 days the focus will be on one thing and one thing only: a shameless, unprecedented, feverish pursuit of profit. The reasons have long been laid out; the motivations are honourable. Certain matters must be made possible, and the Board unanimously decided in favour of this strategy during the last Big Session on Thursday, 12 February 2004.

“To the People, the Primary Characters as well as the Secondary Characters we wish luck and plenty of inspiration.” A glimmer of optimism was evident in the Secretary’s eyes. “Wisdom, skill, and good fortune are also our wishes for our Temporary New Leader, the Commercial Dictator!” No applause followed the use of the New Leader’s official title, but all the characters tried their best to look busy for the moment.

“Finally,” and with these words the Secretary’s face became solemn and the microphone was pushed back in its clip, “to the Writer we wish a pleasant furlough. At the end of this 99-day period work will resume on literary projects, hopefully with packed suitcases, and bags full of money. Long live … everything that is good.”

The Juluka song “Akanaki Nokunaka” had been chosen as anthem for the New Time, but none of the characters could pronounce the lyrics properly. Everyone knew the lyrics to the old Boer folk song “Sarie Marais,” though, and everyone agreed that it captured the mood most profoundly. The Musician was called in to accompany on his guitar, but he started trembling and mumbled something about a “terrible headache” – understandable since it was the first time in many years he was called from his obscure hiding place.

After the last mournful notes had drifted from the windows of the Council Chambers, all raised a single finger into the air and cried like One Man, “Let the New Time Begin!”