Let’s hire a cheapie

Morning all, here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times column. Enjoying it is absolutely, entirely, one hundred percent free – if I was a politician, it would have cost you something.



Forgive me for showing my age, but I remember when we had a half-cent. You could buy something (usually a Chappie) for one cent and still get change. These days everything comes at a price. We even have to pay to have a president.

The one we have now costs us dearly. He costs us money, he’s cost us lives, and he costs us face, let’s just hope he doesn’t cost us democracy too.

But not all presidents come at a price. Jose Alberto Mujica Cordano, Pepe to his friends, is the poorest president in the world. I mean poor financially, not poor performance-wise.

Mujica, the President of Uruguay since 2010, has been well documented. He was a former guerrilla fighter, who was captured a handful of times, escaped prison once, and was shot six times. He served fourteen years in prison, two of them locked in the bottom of a well.  You’d think he’d be the first to buy an extra soft king-sized mattress at the expense of his people. Instead he chooses to live a frighteningly simple life. There’s no red carpet, or eating sushi off a naked model while swigging Johnny Walker Black for this guy.

Instead, Pepe’s Nkandla is a one bedroom, ramshackle working farm, and his upgraded security detail is two guards parked on the approach road, and a mangy three-legged dog named Manuela. He settles for just the one wife, who has a job, and they grow and sell chrysanthemums from their farm to supplement their income. 90% of which they donate to charity. Sound familiar? No, I didn’t think so.

It’s not that Uruguay doesn’t have an opulent presidential mansion, or tons of staff, Pepe just chooses not to use any of them.

This generosity of spirit brings the President of Uruguay’s salary roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of about $775 a month. Somebody give that man a Bell’s. No I mean it, really. How can we get him here? Somebody dangle some biltong under his nose. And let’s get a crate of Mrs Balls Chutney, Peppermint Crisps, and Nik Naks delivered to him by Minki van der Westhuizen, stat. That should do the trick. We need him way more than Uruguay does right now.

Maybe the good presidents out there should be more like Lassie, and once they’ve achieved what they need to achieve in their own country, they show their people sad puppy-dog eyes and then trot off into the sunset as a soundtrack swells, ready to go find a new country to fix.

Pepe, we need you. And if not you, do you have a younger, hotter brother? As our elections get closer it feels like we’re a little short on options and could do with another choice. It’s like we’ve all been on the same dating website for too long. And the same handful of possible mates keep going round and round, like three pm sushi on a sushi belt.

If the fact that Pepe drives an ancient VW Beetle, has no kids, and always flies economy class isn’t enough to convince you, if I told you he legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage, and that his government sets prices for essentials like milk, and provides free computers and education for every child, would that convince you? Jose Mujica for president, viva! Who’s with me?

Let’s just get him placed on our ballot, and if we all vote for him he can’t possibly say no, after all, he’s all about democracy and the people would have spoken. He would just have to pack up his one bedroom home, which shouldn’t take him too long, kiss his wife goodbye, jump on an easy-jet flight, and come over to sort us out.

Pepe is quoted as saying, ‘I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live.’ That would be ours then.

I’ve finally figured out why our president needs (or would want) so very many wives. It’s obviously a safety measure. He knows that if he ever has to repay what he’s taken from us, his wives may have to get jobs.


Uruguay’s Nkandla
El Presidente and his dog


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