Free At Last
Zuma shuffled on the chair. His ass was numb from sitting for so long. He was determined to put on a brave face and not show his discomfort. He strained himself to move, ever so slightly, to relieve the pressure. His bald head glistened in the harsh light of the interrogation room. His spectacles were anchored by his large nose. He presented the strangest of images, not because of his physical features, but his clothing. His blue and white silk Louis Vuitton pajamas are a contrast to the environment. One would expect a prisoner to be wearing an orange jumpsuit, and prison clothing. Zuma wore his pajamas with pride, his feet wrapped in leather slippers with sheepskin lining. The cold interrogation room sent shivers down his spine but this was a normal human response to the environment. He had been imprisoned alone. His entourage had been attending to his every need. His privacy, respect, and status had been maintained throughout this entire fiasco.
The silence was interrupted when the door to the interrogation room was flung open and a secret service official walked into the room. His shiny formal shoe tap-tapping as he walked in and surveyed the room and positioned himself in a corner. Zuma grinned, visibly pleased at the presence of the secret service agent. The president entered the interrogation cell. His white teeth glistened in the dark and dingy environment.
‘Baba Zuma, how are you?’ The president asked politely.
‘How do you think I am? Locked up like a common criminal! Is this the way you would treat your father? I am your leader, even though you might not recognize it, I am still the leader!’ Zuma responded, ignoring the president’s outstretched hand.
‘“How” Baba, you are not treated like a common criminal, you have been given an entire prison to yourself. You are free, within these four walls. Is there anything you lack or desire that I can provide for you?’ The president responded, once again with kindness.
‘Give me my freedom! I ask for nothing else. I do not wish to be your caged dog. I am a king amongst men. Do you wish for this country to burn?’ Zuma’s threats did not go unnoticed.
The president did not take kindly to being threatened. He stood, turned, and marched out of the interrogation room without another word. Zuma smiled again. He knew he had the upper hand. Zuma’s evening passed quickly. He was served dinner in his room. The meal consisting of four courses was fit for a king. The roast duck did not sit well with him and he guzzled down more red wine than usual. He fell asleep watching Netflix and his valet switched off the television and tucked the covers for him whilst he snored loudly.
‘Nkosi’, the valet whispered and touched Zuma on his arm. Zuma groaned and turned away. Once again, the valet touched him on his arm and shook him a little harder, hoping to wake Zuma but not enrage the bull.
‘What do you want? Can’t you leave me in peace? This prison lifestyle is hard enough without you waking me up at some ungodly hour. What do you want?’ Zuma bellowed at the timid servant.
‘He wishes to see you again. He has sent a message to the guards. He will be here soon. Nkosi, there are many messages on your mobile phone, would you like to read them?’ The valet asked, genuinely afraid.
Zuma looked at the mobile phone. His eyes barely adjusted to the sunlight in the room. He couldn’t help but curse his situation.
‘Bloody prison conditions!’ He grumbled.
The first message he read made him sit up in bed. He read through ten messages and still couldn’t fathom what was going on. He thought to himself, Riots for his release, impossible. Finally, he came across a message that explained. The message was short,
‘Your freedom is near. People have been mobilized. Negotiate for Sharma's release on your own. Your “curry” friend. Gupta.’
Zuma laughed. He was a king amongst men. His friends from abroad had come through for him. He switched on the television and watched the mayhem and chaos for a few minutes, proud of himself. He was still in bed when his valet walked in with the president. This time he was not accompanied by any secret service agent and the valet placed a chair at the bedside for the president. Zuma was wolfing down his breakfast from a lap tray when the president entered and he continued, not even acknowledging the president’s presence. The eggs and sausage were piled high on the plate and the yolk from an egg had dripped onto his chin, which he ignored and continued eating.
‘Baba Nkosi.’ The president greeted Zuma, this time with humility and without sarcasm.
‘Yes, my boy, how can I help you today?’ Zuma asked casually, his eyes fixed on his plate.
‘You are bedridden, we will tell the word you are medically unfit. You need to go home and rest. You need to spend the rest of your days with your family, your medical condition is dire.’ The president’s words echoed in the silent room.
Zuma finally stopped eating, placed his knife and fork on the plate, dabbed his yolk-soaked chin with a napkin, and looked up at the president. Mr. President felt like he was a naughty schoolboy standing in front of the principal of the school after having been caught kissing a girl behind the school building. Zuma sat up, his 800-count Egyptian cotton sheets falling to the floor. His fat round forehead creased as he stared at the feeble president sitting at his bedside.
‘Release Mr. Sharma from prison immediately. Give me medical parole. If I ever see the inside of a jail cell again in this country, you will join me. Gupta will arrange for your payment. Release me from this dump. Let me be free at last!’