Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GCIS
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GCIS

Ardent fans of Tintin will know that his final proper adventure takes him to the fictional South American country of San Theodoros, to rescue strident opera singer Bianca Castafiore, who has been imprisoned by General Tapioca’s venal regime.

Early on, you see Tintin’s plane on its approach to Tapiocapolis over a shackland slum patrolled by soldiers in Nazi-style helmets, under a billboard declaring "Viva Tapioca".

At the end, after Tintin has helped General Alcazar topple the regime, his plane climbs over a shackland slum patrolled by Alcazar’s troops, in Fidel Castro-style caps, under a billboard shouting "Viva Alcazar".

Hergé the cynical satirist was marinated in the expression plus ça change.

Replace "San Theodoros" with Zimbabwe, and Tintin’s plane with the SA Air Force’s Dassault Falcon 900 VIP jet, and you have the outline for SA’s thus far pointless interventions to assist our neighbour get back on track.

Not that there’s anything wrong with using the jet to fly delegations to another country — without commercial flights, it will have to do, even if it looks bad.

Had any of the ANC delegation thought "Maybe we could have just phoned?", it would have spared outraged howls, and given defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula something better to do than write explanations to the president.

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