ONE day I hope to have the pleasure of taking President Jacob Zuma out for lunch. The chances are small, I know. The man is very busy these days protecting his friends, the bankless Gupta family, and running away from his erstwhile friend Julius Malema in parliament. But one must hope that he will make time for me soon.
When he first became president, way back in 2009, the man invited me and a few other people who write long and wordy columns about him for lunch at his house in Pretoria.
He kept us waiting for hours, then finally arrived and gave us a long spiel about how he intended to reconfigure government to better serve the “masses of our own people”.
Then we ate. There was pap. There was a lovely stew. It had all been kept warm while we waited. Then he was whisked off swiftly. I didn’t get a word in.
Zuma essentially told us that he stood for certain things and he would be fulfilling them in his tenure. Well, he hasn’t.
The man has staggered from one disastrous policy position to another. Land expropriation? Depends on who is standing in front of him. Independence of treasury? If a bunch of bankers are in the room Zuma will morph into Adam Smith. If he is addressing the SA Communist Party his best Karl Marx is hauled out. Does he support Pravin Gordhan? Does he support his favourite finance minister, David Des van Rooyen? What does he really stand for? This is what bugs foreign and domestic investors. What you see and hear is not what you get.
Which is why I want to take him to Magica Roma in Cape Town. The thing about Magica Roma is that consistency and certainty are what you expect and what you get. I was last at this unassuming, much-loved, much-lauded Italian family restaurant in 2012. The quality of the welcome at the door was fantastic, as was the service. The waiters are top-notch. The food is excellent.
The place has been a Cape Town favourite for years and it remains hugely popular because it serves authentic Italian food and fresh fish of a high quality every day and does not chop or change. It never disappoints. It was packed at midday when I arrived there last week to meet my friend Jeremy Boraine. At 2pm, when we left, it was full. Why? Virtually everyone in that room was a returnee. Certainty made them come back. They were not worried that the owners and the chef were fighting à la Zuma vs Gordhan. Or that a Van Rooyen would be appointed in place of a competent Nhlanhla Nene, thus spoiling the broth.
The menu is longish, and offers up the full Italian fare from antipasto of caprese to carpaccio and selections of Italian meats, grilled red peppers, artichokes and olives. Then there are soups, salads, pastas and pizzas.
The night before I had dreamt about what I wanted to eat. I asked the maître d’ to make me a seafood pasta with a touch of chilli, some garlic and olive oil. He obliged with their spaghetti allo scoglio, which is an assortment of seafood and shrimps with chilli and garlic sauce. It was delicious, exactly as I remembered it from years ago.
Jeremy was being very healthy, I noticed, opting for calamari with vegetables. We washed it down with a delicious Frascati that was light and supremely quaffable. It was a straight Frascati white wine, no surprises there either.
We left feeling satiated and as happy as we had been on past visits. That is the kind of certainty and consistency investors want. Zuma could learn a few things at Magica Roma.
**** Magica Roma
8 Central Square
Tel: (021) 531-1489
***** Mcebisi Jonas
* Jacob Zuma