The participants sat in a circle (that much he had seen in his mind’s eye) but they nestled comfortably in leather armchairs in their bespoke three-piece suits.
Cyril recognised a few of them from meetings of the African Union, but now all conformed to the white monopoly capital dress code. On the floor was an expensive, all-wool carpet and assistants poured coffee from exquisite silver jugs into the finest china cups. The large wooden doors closed and he knew he was up next.
That’s how they ran things at Arrear-oholics Anonymous, he’d been told.
“Hello, everyone. My name is Cyril and I’m an arrear-oholic. I’m broke but I can’t stop spending.”
“Hello, Cyril!” went the chorus of voices.
The moderator, who could have been George Soros or Warren Buffett (Cyril wasn’t sure – all white men in suits looked the same to him), then said gently: “Go ahead, Cyril, we are all friends here”.
Even though he’d rehearsed in the private jet coming over (thanks, Mr Rupert), he could still feel the tears welling up.
“It all started small – with a plan to buy some ships for the Navy. But, you know how it goes,” he said as he looked around.
“You see the word ‘billion’ on the proposals and then you touch your first US$100 bill and go to your first Davos meeting…”
There were sympathetic nods from the group.
“The next thing, there was an entire arms deal package, with submarines and supersonic fighter jets. It should have been obvious we didn’t need any of that: who was going to attack us and who was going to sink our kreef boats?”
A Rolex-bound hand shot up. “What’s kreef?”
“It’s lobster,” said Cyril.
“No good without French champagne!” said the member from West Africa.
Cyril swallowed hard.
“Then came that firepool in the middle of nowhere…”
“Swimming is important and you can’t only have pools at your Riviera villas,” said the chirpy West African delegate again.
“After that, there were the Indian friends who needed to be kept happy. They were so nice and their curries in Saxonwold were so tasty, it was difficult to refuse a billion or two here and there…”
Cyril pulled out a photo of a locomotive.
“Once you are hooked, then you have to satisfy the craving, even if it makes no sense. So, billions went to trains which couldn’t be used, power stations which took three times longer to finish…” Cyril was on a roll now.
“Now there is the national health insurance, which is hundreds of billions more…”
The moderator stood up.
“There is a solution, Cyril. We will give you a loan from the International Monetary Fund. You and the other negotiators will get a commission.”
“Your people will pay. For years. You won’t. You can keep your mansion and your buffalo. There will be higher prices for everything. More taxes. Less development. More unemployment…”
The moderator turned to the quiet man in the corner: “Isn’t that correct, Mr Mnangagwa?”