PETER HITCHENS on South Africa's next president
Read the rest of the article here, if you can stomach it.Imagine how you would react if Gordon Brown opened and closed his election rallies by bursting into a song called Bring Me My Machine Gun, swaying and jigging to the hypnotic chorus of this menacing ditty.
And how would you feel if the Prime Minister were alleged to be taking campaign money from Colonel Gaddafi; faced 783 counts of fraud, racketeering, tax evasion and corruption which somehow never came to court; and had been acquitted of rape while his fearsome supporters mobbed the courthouse?
Then ponder how you would despair if, despite all these things, Mr Brown's party was certain to win the election whatever he did or said.
If you can picture all this happening here, then you have an inkling of the horrible process South Africa is now going through. Except it is much, much worse.
This fast-approaching catastrophe is a source of shame and apprehension to millions of honest people, white and black, in South Africa itself.
It is also a tragedy for Africa as a whole, a continent hungry for any reason to hope. And it is grave news for the civilised world, which needs no more failed states.
Yet I can promise you I will be accused of alarmism and pessimism for saying so, and quite possibly of 'racism' too.
Why? All the soppy admirers of Nelson Mandela - especially the BBC - gave the new South Africa a free pass when apartheid ended 15 years ago.
They wanted to believe this complicated and important nation had become a sort of heaven on Earth where all tears were dried and all problems solved.
Mr Mandela himself, personally decent but politically ineffectual and naive, served as both figurehead and figleaf for the new order. The world ignored or forgave his continuing friendships with the world's worst despots, and the fraudulent bungling that surrounded him.
Now, looking frail, bemused and ancient, he recently had to be helped on to the stage by his suspect would-be successor, to endorse the grotesque rabble who seek to succeed him.
Once, South Africa dominated the nightly news for weeks on end. Now the liberal media barely mention it. Why not? Because post-apartheid South Africa is a failure.
You don't hear about the terrifying crime. You don't hear about the pestilence of corruption, or the absurd purchase of needless submarines and aircraft for a country with no serious enemies except its own elite.
There is a little about AIDS, but nothing like as much as there should be, given the acres of graves that commemorate the government's moronic policies, of denial and folk remedies (including beetroot).
Violent xenophobic rage against uncontrolled mass immigration was played down both in South Africa and abroad because it did not fit the smiley picture beloved by the Mandela worshippers. And little is said about the unstoppable spread of shanty towns, far outstripping state attempts to build proper houses for the poor.
Electricity blackouts - the invariable sign of a country on the slide - are now frequent. The ill-run nuclear power station inherited from the apartheid regime's atom bomb programme is beginning to judder and fail, raising fears of an African Chernobyl.
Then there are the overstretched water supply, the railway system fraying at the edges and the unguarded borders open to migrants and refugees from every destitute nation in Africa.
It is largely thanks to these new arrivals that wretched, instant slums sprout right up to the edge of Cape Town's slick new airport, currently being expensively modernised ready for the World Cup next year during which Mandela groupies will doubtless once again swoon about the 'success' of the Rainbow Nation.
Of course much of tourist South Africa still looks like the American West Coast: smooth six-lane highways, shopping malls, big houses in shady gardens, all tended by cheap black servants.
But close to the prettiness is fear and apprehension. Even in the lovely Cape wine country, squatter camps have erupted on the outskirts of towns where chefs drizzle olive oil on to fancy salads less than a mile from open sewers and gang wars among corrugated iron shacks.
Here is another world, much bigger than the tourist paradise, and truly, cruelly poor.
It is also increasingly hostile to the soft enclaves where the new rich and the holidaymakers are apparently oblivious of the filth, hunger, alcoholic stupor, drug-taking and wretchedness which lie just the other side of every hill.
Like ice and fire, these two societies cannot coexist forever, and when one is 40 million strong and the other one tenth of that, there is little doubt which will win. The only question is how and when the dreamtime will end.
In the coming weeks, South Africa seems to me to be taking several definite steps towards its cold, shocking awakening - as a full member of the Third World.
The man who will lead it there is called Jacob Zuma. Remember the name. You are going to hear a lot more of it.
Zuma is wholly African. He has at least four wives and 18 children. He has for years avoided standing trial on fraud and corruption charges. Nobody seriously believes he ever will: his approaching election is already spreading fear in South Africa's legal establishment.
Mr Zuma joined the Communist Party in 1962 (he only left a few years ago), and has a dark and inadequately examined past as a much-feared intelligence chief in the ANC's ruthless armed wing, Spear of the Nation. He underwent 'military training' in the old Soviet Union in 1978, when the KGB was very much in charge of such things.
On April 22 he will become President of one of the world's most important countries.
Comrade Zuma, as his supporters know him, certainly is not dull. And South Africa will not be dull either when he takes over.