Just watch those bigwigs sucking up to Hugo Chavez

Power is beautiful!

Power is beautiful!

Watching those who wield it strut their stuff is, for me, more intoxicating than the best lagers of the world.

Wednesday morning began unfavourably for me, your typical morning after, if you catch my drift.

Focussing on the television screen was like an attempt at staring straight into the sun - until I saw the red tie!

It was Hugo Chavez, the only man in the world who can tell Uncle Sam to go to hell from an accessible air-conditioned office - not hiding behind a rock in Afghanistan somewhere.

He was in town, in Tshwane. The first news report I laid my hands on said he was on an oil mission. It quoted him as saying something like: "It will be a wonderful day, the day when the first Venezuelan tanker will stop by to leave oil for South Africa."

Chavez, said the report and subsequently others, invited the grubby-fingered suits at PetroSA to "go immediately to Venezuela to start to work together with us" in exploring for and pumping crude in the oil-rich Orinoco River belt.

But that's a story for those in the Fourth Estate who were fully awake at the time.

My eyes were on Chavez, who kept rattling off in his mother-tongue, to the din of an interpreter somewhere as they added to the woes of news presentation at the SABC, which is shambolic on its own without help from a visiting head of state.

I exited slumberland completely as the cameras panned the room to show a Who's Who of local politicians. Kgalema Motlanthe and other ANC bigwigs were there. So was a bemused Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The cameras moved to Lulu Xingwana, in all her light-complexioned splendour that praise singers choose to ignore as they take things from the rear.

Ronnie Mamoepa was giggling like a schoolboy, whispering something into the ear of a tablemate, more likely a Che Guevara quote or some communism-inspired line.

Men and women looked like my youngest son and his kindergarten class around their teacher - totally transfixed and in awe.

Outside the dynamics of the Jose Mourinho-Roman Abramovich relationship, I have never seen such genuflection, bordering on terrified veneration, if there's ever such an expression.

Chavez does not scream, shout, rant nor rave. He speaks in the same dulcet tones of a Frenchman trying to hijack a plane. But he is heard.

Men and women crane their necks to catch a glimpse of him. According to my TV screen, which has never lied to me, even Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide, our guest for life - accompanied by his femme fatale wife, was in the audience bowing before Chavez.

We have hosted a myriad heads of state before but never has there been such - what's the word - ass-licking.

I will not be surprised if, away from the television cameras, politicians snapped away on their state-of-the-art cellphones and lined up for autographs.

I love the power of Chavez. This is the same clout the likes of Louis Luyt carried - the only man in the history of post-apartheid South Africa to haul a sitting president before court.

It is the same influence Robert Mugabe could have retired with, had he not chosen to cling to power and not exude it.