WE HAVE reached that time of year when the minds of little boys and girls across the land turn to the jolly man in a red suit who brings gifts and good cheer on Christmas morning. This year, many of the little children do not know what to write on their Christmas slates.

Fortunately a classic management text, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus, is on hand as ever, as an invaluable guide to the challenges of gift and service delivery in Zumaland.

In order to deliver to the people, Santa must manage the workers or "elves"; expand the productive capacity of the "workshop"; and figure out how to squeeze down "chimneys" bearing a sack full of gifts.

Some people say the troubles in Toyland are Santa’s own fault.

He closed down the ancient gift factory in the Eastern Copelands and moved production to Gupta World in Saxonwold, a part of the northern moral wastelands, or "suburbs".

Gupta World is inhabited by dwarf-like creatures that hoard treasure in tunnels under the ground.

These "Guptas" built wondrous machines to generate reams of "New Age" paper, a cheap and absorbent material covered in indecipherable script that is ideal for mopping up bathroom spills or for wrapping seasonal gifts.

But the Gupta dwarves were belittled by the "clevers" of the wastelands, such as the "group of the Midrand" and the "groupies of the Joel" who roam Woodmead Business Park at night.

Even the so-called "city councillors" denied the brave little Guptas the right to land sleighs in their own compound.

Santa’s workshop was equally unwelcome in the Western Copelands, where his blue-light sleigh convoys were banned by the Wicked White Madam of the West.

So Santa built a brand new toy factory in Nkandla, in the magical kingdom by the sea.

Whenever he visits, the good people of the magical kingdom by the sea sing their famous song, "It is our turn to wrap".

Such changes have caused division among the elves who do all the actual work.

At a recent convocation, the chief elf, who goes by the name of Vavi, was assigned only the traffic management portfolio.

All the other elfin powers have been seized by a babbling rival, who hails from the magical kingdom by the sea.

There is also disquiet among the "red goblins". Santa has found out that the Keeper of the Money Chest, Pravin Goblin, can actually count; that Blade Goblin can read; and that Jeremy "pointy ears" Goblin can write.

He has therefore asked a schoolyard bully, Goblin Thulas, to keep an eye on the three dangerous intellectual goblins.

There is even confusion in Toyland about the identity of Santa.

All little children know that the true Santa has an appalling fashion sense, a white beard, and an enormous round tummy — but the only magical creature who fits this description lives in a mysterious cave marked "SG".

Little boys and girls such as Julius and Floydinia believe it is time for a brand new Santa. (Their uncle Tokyo gives them candy whenever they say this.) But Santa Zuma has taken away their crayons and there will be no tenders tucked into Floydinia’s Christmas stockings this year.

Leadership Secrets observes that Santa must "Be Good for Goodness Sake!" But Zuma cannot help being naughty and his fingers are always in somebody’s pie or on his fabled "organs of state".

For this reason, Toyland may now need two Santas: one to dress up as Santa and another to actually run the factory. But even this will not solve the deeper problem that reindeers, elves and goblins give presents only to themselves.

All too many hungry boys and girls will cry themselves to sleep on Christmas night. Soon the children of this land will stop believing in Father Christmas, and hope, as well as Santa, will simply disappear.

Butler teaches politics at the University of Cape Town.