Month: September 2014

Poaching Private Rhino

An open letter to hunter Hugo Ras

Unknown Unknown-2Unknown-5

Dear Hugo,

Maybe I should call you Huge Ou because it looks like you could be a big oke. I’ve only seen pictures of your face, though. Speaking of which, did you have a terrible accident or were you born that way? It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you win your case and carry on ridding our country of these abominable creatures.

When I first heard that ten members of a rhino-poaching syndicate were appearing in court, the first image that came to mind was of nine skinny Mozambicans and a white man in charge. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that only one of your group is black. You are white, right? Sometimes it’s hard to tell with Afrikaners. There was a lot of illicit inter-racial monkey business­ going on in the old days and one can never really tell when or where the throwback is going to pop up. Not that it matters.

Was Mandla Magagula a BEE appointment or did you just need someone to do the heavy lifting? Chopping a horn off a rhino’s face must be devilishly hard work, especially in the humidity of the Kruger Park, and it would make sense to hire someone who knows his way around a panga and doesn’t feel the heat.

I think you guys are doing great work. Rhinos, in my opinion, are heavily overrated. For a start, they’re fat. There’s no excuse for that. By now everyone, rhinos included, must have heard of the Banting diet. Thin rhinos, pronking gracefully through the veld, would be far more of a tourist attraction than these shortsighted, overweight curmudgeons currently blotting our landscape.

Your group allegedly killed 22 rhino and mutilated two others between 2008 and 2012. I hope you don’t mind me using the word ‘allegedly’. I’m not trying to diminish your accomplishments or cast doubt on the courage needed to come within 800m of a rhino and, without even spilling your beer, bring him down with nothing but a little old high-powered rifle. It’s really just to satisfy the lawyers. You know how touchy they can be.

To get away with it for so long and then suddenly get bust seems to suggest there is a mole in your group. Could it be your wife, Trudi? You can never trust wives. They will insist otherwise, but you can’t. Not really. I doubt it was her, though. You would have needed her at home to do the cooking and the books. Or maybe just cooking the books. Also, someone has to wash all that rhino blood out of your khaki shorts.

You’re probably close to your brother, Anton, so it’s unlikely he was the rat. What about your brother-in-law, Arno Smith? Probably not. Nobody in their right mind would mess with someone who has a face like yours.

Then there’s Ficksburg pilot, Bonnie Steyn. Everyone thinks they can trust pilots until something snaps and they steer the plane into a mountainside or run off with your girlfriend. But you were probably giving him steady work and in these hard times there are worse jobs than flying around a game park looking for rhinos to kill.

When it comes to the mole, my money is on warrant officer Willie Oosthuizen from the Organised Crime Unit. Apparently he was your right-hand-man. What were you thinking? You must be the only person in the country who still trusts policemen. My bet is that after sentencing, he’ll be driven to the airport and put on a plane.

If it’s not the cop who squealed, my next best bet is lawyer Joseph Wilkinson. He sounds English, so right away you can’t trust him. Then again, next to young blondes, lawyers love nothing more than piles of easy money being thrown their way. Their profession demands the ability to lie with the utmost conviction through their capped teeth, so if he tries to tell you that he never ratted you out, then you know he probably did.

Could Mandla Magagula be the impimpi? I really hope not. It would play right into the hands of those who say darkies will double-cross you as soon as look at you. I’m sure you gave him a job because you believe affirmative action is the best way to correct the imbalances of the past. Well done, Hugo. It’s this kind of thing that will go a long way towards preventing the wholesale slaughter of white people. If you tell the judge you’re providing employment to the previously disadvantaged, you’ll probably be acquitted on the spot. President Zuma might even want to give you some sort of medal.

You guys are also facing other charges, including theft, fraud, malicious damage to property, money laundering, intimidation and illegal possession of arms and ammunition. In prosecutorial terms, this is known as the Oscar Offensive. I’m surprised they haven’t thrown in a charge of littering after you left all those unsightly rhino carcasses out in the open to rot.

The state says the rhinos you butchered were worth around R22-million. In South African terms, this isn’t an awful lot of money. Zuma paid that for a chicken coop and two bananas trees. Then again, you did get your hands on dozens more horns from rhinos killed by other people, so they must be worth a bob or two.

I love the delicious irony of your syndicate making its first court appearance on World Rhino Day. I bet you’re a big fan of delicious irony, even though your face tells me that you’re a big fan of little more than delicious brandy, blood and wads of cash.

I was impressed to discover that you’re made of the same material our president is made from. You’ve had many run-ins with the law in the past, but nothing ever seems to stick. You seem confident of pulling it off again this time. Not only did you not apply for bail last week, but you didn’t even have a lawyer in court. Either you have a brilliant strategy or you really are as stupid as you look, which hardly seems feasible.

Before I forget. All that M99 anaesthetic police found on your farm – do you have any more stashed away somewhere? At three thousand times more powerful than morphine, it sounds like something one could have a bit of fun with of a weekend.

If, by some miracle, you aren’t all acquitted, please consider getting the old group back together when you get out. There probably won’t be any rhinos left by then, but you could make a start on the elephants. They stand around flapping their ears, making trunk calls and, more often than not, blocking our view at the waterholes.

Murderously yours,

Ben Trovato

TrovatoRhino

 

 

No woman, no slaai

The loss of life today is going to be quite spectacular, even by South African standards.

senatortrovato2

Thousands of pigs, sheep, goats, cows and chickens are right now fighting among themselves for the honour of being the first to lay down their lives so that South Africans can celebrate Heritage Day in true style.

Gutters are running red with blood, dogs are running wild with bones and paramedics are running themselves ragged tending to the usual braai-related assaults, rapes and homicides.

Brenda wanted to do something different. Quite frankly, I couldn’t see the point.

“We’re white,” I said. “We don’t have any heritage.” We did, on the other hand, have plenty of meat. It made more sense to celebrate Braai Day.

We arranged to meet Ted and Mary down at the beach where we could fall down without worrying about splitting our skulls open. This is always one of the biggest hazards facing those who choose to celebrate Braai Day instead of Heritage Day.

We passed a lot of families braaiing along the way. Many of them had taken over entire parking lots. Brenda wondered if arguments had broken out in homes across the Cape Flats this morning.

“I want to braai in the parking lot in Muizenberg!”

“Forget it. We’re going to the one in Camps Bay.”

“There’s a new lot opened near the Waterfront. Can we go there? Please, daddy!”

I told Brenda there was a very simple explanation.

“A lot of coloured people regard their cars as members of the family. We wouldn’t leave our child in a parking lot and go off and have fun without him, would we?”

Actually, I would, but I couldn’t tell Brenda that.

Both Heritage Day and Braai Day are reportedly aimed at bringing South Africans closer together.

In our case, it brought us a little too close. Encamped on the beach, we had just finished our first case of Tafel and were wrestling a second kudu haunch onto the grid when we were forced to take up braai forks and fend off a pack of hungry darkies.

Look, I’m all for unifying the nation and whatnot, but there are limits.

Engorged with dead animal and thoroughly beerlogged, we returned home to celebrate Heritage Day like the decent god-fearing patriots that we are.

Panda braai

Heritage Day is a relatively new addition to the public holiday calendar. Prior to 1994, it was known as Right of Admission Reserved Day.

Our country has a fascinating array of indigenous fauna, all of which go well with one or other of the many indigenous sauces available in supermarkets everywhere.

Our flora, too, is not to be sneezed at. Unless, of course, you suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, in which case you have no business living here.

Look at our national flower, the giant protea. Actually, I can’t look at it for too long because I find it hostile and ugly. To be honest, I would rather look at roadkill.

Fynbos is unique to the Cape Floral Kingdom and you will be fined if you pick it. Cannabis sativa is unique to KwaZulu-Natal and you will be arrested if you smoke it. That’s diversity for you.

The central image on our coat of arms is a secretary bird, a graceful creature known for launching random attacks on unsuspecting tourists. It specialises in pinning people to the ground and pecking their eyes out.

Canada’s national bird is the Common Loon. It reminds me of Julius Malema.

The motto on our coat of arms is !ke e:/xarra//ke. Nobody outside of the /Xam tribe knows what it means. Most South Africans think it’s computer code.

When it comes to the national animal, we have the springbok. France has some sort of chicken. Our rugby team is also called the Springboks. The French once accused us of playing like animals. This made us feel tremendously proud.

Our national fish is the galjoen. Like most hard-drinking South Africans, the galjoen is regarded as a creature that will fight to the death. Cooked over an open fire, however, galjoen tastes a lot better than the national drunk.

I am particularly proud of my heritage because South Africa is the cradle of humankind. So what if modern man migrated to Australia as soon he could walk upright? We’re still the cradle.

Our scientists have found blue-green algae dating back nearly four million years. Ted speculated that the slime was one of Radovan Krejcir’s earliest relatives. Let’s see if he’s still laughing with two broken legs.

I’m hoping to get one of the national orders that President Zuma hands out each year around this time. I keep getting passed over. Apparently you have to either be dead or Afrikaans to get any kind of recognition in this country.

As an English-speaker, I am doomed. Even though my forefathers invented gin and tonic, lap dancing, airbags, the cat flap and the rubber band, nobody around here seems to care.

Oh, now I get it. Of course. It’s far more important to reward a people who came up with jukskei, witblits, the Voortrekker Monument, the G6 artillery gun and a racial superiority complex so twisted that it makes their koeksisters look straight.

 

Just another bank robbery

I’m good at handling money in much the same way that Oscar Pistorius is good at handling guns. But at least nobody dies as a result of my negligence. Well, I probably will, but that’s my own damn fault.

I have only recently begun saving for a time when I will no longer be able to earn a living from writing, which, the way I feel at the moment, should be around Thursday. If I had to retire now – not that retiring is an option for people like me – and live for another ten years, my savings would provide me with an income of 2.7 cents a day. By the time I reach 60, and if I have been diligent about saving, this will have risen to around 19 cents a day.

I had heard good things about money market accounts – that banks will give you ridiculous amounts of interest, free holidays and even send around a manager-approved harlot should your balance be of a certain disposition.

However, none of these generous perks were on offer when I prodded my damp wad of cash across the counter. The cadaverous misanthrope sighed heavily and reached for the forms.

Don’t look so sad,” I said. “It’ll grow in no time at all.” It sounded funny using that line outside the bedroom and I stifled a giggle. No, I didn’t. Real men don’t giggle. They guffaw. But it seemed the wrong moment for a full-throated guffaw. Besides, the security guard had his eye on me. Perhaps he was gay. Perhaps he thought I was looking at him because I was gay. It’s more likely, though, that he suspected me of being one of those weird-assed kleptos who make off with the bank’s pen when they think nobody’s looking. That’s right, mister wannabe cop. I have a tiny pair of bolt cutters secreted upon my person. The moment your attention is distracted by someone who walks in wearing a crash helmet and cradling what appears to be an AK-47 beneath his overcoat, I shall slice through the chain, grab the pen and make a break for the door.

I don’t check my balance every month because if I want to get depressed I’ll go to a bookshop. I made an exception the other day, though, and was intrigued to see that a couple of unauthorised deductions had been made. By intrigued I mean I drank heavily and kicked a hole in the bedroom door.

Not even I can take money out of that account without giving the bank a sworn affidavit, a DNA sample and my first born. The only people with that kind of power had to be working on the inside. Armed with my miniature bolt cutters, I returned to the scene of the crime.

A receptionist with a latex face told me to take a seat on the couch while I watched the cadaverous misanthrope repeatedly explain a very basic banking procedure to a client whose family should be jailed for allowing her out on her own. The couch was deceptively comfortable. I felt the fight drain from me. I thought of curling up and going to sleep. By the time the slack-jawed mouthbreather in tracksuit pants shuffled off, I had almost forgotten what I was there for.

I want to know who stole my money,” I said. The theft was described on my statement as a “unit reduction” and a “switch out”. The consultant did what all consultants do when confronted with an angry customer. He reached for a gun. No, he didn’t. He reached for the telephone, got someone else on the line and passed the buck.

I took the receiver. Her name was Palesa and I was clearly not her first of the day. It was almost as if she were reading from a script ha ha ha. I understood very little of what she was saying. From what I could make out, though, Stanlib had siphoned off a section of my savings because a posse of reckless renegades had run African Bank into the ground.

I don’t care,” I shouted. “Where’s my money?” She remained calm and embarked upon the official explanation. She said I had been exposed to African Bank and that when they went belly-up, share points had plummeted, money markets were impacted and side pockets were created. She might as well have been speaking Mandarin.

So the money is in my side pocket?” I gave myself a quick pat. Nothing, apart from a condom that had been there since 1984. My money is apparently in the bank’s side pocket. “But you haven’t lost it,” Palesa said brightly.

So I can access it?” Er, no. Apparently it’s a bit like Schrödinger’s cash. It exists and yet doesn’t. It’s mine, but not.

It was late on a cold winter’s night when Stanlib met African Bank on the frigid fringes of the fiscal market, where only the rats run, and flashed a bag of cash that wasn’t theirs to start with. African Bank fondled its assets and smirked.

Hey, babe. You wanna invest? C’mon. Give it to me. You know you want to.”

But, sir, this is other people’s money. I really shouldn’t.”

Trust me. I’m an African bank.”

Okay. But you must promise to call me in the morning.”

Lumbering to my feet and yanking his pen off its chain, I demanded to know why the bank hadn’t notified me before ransacking my account. “Everything happened very fast and we had to move quickly to protect our clients”. Oh, I see. Why didn’t you say so?

The next time I see a man in a good suit walking down the road, I’ll hit him with a bag of rocks and grab his briefcase. “I’m doing this to protect you,” I will shout over my shoulder as I run off down the road. I might even expose myself to him.

Should I never get my money back, there are two gentlemen I’d like to have a word with. One is Leon Kirkinis. Founder and CEO of African Bank, he made around R40-million in ten years before cutting his losses and quitting. He appears to own a sea-facing mansion in Rooi Els worth around R50-million.

The other person is Tami Sokutu. A man who apparently wouldn’t know risk if it came up and bit him on the arse, his position at the bank for twelve years was chief risk officer. He milked this toxic cash cow of more than R50-million in share options and another R35-million in salary and bonuses.

Asked by a local hack if he felt sorry for the millions of mainly rural people who were drowning in debt thanks to the bank’s reckless lending, Sokutu reportedly said, “Fuck them.”

African Bank was South Africa’s biggest microlender. Sokutu, I’d venture, is South Africa’s biggest douchebag. In a letter published by a Sunday paper last week, Sokutu apologised. “I shouldn’t have agreed to the interview in my state at the time.” This is code for “tired and emotional”. Which, in turn, is code for – well, to use a rugby term – off his face at the breakdown.

On its website, the bank says, “Applying for credit with African Bank has never been easier. Complete the form below to check what credit you could qualify for in just three easy steps.” What? That’s insane. It takes me more than three steps to get out of bed in the morning.

When you walk into one of our branches, you can walk out with credit on the same day.” Listen, you morons. This is what caused all the trouble in the first place. Stop it. Right now.

Bravely entering virgin territory

 

I knew this assignment was going to be different the moment I got the call. “How would you like to join the King of the Zulus in ogling thirty thousand topless virgins?” I was packed in under ten minutes.

maidens-3 lo-res

The Zulus know it as uMkhosi woMhlanga. White people know it as the Festival of the Boobies. That might not be true. I think they know it as the Reed Dance. Or, more likely, a monumental waste of taxpayer’s money.

I can’t remember ever having been to Eshowe but I must have because by the time I left home, shortly after my 38th birthday, my parents had taken us everywhere within a 500km radius of Durban. I was expecting the mayhem of Mthatha but was pleasantly surprised to see the main road occupied almost entirely by cars and not being shared with a billion pedestrians, hawkers, faith healers, bandits, donkeys and dogs.

It is said the town’s name came from the sound of wind passing through the long grass. I don’t know about that. I’ve passed wind in long grass before and I can tell you it sounded nothing like eshowe.

I was booked into a guesthouse on the edge of a forest and the stress of the drive dissolved quickly as I set about viciously abusing the minibar.

The information booklet in my room claimed that British soldiers, after building a fort in the town, were besieged by the Zulu army for ten weeks. Please. White people in the province feel besieged by the Zulus every day of their lives.

Eshowe is wrapped around the Dlinza Forest which covers 250ha and divides the town.” How refreshing to have a town divided by a forest instead of race.

The booklet also listed 55 birds that can be seen right there in the garden. I saw one from where I was lying on my bed. It was a hadeda – the antichrist of the avian world – so it doesn’t really count. A 56th bird had been added in pencil at the bottom. The Southern Black Tit. I like to think it was included as a nod and a wink to the Reed Dance, but it seemed improbable. These were serious bird people.

The British fort now houses a museum. Among the artifacts is a replica of a silver beer mug given to King Cetshwayo by Queen Victoria in 1882. I can imagine the conversation in the drawing room.

I honestly do not know what to get that Zulu man. They really are appalling people to buy for. What on earth does he need?”

Give him whisky, my dear. They do love their drink.”

Don’t be silly, Albert. The poor man came all the way to London to tell us that his people would refrain from throwing spears at our soldiers if he could have his kingdom back.”

Give him a beer mug. He’ll like that.”

What a delightful idea. Drink up and give it to the servants to wrap. Tell them not to use the good paper.”

Route 66 might not be as well known as its American counterpart, but it has its own unique charm in the roadside litter that drifts and glitters all the way from Eshowe to Nongoma.

One can’t see the Enyokeni Palace from the road. Truth is, one struggles to see it from several metres away. Mainly because there is a fence around it, but also because it’s not a palace in the strictest sense of the word. Buckingham is a palace. Versaille is a palace. What King Zwelithini has is an assortment of thatched huts. I would go so far as to say that Zuma’s spread in Nkandla is more opulent than Enyokeni, although these days opulent is rarely used to describe anything that has a roof made of dried grass.

My fixer – or, as Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe might have it, my handler – parked the car for an easy getaway. I thought he was being overly paranoid. He gave me the lazy eye. “I have two words for you. Piet. Retief.”

I have never underestimated the Zulus. As far as tribes go, they’re right up there with the best of them. I like the Zulus. I really do. I grew up around them. Or rather, thanks to the Group Areas Act, they grew up around me. On a clear day, I could see the hills of Inanda from the veranda of my parents’ house in Durban North.

Many of my friends were Zulus. Well, there was Esther, who came on Tuesdays, and Temba at the back of the Scout hall who sold weed for one rand a hand. Look, we can’t all be Johnny bloody Clegg, okay?

maidens-4 lo-res

I saw the maidens massing in the distance. Actually, I saw the reeds first. They were bigger than I expected. The reeds, not the maidens. Although I have to say that some of the maidens were also bigger than I expected. This is clearly not a culture in which breast reduction is a popular option. Come to think of it, I don’t know of any cultures where making your boobs smaller is a big thing.

In white culture, women are reluctant to even show off their babylons unless you’ve been married to them for at least five years. And only then with the lights off and the door locked. What am I talking about? There’s no such thing as white culture. Rugby and braaing doesn’t count.

Women with iPads lo-res

They came undulating up the road in their thousands, a swaying, singing snake surging towards the palace. I have never seen so many virgins in one place. If there had been just one, that would have been more virgins than I’d ever seen in one place. I communicated with a virgin via email once. It cost me a relationship and a trip to the Seychelles. I could only imagine what havoc thirty thousand could wreak.

These weren’t shy, demure maidens, either. Far from it. One of them broke ranks and ran at me. I went into a defensive crouch. She did some kind of weird mid-air hip thrust action and returned to the line. I wasn’t sure if it was a proposition or a death threat. Two young men disguised as leopards laughed to see such sport.

maidens-1 lo-res

I brushed past the royal guards – this is surely one of the few palaces in the world guarded by unarmed people wearing baseball caps and blue overalls – and walked past a line of elderly men also dressed as leopards. One of them was standing beneath a gazebo wearing a black jersey. I nodded politely.

Where’s the king?” I asked a guard. She pointed at the dude in the black jersey. Really? I was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t bothered to dress up for the maidens. I suppose that might happen when you have six wives. You let yourself go a little. I’m hardly known as a paragon of sartorial elegance, but even I know that a skirt made of leopard tails clashes horribly with a black polo-neck jumper, even if it is accessorised with a bandolier of lion’s teeth.

King with jumper lo-res

Granted, the jumper didn’t come from Pep. It was probably hand-woven from the scrotal hairs of a million Ukrainian kangaroo gerbils. But still. Shaka wouldn’t have been seen dead in a jumper.

Now and again, one of the elders or a tourist in a suit would approach the king. Walking up to him and having a chat was clearly out of the question. They had to go down on their knees and shuffle towards him. Some crouched. Nobody stood upright. This meant the king had to bend down to hear whatever it was they were saying.

Your majesty, may I say what a magnificent jumper you are wearing today.”

What? I can’t hear you.”

I SAID I LIKE YOUR JUMPER.”

Don’t shout. Don’t get up, either. I’ll lip-read.”

King chat-2 lo-res

The maidens laid down their reeds, did a jig for the king, whose interest almost certainly began waning after the first 10 000 had passed by, and went back down the hill.

maidens-2 lo-res

 

This was the 30th anniversary of the Reed Dance and the organisers once again did a magnificent recreation of what life must have been like under Dingane.

The girls stripped and washed themselves with buckets of water out in the open while, on the other side of the fence, a few metres away, young men performed the age-old tradition of sitting under trees and leering openly. This must have been part of the “respecting women, valuing their dignity and safeguarding their purity” the king was banging on about.

There are ambitious plans to build a R300-million cultural village at Enyokeni. Let’s hope it includes bathrooms. And some shade for white people. A hamburger stand would be nice, too. And a few bras. Bars.

Bravely entering virgin territory

 

I knew this assignment was going to be different the moment I got the call. “How would you like to join the King of the Zulus in ogling thirty thousand topless virgins?” I was packed in under ten minutes.

maidens-3 lo-res

The Zulus know it as uMkhosi woMhlanga. White people know it as the Festival of the Boobies. That might not be true. I think they know it as the Reed Dance. Or, more likely, a monumental waste of taxpayer’s money.

I can’t remember ever having been to Eshowe but I must have because by the time I left home, shortly after my 38th birthday, my parents had taken us everywhere within a 500km radius of Durban. I was expecting the mayhem of Mthatha but was pleasantly surprised to see the main road occupied almost entirely by cars and not being shared with a billion pedestrians, hawkers, faith healers, bandits, donkeys and dogs.

It is said the town’s name came from the sound of wind passing through the long grass. I don’t know about that. I’ve passed wind in long grass before and I can tell you it sounded nothing like eshowe.

I was booked into a guesthouse on the edge of a forest and the stress of the drive dissolved quickly as I set about viciously abusing the minibar.

The information booklet in my room claimed that British soldiers, after building a fort in the town, were besieged by the Zulu army for ten weeks. Please. White people in the province feel besieged by the Zulus every day of their lives.

Eshowe is wrapped around the Dlinza Forest which covers 250ha and divides the town.” How refreshing to have a town divided by a forest instead of race.

The booklet also listed 55 birds that can be seen right there in the garden. I saw one from where I was lying on my bed. It was a hadeda – the antichrist of the avian world – so it doesn’t really count. A 56th bird had been added in pencil at the bottom. The Southern Black Tit. I like to think it was included as a nod and a wink to the Reed Dance, but it seemed improbable. These were serious bird people.

The British fort now houses a museum. Among the artifacts is a replica of a silver beer mug given to King Cetshwayo by Queen Victoria in 1882. I can imagine the conversation in the drawing room.

I honestly do not know what to get that Zulu man. They really are appalling people to buy for. What on earth does he need?”

Give him whisky, my dear. They do love their drink.”

Don’t be silly, Albert. The poor man came all the way to London to tell us that his people would refrain from throwing spears at our soldiers if he could have his kingdom back.”

Give him a beer mug. He’ll like that.”

What a delightful idea. Drink up and give it to the servants to wrap. Tell them not to use the good paper.”

Route 66 might not be as well known as its American counterpart, but it has its own unique charm in the roadside litter that drifts and glitters all the way from Eshowe to Nongoma.

One can’t see the Enyokeni Palace from the road. Truth is, one struggles to see it from several metres away. Mainly because there is a fence around it, but also because it’s not a palace in the strictest sense of the word. Buckingham is a palace. Versaille is a palace. What King Zwelithini has is an assortment of thatched huts. I would go so far as to say that Zuma’s spread in Nkandla is more opulent than Enyokeni, although these days opulent is rarely used to describe anything that has a roof made of dried grass.

My fixer – or, as Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe might have it, my handler – parked the car for an easy getaway. I thought he was being overly paranoid. He gave me the lazy eye. “I have two words for you. Piet. Retief.”

I have never underestimated the Zulus. As far as tribes go, they’re right up there with the best of them. I like the Zulus. I really do. I grew up around them. Or rather, thanks to the Group Areas Act, they grew up around me. On a clear day, I could see the hills of Inanda from the veranda of my parents’ house in Durban North.

Many of my friends were Zulus. Well, there was Esther, who came on Tuesdays, and Temba at the back of the Scout hall who sold weed for one rand a hand. Look, we can’t all be Johnny bloody Clegg, okay?

maidens-4 lo-res

I saw the maidens massing in the distance. Actually, I saw the reeds first. They were bigger than I expected. The reeds, not the maidens. Although I have to say that some of the maidens were also bigger than I expected. This is clearly not a culture in which breast reduction is a popular option. Come to think of it, I don’t know of any cultures where making your boobs smaller is a big thing.

In white culture, women are reluctant to even show off their babylons unless you’ve been married to them for at least five years. And only then with the lights off and the door locked. What am I talking about? There’s no such thing as white culture. Rugby and braaing doesn’t count.

Women with iPads lo-res

They came undulating up the road in their thousands, a swaying, singing snake surging towards the palace. I have never seen so many virgins in one place. If there had been just one, that would have been more virgins than I’d ever seen in one place. I communicated with a virgin via email once. It cost me a relationship and a trip to the Seychelles. I could only imagine what havoc thirty thousand could wreak.

These weren’t shy, demure maidens, either. Far from it. One of them broke ranks and ran at me. I went into a defensive crouch. She did some kind of weird mid-air hip thrust action and returned to the line. I wasn’t sure if it was a proposition or a death threat. Two young men disguised as leopards laughed to see such sport.

maidens-1 lo-res

I brushed past the royal guards – this is surely one of the few palaces in the world guarded by unarmed people wearing baseball caps and blue overalls – and walked past a line of elderly men also dressed as leopards. One of them was standing beneath a gazebo wearing a black jersey. I nodded politely.

Where’s the king?” I asked a guard. She pointed at the dude in the black jersey. Really? I was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t bothered to dress up for the maidens. I suppose that might happen when you have six wives. You let yourself go a little. I’m hardly known as a paragon of sartorial elegance, but even I know that a skirt made of leopard tails clashes horribly with a black polo-neck jumper, even if it is accessorised with a bandolier of lion’s teeth.

King with jumper lo-res

Granted, the jumper didn’t come from Pep. It was probably hand-woven from the scrotal hairs of a million Ukrainian kangaroo gerbils. But still. Shaka wouldn’t have been seen dead in a jumper.

Now and again, one of the elders or a tourist in a suit would approach the king. Walking up to him and having a chat was clearly out of the question. They had to go down on their knees and shuffle towards him. Some crouched. Nobody stood upright. This meant the king had to bend down to hear whatever it was they were saying.

Your majesty, may I say what a magnificent jumper you are wearing today.”

What? I can’t hear you.”

I SAID I LIKE YOUR JUMPER.”

Don’t shout. Don’t get up, either. I’ll lip-read.”

King chat-2 lo-res

The maidens laid down their reeds, did a jig for the king, whose interest almost certainly began waning after the first 10 000 had passed by, and went back down the hill.

maidens-2 lo-res

 

This was the 30th anniversary of the Reed Dance and the organisers once again did a magnificent recreation of what life must have been like under Dingane.

The girls stripped and washed themselves with buckets of water out in the open while, on the other side of the fence, a few metres away, young men performed the age-old tradition of sitting under trees and leering openly. This must have been part of the “respecting women, valuing their dignity and safeguarding their purity” the king was banging on about.

There are ambitious plans to build a R300-million cultural village at Enyokeni. Let’s hope it includes bathrooms. And some shade for white people. A hamburger stand would be nice, too. And a few bras. Bars.

A couple of sad anniversaries

 

 

Today, two years ago, my mom died. In the highly unlikely event that heaven exists, I hope she’s out there raising hell.

And twenty-five years ago, a comrade from my Namibia days was gunned down by assassins. Here’s an excerpt from my memoir, Incognito, recalling that day.

 

IT WAS early evening on 12 September 1989. Gwen was at work and I was lying on the bed reading. Liberty and Shane were asleep, each in their own room. Shane was around eight years old, Liberty just over eight months. The phone rang. It was Gwen. She sounded frantic.

They got Anton!’

Fucking hell. I tried to get more information.

He’s been shot – that’s all I know. We’re trying to find out what happened. Got to go. Watch the house.’

Anton Lubowski was a lawyer – one of the few white members of Swapo who was brazenly open about his political affiliation. The South African authorities detested him.

It was because of Anton that I had been charged under the Police Act a few months earlier. We had flown with him in a light plane to Lüderitz, where police had beaten up and arrested a bunch of striking diamond miners. He was representing them, and Gwen and I went along to cover the story.

At the police station, Anton told the station commander that he wanted to see his clients. The cop begrudgingly beckoned Anton to follow him. Anton turned and motioned for me to come with him. He pointed at my camera and winked. We went down into the cells. Anton asked the commander for a few minutes alone with the workers. When he left, Anton began asking questions, taking down names, inspecting their injuries and directing me as if I were his private photographer. I had fired off maybe 20 pictures of black eyes, bruised bums and lacerated flesh when the officer returned unexpectedly. He was dumbfounded. Taking pictures of a police station was illegal. But taking pictures inside a police station? In the cells? No, man. That was just too much.

My camera was confiscated and I was arrested and charged under the Police Act, a charming piece of security legislation that could land you in prison for years. Anton got me released on bail and, to cut a long story short, Advocate Ian Farlam – now a Constitutional Court judge and one-time chairperson of the Marikana Commission – defended me when the case was finally heard in Keetmanshoop. Farlam didn’t think the charge was worth fighting and none of us wanted to keep coming back to that godforsaken town, so he arranged a plea bargain with the prosecutor. I ended up paying an admission-of-guilt fine.

News that Anton had been shot rocked me to the core. Swapo’s exiled leaders had returned to the country. Elections were around the corner. Independence was on its way. Why shoot him now? I heard a noise outside and peeked through the window. Two white men wearing khaki uniforms were clambering over the wall. They had guns in their hands. I dropped to the floor and leopard-crawled through the house, switching off the lights. Moving quickly into Liberty’s room, I pulled her cot into the corridor, away from the window. Shane’s room was out of the line of fire. I scrambled for the phone. My hands were shaking. This was it. I had been expecting them every night for the last three years, and now they were here. They had killed Anton and they were coming for us.

Gwen! Two of them. In the garden. They have guns.’

Gwen interjected. ‘It’s okay. They’re from a private security firm. I called them to watch the house.’

Really? Thanks for letting me know. ‘What about Anton?’

Sounds like he’s dead. I’ll see you later. Keep an eye out.’

As they say in the classics, shit just got real.

Anton had been coming home from work. He was due to meet one of Swapo’s leaders, Hage Geingob, for dinner that night. He parked outside and walked up to the metal gate at the front of his house. As he reached forward to open the gate, a car rolled silently down the hill and the gunman opened fire with an AK-47. Bullets slammed into Anton’s back. He died on the spot. Inside, his girlfriend, a lawyer herself, heard the shots, and thought they were firecrackers. An inquest hearing and the Supreme Court named the suspects. Irishman Donald Acheson, codenamed ‘The Cleaner’, was believed to be the triggerman. He had been hired by the South African army’s Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), a covert agency set up to deal with ‘enemies of the state’. Other members of the CCB’s Region Six team were named in court and at an inquest hearing as accomplices to the murder. Joe Verster, Staal Burger, Ferdi Barnard, Chappie Maree, Slang van Zyl and Calla Botha were never extradited to Namibia. Acheson was arrested and charged with Anton’s murder. At his trial, the judge slammed the prosecution for failing to produce crucial witnesses. Since the witnesses were also Acheson’s suspected handlers, it was no wonder that they refused to travel to Namibia. Charges were withdrawn and he was released. In 1991, South Africa deported Acheson and he was never heard from again.

It emerged during the inquest that Acheson had initially been hired to kill Gwen. He admitted to having been inside our house on a couple of occasions. The instruction was to poison either the toothpaste or her tampons. Charming. I usually brushed my teeth before Gwen. It would have been me writhing on the bathroom floor clutching my throat and bleeding from the eyeballs. Apparently, someone had disturbed him and he slipped out of the house.

A couple of days later, the doorbell rang. I opened it. There was a very tall, very black man standing to attention. He wore camouflage, an AK-47 cradled in his arms. I smiled and greeted him, as one does. He nodded once, walked onto the veranda and pulled up a chair. I found out later that Swapo had sent him to guard the house. He was a former guerrilla. Most nights we invited him inside to watch television with us. After about a week or so, Gwen thanked him for his services and called someone to pick him up.

The bandersnatches are on their way

 

We have finally overtaken Britain as the world’s foremost nation in whining and complaining.

Crime is too high. Standards are too low. Sex is too fast. Service is too slow. I hate my job. I don’t have a job. I have a headache. I have Ebola. Too many white people. Too many black people. Not enough rain. Too much rain. On and on and on we go.

Sure, every nation complains. But a lot of them don’t stop there. We complain, then sit back and wait for something to happen. And when it doesn’t, we complain some more. We shake our heads and mutter about emigrating. Then the weekend rolls around and we braai and get drunk and suddenly this is the best country in the world.

Here, complaining is about as effective as getting a duck to participate in the ice bucket challenge. They don’t notice, they don’t care. We need to change tactics. Death threats, issued by mail or telephonically, have been known to get results. If that fails, step it up a notch. If you’re a whitey, stop a darkie in the street and ask him to teach you how to make a petrol bomb. Then offer him a ride home. Or to the taxi rank, at least. It’s that kind of bonding that will be the salvation of this country.

Governments through the ages have forced us to use violence to bring about change. If only they listened to the common people, Russia would still be ruled by the Romanovs and one of Marie Antoinette’s loathsome progeny would be the president of France.

Governments aren’t overthrown because they refuse to meet demands for free weed and beer fountains on every corner. They get their metaphorical heads chopped off because they can’t, or won’t, meet demands for jobs and houses and affordable food and fuel.

Fuck the Jabberwock, my son, for ‘tis nothing compared to the underclass. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Juju bird!

You’d be an idiot not to have a vorpal blade in these tense times. I haven’t had cause to use mine yet, so I know not whether it goes snicker-snack. I hope it does. You can’t return a vorpal blade. Not in these parts, anyway.

We don’t hear much about the underclass in this country. And for good reason. What? You mean there’s another class below the working class? Good god. Where are our passports? Chanteclare, get the children into the Range Rover. Hurry! Bring the Faberge eggs! Leave the horses!

The only reason the EFF has a presence in parliament is because the government allowed an underclass to develop. To be fair, though, the underclass was always there. The only difference is that they now have a voice. Turn your back on them at your peril. France still has plenty of second-hand guillotines they could easily offload on a country with a 0.6% growth rate.

Unlike Britain, we don’t have a clearly delineated class system. I’ve worked it out, though, and if we had to go down that treacherous road, we’d have at least eighteen classes ranging from lower underclass, through middle nouveau riche and all the way to upper old money, also known as the Oppenheimer class.

Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes. Complaining. You know what I hate? People who, when you ask how they’re doing, they say, “Alright, I s’pose. Doesn’t help to complain.” I want to shout, “Look over there!” And when they turn to look, I sink my teeth into the fleshy part of their neck and shake them like a terrier shakes a rat.

You gutless drone. Governments love people like you. The given-ups. The what’s-the-pointers. If you can’t even be bothered with the first level of resistance, you deserve to die on your knees.

My job is to fix or foul the fault lines that run through civil and uncivil society, but I’m not going to turn my words into action unless you shiftless swine are prepared to back me up. I don’t want to ride into battle against the political orcs and uruk-hais only to turn around and find you’ve all buggered off to the pub.

We have an odd way of protesting. Cape Town’s taxi drivers, furious at being constantly fined and harassed by the cops, go out and set a bunch of buses alight. That’s like Barack Obama saying, “It’s time to teach those Islamic State terrorists a lesson. Tomorrow we bomb Stockholm.”

The cost of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project inexplicably went from R6.4-billion in 2006 to R20.6-billion in 2012. I expect Cosatu will retaliate by calling for a boycott of King Pie.

Fourteen trustees on the board of the government’s medical aid scheme each earn more than half a million rand for meeting a few times a year. The Communist Party will demand that the SPCA be shut down.

The police are corrupt – stone the ambulances. Teachers are drunk – torch the clinics. The ANC doesn’t deliver – vote for the ANC. Welcome to Alice in Blunderland.

Overwhelmed with outrage, I went to my local pub to think about what exactly I should complain about this week. I have two local pubs. Skabengas in Cape Town and the Bush Tavern in Umdloti. Also Beach Bums, there by Westbrook. And the Blow Hole in Glencairn. And the … okay, so I have more than two local pubs. But right now I’m in Cape Town.

Sweeping changes have been made to one of my favourite bars without anyone ever having consulted me. I am outraged.

The yuppification of Skabengas will go down as an atrocity second only to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Real skabengas used to drink at Skabengas. Now it’s full of hipsters with ironically trimmed beards and young married couples sighing at each other over cocktails and canapés. Obviously it’s no longer called Skabengas. Its new name is Beach Road Bar. The owner doesn’t do drugs, that’s for sure. And if he does, it’s the kind of drugs that stifle the imagination or make you want to water your garden or go to sleep.

Skabengas had wooden tables, wooden benches and people you wooden want to take home to meet your mother. Rastas controlled the bar, a giant TV played terrible music and even worse sport and stray dogs had the run of the place. By midnight the floor was sticky with oestrogen and the air thick with testosterone. It got loud and the pony-faced neighbours complained regularly.

The battered old bar that lurked with intent against the far wall has been replaced by a younger model posing cheekily in the centre of the room. The stairs leading down to the toilets, which would turn into the north face of the Eiger as the night wore on, have been tamed and decorated with sparkly mosaic tiles.

There are sculpted plastic chairs and couches with scatter cushions, the bisexuals of the furniture world. The décor is all pastels and pale wood and whites. A lot of whites. Particularly among the clientele.

Funky electro punky reggae trip hoppy poppy jazzy blues is piped through speakers discreetly mounted in the corners. Après-yuppification, it was women of a certain age being discreetly mounted in the corners.

Having said that, the view over Noordhoek beach and off towards Kommetjie is as magnificent as ever. I’m only surprised the interior decorator never insisted on bringing in flocks of pink flamingos fitted with diamanté collars and leg warmers studded with Swarovski rhinestones.

The other good thing is that you can still bring your dog. Also, an elderly gentleman just walked in with a bright green parrot on his shoulder. He ordered a Windhoek draught. The man, not the parrot. I don’t know what the parrot ordered. It seemed wrong to eavesdrop on a conversation between a man and his parrot. I’ve never seen a man so in love with a bird. I only hope it doesn’t die before he does. It’s a non-racist parrot, too, being quite happy to perch on the arm of a black customer for the classic selfie with parrot. This country should be run by parrots, especially if they only ever say, “Hello. How are you?” Parrots don’t make promises they can’t keep. I had a parrot once. I called him Onan because he kept spilling his seed. Sorry.

My waitress was a young white girl. Her manner was awkward and her forced laugh set my eyeballs on edge. She said it was her first time. As a waitress or among people? I couldn’t be sure.

She waited until my mouth was full, then rushed up and began enquiring about my pizza. It turned into an interrogation. My phone started ringing and still she wouldn’t stop.

It’s very colourful, isn’t it?” she said. Could she not see my gob was stuffed with pizza? Could she not hear my phone ringing and that I was waiting for her to shut up so that I could answer it? Apparently not. Apparently my pizza was so bright and colourful that we needed to discuss it as a matter of some urgency.

When I asked for the bill, she said, “Not a problem.” Are there restaurants where asking for the bill is a problem? “I’m sorry, sir. You haven’t eaten enough to warrant dirtying the cutlery and a napkin. You will have to order another item before we can allow you to pay and leave.”

She brought the bill and stood there while I fished out a couple of hundreds. Then she asked a question I’d never before been asked in a restaurant.

How much change would you like?”

Well, honey-bunny, I’d quite like all of my change, if you don’t mind, and then I shall turn my mind to matters relating to the tip.

Too polite to actually say that, I found myself being pressured into making lightning fast calculations using nothing more than my brain. Having caught sight of numbers, my cerebral cortex shut down almost immediately. I would have sat there slack-jawed and drooling if it weren’t for an obscure neural reflex that had me going, “Ummm. Ummm.”

Customers shouldn’t be put in this position. Working out twelve percent of R97.45 and then somehow relating that to the change from a R200 note is the sort of thing you learn at Harvard.