It’s not always easy coming up with ideas for a column, week after week, month after month, year after goddamn year, especially not since the internet was invented and everyone became a comedian overnight.
By the time my deadline rolls around, everything that has happened anywhere in the world has been commented on, ripped apart, memed, lampooned and satirised. It’s hard to get a fresh perspective on anything unless it happens six hours before the paper goes to print. And that doesn’t work for me.
It takes me six hours to get to the bottle store. And I can only go at a hundred words to the beer. The time it takes to write a thousand words, factoring in the travel between my desk and the fridge, with toilet breaks and moving the cat off my keyboard, is way more than six hours.
It’s not my fault. I work in the communications industry, although I use the term “work” loosely. I’m not sure about the word “industry”, either, because it suggests productivity. As for “communications”, I never answer the phone and if the doorbell rings I lie on the floor until I think it’s safe to stand up.
These days I scan stories for key words like “shock” and “horror” and “open bar” and hope nobody else picks it up before Sunday. It hardly ever happens. But on Wednesday I hit two out of three.
It was a statement by communications minister Faith Muthambi in response to something Gavin Davis said. I had to google Gavin Davis to find out who he was. The statement was issued by someone with the unlikely name of Ayanda Hollow. One never really knows, in cases like these, whether the statement was written by the minister and simply emailed by this Hollow person, or whether it was more like a Hollow-gram pieced together from the demented rantings of an angry politician.
Either way, they knew what words to use to pique the interest of us jaded old whorehacks.
“The Minister has noted with shock and horror …” I went to the fridge and got a fresh beer. This was looking promising. Gavin Davis had clearly been exposed as one of the ringleaders of Boko Haram. Adjectives of that stature are generally reserved for massacres and war criminals, unless, of course, it’s a statement issued by the United Nations, in which case they let rip with words like “unacceptable” and “regrettable”.
Davis seemed an unlikely Islamic fundamentalist, although he does have a beard, which, in some cultures, is enough to have him stoned. I don’t know which cultures these are. Perhaps they don’t exist. But they should.
Davis’ heinous crime was to make “a litany of spurious accusations involving the SABC which have never been tested in any objective and fair process”.
The statement, by the way, was headlined, “SABC: Gavin Davis’ utterances horrific – Faith Muthambi.” Good word, that. Horrific. I’m pleased to see it getting some airtime outside of the killing of cartoonists and the wanton slaughter of women and children in Nigeria.
Davis had clearly accused the SABC of crimes against humanity and was calling on the nation to march on Auckland Park and burn it to the ground. Any escaping employees would be put to the sword or, as LNN7 might report it, put to the sawed.
I was happy to leave it there and go out looking for trouble on the streets, but my training forced me to read on.
“The Minister will not grace those allegations with any dignity by repeating them …” What? How are we …? What? You issue a statement violently condemning something someone said but you won’t tell us what he said because it would be undignified? I went to the fridge and fetched another Tafel. This was quickly turning into a fifty-word-a-beer piece.
I began reading the statement for clues.
“Honourable Davis is strongly advised not to act like an irresponsible shop steward with a clandestine mandate.” The Honourable Davis? This man has committed the most atrocious … well, I don’t know what. But whatever it was, he deserves to be flogged. Unless he enjoys being flogged. In which case he deserves something else entirely. The opposite of flogging, I suppose. A lie-in, perhaps. With breakfast brought to him on a tray. That’ll teach him.
Anyway, what is Faith/Hollow talking about? All shop stewards have a clandestine mandate. They’d be irresponsible not to have one.
She/he/they continue by accusing this monstrous fiend of “illegally colluding with some of the individuals whose interests he purports to be protecting”. Who are these people? Pangolin smugglers? We can only speculate.
But wait! What’s this? Is that the race card I see being flashed?
“It is indeed questionable that Honourable Davis’ level of activism coincides with the appointment, albeit on an acting capacity, of a black person at the helm of a public institution.”
Thank god this black person is doing what he/she does in an acting capacity, otherwise Grand Wizard Davis would almost certainly have stormed the SABC with his army consisting of Grand Dragon Hofmeyr on his high horse accompanied by Grand Cyclops Bridges on accordion.
“In addition, the Minister will not allow a perception to be created that if you are a black woman Minister you need a white male babysitter.”
Whoever you are who wrote this, let me just say that the perception is already out there. The horse has bolted. I am not ashamed to admit that I often babysit the foxy Lindiwe Sisulu. And by babysit, I think you know what I mean.
The statement ends by urging the cruel and selfish Davis not to drag “a public institution into disrepute”. Yes, Davis. The SABC was a reputable institution until you came along and did whatever it is that we’re not being told you did. Hang your head in shame.
And then, just as I was about to go to bed, this Davis character replied. Don’t look at it, I said to myself. Just go to bed and drink tequila until the sun comes up. But, as a professional, I needed to know both sides of the story.
Davis is the shadow minister of communications. Does this mean Faith Muthambi is scared of her shadow? Probably not. Does it mean Davis will one day be communications minister? Definitely not.
Davis clears up a few things. Apparently it’s mostly about Comrade Faith threatening to recommend the removal of certain SABC board members. Recommend? Please. In some African countries, the board members of state broadcasters are removed by firing squad.
Uncivil war conducted by statement. So much more civilised than razing villages and yet so awfully tedious. So crushingly dull. If this is the way we are going to fight, we may as well call ourselves Norway.
Come on, people. This is Africa. If you have to issue a statement, stuff it into a Coke bottle full of petrol, light it and throw it into the office of the person with whom you wish to communicate.
Martial law would be more fun than this.