TO: Vhonani Ramaano, Secretary of the Ad Hoc Committee to Nominate a Person for Appointment as Public Protector
FROM: Advocate Ben Trovato
Month: June 2016
TO: Vhonani Ramaano, Secretary of the Ad Hoc Committee to Nominate a Person for Appointment as Public Protector
FROM: Advocate Ben Trovato
Dear Comrade Oberstgruppenfuhrer Hlaudi Motsoeneng the First, Commander of the SABC in General and the Airwaves in Particular, Guardian of Local Content, Master of Invention, Supreme Defender of the Truth, I kneel before you in greeting.
Congratulations on taking the public broadcaster to new heights. There are those who say you have dragged it to new depths. Pay no heed to these counter-revolutionary quislings. Depths, as you know, are nothing more than heights in reverse. It all depends on how you look at things. And you, sir, are able to look at things in a way that beggars belief. Speaking of beggars, please issue a decree banning the depiction or mention of beggars on your television and radio stations. People exposed to beggars will want to become beggars themselves and soon there will be nobody left to pay your handsome salary.
Well done on forcing your radio stations to play 90% local music. However, I don’t understand why you never went for the full 100%. I hope you’re not going soft on us. Imagine if Stalin had let some of his critics live? He had to kill all 1.2 million or it wouldn’t be known as the Great Purge. It would’ve been something like the Mediocre Purge and everyone would have laughed at him.
You are Hlaudi the Magnificent and people do not laugh at you. Well, not openly. I saw someone in Woolworths the other day laughing for no apparent reason. Sure, there’s a good chance he was laughing at the prices, but I had to make sure. I pretended to be browsing, then rabbit-punched him in the kidneys and grabbed him in a chokehold. Not an air choke, mind. That’s for amateurs. I went for the blood choke, squeezing his carotid artery until his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
“Are you,” I hissed, “laughing at Comrade Hlaudi Motsoeneng?” I only had a few seconds before he passed out but I wasn’t giving up without an answer. He shook his head and pointed at the beetroot spaghetti, cauliflower mash and pumpkin tagliatelle. I also had to laugh and relaxed my grip. He dropped to the floor and I hoofed him in the nuts just in case he ever thought of laughing at you in future.
The media (The New Age) is full of praise for what you are doing and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if your boss, coach and personal hero, President Jacob “The One Who Laughs While Hurting You” Zuma, awards you the Mao Tse-Tung Medal of Honour the next time he restocks the patronage pantry.
What you have done to radio in this country is nothing short of brilliant. You could have ordered only a couple of channels to stick to local music in the hope of appeasing the likes of jazz fundamentalist Don Laka, but you didn’t. Neville Chamberlain tried a similar thing with Hitler and look how that ended. You, sir, are no Neville Chamberlain.
I should probably be honest, here. I don’t listen to the radio. Never have, never will. As far as I’m concerned, radio is little more than television for the blind. You could ban radio altogether and I wouldn’t even notice. It’s not a bad idea. With the savings on royalties alone you’d be able to buy yourself a modest island in the Caribbean. Give it some thought.
I understand your pro patria policy has also been extended to the SABC’s television channels. It goes without saying that this is good news, since all your news is good. Banning the showing of service delivery protests is a step in the right direction. And when I say right, I mean as far right as the National Party went when they banned the media from reporting on anti-apartheid protests. It was very noble of PW Botha to protect white people from having to watch angry darkies running amok when they could be watching uplifting programmes like Wielie Walie and The A-Team.
When I turn on the telly and see people burning tyres and throwing rocks at the police, my girlfriend has to strap me to my chair to stop me from going out and doing the same. I should say, though, that I frequently get the urge to do this without even watching the news.
Have you thought about what you’re going to fill your bulletins with as the noxious rabble step up their remonstrations ahead of elections? Of course you have. You’re a professional, after all. You might not have your matric, but you do have an honorary degree from the Joseph Goebbels School of Smoke and Mirrors.
Rabbits are good. People love rabbits. I am quite happy to produce a 900-part series on rabbits. White ones, black ones, fat ones, thin ones, smart ones, silly ones. If you’d rather not have white ones, that’s fine with me. They can all be fat and black for all I care. There will be scenes of gratuitous fornication so a late night slot might be best. There will be a lot of eating, too. And sleeping. Rabbits are big sleepists. I see it as a sort of Big Brother, only with rabbits. Viewers will go mad for it. They might even start paying their licence fees.
Scrapping all international shows and films and replacing them with homegrown content (rabbits!) will be widely welcomed by the 1.57 million people who force themselves to sit through The Bold and the Beautiful or the two million who suffer in silence through Days of Our Lives and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Freelance producers must be ecstatic at this new development. It costs around R5 000 to produce one minute of television. This means that men with moonbags and ponytails are set to become the wealthiest in the country. Not in terms of money, of course. The SABC doesn’t have the money to pay for this deluge of local content. This is where my show comes in. I foresee a surplus of rabbits after the first season of Big Bunny Brother. So you pay the producers in rabbits. A hundred of the floppy-eared vermin for a documentary, a thousand for a feature film. Feel free to claim the idea as your own.
I believe you met independent producers the other day. Why did nobody tell me? Is it because I live in Durban? This is the home of the bunny chow, for heaven’s sake. We could have wrapped this up right there and then at Orcland Park.
One thing I like about you is that you don’t bother with public participation. Your attitude is, “You have an idea? Bring it to Hlaudi. I and I alone will decide.” This is the way it should be. Genghis Khan would never have united the Mongol tribes through any namby-pamby process of consultation. On the other hand, he was a big fan of meritocracy. You’re no Genghis Khan.
This is my favourite quote from that meeting: “The team that I work with, they should walk like me and talk like me – that is what I am expecting from them. That is how I run the organisation, because we need to sing one song at the SABC and that song should be sung by everybody within the organisation.”
I couldn’t agree more. Great organisations are underpinned by great songs. Without the Horst Wessel Song, for instance, Germany might never have been the great nation it was from1933 to 1945.
I have been practising talking like you but it’s not going well. I still come across as coherent and educated. Perhaps it will be easier if I just learn to walk like you.
You also said, “We have given instructions. The ‘how’ is not my business.” Your use of illeism in this instance is commendable and not in any way an indication that you might be a narcissistic zealot. Instructions have been given. How they are carried out is irrelevant. And rightly so. Comrade Mugabe gave the order for white farms to be confiscated. It was not his business to make sure they were taken over by people who knew their plough from their poephol. And few would deny the success story that Zimbabwe is today.
Compadre, you are a man who knows powerful people. They, in turn, know other people. Who also know people, but once you get this far from the centre of power you need not bother with those ones. Have faith. Do you see what I’m getting at? No? Let me spell it out. Does the name Faith Muthambi ring a bell? Of course it does. She is the minister of communications. She has a degree from the University of Venda, whatever that is, and she calls you several times a day. Not with instructions, obviously. That would be inappropriate. You are, after all, a Man. I imagine you simply chat about this, that and the other thing. The other thing obviously being the profound and lasting subversion of the public broadcaster’s mandate.
A final question. Did you grow up in the same village as our foreign minister? She said in an interview with al-Jazeera the other day that she had a hole in her head from carrying buckets of water as a child. This was in response to a question about the recent brawling in our parliament. I think it’s a perfectly acceptable excuse for carrying on like a raving lunatic.
Do you also have a hole in your head, comrade?
White South Africans, much like white sharks, are one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet. They have a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and non-Caucasians are often afraid to venture into their territory for fear of being attacked.
Some, however, are merely inquisitive and will circle warily before racing off in their Hyundais. Others, perhaps sensing their way of life is under threat, might go on the offensive. A lot of the time, though, this will be nothing more serious than a mock charge. Stand your ground and they will more often than not back off.
White people, particularly alpha males, are easily enraged. They have been bumped from their slot at the top of the food chain and are struggling to adapt to their new position.
In many instances, they can be calmed down with offers of raw meat and brandy. There is nothing a white South African likes more than a chunk of charred cow and a bottle of cheap liquor. If he has just eaten and is already drunk, he might show no interest in your offer. This is when he is at his most dangerous.
The best way to ward off an attack, verbal or physical, is to threaten him with charges of racism. He will retreat faster than Khulubuse Zuma confronted with a salad.
When the EFF says whites need to come to the party or their land will be confiscated, they are forgetting one thing. White people don’t just rock up at a party. They need an invitation. They also need directions. And even then, they are going to want to know who else will be there. I think if the EFF had to put white people on the guest list and tell them there would be snacks, spare girls, a free shooter at the door and a DJ playing hits from the 80s, they would almost certainly come to the party. Unless it was raining, in which case they wouldn’t.
We already have a fairly good idea of what white people don’t like. In the interests of fostering better race relations, let’s take a look at some of the things they do like.
White people like nothing more than an orderly queue. There are two rules governing the queue: no eye contact and no talking. Do not be alarmed if you are standing somewhere with your hands in your pockets idly wondering what to do with your day and white people spontaneously begin forming a line behind you. They will be too polite to ask if you are in the queue and will happily stand there for hours waiting for some of whatever it is they think you are waiting for.
Even though every white person owns at least three cars, a boat and a private plane, they rarely use them for transport, preferring instead to get something they call exercise. If you see a white person running, do not assume he has been hijacked. Your offer of a lift to the police station will be misconstrued and things could end badly.
Now that sjambokking the staff is frowned upon, white people have to get their jollies elsewhere. Riding roughshod over the environment has become the new urban aphrodisiac. White people also enjoy taking their 4×4 to the carwash, even though the trophy wife has only ever used it to drop her Aryan offspring at the private school on the corner. Don’t bother asking for a lift. There is never room because the back seat is for the Borzois. You would be missing the point if you mentioned that the dogs aren’t even in the car.
White people have such a yearning for sea views you could be forgiven for thinking that if some of them were a bit brighter, they could be related to dolphins. But with burglaries and rates and taxes on the increase, second homes at the coast are becoming, much like the South African passport, a crushing liability.
Apart from sausages, Vienna – the home of classical music – has little in common with Africa. White people are drawn to classical music for two reasons. It places them above the middle class – who spend their evenings listening not so much to the sound of Mozart as they do to the sound of gunshots and screaming – and it places them under no pressure to get up and dance.
Although horses are useful only for transporting marijuana out of Lesotho, many white families keep race horses as a means of getting to the nearest airport in a hurry when the ANC Youth League take over the country and nationalise all private vehicles. In white culture, a pony for the youngest daughter is often a traditional gift. If you encounter a lady of the manor astride her mount down a leafy lane in, say, Noordhoek, doff your cap and fall to one knee. As they pass, you may want to whisper: “Neigh, my bru.” Unlike dogs, horses owned by white people have a fine sense of humour.
Wine was invented by white people for white people. They have much in common – both can be petulant, bitter and easily spoiled. And the cheap, nasty ones always worsen with age. If you find yourself at a wine-tasting on a farm in Franschhoek and a foreigner mistakes you for the sommelier, you might say: “I would recommend the Augusto Pinochet, madam.” Alternatively, you might want to say: “Go fuck yourself, madam.” Your call.
We live in a country run by a government that makes it exceptionally difficult for those who don’t wish to complain. Over the past 20-odd years, complaining has developed into a lifestyle. White people love complaining almost as much as they love rugby and Woolworths. If you find yourself pinned down by a complainer, don’t be reckless and say something like, “So what are you doing to change the situation?” Rather smile, nod and back away slowly.
You might think they would be used to it by now, but white people spend much of their time talking about it. Being born in Africa with European genes plays havoc with their internal barometers. Deeply conflicted, they complain endlessly about the heat, the cold, the wet and the dry.
Because their families are frequently dysfunctional, white people collect cats and dogs and treat them as if they were the fruit of their own loins. Many white people even train their dogs not to attack strangers, but to rather sit at the table and eat with a spoon. Cats don’t care much for table manners, let alone white people, and they may well be the downfall of this great nation. If a white person’s dog goes for you in the street, tell him the animal has character and he might pay your medical bills.
The only reason World War II was a success was because Germany invaded Poland on schedule. One of the reasons an African country has never tried to colonise the world is because most people don’t have watches and it would be impossible to coordinate anything. White people grow restless when things don’t happen on time, such as government programmes to house, educate and employ millions of people who might otherwise start blaming white people.
When Robert Browning wrote the immortal lines, “Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged” in his poem Andrea del Sarto, he wasn’t to know that 150 years later, pseudo-Italian architects with Arabian catamites and coke-encrusted nostrils would use it as a haute monde design philosophy. If you visit a white person’s home and they have very little in it, compliment them on their interesting use of space. If they say they have nothing because they’re poor, you should leave.
White people like old things more than they like old people. They spend a fortune putting their parents in old age homes and then spend a bigger fortune putting old stuff in their houses. They think that having a 17th Century Parisian douche bag on a pedestal would be more rewarding than a father who can’t remember his name. If white people visit your home and take an interest in your furniture, tell them the chairs were carved by Taharka, King of Kush. They will probably think this is a drug reference and try to buy weed from you. Add on 25% and give them whatever they want.
White people go to restaurants even when they have food in the house. This is because an entire generation of white mothers failed to teach their daughters to cook. The daughters don’t see this as a failure. They see it as a step towards the total emancipation of women. Really, darling? You won’t cook and you want to be free? Fine. See ya. Have a nice life. Hello, Mr Delivery?
I am girding my loins for the antibiotic apocalypse and I suggest you do the same. Actually, what you do with your loins is none of my business.
I get sick once a year when the seasons turn. This year my body decided flu was so, like, 2015, and decided to give me an infection instead. Nothing deadly, unfortunately, which means I have to stick around and watch our president and his confederacy of dunces continue to ransack the state.
I don’t have a doctor for the same reason I don’t have a religion. I don’t get sick and I don’t believe there’s a god. Not that that’s the same reason.
I tend to judge people on their looks rather than their abilities, and doctors are no exception. This means I have dallied with a number of beautiful women before taking the trouble to find out anything about them. Many have turned out to be not quite right in the head. This suggests my modus operandi is fatally flawed but there is nothing I can do about it now.
I turned to Google to find a doctor’s face I could trust. I didn’t care what qualifications he held – firstly, because they’re just a jumble of upper and lower case letters, and secondly, because I’m not convinced a huge skills gap exists between doctors. They’re like pilots. You have to know what you’re doing or people will die and then you’re unlikely to still be practising, let alone flying.
Very few doctors, it turns out, put their photographs up. Perhaps they don’t want people recognising them in the street and making them look at unsightly rashes on their genitalia.
Eventually I found one that looked okay. Middle-aged. Glasses. Slightly disheveled. You don’t want a doctor who looks like he stepped out of GQ magazine. He should be worrying about how other people look.
His surname sounded foreign but his first and middle names were about as Waspish as you can get. Perhaps he was Jewish. God’s chosen people sometimes have weird surnames. Or maybe his grandfather was from one of those unpronounceable Balkan states. I made an appointment.
The waiting room was like any other. Scuffed pleather couches, toys for unimaginative children, magazines from the Boer War – all coated in a thin veneer of other people’s filthy germs.
I took my infection off to a corner chair and tried not to touch anything. I loathe sick people. I can’t even bring myself to look at them. Just because I was sitting among them didn’t make me one of them. I was different. Special. My bacteria were far superior to theirs.
I heard my name called. An Indian gentleman standing at reception was smiling at me. Had we met at a party long since erased from memory? I twitched my mouth and nodded, then quickly looked away. Doctor’s waiting rooms are no place for socialising. It’s embarrassing enough to be recognised. He called my name a second time. I pretended not to hear. A woman with the face of a diseased kidney barked, “Hey, the doctor’s calling you.”
The doctor? How did my doctor become an Indian? He was blocking my path to the door. I would have to shoulder charge him if I hoped to make it out. Just then another door opened and the doctor in the photograph walked into the room. For a fraction of a second I had the urge to shout that a terrible mistake had been made and that I really wanted this guy to see me. Could I get away with this without everyone assuming I was the illegitimate love child of Eugene Terreblanche and Sunette Bridges? Probably not.
Look, I didn’t care that the doctor was Indian. Some of my best friends are Indian doctors. I was just utterly confused. Thinking of it, of course his surname was Indian. Four of the six letters were vowels. It was his Christian names that threw me. And, obviously, the photo of him as a white man.
As if to show him and the entire waiting room that I wasn’t Steve Hofmeyr in disguise, I shook his hand. This is clearly the wrong thing to do. Doctors touch the filthiest things, and I’m not just talking about foreign currency. I would’ve asked to wash my hands if I wasn’t afraid of looking like a cross between Adolf Hitler and Howard Hughes.
I went into his office and described my symptoms. He gave me the medical nod and asked what I did for a living. I could hardly say, “I write a weekly column” because of the very real risk of him replying, “No, I meant for a living.” Anyway, my infection had nothing to do with my so-called job, which really only puts me at risk of contracting deep vein thrombosis from sitting on my arse all day.
Without taking my blood pressure, checking my heart rate, feeling my pulse, asking if I had any allergies or a history of mental illness or was on any medication or even giving my infection a name, he wrote out a prescription for two antibiotics and wished me luck. I didn’t try to shake his hand this time. He didn’t get up.
Later, I chucked a couple of pills into my mouth and reached for the half-empty beer on the passenger seat. That’s when I saw it. A red sticker on one of the containers screamed, AVOID ALCOHOL. This made me feel substantially worse. I hoped this was a general health warning and not something I was expected to do for the duration of the course.
I have on occasion put things into my mouth without first asking what they were. In almost every case, though, alcohol tended to enhance their, er, healing properties. This time I thought I’d do some research. Find out exactly what was in this filth that conspired to prevent me from drinking. First off, I discovered that it contained 0.8% alcohol and “could be harmful to alcoholics”. This confused me deeply.
One container yielded a package insert 92cm long. Almost a metre. I measured it. You’d need the eyesight of a yellow-billed kite to read it so I checked it out online. Sure enough. Even a small amount of alcohol will make you violently ill. The antibiotic is on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines. I don’t care. Beer should also be on that list.
It’s used to treat a variety of infections, including something “popularly known as beaver fever”. I am almost certain that I don’t have beaver fever.
Hang on. The drug is listed by the WHO as a possible carcinogen? Tested on lab animals, it gave them cancer. Whoa. Back up the bus, Gus. I’ll take the beaver fever, thanks. The antibiotic I’ve just necked is banned in America and Europe for use in animal food. Because it’s carcinogenic, you can’t give it to cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and quite possibly beavers, but it’s okay to give it to me? I don’t know about that, man. It just doesn’t feel right.
The other antibiotic – a pill the size of the Hindenburg – is also used to treat people who have been exposed to anthrax. That’s pretty serious stuff. One of the more beneficial side effects is hallucinations but, disappointingly, I haven’t seen anything freakier than my neighbour’s children.
Which brings me back to the antibiotic apocalypse. Right now, superbugs are killing 700 000 people a year. Want to hear the forecast? By 2050, resistance to these drugs could cause the deaths of ten million people a year. More than cancer will kill. This isn’t a figure I got from some homeless man shouting on a street corner. It’s in a report commissioned by the British government. The Brits are not known for public displays of hysteria. If anything, the report underplays the crisis.
Scientists are working hard at discovering new classes of antibiotics. In the past thirty years, they have found one. One. I’m not making this up. Bacteria are laughing at us. They don’t take us seriously. They’re worse than our government. You think Julius Malema is dangerous? Try antimicrobial resistance.
Sensible people who know things are warning of the world being cast back into the dark ages. Routine operations and even a cut on your finger could be a death sentence.
We’re at this point because doctors have spent decades dishing out antibiotics like they were Smarties. And also because farmers pumped their animals full of the stuff to make them grow faster. As a result, germs have adapted and mutated. It’s evolution, baby.
In Britain, 45% of all antibiotics is given to livestock. You really don’t want to be eating pigs. This could prove to be the only tenet of the Judaic and Islamic religions that might actually save lives.
None of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have made a financial commitment to invest in new antibiotics. Why? They are expensive to produce and offer a poor return because they are taken for a short period only. Drug companies don’t want miracle cures that cost them a fortune to research and develop. They want sick people to stay sick, but not so sick that they die and can’t buy drugs any more.
So now there is talk of rewarding, well, bribing, drug companies with millions of dollars to develop new antibiotics. Because, you know, they’re really struggling to survive. Pfizer makes a paltry $22-billion in profits a year. I don’t even know what that is in our currency. My head would explode if I tried to work it out. In the space of three months in 2014, drug company Gilead made $3.5-billion from its hepatitis C drug alone.
To be fair, their overheads are high. For instance, in 2012 Glaxo SmithKline was fined $2.2-billion for excessively promoting a drug for depression to kids under 18. Merck, on the other hand, paid a piffling $950-million fine for illegally promoting a painkiller. It goes on.
And it’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors to prescribe their drugs over others. I don’t know if my doctor is among them. All I know is that his haste to give me antibiotics bordered on the unseemly. Antibiotics, I should emphasise, that cause cancer in laboratory animals. I still took them, though. Doctors know what they’re doing, right? RIGHT?