An open letter to SABC chief Hlaudi Motsoeneng

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?

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46 thoughts on “An open letter to SABC chief Hlaudi Motsoeneng

  1. Wonderful… as always. “know the plough from the poephol’… Not in a thousand years could I dream of writing that! Lovely!

  2. Ben this was so inspirational, that I’ve hauled out my TV Licence, and intend having it framed and displayed proudly in the outside toilet.

  3. My God …. you, Sir, are BRILLIANT!!!! I have to share this right now !! Pity the poepol won’t read it … And you f he does he will honestly tell everybody ne wha a fabulous critique he just got from some cool guy in Durban !!

  4. Ben, you are an awesome satirist. Laughed till I cried. I have to share this one with a friend of mine. Well done!!

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