Month: August 2018

Release the tapeworm, not the tape

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.

No, I haven’t had a stroke, although if I were to have one my first choice would be for it to happen right now on a Sunday night. Apart from waking up dead, I can’t think of a better way to start the week than in a private hospital in a private ward with around the clock access to Netflix, pethidine and a night nurse who understands that the bed bath is an art and not a duty.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes is a Latin phrase written by Virgil while bumming around Italy committing unspeakable acts upon doe-eyed slave boys and writing poetry before Jesus was born.

It means “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. Why would he say that? He should have kept his little rosebud mouth shut. The little ponce had no idea how many housewarming parties he ruined over the next two thousand years.

“Go see who’s at the door, babe.”

“Ah, fuck. It’s that dreadful Agamemnon.”

“Don’t let him in!”

“But he seems to have brought a gift.”

“What is it?”

“Some kind of wooden horse.”

“I already have a ceramic horse. Pretend we’re not home.”

“Okay, he’s gone.”

“Thank god.”

“He left his gift.”

“The horse? Quickly, bring it in.”

And with that I come to Adam Catzavelos. More of a Greek bearing gifs. Yes, I am aware that this segue belongs in calipers but statistics show that people are far more likely to kill themselves or a loved one on any given Sunday and I need to prepare for all eventualities.

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In a thirty second selfie video shot on a beach in Greece, Adam Catzavelos changed his life forever and reduced the national tolerance level for white people by 39.4%. In fact, he did it in only five seconds. That has to be some kind of record. Many of us would leap at the chance to say half a dozen words and magically lose our horrible families and boring jobs. It wasn’t even half a dozen words. It was one word.

It wasn’t Avada Kedavra, the killing curse.

It wasn’t Crucio, the torturing curse.

Not was it Imperio, the controlling curse.

This was K***ir, the Motherfucker of Curses – so named because once the word passes your lips, it is your life and not the life of the target of the curse that is destroyed. It’s a very weird curse, made weirder by the fact that black people can utter it with no negative consequences whatsoever apart from perhaps being invited to make up a four-ball with the managing director the weekend after next.

Here’s the thing, though. And it’s something that nobody seems to have considered. What if – and this is a very real possibility – it wan’t Adam Catzavelos who uttered that ugly racial slur? What if his brain had been taken over by, say, a tapeworm? It wouldn’t be the first time this sort of thing had happened.

On 6 September 1966, Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed and killed Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd during a session in parliament. During his trial – which in a normal country might have been a ticker-tape parade – his lawyer said that Tsafendas had been acting on the instructions of a giant tapeworm which dwelt within his client.

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The court, headed by a judge who failed to recognise the rights of tapeworms, sentenced South Africa’s first Greek hero to be detained “at the pleasure of the State President”. This happened to be a man named Charles Roberts Swart. Without a hint of irony, his nickname was “Blackie”. Judging by his photograph, he looks like a man who would derive tremendous pleasure from the detention of evil-doers, especially if they had impaled his prime minister on the advice of a tapeworm.

There are good people and bad people. There is good bacteria and bad bacteria. And there is no scientific reason to think that tapeworms are any different. I’m not for one minute suggesting that all Greeks are dictated to by tapeworms. That would be Greekist.

But given the history of Greeks and tapeworms – and who among us will ever forget the sight of Maria Callas eating bowls of tapeworms to control her weight – it is quite clear that there are at least two types of tapeworms that are attracted to Greeks. Or at least two types of Greeks who are attracted to tapeworms.

There are plenty of statues of horses in this country. What the fuck did a horse ever do to change anything in South Africa? I think it’s appalling that there isn’t a single sculpture of Tsafendas’s tapeworm in any park or garden in this country.

Problem is, it might look just like Catzavelos’s tapeworm.

 

A letter to the American President

Dear President Trump,

Thank you so much for your recent tweet in which you threatened to invade my country if the government didn’t stop killing all our white farmers and stealing their land. I live in a very violent country and we need all the help we can get from civilised countries like yours. Did you know that fifty people die violently every day in South Africa? Then again, none of them are farmers. Also, they are black. Forget I mentioned it.

This was your very first tweet in which you mention Africa and we are honoured that you chose to single us out among all the other covfefe countries like Nambia and Zimbopaloowop.

I fell in love with that tweet, sir. So much so that I have to reproduce it here so that even more people can be exposed to your intellectual prowess and unique insight into global foreign affairs.

“I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

And you fired this dramatic shot across my government’s bows without even needing to consult anyone in your administration! I suppose that’s what Fox News is there for. Barack Obama would have definitely made some kind of spineless attempt to ascertain the so-called ‘facts’. I get the feeling that you might have had a bit of a chat with one of the boys, though. They’ve been out here, right? Of course they have. They killed a bunch of our animals. I think it was Eric who was photographed holding up a knife and an elephant’s tail. If anyone knows anything about South Africa, it’s Eric and the other one. The throwback. You know who I mean.

Not everyone here is thrilled about your tweet. For a start, my government is terribly upset. They say they haven’t actually seized any land from white farmers. That’s an appalling argument. Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean you can’t condemn it. As a graduate of the Lewis Carroll School of Political Philosophy, you understand this better than most.

Some homeless loser called Patrick Gaspard – probably an alias – accused you of “needing political distractions to turn our gaze away from his criminal cabal”. This desperate drug fiend had the gall to claim that you have never visited Africa and have no discernible Africa policy. Fake news! Your tweet showed the world that you do have a policy on Africa. Well, Fox news host Fucker Carlson does, and that’s good enough for me. Anyway, why on earth would you need a policy longer than 280 characters for a continent that you recently described as a shithole?

Oh dear. I’ve just googled this Gaspard character. It turns out that he’s a Columbia University graduate and was the American ambassador to South Africa from 2013 to 2016. It doesn’t matter! The point is that he was born in the Congo to Haitian parents! That’s two strikes right there. Three, if you consider that the traitor is probably fluent in French. You can’t trust anyone who knows a second language.

Julius Malema (you won’t recognise the name) said his party of Economic Freedom Fighters aren’t afraid of you. He doesn’t seem to realise that he’s joining the back of a long line of people with similar sentiments and it will be decades before he gets to you. Nothing to fear there, Mr President.

A lot of other people in South Africa implied that they will fight you on the beaches. This is what happens when you allow black people onto the beaches. In the good old days, the US Marine Corps would have been able to come ashore at Addington Beach and Camps Bay without a problem. Then again, there would have been no need because back then we had a government which understood that white and right rhyme for a reason.

But you do have allies on these hostile shores, Mr President. There is a group called AfriForum mandated by none other than God to protect the rights of minorities. When I say minorities, please don’t think I am talking about the Bushmen. They had their chance and blew it. Too much time spent sitting around fires communicating with the ancestors instead of forming armies. Africa is not for pussies. You can’t just grab and kiss.

I should warn you that AfriForum is trying to claim credit for your tweet. The group’s CEO, Kallie Kriel, who would probably be the equivalent of your Imperial Wizard in the KKK, said this in a statement: “I think our lobbying has certainly had an impact because we have spoken with a lot of people who have had contact with President Trump and we have spoken with many think tanks, one of them for example the Cato Institute, which has taken a very strong stance shortly before this statement now by President Trump.”

Be careful of these people. You might think they are allies but they cannot be trusted. Their once glorious National Party folded like a pack of cards and many of their members joined something called the Democratic Alliance. As you know all too well, the very word Democratic is a scourge and a curse.

I must admit that I and many of my countrymen know very little about farming, let alone farm seizures. I had an epileptic dog called Julius Seizure once but that doesn’t really help. So when you asked Secretary Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures”, my heart was filled with hope. Please ask Pompeo to share his findings with us because nobody here really knows what is going on. Also, if you do get the chance, please ask Pompeo to change his name. Out here, a Pomp is a sexual act and we find it hard to take him seriously.

Anyway, Mr President. It’s getting dark and I have to unleash the hounds, feed the crocodiles, activate the landmines and make sure the perimeter guards have enough bullets for the night. I can only imagine it’s worse for the farmers.

If our government gives you any more guff, send in the troops. They will be met by some of our finest men, including Oberstgruppenführer Steve Hofmeyr and his loyal sidekick Sturmbannführer Adam Catzavelos. If they are on holiday, we have many others to take their place.

Good luck with the impeachment.

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So, anyway.

Durban Poison letters 3

I just wanted to thank everyone who emailed me and wrote to the Sunday Tribune expressing their outrage/condolences/relief after the newspaper gave me the boot. I find it a bit odd that the paper chose to use a few of the letters. It’s almost as if they were saying, “Yes, we were idiots to get rid of him, but if you don’t believe us here are some of our readers who feel the same way.”

So far, none of the fake mainstream media has offered me a home for my column. The Big Issue in Cape Town seems keen and at this rate I may well become the magazine’s first vendor/columnist.

I was so traumatized by being “let go” for reasons that still make no sense that I immediately went to Sri Lanka on a surfing trip. If I had a paying column, I’d tell you all about it.

 

 

 

 

Lies, editors and contracts

I don’t know, man. I’m very easy-going but sometimes I just can’t let lying dogs sleep.

I was reading today’s Sunday Tribune online when I happened upon Mazwi Xaba’s column. He’s the editor who recently fired me as a columnist.

Even though I’m in no mood for it, he has left me no choice but to saddle up my high horse and ride into battle. Here’s what he wrote.

“For the record, columnist Ben Trovato is still contracted to write for us at least until the end of August. Like his followers who wrote in, we valued his contribution. Trovato flew very close to the line, but he was always guaranteed the carte blanche he has enjoyed for years until he left over contractual issues. Like most newspaper companies, ours is dealing with the digital revolution that necessitates changes. The door will remain open for him while we investigate other options.”

Okay. Here’s the thing. I don’t know why he chose to adopt a Trumpian approach to the truth in this matter. What works in America doesn’t always work here. So let’s break this down. For the record.

I am not “still contracted” to write for the Tribune for the simple reason that I have never signed a contract in the five years I wrote for them.

By saying “we valued his contribution”, Xaba implies that the decision to leave was mine. It wasn’t. If he genuinely valued my contribution, why did he get rid of me?

I fly close to the line because, having been in print and television journalism for the best part of thirty years, I know where the line is and see no point in flying anywhere else. I was given “carte blanche” to write a weekly column at The Namibian (1986–1991), the Cape Times (2002–2007) and the Sunday Times (2008–2013). I wouldn’t have kept writing for the Tribune if the then editor, Jovial Rantao, and his successor Aakash Bramdeo, had put constraints on me.

And now this is where the facts start to stumble.

“… until he left over contractual issues.” Since I never had a contract in the first place, and contractual negotiations never took place, it doesn’t take a great leap of logic to accept that I couldn’t have left over contractual issues. And the words “he left” implies that I chose to leave. I didn’t. I was pushed.

Here’s the real story. Somewhere around March, I and several other freelancers were asked to sign something called an SLA. A contract for freelancers. It was a ridiculous contract that appeared to have been cobbled together from other contracts.

It stated that my column “belongs solely to the Client to be used on all properties and platforms solely at the discretion of the Client.” That would mean me giving up copyright. At the very least, I wouldn’t be able to publish a compilation of my columns as I did with my Cape Times (On The Run) and Sunday Times (The Whipping Boy) columns .

It would also mean that any title within the group could use my column without paying for it.

I asked, politely, for the clause to be scrapped and explained why I felt it should be done away with.

Then, under Compensation, it said “The Freelancer will be paid xxx per column.” The new amount slashed my fee by more than half. I assumed it was a mistake (I asked the editor, he didn’t respond) and requested a very modest increase on the grounds that I had been earning the same pitiful sum for five years.

That was on April 19. Then everything went quiet. Too quiet.

Nearly two months went by. Then, on June 13, I got an email from Human Resources asking me to sign the contract. It was becoming like Groundhog Day. I pointed out that I’d already raised my issues with the contract on April 19. I was told HR was not aware of my concerns and that the issue would be “escalated to the relevant persons”.

On June 20, a week after HR received my very polite objections to the contract as it stood, I got a call from the editor. Mazwi Xaba said he was very sorry but the paper had to let me go. I asked if there had been complaints. He said not. In his words: “It was purely a business decision.”

It didn’t make sense. A week earlier, HR had been badgering me to sign a year-long contract. Then, a week after I attempted to negotiate the contract, I get fired. I asked him about this and he denied there was any connection between the two. Nothing to do with my demands, he said. They weren’t even demands. They were requests. Freelancers can’t afford to make demands.

If the Tribune regrets losing me, as Xaba implies in his column, wouldn’t they have tried to reach some sort of compromise with me? Negotiate, maybe? Or at the very least tell me, “Sign the contract as it stands or you’re out.”

His suggestion that I was being dumped because of the “digital revolution” makes no sense and I’m not even going to explain why.

The only semi-truth is that I was meant to write a column until the end of August. Not contractually, though, because I didn’t have a contract. And not, as the editor would have it, “at least until the end of August”.

However, I did fail to read the attachment to his secretary’s email formalising my dismissal. Had I done that, I would have seen that I was only getting the boot at the end of August. During my telephone conversation with the editor, I thought it was the end of July. So in the final edition of the month, I said goodbye. Okay, fine. That screw-up is for my account. It cost me an extra month of money. Inexplicably, the editor also said in his column on 29th July that “we say adios to Ben Trovato this week”.

The editor’s last sentence in today’s column is like a plot twist in a David Lynch movie.

“The door will remain open for him while we investigate other options.”

What does this mean? Answers on a postcard, please.