Author: Ben Trovato – Durban Poison

Eat my shorts, scientist tells God

The death this week of physicist Stephen Hawking sparked an avalanche of tributes, not all of which were riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. It’s Stephen with a Ph. No, not Phteven. And Hawking. No s. He was a cosmologist, not a cosmonaut. Also, he didn’t write a book about herbs called A Brief History of Thyme.

I suppose it’s reassuring in some small way that even the hard-of-thinking can appreciate the loss of someone whose IQ was higher than Ziggy Marley on a Friday night.

When I heard Hawking had died, I went straight to the fridge and got a beer. When the world loses someone who has contributed to the advancement of humanity, it’s important to celebrate their lives with a drink. It was 7.30am but we don’t get to choose when other people die. I wish I did. The streets would be littered with corpses.

I went outside, looked up into the cloudless sky, raised my bottle, mumbled a few words, and drank deeply to his memory. Then I had to apologise and do it all over again with a fresh beer because looking up into the sky seemed to suggest that he was up there somewhere in a mythical place called heaven.

Like a lot of very intelligent people, Hawking was an atheist. He once said, “I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either.”

If you are deeply religious, you’re probably washing your eyes out with holy water right now while shouting, “What did he know? He was in a wheelchair for most of his life!” I know what you mean. It’s hard not to look at a handicapped person and think they’re probably not that bright. Hell, it’s hard enough to look at a person in a wheelchair at the best of times. It’s not too bad when you’re sitting down and they’re at eye level, but it gets a bit tricky when you’re standing next to them like some kind of lord of the universe capable of jogging and even jumping over things.

I’m six-foot-four. I look down on everyone. My God complex is out of control.

So Twitter was awash in RIP tweets. One man pointed out that Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death and died on the anniversary of Einstein’s birth. “Time is circular – no beginning, no end,” he said. A bright lad, no doubt. Possibly stoned.

The very next tweet was from another bloke. “There’s a man walking through Woolies casually clipping his nails. Also, they don’t have cheese puffs. Can this experience get any worse??!!” Definitely stoned. Has only ever heard of Hawking in terms of selling stuff on the pavement.

After several beers in the British scientist’s honour, it seemed cruel not to share my spontaneous wake with a fellow intellectual so I called up Ted and he arrived ten minutes later with five crates of beer and a Malawian to help offload them.

“So who’s this Hawkins oke, then?” he said, despatching the Malawian with a promise not to report him to home affairs. I pointed out that he appeared to be suffering a malfunction in the hippocampus area. He started telling me about the time he registered at the University of Zululand but dropped out when he woke up one morning to find an actual hippo on the campus but got distracted by my lighting candles for the wake. Except I had no candles so I was setting random household items alight. It’s amazing how much stuff you don’t need.

“Excuse me,” said Ted, “I’m sitting here.” I apologised and made as if I was about to wee on his chair to put it out. He seemed to think this was inappropriate behaviour for a wake. Not if you’re Irish, I said. Ted correctly pointed out that the only Irish thing about us was our ability to hold our drink. The moment was ruined when he dropped his beer.

I had to concede that I was using the Irish as an excuse to ramp up the festivities and that Stephen Hawking’s mother was in fact Scottish.

“And his father?” I gave Ted the Gallic shrug, implying that nobody really knows anything about their fathers and it’s best not to ask. Ted is one of those men who believes the only way to get the measure of a man is to know about his father. He’s a bit like a Zulu in that way.

I suggested it might be appropriate to read some of the pearls of wisdom Stephen Hawking has dropped during his journey from birth in Oxford to death in Cambridge.

Ted raised his hand, accidentally dropping another beer. “Not much of a journey, really,” he said, his feet foaming like two giant salt-coated slugs. “It’s only two and a half hours on the M40.” I couldn’t resist pointing out that it’s quicker on the A421, even though it reinforced his stupid point. Anyway. The man had been in a wheelchair since 1968, for heaven’s sake. Not that there is a heaven. He did his travelling in his brain.

I told Ted about the weird Galileo/Einstein synchronicity, tossing in the little known fact that it was also Pi Day. He perked up considerably, wanting to know if I had any of them damn fine mutton curry numbers from the garage. I smacked him across the head and tried to explain how the 14th day of the 3rd month relates to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter but something got lost in translation and it wasn’t long before I had to punch him repeatedly in the mouth to stop him going on about Bitcoin.

I asked him if he agreed that the human brain was a computer that would stop working if its components failed. His so-called head wobbled in what I took to be agreement so I rewarded him with another beer and a Hawking quote. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers. That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Ted scrunched up his face and started crying. Something about Windows 10. I couldn’t help him. I work on a Mac.

To cheer him up, I hit him with another quote. “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.” Ted stopped snivelling and looked down at his feet. He wiggled his toes. The more he wiggled the more he giggled. It set me off. I imagine cardiologists would recommend avoiding hilarity of such magnitude. You won’t laugh like that looking up at the stars, I can tell you.

“Hold on,” said Ted. “Stephen Hawking. Wasn’t he on The Simpsons?” I need new friends.


Questions are being raised about whether recently departed scientist Stephen Hawking might have discovered that God is, in fact, a catfish as described in The Holy Barbel.


Land of the free-for-all

If you look up land reform in South Africa in an atlas, you will see a picture of a Neanderthal armed with a wooden club dispersing a family of Brachiosauruses so that he might build a rudimentary security complex on their traditional grazing grounds. He was the first property developer. And while the dinosaurs went extinct, property developers still walk among us. It’s rather tragic.

Then, in the early Pleistocene – which came to an end when it got ground into the terrestrial carpet – Australopithecus africanus came along and things took a bit of a turn.

“Who the hell are you?” asked the Neanderthal.

“I am the earliest hominid and I am taking this complex for myself.”

“No, you’re not. Besides, I haven’t even started building it yet.”

“Then I shall take your land.”

“You will have to fight me for it.”

“I can’t. Not today. My wife wants me home early.”

“Your wife that Mrs Ples?”

“That’s her. Why?”

“Take my land. You’ve suffered enough.”

Not all transfers of land went as smoothly as that. Before long – well, quite long –Australopithecus sediba was fighting off Homo ergaster who fought off Homo erectus who fought off Homo rhodesiensis who fought off Homo helmei who fought off Homo naledi who thought about fighting off Homo sapiens but chose to off themselves rather than sit through interminable committee meetings on land ownership where nobody spoke the same language and everyone wanted more than they needed. Little has changed.

Then along came the Upper Paleolithic period and everything went to hell in a crudely woven hand basket. Men started thinking they should cover their willies in public and women started thinking … I don’t know what they were thinking and it’s not my place to guess, either. I apologise. Smash the patriarchy.

Hunting and gathering cultures known as the Sangoan began occupying parts of southern Africa. They were the forerunners of the Khoi and the San who, if they started dating, agreed to be called the Khoisan. Otherwise not.

They weren’t that into developing golf estates and shopping malls, preferring instead to get stoned and spend their evenings laughing and painting crazy things on the walls of their caves. They were fun people to have around on a Friday night.

Ultimately, though, they were too nice for their own good. The Bantu, you see, had plans. Well, inasmuch as you can call wandering off in a general southerly direction a plan. I think they must have travelled as I do. Let’s just go a bit further. See what’s around the next corner. Not this one, the next one. Then we’ll stop, I promise. Oh, look. A mountain. I wonder what’s on the other side.

I don’t know who was more surprised to see each other – the Khoisan or the Bantu. Knowing the Khoisan, they would have rolled a massive joint. Knowing the Bantu, they would have taken it.

You’d think that would have been the end of it. That they would start shagging each other and coexist happily. Which they did. Until the novelty wore off. Once you’ve had enough of rogering members of a different tribe, it’s not long before you want to murder them.

The Khoisan was the largest population on earth at some point. This isn’t me just making up facts. This comes from an evolutionary geneticist from Harvard University. I’m only mentioning it in the hope that the editor will notice that I’m doing research and give me more money. To spend on extra research, obviously. Not beer.

With their superior agricultural, metalworking and shagging skills, the Bantu soon enough became the dominant population and did whatever the hell they wanted. Which was only right. Those who dominate will always be domineering. That’s the whole point of being dominant.

While my ancestors were dressed in rags and selling potatoes outside a brothel in Rotterdam, the Bantu in Mapungubwe were trading in gold and ivory and building the region’s first gated compound. They had a kingdom, for heaven’s sake. With hot and cold running Khoikhoi servants. My people couldn’t even make themselves understood unless they were drunk.

Speaking of barbarians, an Australian-listed company called Coal of Africa wants to open a mine a stone’s throw from this world heritage site. Plans are on hold for now. If they do go ahead, I shall form a company called Wombats of Australia and go off to mine wombats on the Great Barrier Reef or wherever the hell it is these deadly creatures live.

So. The Bantu began expanding faster than Collen Maine’s waistline at a free buffet. Existing populations were displaced or assimilated. Or, if time was short, killed. Some fancied the Transkei so they went there and became the Xhosa nation. The rest fancied everything north of the Kei River and called themselves the Zulu nation. They had their differences but these were solved in traditional South African fashion – first dialogue, then violence.

At some point the Dutch arrived. It was okay at first. They built stuff, got high and grew vegetables. Jan van Riebeeck was a full-on hippy. Then, through some kind of weird reverse-evolution, some of them turned into Boers and went to the Transkei because it had the best grass. Still does. Since they couldn’t speak Xhosa, they skipped dialogue and proceed directly to violence.

Then the British arrived and occupied Cape Town to prevent it from falling under the control of the French. I’m starting to get a headache. From what I can make out, the Boers hated the British, the Zulus hated the British and the Boers, the Xhosas hated everyone and the British hated themselves.

Right. That’s enough history. We all know the rest. The Boers won. Then, in 1994, they lost. They spent a helluva long time at the top of the log, though. Then again, even Arsenal would dominate if they had an actual arsenal at their disposal.

So here we go. From a parliament of white people passing the Native Lands Act in 1913 to a parliament of black people in 2018 agreeing to take back the land. It’s a very complicated issue that gets a lot simpler the more you drink. Try it.

Firstly, you can’t confiscate all of it – all 1.2-million square kilometres – and give it to the state. King Goodwill Zwelithini would have a hissy fit and announce a unilateral declaration of independence. I don’t so much mind being a citizen of the People’s Republic of KwaZulu, but I really don’t want to have to go to Nongoma every time I need permission to travel outside the province.

Secondly, there’s a possibility that Julius Malema is pushing expropriation without compensation simply because he wants to get his cabbage farm back. It was auctioned off by the asset forfeiture unit in 2013 to pay his tax debt. Pouring salt in the wound, a white Afrikaner snapped it up.

In 20 years’ time, we will look back at the smouldering wreck that was once our economy, shake our heads sadly and say, “Bloody cabbages.”


An open letter to our shiny new president

Dear Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa the First, Defeater of Zuma, Shuffler of Cabinets, Player of Golf, Shaker of Hands, King of Venda Financing, Stepfather of the Nation, I hereby greet you.

I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your ascent to the highest office in the land, but on the day it happened I assumed that I was hallucinating and didn’t want to say anything for fear of alerting the drug squad. Nobody needs the cold, wet nose of a sniffer dog in his crotch first thing in the morning.

So I do apologise for the tardiness of my felicitations. It’s important to get in early before the names of all the fawners and flatterers blur into one. I want to be among those who stand out in your mind. Not because I want any special favours, but because … okay, it is the favours. I won’t list them now. That would be crass.

Comrade, you sure give good reshuffle. It’s as if an integrity bomb fell right into the trough while the Guptas and their pet weasels were in mid-snout. Actually, the timing could have been better. It was very accommodating of the Hawks to make sure the three stooges from India were safely out of the country by the time you slipped between those 500-thread Egyptian cotton sheets at Mahlamba Ndlopfu for the first time.

I don’t understand why people are complaining that you didn’t fire the likes of Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyani and that other one with the face. They are obviously there to make your new people look good. Diamonds always shine brighter when juxtaposed with gravel.

There are also complaints about you appointing DD Mabuza as your deputy. Something about him being involved in tender fraud and political assassinations in Mpumalanga. Hey. Times are tough. Everyone needs a side gig these days. Glad you gave the man a break.

It was also an inspired decision to appoint Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as Minister in the Presidency. Every henhouse needs a fox. Keeps the chickens on their toes. I was, however, a bit surprised to see the minister of tweets get the boot. Fikile Mbalula was at least good for a laugh. Did you know he tweeted me a death threat the other day? Something about me losing an arm and a leg. He deleted it, though, which was nice of him. I must say I feel a lot safer now that he doesn’t have the entire police force at his disposal.

Bheki Cele is his perfect replacement and I’m not only saying that because we share a birthday. The original cat in the hat is an intimidating figure. If he walked into my house right now, I’d confess to stuff that I haven’t even done. And unless he killed Senzo Meyiwa himself, my bet is that he’s going to find out who did. Keep him away from lease deals and he’ll do just fine.

It was also a good move bringing Derek Hanekom back to head up the tourism ministry. Tourists from Europe like to know that a white man is in charge of that side of things. Nobody wants to go on holiday if it means having to watch their family being boiled up and eaten by cannibals.

I’m going to miss Lynne Brown and not just because I have a thing for lesbians, either. She reminds me of the cuddly aunt I never had. Sure, an aunt corrupt and incompetent in equal measure, but cuddly nevertheless.

The moment I saw Malusi Gigaba playing Candy Crush in parliament, I knew he was out. Brilliant move sending him back to home affairs to revoke the citizenship of that unholy triumvirate of Dementors from Saxonwold. After all, he granted them citizenship in the first place. It’s obvious that he has to fix what he broke. For us ordinary mortals, to visit home affairs is to visit hell. Gigaba actually has to work there. I couldn’t think of a more fitting punishment.

I don’t know much about his replacement, Nhlanhla Nene, except that he was finance minister once before. Anyone who got fired by Jacob Zuma during his nine-year reign of error is almost certainly a hardworking, honest person. Victims of the Msholozi purges should be given the Order of Mapungubwe, don’t you think?

I imagine Nhlanhla’s counterparts from first world countries might struggle to pronounce his name. Perhaps he could use his middle name, Musa? No, wait. That sounds too much like Musi. How about Mufasa? Everyone loves The Lion King.

Speaking of Musi, isn’t it hilarious how the DA fell for the EFF’s romantic advances only for the lady in red to start making moon eyes at their former lover. I foresee a cosy quadripartite arrangement in 2019. A foursome, in other words, with the SACP and Cosatu swinging both ways.

I’m going to miss David Mahlobo. He was quite possibly the worst spymaster in the world. Everyone could see him coming. And I mean everyone, not just Chinese Chelsea at the Mbombela massage parlour.

It was devilishly cunning of you to make Bathabile the Minister of Women. It’s a ministry that, like so many of our women, can be quietly ignored and then done away with when nobody is looking. There are, of course, women who objected to her appointment. One said she no longer identified as a woman and would henceforth consider herself a cat.

Hang on. What’s this about the Hawks searching author Jacques Pauw’s house? This is excellent news. I shoplifted Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers, and it left me thoroughly depressed. There is no place for whistleblowers and investigative journalists in a democracy.

As you said in your State of the Nation address, “We should put all the negativity behind us because a new dawn is upon us.” Jacques Pauw needs to be put behind us because new dawn raids are upon us. He is guilty of committing the crime of journalism in the third degree and must be rendered to New York to plead his case to the hanging judges of the Pulitzer Board.

By the way, seven rhinos in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve were slaughtered in a single day recently. Imagine if a school lost seven of its pupils in a day. You might be forgiven for thinking it was a badly run school. The poachers are obviously timing their raids to coincide with the live Lotto draw. Or perhaps the afternoon siesta. If you don’t do something about the management of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, there’ll soon be more poachers than rhinos in the park.

Speaking of solitary, thick-skinned brutes, I’m a bit worried about the way Jacob Zuma is carrying on. If I were him I’d be in the firepool with nothing but a snorkel sticking out. Instead, he has been swanning about like some kind of national hero. He arrived in a motorcade to the opening of the KZN Legislature and got out of the car laughing. These are not the actions of a man recently fired and one press conference away from 783 counts of corruption. Does he know something we don’t?

Before I forget, I have some land I’d like to donate to the underprivileged. It’s not much but I dare say you’d manage to squeeze four people and a goat onto it. Right now it’s just lying there unused and fallow, like me. Feel free to send your men around to expropriate it any time. I don’t want compensation. A position in your cabinet might be nice, though. I was thinking a new portfolio – the Ministry of Bacchanalian Affairs – would suit me well.

Anyway. Best of luck. Those of us not trying to get into Australia are counting on you.


Vat cats, budgets and eejits

Patriotic South Africans are hoping that the VAT increase – the first in 25 years – will once and for all stamp out the poor. The impoverished, however, are resilient as all hell and I fear it will take more than this to put an end to them and their wretched, frugal ways.

I didn’t really want to write about the budget this week for several reasons, one of which is that any talk of finances causes me to lapse into a frightful state. My body continues to function as well as can be expected given the conditions under which it exists, but my brain goes into some kind of anaphylactic shock. This seems to suggest I have an allergy to money, which would explain why I have so little of it.

The other reason is that I associate the word ‘budget’ with pain. I’m not talking about this namby-pamby emotional pain suffered by vegans, poets and women trapped in men’s bodies. I’m talking real physical pain. You see, when I was growing up I was given a paltry amount of pocket money once a week. Within an hour I would have spent half of it on sweets and lost the rest by the end of the day. All my pants had holes in them as a result of the rigorous games of pocket billiards I played before, during and after school and one only had to follow the money to find out where I was.

With my blood sugar levels plummeting, I would approach my father on hands and knees. “Please, Sir, may I have some more?”

After extinguishing his Ritmeester Quick in my ear and delivering a light whipping with his cat ‘o nine tails – a genuine nine-tailed cat bred specifically for the purpose of punishing profligate boys – he pinned me to the floor with his knee and once again explained the importance of budgeting.

Today, after all these years, I only have to hear the word ‘budget’ and I curl up like a pangolin, weeping and shouting that I don’t understand numbers. It’s too terrible for words.

In an attempt to grasp what the VAT increase means, I turned to Twitter, that magnificent, monstrous oracle containing all the truths and all the lies of the world within the infinite depths and darkness of its diabolical bowels.

Zeenat Moorad caught my eye. She’s something called a “money editor” and seemed to want to help halfwits like me to understand. “Folks, the VAT increase works like this: It’s up by 1 percentage point from 14% to 15%, this is an increase of 7.1% in the VAT rate. So the impact is 0.877% increase on what consumers pay.”

I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a little when I read that. I do understand numbers insofar as you get odd ones and even ones. Fractions, though, are among the oddest numbers you can find. They make no sense at all. Ordinary people are unable to grasp the concept of 0.877% and I would like to marry Zeenat Moorad even though it would mean never eating bacon again.

There were others on Twitter who described the VAT increase in language I could understand. One said it was punishing the poor. Union conquistador Zwelinzima Vavi said the entire budget was an attack on the poor. It’s a good thing they’re poor, then. If they could afford decent weapons we’d all be in serious trouble. Mind you, the storming of the Bastille went off rather well and those peasants were armed with nothing more than rusty muskets and pitchforks. Then again, they didn’t have to contend with an unreliable central line to reach Paris. If Metrorail ever gets its act together, that’s the end of parliament.

Turning to our snappily dressed finance minister, Comrade Vavi described Malusi Gigaba in glowing terms. “An illegitimate leader condemned by the courts of our land as a liar who broke his oath of office. Now about to tell workers they will pay for the mess he played a leading role in creating! I feel like vomiting right here in parliament!” That’s glowing so fiercely it’s damn near ready to explode.

My attention was snared by another, altogether more serious, tweet. “He has taken our beer away from us,” it read. My scream set the neighbour’s dogs off. Judging by his svelte shape, Gigaba is not a man who regularly enjoys a case or two of Windhoek’s finest of an evening. In fact, he has the body of a teenage girl and the truth is I envy him. But how dare he. How very dare he.

Drinking during the Mandela years was a vice. Drinking during Zuma’s reign of error was a survival mechanism. From April 1, a bottle of wine will cost 22.5c more. I don’t care. Wine is an appalling habit. It makes your mouth turn inside out and the morning after drinking the filth you often find you have broken out in bruises and flesh wounds.

Beer goes up by 14c a can. I don’t know what that works out per case. You’d need to have studied maths at Harvard to do that kind of calculation. But it’s a lot. You’re going to find many more people doing their drinking inside bottle store fridges, I can tell you.

As for the rest, I don’t give a damn about the price of cigars and cigarettes. I used to smoke but gave it up when I realised that if I wanted help in killing myself, I’d rather give my money to Mikey Schultz than a tobacco company.

Bad news for car thieves is that the fuel levy is going up by 22c a litre. Nobody understands how this works. I have never filled up my car and then deducted the levy so that I know what petrol would cost without it. I have never filled up my car. The Road Accident Fund will go up by 30c a litre. This is also built into the petrol price increase because without petrol you wouldn’t have accidents. I have never benefitted from the Road Accident Fund but I certainly intend to. I’m just waiting for the right moment to crash into something that will leave me sufficiently maimed to guarantee enough of a payout that I don’t have to keep writing rubbish for a living.

Once again there is no tax break on books. This is a good thing. An educated nation is a dangerous nation. Once they start reading, there’s no telling what they might learn. They might, for instance, discover that anarchy doesn’t mean rioting in the streets but is in fact a valid political philosophy where people reject authority and instead opt for self-rule. Imagine there’s no government. It’s easy if you try. Sadly, we live in a country where people can’t even control their dogs, let alone themselves.

Estate duty tax is being raised to 25% for estates greater than R30-million. There’s something wrong with you if you die with that kind of money in the bank. Well, I suppose there was something wrong with you, what with being dead and all. But what the hell happened? Couldn’t you spend it all? It’s just not right. Death is not enough. You deserve to be penalised further.

Someone in Gigaba’s office who knows his way around a calculator has worked out that South Africa will need to borrow R224.2-billion this year. And I thought I was bad with money. Quite frankly, I don’t know why they don’t just print more of the stuff.


Throw them to the lions

I was woken by church bells last Thursday morning. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue and the birds seemed happier than usual. I could hear the sound of children laughing. It felt as if I were living in a village in Palermo and the Godfather, a ruthless man disliked by all, had died during the night.

Post-celebratory hangover notwithstanding, waking up to a South Africa without Jacob Zuma was intoxicating. Then, later in the day when Cyril Ramapahosa was sworn in as president, the sense of a fresh beginning was overwhelming. It was like the birth of a new nation. I got a glimpse of how lapsed Christians must feel when they return to the fold after running out of money for drugs. We are born-again South Africans. Halleluja.

Even the Hawks have discovered, to their surprise, that they were capable of removing their blinders all along. Their wings have grown stiff over the years but it seems they still remember how to fly.

Zuma was pushed onto his sword, an unusual way for any president to leave office. Then again, he was hardly a conventional president. For a start he showed no obvious interest in politics, which is rare for a politician. We know what made the man happy. Sex, money and overseas travel. The same goes for all of us, I suppose, but we’re not in charge of running a country. Most of us couldn’t have done any worse than Zuma, quite frankly.

I believe him when he says he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. The ANC won’t tell him and nor will they tell us. The ex-president’s pet poison dwarf, Jessie Duarte, told journalists during her post-resignation hagiographic eulogy that she wasn’t going to give reasons for his recall because the media is “not known for being sensitive” and for caring about the feelings of people and their families. I laughed so hard that beer spurted from my nose.

The fact that Zuma is genuinely puzzled about his recall was evident when he chose to go on live television and complain to an SABC reporter about his unfair treatment. He seriously believed that he could win support by whining to the nation. That’s us, by the way. The people who have wanted him gone for far longer than his own party has. He was appealing to the most hostile audience imaginable, which supports my theory that he honestly believes he is loved by everyone apart from a handful of dissidents led by Cyril Ramaphosa.

There has been so much lyin’ going on lately that at some point my attention turned to lions, who hardly ever lie. They pretend a fair bit, though. Nothing to see here, Miss Springbok. I’m not a lion, I’m a termite mound. Zuma, on the other hand, has been pretending to be a lion and it turns out that he was a termite mound all along. Full of venal, corrupt termites, some of which managed to gnaw their way into the cabinet. This is why it’s full of dead wood today.

We all know about termites like Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, Faith Muthambi, Lynne Brown, Mosebenzi Zwane, the list goes on, and it’s only right that the cabinet be fumigated to rid us of their insatiable ilk. But there are others who aren’t necessarily chewing their way through the fabric of our body politic. These ones are just as dangerous. They are, simply put, not very bright. I suspect this was part of Zuma’s strategy. Deploy the sluggish termites to slow bureaucracy down not so much that the economy grinds to a halt, but just enough to allow the industrious termites to latch on to the money streams and start the pilfering process.

To be honest, I don’t know if they work in concert. There are many perfect examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in almost every government department, but it could be that these deployees aren’t necessarily corrupt. They’re just morons. One of these happens to be our environmental affairs minister. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know her name. It’s only because she’s not overtly a part of the state capture brigade. She’s one of the other termites. Edna Molewa is there to think slowly, act slowly and take decisions based on how she’s feeling that day.

She’s keen on selling our rhino horn stockpile, has granted emissions compliance exemptions to dozens of companies, including Eskom, and, in her previous portfolio, blamed wet coal for the electricity blackouts which, as we now know, was caused by the Guptas. My fear is that in Cyril’s rush to get rid of the rapacious termites, he will overlook bumbling imbeciles like Edna.

In terms of importance, the government ranks environmental affairs down there with sport and recreation. Edna seems to think it’s lame to protect stuff like animals and the climate. Take lions, for instance. I’ve never met Edna but from what I have read it seems unlikely she’s a cat person.

Members of the Arizona-based Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club are also not cat people. They are not even animal people, unless by animal people you mean people who pay money to murder animals just for the hell of it. And yet both organisations recently condemned the hunting of captive-bred lions, something they had no problem with for years. I don’t know why the sudden change of attitude. A lot of states are legalising weed these days. Maybe they were high.

The SCI banned the marketing of canned lion hunts through the organisation and notified its hunters and clients that trophies from captive-bred lion hunts would be ineligible for the club’s macabre Record Book which lists members who have killed the biggest/smallest/most species.

The equally bloodthirsty Dallas Safari Club said there was no evidence that captive-bred lion hunting contributed to the conservation of wild lions. So there it is. Even Donald Trump’s people think it’s wrong. Not our Edna, though.

“A barbaric and morally repugnant relic of colonialism that is out of step with 21st century forward thinking.” No, former Australian minister Greg Hunt wasn’t describing Helen Zille. He was talking about canned lion hunting.

Confronted with a global backlash against the practice of domesticating lions, then shooting them in the face when they come up to you for a cuddle, our Edna gave it some thought. Her mouth fell open and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. A passing tick bird landed on her nose and gave her teeth a quick clean. Her think over, she decided that all lions were fair game and it didn’t really matter that their bones were being sold to criminal networks in Asia.

Responding to questions from Durban-based journalist Simon Bloch, Edna’s spokesman Albi Modise said the department had no intention of stopping hunters from shooting tame lions at close range.

“In light of the fact that South Africa has legislative protection in place for endangered and threatened species and subscribes to the principles of sustainable utilisation of natural resources, there is no reason to prohibit the breeding of lions in captivity for hunting purposes,” he said.

And while our caged lions might be safe from American hunters, there’s a whole new bunch of good old boys with big guns and tiny willies waiting in the wings. They’re going to be coming from Russia, China and Eastern Europe. At least the Americans were only doing it so they could hang a head on their wall. These guys are going to want to eat their kill. Wash it down with a Lion lager.

The Free State is a haven for the captive breeding of lions. Ace Magashule’s province. What a surprise. It was a vile province during apartheid and it’s not much better now. I think KwaZulu-Natal should invade and annex it without delay.

I also think the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa and the SA Predator Association should try to be less neanderthal about the issue. Be less blinded by greed and more open to conservation.

Now that we seem to have found our moral compass after nine lost years, perhaps President Ramaphosa could use it to help civil servants like Edna Molewa find their way out.


The breast and worst of Valentine’s Day

Most women on Valentine’s Day are quite happy to wake up and find a couple of hundred rand on the bedside table. But not Brenda. Oh, no. She woke up and wanted new breasts. “No problem,” I said, getting off the floor upon which I had inexplicably spent the night. “I’ll nip out to the shop and pick some up.”

By the time I left the pub, I had completely forgotten what she wanted so I sent her a Please Call Me. “Breasts,” she snapped. “Chicken or beef?” said I. She pointed out that cows did not have breasts. “On the udder hand, Darren,” I said.

Anyway. Turns out that I had cocked it up as usual. She wanted a completely new set of human breasts and not something smothered in honey and mustard sauce and nibbled on at lunch, although why we couldn’t combine the two was beyond me.

Most women, I imagine, choose the enhancement option in matters this close to the chest. Brenda, however, wanted quite the opposite. Unheard of, where I come from. Come to think of it, given where I come from most things are unheard of. Intellectual gigantism is one of the few conditions my so-called friends don’t suffer from.

To men, the notion of a breast reduction makes about as much sense as gobbling handfuls of Chinese medicine guaranteed to make one’s willie shrink. Ever since we are born we are conditioned to believe that bigger is better – the exception being the willie department. Here, men are more than happy to cling to the unusually charitable Cosmo myth that size doesn’t matter.

The first thing boy babies see when they open their eyes is a giant breast bearing down on them like some godawful Peruvian landslide. It has a tremendous impact on their outlook on life, especially if they are expected to swallow a nipple the size of a bricklayer’s thumb.

I had a friend who claimed that he refused to be breast-fed on the grounds that his mother’s numbies were too small, so he tried to suckle the domestic worker instead. We used to call him Jungle Fever until he started dating black girls. After that, we didn’t call him at all.

I tried telling Brenda that if she really wanted a pair of smaller breasts, there was a far less permanent way of getting them. She headed me off at the pass. “You will never have a threesome for as long as we are married.” I keep a very good divorce lawyer’s number on speed dial for moments like these, but he is only due for release in 2025. By then I expect I shall be more interested in philately than philandery.

And lo, it came to pass that I found myself helping Brenda into a backless gown in the gynae ward of a city hospital. Private, naturally. Go for a boob job at a state hospital and you risk walking out with a size 36C bum.

The week before, she had gone to see a couple of plastic sturgeons. Apparently it’s like getting your car panel-beaten. You need to get at least two quotes. She wasn’t that keen on the first doctor because he specialised in labiaplasty. Can’t blame her, really. Even I think there’s something a little odd about a man who sculpts designer vaginas for a living.

Nurses aren’t what they used to be. The guzzling of ethyl alcohol, the hideous screaming, the broken bottles and the stabbings. Perhaps they weren’t nurses at all. Come to think of it, they didn’t have white clothes. Or teeth. And they were falling about on the pavement outside the hospital.

So I got Brenda into her ridiculous medical frock, all the while trying to talk her out of it. “Listen to me,” I said. “It’s not too late to run.” It’s not as if Brenda had enormous bazookas lashed to her front. Sure, they were more than a handful, but then so is she. Her breasts were fine. It’s her brain that could do with a nip and tuck.

A nurse walked in and began filling in Brenda’s chart. Judging by her questions, I thought she might have been one of the girls I saw in the street. “Where are the pain?” she asked. Brenda explained that she was about to have a breast reduction. “Dids you call a doctor?” I began giggling like a schoolgirl but saved my face by feigning stomach cramps. “Please may I have some pethidine?” I begged. Unfortunately, the nurse had absorbed just enough training to know not to hand out awesome drugs to people who were sitting in the visitor’s chair, even if they were clearly suffering from some sort of paroxysm.

Then the anaesthetist burst in, full of piss and propofol. He offered me a cursory handshake and proceeded to focus all his attention on Brenda. How very dare you, I thought. Why don’t you ask how I’m feeling? Maybe take my blood pressure? For all you know, I’m about to have a stroke. Brenda said later that he seemed nice. Yeah, right. To the bedside manner born.

I swallowed Brenda’s pre-med when she wasn’t looking and slipped out before Dr McDreamy swaggered in, flashing his scalpel and telling my wife to get her babylons out.


Fuck off, cupid

Here’s something I wrote at a time when my so-called marriage was at its best.


Brenda said she wants me to take her out on Valentine’s Day. This puts me in a bit of a dilemma. Should I pay someone to do it or should I do it myself? Purists might say it would be more romantic to take care of something like this personally. But then what do I use? Poison would take too long. A gun is too vulgar. Perhaps a tastefully arranged accident might be best.

Living an increasingly isolated life, I have taken to musing aloud. I find it helps lull my existential crises into a false sense of reality while entertaining the dogs at the same time. Although giving voice to my thoughts goes some way towards reassuring me that I am still of this world, it does land me in a spot of bother now and again.

“Accident?” said Brenda. “What on earth are you on about?” I pretended to have suffered a stroke and began slurring about the clouds in the trees and the birds in my pocket. She was meant to pick up on the aphasia and rush me to the nearest couch, upon which I would weakly request that she bring me beer and switch the channel to Top Gear. Instead, she accused me of being drunk and went off to make a cup of gin for herself.

God know what would happen if I ever had to have a genuine stroke. I’d probably crawl into the kitchen and lie there for days, soiling my broeks and burbling to myself while she stepped over me, reprimanding me for not closing the fridge door.

Anyway. It soon became clear that Brenda was not asking me to Kebble her. She wanted me to take her out in a far less permanent manner. To dinner, for instance. Given restaurant prices these days, it would have been cheaper to have her whacked. I watched her face to see if I had said that aloud but there was no reaction. Then again, she doesn’t react to a lot of what I say.

Valentine’s Day? Really? In a country where a woman can cut open a pregnant mother’s stomach, killing her and stealing her unborn child, and yet we’re more shocked by an increase in the petrol price? Yeah, baby! Bring on the roses and shower me with champagne.

One does not, however, wish to be the curmudgeonly grinch who pours acid rain on the happy parade. There will be festivities today and this is how it should be. It has been this way ever since a clasp of Christians called Valentine were martyred on or about the date in question. Fourteen of them, at last count. Back then, the name Valentine must have been the equivalent of John.

“This is our seventeenth bloody kid. What the hell are we going to call this one?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. You keep making me pregnant, you name him.”

“Right. Valentine he is, then. I’m off to the tavern.”

Saint Valentine’s Day was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. This dude rocked. For a start, he was of African origin. He probably wanted an entire month set aside for candle-lit dinners and unbridled fornicating. On the other hand, he did suppress the festival of Lupercalia, which makes me think he wasn’t as African as he made out to be. Lupercalia was celebrated by degenerate young nobles who would run through Rome naked, striking those they met with shaggy thongs. Girls would line up to be lashed to ensure fertility.

Pope Gelasius was an idiot. He should have stuck with it. I would far rather stay home and be whipped with a shaggy thong than trundle off to a pretentious restaurant, make small talk with a woman I don’t care for, pay a fortune for a meal I never wanted, then get arrested for drunk driving on the way home and sodomised by a fighting general in the 28s. But that’s just me.

Then, in 1969, a grumpy old man by the name of Pope Paul VI deleted St Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of saints. With the stroke of his pen, he kicked Cupid in the kidneys and opened the way for Hallmark to flood the world with their nausea-inducing cards.

Hallmark’s V-Day page says, “Valentine’s Day is for saying I Love Us.” What they hell are they trying to pull here? The message was always, “I love you.” What is this “us” business? Why are they screwing with the message? What are they saying? I love us, but I sure don’t love them? Who are them? Maybe them be those who don’t buy Hallmark cards.

Love is no longer the all-embracing thing it once was and it’s fair to say the world changed forever when, on a sultry summer afternoon in a San Francisco bathhouse, a small green simian sweet-talked his way into having hot monkey sex with two men wearing little more than moustaches.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Use a condom.