Category: Columns

Dead elephants tell no tales

US President Donald Trump is reversing an Obama-era ban on hunters importing trophies of elephants killed in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Are his sons planning another hunt? Here’s a letter I wrote to the little fuckers in 2012.

 

Hey boys!

Just wanted to congratulate you on your successful hunting trip to Zimbabwe.

Our papers have been full of pictures of you guys holding up dead leopards in a pink mist of vapourised waterbuck. You’re real heroes in these parts, let me tell you. There has been a bit of criticism, but it’s coming mainly from white bunny-hugging do-gooders who think wild animals are there to be photographed instead of destroyed like the vermin they are. Bloody liberals.

I see you managed to bag three of the Big Five. Well done! But what stopped you from going for a full house? You got the buffalo, elephant and leopard, but missed the rhino and lion. And you call yourselves Trumps? Just kidding.

I’m sure it’s not your fault. I bet the organisers of the hunt failed to tether them securely and they escaped before you could drive up and shoot them in the face.

Donald Jr., I particularly enjoyed the picture of you holding an elephant’s tail in one hand and a knife in the other. You can even see the legs of the elephant lying on the ground to prove that you got it off the animal and not from a curio shop.

I bet you also cut off its trunk and poked it through your zipper and pretended you had a giant willy. I certainly would have.

I liked the shot of you guys posing next to a crocodile strung up from a tree. It reminded me of those old pictures from your Deep South. Now that the darkies are off-limits, croc-lynching could be the next big thing in Alabama. Wanna be partners? You gun ’em down, I string ’em up.

By the way, did you know that we also have a Small Five that are tremendous fun to kill? Meerkats are my best. If you’re quick, you can run up and kick them before they bolt for cover.

Your brother, Eric, could have been waiting in an imaginary end zone to catch the flying ‘kat. Touchdown! American football, Africa style. What’s not to love?

Another of my favourites is the tortoise. Hunting tortoises is usually done when you have a hangover. I’m sure you had lots of those on your trip because the only way to survive Africa is to drink heavily while firing blindly into the night.

So what you do is set up your chair within shouting distance of a reliable servant – you don’t want to run out of Bloody Marys – and wait for a tortoise to come along.

Put your foot on his back to stop him from getting away. This is where it gets tricky. He will have retracted himself, making a clean head shot impossible.

Don’t shoot him in the shell if you plan on using him as a paper-weight. They shatter easily. Rather take a leaf out of your father’s book: cut off his lights and water and starve him out.

You said the local villagers were overjoyed at getting the meat from your hunt. And why wouldn’t they be? Leopard carpaccio garnished with a sprinkling of civet cat and drizzled with crocodile jus doesn’t appear on the menu in the Matetsi area all that often.

When I read that the hunt organisers were called Hunting Legends, I thought they were offering legends like President Robert Mugabe. Now there’s a trophy you should have on your wall.

But I suppose he would put up too much of a fight. Not that you lads aren’t bok for a fight. Far from it. A kudu is a hell of an adversary. You were just fortunate to come across one that was drugged.

To be honest, a lot of the wild animals in southern Africa are on drugs these days. They also lack any real work ethic and spend most of the day sleeping. Smelly freeloaders. No wonder we kill them.

You were also lucky to have survived shooting a tusker. Many elephants, particularly in Zimbabwe, are known to explode without warning and, even from a distance of 300 metres, you could easily have lost a leg. Or worse, had your hair messed up. Gel is hard to come by in the bush.

I’m not much of a hunter myself, but I think I know why you boys enjoy it. For a start, Eric is a girl’s name and he has a lot to prove. And your name is Donald Jr., and yet it is Eric who looks more like your father. No wonder you’re angry.

You said the money you paid for the hunt will be used to fund nature conservation in Zimbabwe. I presume by “fund nature conservation” you mean “arm Zanu-PF veterans”. That’s okay. We understand code in these parts. No names, no pack drill.

My wife, Brenda, says you’re both latent homosexuals. As my Uncle Pervy used to say, “Better latent than never.” Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that I beat her soundly for her insolence.

I must say, though, Eric, you do look pretty damn sexy with that leopard draped over your shoulders. It brings out your eyes.

And Donald Jr., seeing you straddling that dead buffalo makes doggie style seem positively Christian.

Y’all come back again!

Unknown-1Unknown

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Amazing Grace

Dear Comrade Grace,

Congratulations on achieving what nobody else has been able to in 37 years – get Robert Mugabe to stand down. This is especially remarkable at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to get him to stand up.

Looking back, it might have been a tiny miscalculation on your part to get your husband to fire vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Who would’ve thought a war veteran with strong military ties would have had the army in his corner? I’m no political strategist, but it seems to me that you might have moved a little quicker with your plan. If Bob had abdicated last week and installed you as president, you could have had your defence force rounded up and jailed by now. You could have borrowed our army to imprison your army. We’re not using ours at the moment. Give our soldiers a mutton curry pie and a Coke and they’ll do anything.

I was astounded that half a dozen armoured personnel carriers could simply drive into Harare and instantly put an end to life as you know it. Is it possible that Bob himself was behind the coup-that’s-not-really-a-coup? I read somewhere that you had started beating him. I always assumed he enjoyed it. Perhaps he only said he did to keep you happy. Some husbands are like that.

When President Zuma called for calm and restraint, do you think he was talking directly to you? After the awkwardness of having South Africa captured by an overweight immigrant family from Uttar Pradesh, the last thing the region needed, as the Zimbabwean army gently eased the passage of the new national democratic project, was to have you burst from state house shrieking and swinging a nine-plug extension cable at anything that moved.

I believe Zuma is sending his state security minister, Bongani Bongo, to have a chat with Bob and the new boys. Try to get in with Bongo. He’s a good man to have on your side. His predecessor loved massages. You must have all manner of oils and unguents lying about the palace. Bob doesn’t get to look like that without lashings of intensive skin care. Roll up your sleeves and give Bongo a bit of a rub. You don’t even have to pretend to enjoy it. Talk about espionage when you’re doing it. He likes that. Slap him around a bit. We’d like that.

Apparently Zuma spoke to Bobbles this morning. He said he was fine. Or fired. Or on fire. It was a bad line. I don’t suppose his health matters much to you any longer. What a tremendous weight off your mind, let alone your hips. It couldn’t have been easy being married to a 138-year-old man. Does he still wake up in the middle of the night and order Winston Churchill to be shot?

I hear you’ve, er, gone off for a bit of a holiday. You certainly deserve a break. One minute you’re shaking your booty to a North Korean marching song on ZBC while picking out an outfit for your inauguration and the next you’re in the boot of a loyal lackey’s car racing for the Vic Falls border.

Apparently you have a farm in the south of Namibia. You’ll love it there. Okay, Keetmanshoop isn’t exactly Singapore in terms of shopping and health care, but there are a lot of bottle stores and, well, that’s about it.

Do your two gorgeous boys realise they’re going to have to get real jobs now? Poor little things. They must be devastated. Still and all. Keetmanshoop is a far healthier environment for Robert Jr and Bellarmine than, say, Chikurubi Prison. Try to interest them in sheep farming. It’s better than alcoholism. Not really, but don’t tell them that.

Anyway. Don’t let the fire go out of those crazy black eyes of yours. I’m a big fan. Not big enough for you to come and live with me, I should point out. I am partial to the mad ones, but, Grace, you’re next level and I’m just not ready for that right now.

Pamberi ne chimurenga! Pameberi ne karakul farming!

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How to Stay Alive

With all this talk of farm murders and other crimes of a less savage nature, I thought it a good time to share a chapter from my book Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival.

 

BUYING property is a big decision. Bigger even than choosing a wife. These days it is far easier to divorce a dud wife than it is to sell a dud house.

You home is your castle. You worked hard for it and you have the right to defend it with your life. Or, preferably, someone else’s life.

When it comes to choosing where to buy, a lot of people make straight for the gated villages and security estates. I am not a big fan of these for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that you can’t escape easily if the sheriff comes looking for you.

Whether you opt to live in the leaf-riddled suburbs, within the walls of a fortified compound or free-range on a farm, you need to pay close attention to the points of entry. Some people prefer to stay in apartments high up in the sky where the yellow-eyed varmints can’t get to them. The estate agents call this a lock-up-and-go. All my life, wherever I have lived, I have simply locked up and gone. And yet I have been burgled more times than I care to mention. So much for that idea.

The suburbs are the natural habitat of the common housebreaker. Although they are solitary animals, it is not uncommon to find two or three of them hunting together. These shy creatures are easily startled and are difficult to spot during the day. Nocturnal by nature, they have a keen eye for detail, especially when it comes to alarm systems and dogs.

Police have warned that “scouts” leave coded messages on the pavement indicating which houses are safe to be robbed. Green crème soda cans let the boys know it’s open house. Red Coke cans signify that a little force might be required. Police urge residents to report strange objects that appear on the pavements outside their homes. Among the unusual objects that regularly appear on my pavement are drunk homeless people. I am still trying to work out what this signifies. I also on occasion leave half-empty beer bottles outside my house. I hope this strange new code gives the varmints sleepless nights.

The only way to ensure that you are never broken into is to make your house impregnable. Doors and windows are the weakest security points. These must be bricked up. Make sure you do this from the inside. If you have a chimney, seal it off. Burglars can also gain entry through your roof so you will need to replace your ceiling with a concrete slab. Your house should now be completely safe. Nobody will be able to get in to rob you. Nobody will be able to get out, either, so make sure you have enough food to last for the rest of your life. If you are married to someone who insists on getting out now and again, then you should probably consider other options.

Here are a few ways you can minimise the chances of getting burgled.

Moats

Apart from being one of the sillier words in the English language, a moat can be highly effective in keeping the varmints at bay. To minimise your water bill, it is best to run hoses from taps around the neighbourhood. If you live near a stream or river, go out late at night with a spade and divert it so that it fills your moat.

Once your moat is full, you may want to make a feature of it by adding water lilies, fountains and a couple of crocodiles to take care of those housebreakers who, as adults, have learned to swim.

Crocodiles are easily obtained in South Africa. Lake St Lucia is well stocked with these brutes. In Zululand, nature conservation officials move slower than the crocs so you need not worry about getting caught. You should worry more about getting eaten. With that in mind, try to avoid taking fully-grown crocs. As tempting as may be to have instant security, you will have trouble fitting more than one adult in the boot of your car. You could tie another to your roof racks if you don’t mind attracting attention.

If you are pressed for time, it makes more sense to load up on eggs. You can visit one of our crocodile farms and stuff the eggs down your pants when nobody is looking or you can get them on eBay for a few dollars apiece.

The eggs of saltwater crocodiles take about 80 days to hatch, but I would suggest you stay away from these unless you are prepared to go to the trouble of converting your moat. Some people say chlorine is best, others swear by salt. I don’t want to get involved. This argument has claimed lives.

You are most likely to end up with Nile crocodiles. Crocodylus niloticus can grow to over five metres long and weigh up to a ton so it is best to get them while they are young. Unless you want the SPCA on your case, you will have to feed your crocodiles on a regular basis. Although they will get to eat the occasional drunk who falls into your moat, this should be seen more as a dietary supplement than anything else.

One of the major benefits of using crocodiles instead of other aquatic species such as geese or hippos is that crocodiles can live for up to 80 years in captivity. Not having to replace your watchcrocs will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don’t forget to get the drawbridge people in before you fill your moat.

Landmines

Some people have a thing about landmines. Princess Diana was one. She decorated two entire rooms at Balmoral with disarmed mines. The green room was reserved for anti-tank mines, the red room for anti-personnel mines. They were all there, from the Soviet POMZ-2 to the American M-18 Claymore. A particular favourite of Diana’s was the Valmara 69. Produced in Singapore, this little baby can shoot more than a thousand metal fragments over a 25-metre radius. Sometimes, when William and Harry were little, she would bring out the OZM-3 jumping mine as a special treat and let them play with it. The princes had hours of fun trying to catch it as it bounced through the castle.

None of this, however, is of any concern to you. All you have to do is remember where you laid your mines. I have heard of people who went to the trouble of sowing a minefield around their house only to step outside to fetch the newspaper and get blown up. It is essential that you create a map showing precisely where the mines are.

Most housebreakers prefer to take the path less trodden, so you might want to scatter some of those mines in the more inaccessible areas of your garden. Try not to bury any in the flowerbeds. Reliable gardeners are hard to find these days.

If you are a real patriot you will want to get your hands on something homegrown. During the 1980s Armscor turned out some damn fine blast and fragmentation mines. Unfortunately these have not been stocked at local hardware stores since Nelson Mandela was released. You could try getting your mines from the Russian mafia in Cape Town, but be advised that it is very difficult to get through to them. On all levels.

Here’s an idea. Why not make it a fun outing? Take the family to Angola for the weekend. Even though the country is a little run-down, landmines can still be found in most of the rural areas. It might take a while, but with a little poking around, you, mom or one of the kids are almost guaranteed to pick up a few good-quality mines for use around the home.

Walls and fences

The Germans and Israelis have done more to popularise defensive walls than any other nation in recent times. The trend was started by Roman emperor Hadrian in 122 AD when he built a stone wall right across Great Britain. It was the only way he could keep the lunatic Scots at bay. The feat impressed the electorate back in Rome and simultaneously served as a warning that Romans would not hesitate to build stone walls should anyone dare try to stop them from taking over the world.

Today, Hadrian’s Wall is the most popular attraction in northern England and tourists are often seen walking the length of it. Considering what else is on offer in northern England, this is extreme adventure at its best.

If we had to be honest we would admit that the Chinese started this nonsense with walls around 220 BC, but they claim credit for way too much already and I doubt that I shall mention them again.

Not everybody believes in the power of walls. The anti-wallers believe that by erecting a wall you are converting your home into a prison. What’s wrong with that? When last did you hear of a prison being broken into? How often does the head warden get back to his office to find his door kicked in and his TV missing? It just doesn’t happen. Prisons are the safest places on earth because they have walls around them.

Barbed wire vs blade wire

Anyone who grew up in South Africa will have a soft spot for barbed wire. Anyone who is white, of course. Barbed wire was invented to keep the darkies in their place and out of yours. Barbed wire sent out an unambiguous signal. Barbed wire was on the side of right. Barbed wire was strong. Trustworthy. It had principles.

Barbed wire topped the fences around our military bases. It lined the streets whenever the natives got restless. It lay there in tight reassuring coils in hardware stores throughout this once great country. If it weren’t for barbed wire, parliament would have fallen to the communists long before 1994. And if barbed wire is good enough for Guantanamo Bay, it’s good enough for your home.

The only negative thing I can say about barbed wire is that it is very working class. If you have received a good education and are well spoken (i.e. English-speaking), the chances are that you will prefer to secure your house with something that has a little more breeding. I am talking about razor wire, also known as blade wire. The Germans came up with it in World War One. And even though they eventually lost the war, they did succeed in killing several million enemy soldiers before admitting defeat. This was not bad going for a country that had little more than the crumbling Ottoman Empire and a couple of stoned Hungarians on their side.

It was at 11am of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that a ceasefire came into effect. At 10.58am, a German sniper shot Canadian George Price through the head. Being the last soldier to die in the Great War showed the world once and for all what Canadians really are – a bunch of no-hope losers with an appalling sense of time and place.

This has nothing to do with razor wire.

Eina ivy

The most aesthetically pleasing device to come out of the home security industry. Its spikes will tear your burglar to shreds, but at least he can admire its shroud of lifelike plastic green leaves while slowly bleeding to death in the hydrangeas.

Alarms

Home alarm systems remain one of the most popular deterrents to people who lie around all day drinking wine from plastic bottles and smoking crystal meth and then when everything runs out they think they can come over to your house and take your stuff and sell it for a fraction of its worth so that they can stay drunk and wired for another three days. If it were that easy, we would all be doing it.

Alarms work by frightening off burglars who suffer from hyperacusis, an abnormal sensitivity to loud noises. These burglars, who make up 0.1% of the housebreaking fraternity, now wear earplugs to work.

Alarms are also designed to alert the neighbours that there is trouble next door. However, neighbours in South Africa have long since learnt not to get involved in anything that happens beyond their garden gate. The house next door could be dismantled piece-by-piece and carried away by a chorus line of transvestites in fishnet stockings and latex rubber leotards singing “Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go” and still the neighbours would say, “Didn’t hear a thing. We had the rugby on, you know.”

These days most alarms are linked to armed response companies. Keep in mind that most housebreaking syndicates are also linked to armed response companies.

If you are at home and your alarm is activated, all it really does is induce cardiac arrest in the elderly and infirm, give you a splitting migraine and encourage your cats and dogs to find a new home in the next town.

If you insist on an alarm that makes a conventional wailing sound, I suggest you invest in the type that Israel uses to warn people in Haifa that Hezbollah is about to ruin their day. If your alarm can be heard by every police station in the city, the odds are dramatically increased that someone might come around and investigate. If it’s not lunchtime, that is.

Try to get your hands on a Chrysler Air Raid Siren. It is the size of a car and weighs three tons but if you can hoist it up on to your roof, it would be a desperate burglar who would keep robbing you with 138dB howling into his head.

You may want to impress or even terrify your neighbours by acquiring a siren that has the ability to broadcast voice messages. These electronic sirens are similar to conventional sirens except for the fact that they rely on a series of electrodynamic, horn-loaded loudspeaker drivers to produce sound. I presume you record your message in much the same way that you would on your telephone answering machine. Here are a few suggestions in case you can’t come up with any of your own:

“The house is surrounded. Get down on the floor. If you move, you will be shot.” (Edit in background sound of helicopters and dogs barking).

“This is God speaking. Stop that at once.” (Insert background sound of thunder and a chorus of celestial voices raised in anger).

“Freeze! I’m Ma Baker! Put your hands in the air and gimme all your money!” (Boney M instrumentals in the background).

CCTV

Closed-circuit television has revolutionised home security. Cameras mounted in strategic places are able to monitor a housebreaker as he climbs over your garden wall, enters through a downstairs window, walks down the passage, grabs a beer from the kitchen, heads up the stairs and sidles into your bedroom where he ties you up and steals all your valuables, leaving you with a unique video of an unidentified man in a balaclava roaming around your house and robbing you blind, which you can then show to all your friends and use as justification for emigrating to Perth. You may find it more rewarding to use your CCTV system to make cheap porn.

Armed response

Armed response units are to police what paramedics are to doctors. They walk, talk and smell just like real cops but are quicker on the draw because they don’t have to fill in as much paperwork after gunning down a varmint. On the down side, they are paid almost as badly as cops. And, like cops, they also have habits to feed, gambling debts to pay and kids to put through reformatory. This is worth bearing in mind when you invite them into your home to inspect the entry and exit points and provide them with your secret code and a detailed schedule of your movements.

Dogs

Let us be clear on one thing. Dogs are animals. They are not meant to be kept as pets. We have all been to the beach or to a park and seen someone throw a ball for a dog. Perhaps you have even done it yourself. You people make me so angry. Why in god’s name are you encouraging your dog to chase balls when it is blindingly obvious to all who care about these things that he should be chasing criminals? Every time your dog runs after a ball, somewhere out there is a criminal not being chased.

And you, you with that fur-covered beach ball. Oh, it’s a Labrador, is it? Shame, give him another piece of cake. Watch him go into cardiac arrest through the sheer effort of wagging his anaconda-like tail. You, madam, are doing your dog and this country a great disservice. Your Labrador should be a lean, mean killing machine. He should be at home patrolling your perimeter fence, fangs a-slaver and barking mightily at anything that moves.

Big dogs are the infantry in our fight against crime. Their position is at the front. If you only have one dog, get another to watch the back. They are the first line of defence against those who wish to take our stuff and our lives.

Little dogs are signallers in this war. They form part of an early warning system and should be scattered about the property. Their job is to alert the big dogs that something might need checking out.

It is also useful to keep a supply of miniature breeds inside your house. If a burglar does gain entrance, one of the more effective methods of slowing him down is to throw them at him. Do not waste your dogs. Use them wisely. If you have done your job properly, your handheld dogs will have been trained to bite on impact. There are very few burglars who feel comfortable robbing you with two or three lapdogs hanging from their face. On the down side, small dogs frequently come with a manufacturer’s defect. Once they start yapping they frequently forget how to stop. A finger up the bum usually turns them off.

Breeds

Alsatians make the best guard dogs. Originally bred as all-purpose working dogs, they have a proud history of keeping darkies out of white areas. They also spent a lot of time on Jesus’s side of the Berlin Wall helping to fight communism.

They are handsome hounds, even if a bit right wing, and you will have to watch out for those neighbourhood bitches slipping in for a quickie while your dog is meant to be working.

If you are in the market for an Alsatian, pop in to your local police station and see if there are any on special. Try to get a dog from the drug squad. That way the days of misplacing your stash will be over.

Alsatians have their own governing body called the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde. Being German, the dogs understand what this means but they are often reluctant to talk about it. Perhaps it is like belonging to the Freemasons.

Some famous Alsatians are Hitler’s dog, Blondi; Rex the Wonder Dog; Rin Tin Tin and Orca of the SAPS KZN Midlands K9 Unit.

Bull terriers would make ideal guard dogs if you could only get them to open their jaws and let go. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for a pedigree dog and then have to cut its head off so the burglar can be thrown into a police car/mortuary van/hole in your back yard.

Whippets are faster than cheetahs in built-up areas. Obviously, out on the plains the cheetah will whip the whippet’s ass any day. When it comes to protecting your house, the whippet isn’t much good. Nobody is likely to be deterred by the sight of its tiny head, huge chest and ridiculously long legs. That its tail is permanently wedged between its legs is also less than intimidating.

A whippet will only care about whether the strange man climbing over your wall has any food in his pockets. Look at him in a friendly fashion and he will grin gratefully, roll over onto his back and open his legs. If I ever get the chance to dabble in genetics, I am going to cross breed a whippet with a woman.

Your whippet comes into his own when the burglar tries to flee. To see some real sport, tie something soft and furry (a pair of bunny slippers would work) to the burglar’s ankles and give him a 30-second head start.

Dachshunds are a bit of a gamble insofar as security is concerned. If the burglar does not incapacitate himself with laughter, you might want to have a back-up plan.

Zulu hunting dogs only work if the intruder is Zulu.

crocmoat

An open letter to Bill Gates

Dear Bill,

Please accept my heartfelt condolences. The news must have come as a terrible shock and my prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Nobody deserves to wake up in the morning and discover that their world is crashing down around them before they have even had a chance to dip in to a simple breakfast of grilled coelacanth drizzled with ambrosia and lightly coated with flakes of gold.

When I saw the headline, “Gates No Longer World’s Richest Man” I wept at the injustice of it all. How are the children bearing up? It can’t be easy for them. On Monday Phoebe, Jenny and Rory are the most popular kids in school and by Friday, bam, they’re wearing oil-stained rags and mugging pre-schoolers for their lunch money.

You once said that when you die you don’t want to leave your children the burden of tremendous wealth and that’s why you would only bequeath them $10-million each. Please let them know that if they ever run short, and they will, they can call on me any time. What’s mine will always be theirs. And I hope there is no reason to think the reverse doesn’t apply.

Melinda must be taking it hardest of all, what with people coming up to her in the street and saying cruel things like, “Aren’t you married to that loser who is no longer the richest man in the world?”

A word of advice, Bill. Keep her close. Even though money might be tight, buy her shiny baubles and fresh flowers now and again, even if they are from the garage. She is nine years younger than you and I expect her eye will begin wandering now that you are on the skids. The last thing you need is packs of salivating divorce lawyers on your tail.

But let’s get back to what is really important here – the imposter who has usurped your richly-deserved title. Who the hell does this Jeff Bezos interloper think he is? And what the hell kind of name is Bezos, anyway? Did you know that he was born in Mexico? Well, New Mexico. It’s no different to the old Mexico. It just happens to be in America. But only just. So he runs Amazon. Big deal. He’s nothing more than a glorified mailman.

Bezos is worth nearly $94-billion while you’re making hardly any money at all these days because everything is pirated. Millions of computers get sold each year in China alone and you don’t see a blue cent. A few years ago, you spoke at the University of Washington and said, “As long as they are going to steal (software), we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Methamphetamine dealers use a similar strategy when targeting primary schools in the Western Cape. If it works for them, it should work for you.

I hear that you have deleted your Facebook account because nobody wants to be your friend any more. Screw them, Bill. If they don’t want to know you because you’re down to your last $89-billion, they were never real friends in the first place.

I bet now you’re regretting having retired so young. Do you have a pension? I understand you spend a lot of your free time helping alleviate global poverty. This is admirable when you consider that three billion people around the world live on less than $2 per day. Given that Windows 10 Pro costs $199 (more on the Djibouti black market), it’s no wonder that CNN is always full of pictures of starving people in Africa. They are obviously saving up their food money to buy the new software. You are on the right track, Bill. Forget the Chinese. Get the Africans addicted and you’ll be back on top in no time at all.

I understand that your Foundation has a specific interest in improving the health of people in developing countries. This makes perfect sense. Imagine what a tragedy it would be if everyone kept dying before they could buy the latest upgrade!

You could begin by throwing some cash our way. A lot of South Africans are suffering from high blood pressure, splitting headaches, damaged eyesight, strained wrists and crippling backache. Well, those of us with computers, anyway.

Hope to see you back in pole position soon!

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato

Under the influencer

I recently turned down a job paying R10 000.

Saying no to the equivalent of fifty cases of beer made me so ill that I couldn’t get out of bed for three days. I need not even have spent it all on beer. I could have been clever and bought 25 cases, a hundred chicken burgers and an AK-47 from Temba at the garage. It would have been the best weekend of my life.

Ten grand is a not insubstantial sum of money for someone with very little chance of ever making it onto the Gupta’s list of preferred supplicants and liars.

I expect you’re thinking it must have been a pretty horrendous job for me to turn it down. After all, everyone knows my standards are lower than the prospects of Jacob Zuma ever standing trial. Right? That’s what I thought, too. Until this job came up, I believed there was nothing I wouldn’t do for money. The fact that I have very little of it today is only because my spirit animal is a sloth.

If I wanted this money, I would have had to agree to become something called an influencer. You might have heard of them. They walk among us. An influencer is someone who the marketing industry thinks has enough social media clout to influence consumers to buy specific products or brands.

Durban resident Makhosini is one of them. He has 25 000 followers on Instagram and is apparently a popular influencer in the field of fashion. His mom says he likes to have a say in his look for the day. Fair enough. You’d expect nothing less if you were also 18 months old.

The job is timed to coincide with Christmas, an apocalyptic festival of compulsive buying and selling culminating in ceremonial stabbings and traditional divorces. My responsibility would be to encourage people to show their appreciation for one another with poorly wrapped gifts they neither need nor deserve. It’s what Jesus would want, even though he never really got much in the way of birthday presents himself. Paul gave him a new pair of sandals for his 21st, Peter got him a rabbit for his 30th – it was one of those joke gifts that require a miracle to stop them from multiplying – and his mother gave him hell for disappearing for 18 years. Judas gave him a kiss when he turned 32 and that was that.

From the moment we are born as beautiful, hideous tabulae rasae waiting to be ripened and ruined by nature and nurture, we begin to be influenced. One of my biggest influences has been beer. Thank you, beer. You changed my life. However, for me to agree to be an influencer in the diabolical world of commerce, I would first have to sign up to the world’s most powerful religion, Capitalism. We’re all members, of course. I just don’t visit that church very much these days. Call me lapsed. If you’re selling something, don’t call me at all.

Capitalism will always be with us, thanks to the rabid zealotry of the madams, pimps, whores and johns who work tirelessly to keep those grubby wheels grinding. The madams – almost entirely male – own the shops and the means of production. The pimps are the distributors. They make sure the shit gets out there. The whores are the marketers and the advertisers. Influencers have now joined their squalid ranks. The johns, mostly female, are the customers. I’m not being sexist. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. Go into any department store and see for yourself. There will be two men for every ten women. One will be mumbling, “It looks lovely. You should take it.” The other will be inside a changing booth with his head in his hands. Muffled sounds of weeping are not uncommon.

When I was offered the job of influencer, I asked if I could sleep on it before giving my answer. It was a typical whore move. When there’s money involved, you sleep on it. Or with it, at any rate. I really wanted the money. But I also really didn’t want to have to “share the joy of technology” with strangers whose soft, vulnerable brains I’d be expected to wash. Besides, I’m rubbish at technology and even worse at sharing. I’ve tried sharing my life with women – not necessarily all at the same time – and it has always ended in tears. Through no fault of my own, obviously.

Returning to the maladroit metaphor of capitalism as a brothel, this particular one sells mostly electronics and appliances. My job would be to try out one of their products every week over the festive season and write about it on Facebook, Twitter or any other network that ravenously devours what little time I have left on this planet, then link back to the store to encourage my “followers” and “friends” to get one for themselves. The kind of people who follow me on social media are cheap, fickle swine who’d sooner come around to my place and use my gizmo than buy their own.

I would also have to take part in a photo shoot so that my image could be shared in-store as part of the campaign. A life-sized cardboard cutout of me resembling the demented love-child of Darth Vader and Voldemort standing on a Segway (only R85 000!) brandishing a cherry red Nutribullet in one hand and a Smeg blender in the other might be out of keeping with the Christmas spirit. It would terrify the kiddies and all the moms would want me and not the merchandise for sure.

Lastly, I’d have to write a product review or column for the in-house magazine. I’d end up getting sued and have to use my R10 000 fee to hire the worst lawyer in the country. And even then he might not even be able to take time off from advising the president.

So that’s my dilemma. I have done things in my life of which I haven’t been terribly proud, but never for money. Hardly ever for money. Okay, there was a career in journalism, but in my defence it was the only one where drinking on the job was encouraged.

This, however, was different. This I had slept on. It wasn’t even a one-night stand. I had slept on it for nearly a week. There could be no excuses down the line. Once Christmas was over and the money had been squandered, my hard-earned reputation as a man who couldn’t be bought would lie in tatters. Someone would paint a scarlet letter on my door late one night. Tattered people, destitute after failing to resist the dark magic of the influencers, would hiss “whore!” and spit at me as I passed by.

On the other hand, I might be overestimating the value of integrity in these corrupt times. All I know is that when I see a journalist endorsing a product, I don’t believe anything he or she says after that. This doesn’t really apply to my situation, though. I gave up hard news – the hardest drug peddled by the profession – a few years ago. Kicked the habit cold. Never looked back. Apart from at the end of every month when a salary failed to arrive.

Given what I do now, plausibility is superfluous to requirements. In fact, it’s more of a hindrance than anything. I should’ve taken the money. I was a damn fool.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

Why is it that the Irish have all the fun? To be sure, there was that nasty business with the potatoes in 1845, but if it weren’t for the Great Hunger, Boston and New York wouldn’t be the same today.

Apart from the potato famine, the Irish have always had nothing but a rollicking good time. Well, apart from the potato famine and 200 years of sectarian violence.

St Patrick’s Day is full of fun traditions. The colour green plays a big part. After a day of eating green food and drinking green beer, many people go to bed with their faces suffused in many interesting shades of green. This happened to me after one particularly robust St Paddy’s Day with friends in Durban. My girlfriend at the time said it wouldn’t have happened if I had listened to her and had my stomach pumped. But where’s the fun in…

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Welcome to the future

Speech to Parliament by South African President Nomzana Naidoo-Green on the Occasion of National Men’s Month 2307

Madam Speaker

Honourable Madam Members

Madam Chair of the National Council of Provinces

Madams of the Media

Ladies and Madams

In celebrating Men’s Month for the first time, it is important that we take a moment to recognise the contribution men have made to our country. All too often, we remember only the horror and forget that the pioneers of modern medicine, mining, construction, law and sport were all men.

But while it is this government’s policy to give credit where it is due, I believe it is equally important that our children continue to learn about the Great Argument of 2050, the Great Silence of 2060 and the Great War of 2100.

Today, fewer men than ever before are serving in positions of power. Every political party is headed by a woman. Women constitute 95% of our armed forces. Our national soccer and rugby teams consist solely of women. Building sites are full of women. Road crews and garbage collectors are all female. The scales of equality have been heavily balanced in our favour for the past two hundred years (pause for applause).

Men’s Month honours those who relinquished their grip on power all those years ago. We also salute their children and their children’s children, many of whom are right now preparing the evening meal and making themselves look attractive for when we get home.

Even though men continue to be barred from holding positions of political or economic power, the fledgling Men’s Liberation Movement is making headway. Earlier this week, I was informed that a man had been elected chairman of a basket-weaving collective in the Northern Cape. This is to be welcomed, not feared. Having said that, I give the assurance that members of the fringe Meninist rebel group are monitored at all times by our intelligence agencies.

It was our foremothers’ relentless demands for equality that gave us complete control, and I am not for one minute suggesting that we concede any of our gains. However, as sweet as it is, victory has come at a price. With critical levels of oestrogen in our drinking water and the steady weakening of the Y chromosome, our baby boys are little more than genetically modified baby girls. Whether this is a good thing or not is currently the subject of debate at national level.

While we all agree that men are not yet sufficiently evolved to be accepted as our equals, there are steps we must take if we hope to reduce the high rate of suicide among our young male population. Self-inflicted deaths often have a negative causal effect on foreign direct investment, particularly when it comes to defiantly patriarchal countries such as America, Germany and Nigeria.

We could start by allowing married men to travel outside their demarcated areas with permission from their wives. They could also be permitted to open bank accounts with the written consent of their state-appointed guardians. And, one day, as radical as it may sound, we might give even them the vote.

There has already been considerable change. It is no longer compulsory for men to donate their seed once a month. The last sperm bank closed its doors many years ago and although sex is not illegal, it remains immoral. Today, most children are conceived through electrofusion. Admittedly, the process only breeds girls. But there is still freedom of choice. For women who prefer to fall pregnant the old-fashioned way, embryonic stem cell kits that produce synthetic sperm are available at state supermarkets around the country.

I am the first to admit that running a country is hard work. When I am called upon to take a difficult executive decision about overthrowing a male president in a neighbouring country, I often think of my househusband and envy him his simple life.

At risk of being called a Meninist sympathiser, I would say the time is coming for us to encourage our men to leave their kitchens, cancel their proctologist appointments and take a more active interest in the affairs of state. I fear, however, that it will be no easy task to persuade them to break free from their cocoons of domesticity.

Two generations of men have grown accustomed to living lives that revolve around children, cleaning, cooking, manicures, pedicures and playing tennis on Wednesdays. We may need to offer incentives. Or, failing that, impose martial law.

But it is still early days. The Men’s Movement has a long way to go before it receives any kind of meaningful support at grassroots level. After all, centuries of damage cannot be undone overnight. Landscaping units are still in the process of returning thousands of unsightly golf estates to their natural state. Teams of forensic auditors continue to unravel complex tender scams going back 250 years. An enormous stockpile of warships, fighter planes, tanks, guns and ammunition is in the process of being melted down and reworked as part of our national Jewellery For The People campaign.

Even though it is only future generations that will reap the benefit, my government remains committed to the National Rectification Effort.

The time for blame and retribution is almost over. Men’s Month marks a new era, an era of forgiveness, an era in which I hope to see men once again being treated as human beings and not simply as domestic servants, sex objects or things to hold the door open for us.

In closing, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that domestic violence has reached unacceptable levels. Our prisons, long since converted into shelters for abused men, are full to overflowing. In the spirit of conciliation, I urge all of you to use non-violent methods when it comes to helping men to understand what it is that you want to say, mean to say, think what you mean and want them to guess what you think you mean.

Finally, when I retire at the end of my 10th term, I hope to see at least one male face in this august house.

I hereby declare parliament in oestrus. Happy holidays, girls.

Trovato-mother