Tag: Ben Trovato

South Africa suffers from truth decay

The latest crime statistics were released into the wild this week. That’s where the good news ends. But it’s not all bad news. Residential robberies are down 0.4%, thanks to the moron across the road finally remembering to close his windows at night. Carjacking, arson and the theft of cars and motorbikes is also down, which probably has more to do with petrol prices than anything else.

Murder is more popular than ever and even old school crimes like bank robberies are making a comeback. If nobody actually gets hurt, I think bank robberies are kind of cool. When it comes to wrist-slittingly dull and depressing places, banks are right up there with the worst of them. I can think of nothing better to liven up proceedings than a couple of guys in balaclavas shouting at everyone to get down on the ground. Banks are heavily insured. The robbers get what they came for, the bank gets it back from the insurance company, and your money is safe. Everyone wins.

Stock theft is up, which is good news for farm animals that enjoy visiting new places. Goats probably more than sheep or cows. Goats love to travel. Drunk driving is on the increase although it’s not really. What’s happening here is that roadblocks are on the increase. Fewer roadblocks would see a dramatic decrease in this statistic. Anyway, most of us regularly drive under the influence of all manner of dangerous things, like love and religion and resentment.
“What have I done, officer?”
“I saw the way you looked at that Porsche Cayenne. You were driving under the influence of envy.”

There seem to be ten main categories of crimes. And, if you know your Bible, you will also know there are Ten Commandments. Coincidence? Yes, of course. When god gave the tablets to Moses – who almost certainly didn’t have a prescription – he made it clear there was no room for ambiguity. No wiggle room. No grey areas. No divine prosecutor who could make dockets disappear, which is a bit of a pity. If one of the disciples had slipped a few shekels to a bent clerk in the law firm Pontius Pilate & Sons, the world might be a very different place today.

But we’re not in Mount Sinai any more, Toto.

We could be, though. Our legal system is, after all, based on Roman-Dutch law. We can forget about the Dutch part. They’re a lawless mob who smoke weed and shag openly on houseboats, buses and even bicycles. There are parts of Amsterdam where you can barely move for stoned, copulating couples. You don’t even want to know what’s happening with the dykes.

Which brings me back to the Roman part of our law. Basically, it’s Roman law that killed Jesus. It’s also the same law that will quite feasibly see the resurrection of Jacob Zuma.

So, yes. When it comes to law, the Romans and the Dutch can just fuck right off. The Criminal Procedures Act is so long-winded and convoluted that nobody has ever read the entire document. Lawyers are cherry-pickers of the first order. They take the bits that suit them and fling them at a judge who is so punch-drunk from years of people crying and lying that the only thing keeping him upright is the knowledge that at the end of this long and tortuous road lies a pension of substance.

Speaking of lies, isn’t that one of the commandments? Thou shalt lie. No, wait. That’s one of the ANC top six’s ten commandments. Or one of the ANC top ten’s six commandments. Like Easter, it’s a moveable feast of subterfuge and greed. Hide the eggs in an offshore account.

My doctor gave me a 12.7% chance of having a stroke or heart attack in the next ten years, so I don’t have time to fuck about with all ten commandments. Let me just take the one about lying.

Our leaders have come up with some top-notch ones in the last few days. I’m not talking about little white lies that little white people tell. We’re talking premier league whoppers the size of sperm whales, here. Respect. If you’re taking the road that leads away from the truth, make sure you own that damn road. Hide in plain sight. Implausible deniability. Speak to my lawyer.

Let’s start with Jacob Zuma. A couple of nights ago he delivered the key note address at a Sasco event at the Walter Sisulu University. I don’t know what Sasco stands for or where the university is located. I could find out but since I’m not getting paid for this I have even less reason to do research. Do your own goddamn research. During his speech, made entirely in English, he said, “I don’t know English.” He asked students to help explain what is a state. Nobody put their hand up. They did laugh, though. With him? At him? Hard to say. He took a stab at it and, with a bit of prompting from what might have been a politics student too wasted to find his way back to the dorm, came up with the executive, legislature and judiciary.

“What is this thing called state capture?” he said. Students in the front row cried out and an usher came around and squirted milk into their eyes. “Does it mean these three arms have been captured?” he said, spreading his arms wide.
A couple of stoned journalism students giggled at Zuma’s inability to count the number of arms he has. Maybe they were picturing him with three arms. We’ll never know.
“Is it true? Just explain the truth about it.” A weird shuffling swept through the auditorium, as if the students knew the wrong answer might see them being forced at gunpoint to change to the humanities, condemning them to a lifetime of poverty.

Calling state capture a “politically decorative expression”, he said there was no state that was captured. “There are some people doing things with other people. Individuals,” he said. He’s right, of course. This applies to everyone throughout history who has ever done things with anyone else.

“Not a single one of the three is captured,” Zuma said, to a deafening round of uneasy murmuring.

Moving on.

In parliament the other day, Deputy President David Mabuza had to answer a question about a flight on a Gupta-owned jet to Moscow three years ago. The DA wanted to know if he was accompanied by Ruslan Gorring, a man who negotiates mining deals between Russia and foreign governments.

Mabuza said he had been on painkillers and couldn’t recall who was on the flight. There were only five other people on the plane. “I was taken to Moscow in a very terrible condition,” he said. He may well be telling the truth. I once tried to board a flight to Atlanta in a very terrible condition and three men in suits and dark glasses removed me from the queue at he boarding gate in front of all the other passengers. I can barely remember anything, either.

Moving on.

A Sunday Times journalist reported that a bunch of top ANC people had met Jacob Zuma at the Maharani Hotel in Durban to discuss the dethronement of President Cyril Ramaphosa. The denials ranged from there was no meeting to there was a meeting but it had nothing to do with anything to I was just passing by when I saw some comrades at the bar and joined them.

Also pictured at Schrödinger’s meeting was ANC Women’s League secretary general Meokgo Matuba. By way of commenting, she sent the reporter a picture of a handgun. Except she didn’t, because she “shares her phone with many people”. She might be telling the truth. I once left my phone … no, I didn’t. I can’t even be bothered to make something up.
Matuba told one reporter, “Actually no, I didn’t send a gun to Qaanitah. If it’s her take that I sent the gun to intimidate her, my sincere apologies.” You have to be a 9th-level Ninja of Duplicity to be able to deny culpability while simultaneously expressing remorse with such brazen panache.

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Breaking news!

Right, then.

Thanks to the Sunday Tribune’s decision to axe my weekly Durban Poison column – a move right up there with Decca Records’ decision not to sign The Beatles in ’62 – I have spent the last couple of weeks gathering my thought and getting my duck in a row. I have only one thought and one duck, both of which involve finding something to keep me from drifting off the freeway and down the boulevard of broken dreams.

When I posted my farewell column, many of you were outraged and threatened to cancel your subscriptions to the Tribune, destroy Independent Media and make the country ungovernable. I was deeply touched by your messages of support and even offered to read some of them to my landlord in lieu of rent. He said he’d prefer money.

Craig was one of the first to suggest a viable alternative. “Simple solution,” he wrote. “A site all of us who appreciate Ben’s work can subscribe to. He has a huge following and rightly so. I suggest a stipend a month to read his incredible wit. Whatever you think it is worth. Cheaper than the paper and it is the only thing in it worth reading. Will keep him in beer and all of us highly entertained. I hope everyone is in.”

I thought he’d be shouted down by the anarchists and the tightwads, but the idea proved more popular than I expected.

Mark said he’d “happily pay a couple of bob, maybe even a pickled egg as well”. Anthea offered a case of beer a month. Dan said “We’ll pay” and Dave said he’d be happy to “sign up to some funny shit weekly”. Jennifer said she’d pay to get her “weekly chortle/eye roll/guffaw fix” while Penny, Sandy, Pamela and Sherry all said they’d be delighted to subscribe to my online posts. Penny also said she couldn’t live without my column, so we do need to keep her wellbeing in mind.

Matthew said he’d pay to read my stuff and he’s a lawyer. It’s almost unheard of for a lawyer to offer to pay for anything. Rigid (possibly drunk) said, “You’re one of my favourite thinkers. I’d pay to read your columns. Not what they’re worth, of course, but I’d pay. Let me know how.”

So now I’m letting you know how.

You will soon notice that my blog looks different. That’s because it has grown up, left home and become a website. I started my blog in 2011 and began using it as a kind of retirement home for my writing. During that time, it has attracted 50 000 followers. That’s more than even Jesus scored in his first seven years. He has overtaken me since then, obviously.

My 657 posts have been viewed a staggering 943 500 times. I say staggering because that’s the condition I was in after writing most of them.

In the past year, my blog has been visited by people from every country in the world apart from Central African Republic, South Sudan, Western Sahara, Iran, Turkmenistan, Greenland, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and North Korea.

When I told my friend Ted that I have readers in 186 countries, he projectile snorted beer through his nose with such force that a hadeda in the neighbour’s tree was knocked from its perch. WordPress fortunately provides very detailed statistics and he was forced to withdraw his claim that my relationship with the truth made Donald Trump look honest.

In what appeared to be an attempt to make amends, he said, “You should capitalise on your brand and monetise your content.” I thought he’d had a stroke because none of that made any sense to me so I slapped him hard across the head, which is apparently what you need to do if you suspect someone is having a brain attack.

After calming down, he used simple words and diagrams to explain. I have to admit that it made sense, although I did warn him to never again call me a brand. “I am a man!” I cried, rising to my knees and attempting to strike a noble pose.

Let’s not get sidetracked.

Editors haven’t exactly been beating a path to my inbox since the Tribune released me back into the wild. In some ways, I am relieved that I haven’t been sucked right back into meeting brutal deadlines and complying with the plethora of draconian editorial restrictions that come with writing for a mainstream newspaper.

On the website you’ll find a PayFast button. Or something like that. I appreciate that not everyone will be in a position to contribute and that’s fine. But if you are, that’s even more fine. You will also be able to buy books and posters and other contraband.

You, the people, are now my new employers. Congratulations!

PS. I’m taking you all with me to my new home and you should get redirected to the new site. But if you’re not, please make a note of my new address – https://bentrovato.co.za – and subscribe to the site.

It’s not active just yet but it should be up and running first thing Monday morning. Unless my web guy has a nervous breakdown.

Here it is again – https://bentrovato.co.za

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There’s gold in them thar seminars

It might just be because I’m freshly unemployed and the algorithms are sensing my fear, but I have started noticing more and more Facebook ads from people who have a burning, selfless desire to make us all fabulously wealthy.

They plan on doing this by holding free seminars. That’s right. Free. These people are so generous that they want nothing in return. All they ask is to be given the opportunity to explain to us how to turn our miserable lives around and become massively successful in no time at all. It’s astounding. I had no idea there were such good people in the world today.

Over five days this month, 22 seminars titled ‘Think and Grow Rich’ will be held in Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Polokwane. Obviously I’ve been doing the wrong kind of thinking. Or more likely, given the state of my bank account, not thinking at all.

Their banner promises “A lifetime of riches in property.” Ah, that explains why Cape Town’s not on their list. Thanks to a shameless feeding frenzy sparked by predatory foreign buyers and fuelled by rapacious estate agents, everyone in the last staging post for white people has already made millions through property.

According to their website, the seminars are “inspired by Napoleon Hill’s original teachings”. Napoleon won’t be making an appearance at the Lombardy Boutique Hotel in Pretoria East or anywhere else for that matter because he be long dead. Napoleon’s life is littered with failed business ventures. In fact, he only ever made money from writing books on how to make money. Also, he heard ‘spirit voices’ which he said helped him write the books.

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The website implores us to “Imagine a lifetime of financial freedom!” You see, they shouldn’t do that. A lot of people use their imaginations to make a living. These are the ones who never have money. If you tell them to imagine being so rich that they’d never have to work again, there’s a very good chance you’d find us, I mean them, weeks later sitting in a forest laughing and talking to the trees.

Those blessed without imaginations will race ahead. They will be assured that Napoleon “has helped transform millions of lives, turning budding entrepreneurs around the world into focused business achievers”. Here’s a fun fact. More than 90% of people who decide to become an entrepreneur would struggle to spell the word correctly. I don’t know if that is a fact. It’s just something I heard. In my head. Right now. Damn voices always telling me rubbish that has nothing to do with making money.

Sylvia from Ga-Rankuwa seems to be their poster girl. Thanks to the tools she received from Think and Grow Rich (not tools like automatic weapons and plastic explosives) she went from “negative yielding properties to being a specialist in buying distressed properties from auctions and distressed sellers, refurbishing them and flipping to raise capital”. Not knowing what this means makes me feel pretty fucking distressed, too.

I won’t say anything more about Sylvia because her surname is Milosevic and the last thing I need is some tough guy from Pretoria getting Serbian on my ass.

But, hey. They promise that in just two hours your life will never be the same again. It’s not impossible. My life certainly changed in the two hours it took to conclude both my marriages. I have since managed to wrestle it back under control. Sort of.

What if you live under an upturned boat at the harbour and you’re too poor to invest in a mutton bunny chow, let alone property? No problem. You should still attend the seminar because “part of what you’ll learn is how to creatively acquire and raise finance towards your property investment”. They don’t suggest ways to get past seminar security if you’re bleeding from an open head wound and smell like a rotten snoek. To be fair, people do creatively acquire finance all the time in this country. Mostly through cash-n-transit heists, but each to his own.

You are encouraged to bring guests to the seminar because “building a personal fortune is more fun and rewarding when you have a friend or family member to share the experience”. The experience, sure. But the profits? There will be blood. I can guarantee it.

Another question people frequently ask is, Will I have to buy anything? This is, after all, a free seminar and you don’t want to come all the way down here, bribe the pigs at the roadblock, hassle for parking, pay a car guard, maybe get mugged, find you can’t smoke or buy a drink, sit on a cheap plastic chair wedged between people reeking of desperation and still have to buy something at the end of it.

Of course not. “You are not required to purchase anything,” says the website in a soothing voice. However. “We do offer additional educational products and services at our workshops.”

They also offer people a free gift for attending the seminar. Quite likely the same kind of free gift that guarantees you safe passage out of a timeshare presentation.

Then there’s another one coming up in Durban and Cape Town. The Secret to Business and Financial Success! The secret, as far as I can make out, is to use the word Secret. You mean there’s a secret to making money? I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. All journalists are. Mention that something is secret and we’d kill to find out what it is and then tell as many people as possible about it.

This seminar is an interminable four hours and might explain why presenter Anne Wilson is pictured clutching her temples. Co-presenter Brian Walsh is seen in a more relaxed pose. Maybe a bit too relaxed. They both look a bit mad, to be honest.

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In their short blurb, they use the word ‘secret’ thirteen times. There’s a reason Frodo Baggins didn’t tell everyone who passed by that he was on a mission to destroy the One Ring at the Crack of Doom in Mordor before Sauron could get his filthy hands on it. That’s because it was a secret. If you tell too many people that you know something they don’t, they’re going to start thinking there’s something wrong with you mentally and in all likelihood will stop inviting you to their parties.

Brian name-drops Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. He ponders if they became successful because they know “the secret”. Brian can confirm that, after thirteen years of research at The REAL Entrepreneur Institute, there is indeed such a secret. Judging by the number of people who attend their seminars, there can’t be that many who know the secret. Perhaps it really is only Richard, Elon, Jeff and Brian.

Brian is “super excited” that a “very special lady” will join him to share the second secret. Yeah, there’s a second secret. It doesn’t get better than this. The second secret “involves our habits and management of money”. I can’t remember what the first secret was. I’m not that kind of journalist.

The very special lady is Ann Wilson. She looks thirty years younger in her second picture. That must be one of the benefits of financial success. Brian and Ann are “super excited” to share their life-changing secrets with us.

Perhaps anticipating an existential crisis, there is a section that introduces “People who have seen Ann and Brian together”.

Marlene Visser thanks them for an amazing seminar filled with laughter, information and food for thought. Being a free seminar, I imagine that’s the only food you’ll get. Christopher Ndohlo said, “Each presenter did way more than i expected and thank you for the invite it was a moment i dont intend forgetting,.” I don’t know, Chris. I expect there’s more chance of success if you work on your grammar and punctuation.

Anyway. Fuck it. We’re all hustling to stay alive. Some preachers get their flock to swallow snakes and petrol. It’s up to you what you want to swallow. But I just can’t work out why Brian and Ann and Napoleon’s people do this kind of thing for free. Come to think of it, I can’t even work out why I’m doing this for free. Until recently, this would have appeared in the next Sunday Tribune.

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.

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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.