Tag Archives: politics

The Hyena will eat itself…again.

hyena_with_leg“I hope we get rain soon.” Vetfaan stares out of the window at the clouds of red dust on the horizon. “My sheep aren’t looking great these days.”

Kleinpiet nods. “Ja, there’s just about nothing for them to eat in the veld. I’ll have to start buying feed for mine.”

Boggel knows this type of talk: it’s bad for business. Once the farmers have to spend money on their livestock, they just can’t afford to drink the way they used to.

“It’s difficult to say which is worse: the drought or the politics.” If he can get them to concentrate on less important matters, they might think less about their immediate problems. “Now that Uncle Jacob has to answer for Nkandla, the newspapers will have a field day..And there’s the Oscar trial as well.”

“But that’s not politics,” Vetfaan objects. “Nkandla has nothing to do with ANC policies; it’s about one man who lied to parliament. Uncle Jay simply stole public money, that’s what. Now, if that happened in Europe or the ‘States, he’d have to resign. Accepting personal responsibility is what democracy is all about. So…we can’t blame the ANC if one of their members gets seduced by power.”

“No, Vetfaan.” Servaas knits the bushy brows together. “Individual responsibility is important, I agree. But there should be more: the party must act. The top structure in this case – the ANC – should have taken an official stand on this, like they did with Malema. If they said, one of our members is out of line, we’ll sort out the mess…well, if they said that, then I would have tipped my hat to them. Well done, I would have said. Maybe I don’t agree with all your policies, but I respect the way you keep the party clean. That’s what I would have said. Now I can’t, because they aren’t saying anything.”

“Ah, but you don’t understand, Servaas. There are members of that party that can’t sleep well at night. They know the president can hire and fire at will. Should they demand justice, they’re thrown out of the tight circle of friends who control the party. And with that, they lose the benefits of supporting Uncle Jay. No more fancy cars, big salaries and a chance to dig into the many opportunities to make a buck on the side. It’s the old story: you don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you.”

“So,” Servaas snarls, “we’re stuck with the mess? No solution and no way out? I don’t think that’s fair at all.”

“It’s like the drought, Servaas.” Kleinpiet points at the dust devil swirling down Voortrekker Weg. “Remember what the veld looked like after the last rains? It was green and lush with flowers everywhere. Now it’s dry and dusty and bare. But, mark my words, the rain will come again, and we’ll sit here and talk about the new fountains and springs that appeared everywhere. It’s a never-ending cycle. And then the next drought will come and we’ll wait for rain once more.”

They all know that much is true, at least. The Kalahari does that. It’s a region of extremes with maybe a handful of seasons in a lifetime when Mother Nature is kind to the veld.

“You think politics work the same way? That we’ll recover from this mess?”

“Indeed, Servaas.” Boggel joins the conversation. “Remember when one Rand bought one Dollar? Two Rand to the Pound? Those were good times for the economy. Now it’s all shot to pieces, but it’ll improve. Once we show the world we’re serious about productivity, corruption and crime, our political drought will be over.”

“Sure.” Vetfaan’s sarcasm is obvious. “If you think that’s going to happen in our lifetime, you must have a fantastic relationship with the Tooth Fairy. It won’t happen. Remember the saying about absolute power? It creates absolute corruption. And absolute corruption perpetuates itself. Think what you want, but I’m not holding my breath on this one.”

“!Ka once told me the story of the hungry hyena. Many years ago, he said, a pack of hyenas had a leader. He was big and strong and fast. All the hyenas were afraid of this one, and they always allowed him to eat the best part of the carcass before they dared go near the spoils.” Boggel, who can tell these Africa-stories with many hand gestures and the right facial expressions, has their complete attention. “Well, the pack was so successful that they eventually caught all the other animals in their region. Not a hare or a buck or a bird was left. They grew hungry and angry – why were they made to suffer so?

“Then they decided to do the only thing left for them: they must eat the weakest member of the pack. This they did. Then they became hungry once more, and they ate the next…and the next…and the next.

“Eventually, of course, only the strong leader was left. Now he was alone, and had nobody else to eat. He was so used to having the best of everything, and having as much as he liked, that he just couldn’t stand being hungry. So he did the only thing left for him: he started chewing on his tail. Then his legs. And – as you can imagine – he ended up eating himself. All of himself.

“And then, when only his dry bones were left, the animals started coming back to the veld. Kudu and Gemsbok and hare and all the birds. And when the veld teemed with game once more, one day, a pack of hyenas decided this was a good place to live.”

The group at the bar waited for Boggel to go on. Surely the story can’t end like that? But in the silence that follows, they realise the story ended where it began. Like the seasons of drought and plenty, the story is an everlasting circle, with no beginning and no end.

“I hope we get rain soon.” Vetfaan says again,  staring out of the window at the clouds of red dust on the horizon. “My sheep aren’t looking great these days.”

The Fabulous Force of Fibbing

truth_and_lies_t-607x336If you asked Gertruida who the biggest liar in the district is, she won’t hesitate a single second before telling you about Frikkie-the-Fib Ferreira. She’ll tell you why, as well, just to make sure you understand why poor Frikkie ended up with such a distinguished nickname. After all, we all lie from time to time, and to be recognised as the Lord of the Lies must count for something in a country where lying has evolved to the level where we are the envy of every sinner in the whole wide world.

Gertruida says Frikkie never had a chance. It is in his DNA,  she’ll tell you. He was fathered by Piet ‘Prisons’ Pretorius after the inimitable Piet had persuaded Martie Ferreira to believe it’s okay, he was sterile anyway. Something to do with working in an X-ray department. Neither was true of course: not the X-ray bit nor the sterility. When Martie confronted him with her expanding waist, Piet told her he was – unfortunately and much to his regret – already married to the daughter of one of Cape Town’s most notorious gang leaders. He suggested she had better solve the problem herself or face the prospect of a ‘little visit’ by some chaps with an unhealthy tendency towards violence. This statement, like almost everything else Piet ever said, was a prime example of Piet’s ability to manufacture scenarios to suit his purposes.

Martie was by no means a paragon of virtue, either. She almost succeeded in convincing her family and friends that the pregnancy had a historical precedent which proved men were not necessarily important in the process of procreation. However, when the Big Date arrived without the expected visit by three wise men, there were some sceptics who doubted her explanation.

Be that as it may, Frikkie was born after several false alarms, which – Gertruida will emphasise – is proof of the development of pre-natal lying potential. As a helpless baby, Frikkie soon learnt that imaginary illnesses were extremely helpful in forcing people to pay attention to him. Long before he could walk or talk, he could point to various parts of his body while crying real tears. Von Münchhausen would have been proud. At the age of three, Frikkie had no tonsils, no appendix and had to wear both arms in a sling to alleviate the strain on his shoulders.

Despite this, Frikkie breezed through school. He always had an excuse for not doing homework, was hospitalised without fail during exams and was advanced to the next standard simply because he had so little time to live left. The district doctor at the time tried to convince Martie to take her son to see a specialist in Cape Town, which she promised to do – and didn’t because she lied. She understood the devious way little Frikkie’s mind worked.

Frikkie left school (he wasn’t really learning anything, was he?) at the age of thirteen, lied about his age, and started selling beer to the local population. So effective were his half-truths, that he soon convinced everybody that he, himself, was a brewmaster of note. The youngest, in fact, in the world. Therefore, he said, he added secret ingredients to the bottled products only he sold. See how clever I do it? You can’t even see where I opened the bottle and resealed it. Come on, I dare you: the person who can show me how I did it, can get a whole crate of beer for free.

His ‘secret’, he told his customers, was a mood-changer. Frikkie’s Emotional Molecular Moderating Enhancer, of FEMME – an old French invention which he altered and perfected. He told men that it’d make them feel like real men – something roughly along the line on what he told the ladies, too.

His marketing campaign was so effective that he not only became rich very quickly, but the other purveyors of alcoholic beverages soon had to close their doors. Drinkers insisted on Frikkie’s beer with its added oomph.

At the age of eighteen, Frikkie had to make a difficult decision. Realising he had to make something of his life, he decided to follow a professional career. Two options sprang to mind: lawyer or preacher – both which involved a lot of opportunities for lying and twisting facts until they suited you. Despite his lack of formal education, Frikkie decided that Law was  the way to go. Unlike the options in theology, the legal profession only involved lying to people – which seemed a bit safer than messing about upstairs.

By this time, Frikkie was a master forger as well. During weekends while other young people explored the ups and downs of romantic liaisons, Frikkie copied Hundred Rand notes to pass the time. Thus, after consulting a lawyer about a fictitious issue (and having a good look around the office), he went home and forged a certificate which proclaimed that he, Frikkie Ferreira, had passed the LLB degree (Cum Laude). Realising that court appearances could become an embarrassment, he specialised in arbitration and mediation – which naturally relied heavily on his gift of lying. He also drew up a few wills, which he made the clients write out and sign; and he then endorsed as witness. For this excellent service, he charged a rather hefty fee.

Then, naturally (having developed all the necessary attributes and gifts), Frikkie decided to go big. Politics would be his ultimate triumph. He registered his Workers and Traditional Fraternities, a potentially massive collection of all trade unions, ethnic groups and workers. He succeeded in convincing stubborn and suspicious leaders of his good intentions, his impressive fortune and their combined ability to take corruption in the country to a completely new level.

It seemed as if there could be no end to his lying, conniving ways. Frikkie-the–fib, everybody agreed – was on his way to become one of our best politicians. President, even.

Then he made a mistake.

In his election manifesto, he promised to supply houses, jobs, electricity, toilets and infrastructure…to ALL those in need.

“You see,” Gertruida will tell you with a sly smile, “the best lies have at least a bit of truth in them. To be a good liar, the mix of fact and fiction must be such that it causes reasonable doubt that it is, in fact, a lie. Look at our government’s success with this: as long as they can blame all mistakes and problems on Apartheid, they’ll get the majority of the vote. It’s an emotional thing, see? People want to believe it, because it’s the easy way out. Heaven help us the day when the masses start seeing through the propaganda they are fed every day.”

You may, at this point, want to ask what happened to Frikkie, which will please Gertruida immensely.

“Just what he deserved. Frikkie was bankrupted and had to sell everything. You see, you can lie to some people all of the time. You can lie to all people some of the time. But…you can’t lie to all people all of the time. So Frikkie settled on lying his way into a disability grant, coerced some officials to employ him because he was mentally challenged. A sharp-witted HR officer spotted his talent and redeployed him as the new speech-writer to the president.

“He says it’s a full-time job – for the first time in his life he is really challenged to come up with plausible lies. Arguably the only truth ever to make it’s way past his lying tongue, is that he’s never been so unhappy in his life.?”

There is a moral to the story, of course. Lying your way through life may well cause a lot of misery. But…imagine having the responsibility of making a president look good? The wages of sin, indeed…

(Readers are reminded that this is a story. Fiction. A (hopefully) entertaining lie. And, true to Gertruida’s advice, nobody can doubt the fictitious background of this story. Too many lies and not a single strand of truth.)

(Really…)

The Last Message


And so, a few years after his murder, Eugene Terre’Blanche’s story is available again. The previous publisher is no more and it took considerable effort by Marinda Ehlers of e-Books for Africa to reassemble and format the text from scratch.

The book was originally published in 2010, and it is alarming to see how accurately Terre’Blanche predicted the political developments is South Africa. His message is still as appropriate as ever, however.

To radical right-wing thinkers: no, this is not an apology for racism, hate-speech or inappropriate political reform. Terre’Blanche’s last message to the Afrikaner (and for the rest of the country) is quite surprising, really.

Written in Afrikaans and in his words, I think he calls us all to reflect a while, to consider our history and to plan ahead with caution. South Africa is faced with many problems and we now need cool heads more than ever before. Maybe that’s why his last message may quite well be his most important plea, ever.

Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HGSZ4QE

 

 

 

The Problem with Klaas Kleynhans

Discussing weird people is a favourite pastime in Boggel’s Place; but you can only say so much about a presidential spokesman or sign language experts before you have to repeat yourself. So, it was a relief when Servaas reminded them of somebody they’d almost forgotten about.

“The problem with Klaas Kleynhans ,” Servaas said, looking suitably aggrieved, “was that he fell from the lorry. Landed straight on his head, he did. After that, he was never the same again.”

Like they all had to do, Boggel had to search his memory to remember Klaas Kleynhans. It happened so long ago that recent events almost made it impossible to think back that far. There were the droughts; the time Kalahari Vervoer didn’t bring the beer; and – most recently – the debate whether that new statue in Pretoria will stand up to a Highveld storm. These things weighed heavily on the minds of the townsfolk of Rolbos – to think of Klaas was almost a sign of disrespect under the circumstances. But, Gertruida will tell you: disrespect is almost impossible without a form of admiration. Kleinpiet always shakes his head when she says this, remarking that the English have a strange way with words.

But Klaas lived there, long ago. He used to be just like them; but that was before he took a ride on the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer, and the driver had to brake suddenly, because Kleinpiet’s sheep ran across the road. That’s when Klaas let go of the fender, and landed on his head. He wasn’t the same after that.

Klaas used to be a big, strapping young man, with sky-blue eyes and sun-bleached hair. Back then he laughed a lot, which made girls think he’d be the father of some very handsome children one day. Most young ladies in the district found all kinds of excuses to explain why they just had to come to the Kleynhans farm: some wanted his mother to teach them to crochet, others asked his father about the right dip-mixture to use for sheep. Klaas, however, wasn’t interested. The girl of his dreams lived on the farm right next door, Sannetjie Grobbelaar. He used to treat these girls kindly, but made sure they understood that he wasn’t interested.

But that was before Klaas hitched a ride on that lorry, and started saying things people don’t understand.

Gertruida says it’s important to know which side of your head gets hit when you fall. She says the right side is for thinking out new ideas, while the left is there solely to soothe your conscience. Look, she says, left-brain people always try to right wrongs – but right-sided people tend to wear uniforms with swastikas on the sleeves. The right sleeve, mind you..

Klaas had begged a ride on that lorry. They all saw that. The lorry was on it’s way to Upington, to the town where everything happened, away from Rolbos and the past, when the driver refused. No, I’ve got a full load, he said, there’s no place for you here. Maybe next week.

But Klaas thought with his left brain and tried to tell the driver to think again; then he switched to his right brain and said he’d knock the guy’s teeth out if he didn’t take him along. The driver got such a fright, he immediately let out the clutch and roared off. That was when Klaas grabbed the rear fender and hung on for dear life. You see: at that stage Klaas could still use his whole brain. Everybody saw that. Even Servaas agreed he was still very well-balanced person before the fall.

He had been well-balanced when he courted Sannetjie, the daughter of Gerhardus Grobbelaar, the auctioneer. Although they lived on a farm, Gerhardus didn’t farm much. What set him apart from the rest of the farmers, was that he made a lot of money. There was nothing Gerhardus couldn’t sell. Old wrecks, bits of furniture, stupid paintings – Gerhardus simply convinced people that these things were irreplaceable and nobody in his right (or left) mind would vaguely consider it being lost for future generations.

download (9)Despite this, Sannetjie was a real boeremeisie. She didn’t try to impress you with her knowledge of the twelve-times table or tell stories about the heroic efforts of the ANC. She would say things about the half-mens she saw today, or the little San-paintings in the hills. Things like that: simple things that don’t matter much at all. She could talk about the way she saw a Springbuck jumping, or a rabbit ran. About important things like soccer and politics – well, she knew nothing about those and never spoke about them as well.

Klaas listened to her telling him of the veld and would go home  to write down the snatches of sentences he remembered her saying. He thought her words were even more beautiful than her face and her body combined, which is saying a lot; but Servaas remembers how everybody stopped and stared when Sannetjie walked down Voortrekker Weg in those days.

When Sannetjie finished school, her father sent her off to study art in Stellenbosch. Or it could have been writing. Maybe even acting. But in Rolbos nobody doubted that Sannetjie Grobbelaar will be famous one day. A beautiful woman like that with a degree…surely they’ll see her name in The Upington Post soon?

Klaas waited for Sannetjie. When the first term ended, he expected her to visit her parents; but the holiday came and the holiday went without Sannetjie. Her mother told Klaas she’d taken extra classes, but would come home during the mid-year break. And Klaas hung his head like one of those sheep that drank the dip water when the borehole ran dry, and he went home to think.

A man with a well-balanced brain can think quite a lot, but a man in love will sometimes stare at nothing for hours. Klaas stared, thought, and stared some more. Two days later he drove to Upington to buy a ring. And then he waited for the university holiday.

On the Kleynhans farm you’ll find a little hill. It’s not much of a hill, but if you stand at its highest point, you can see a stretch of the road between Rolbos and Grootdrink. That’s where Klaas sat when the holiday-time arrived. And every time he saw dust on that road, he got on his horse to see if it wasn’t Sannetjie who arrived in town. Then he’d ride back to think some more.

Finally, a week or so later, he saw dust on that road again. Fast dust, not like that of a donkey cart or a tractor. He saddled his horse quickly and galloped towards town; but he wasn’t even halfway when he saw dust on the road ahead. It was a flashy little red car, a low-slung coupe, with Sannetjie in the passenger seat. Next to her – and Klaas only got a fleeting glimpse – was a slightly older man with a finely-chiselled face and long hair, swept back by the wind.

They didn’t stop.

Klaas didn’t know what to do, so he did nothing. Went back to that hill and stared at nothing. And then he walked oer to the Grobbelaar homestead and asked to see Sannetjie.

Mevrou Grobbelaar says she felt sorry for them both. There was Sannetjie with her engagement ring, and there was Klaas, standing like his feet were fastened to the ground, just like that statue in Pretoria. And Sannetjie smiled shyly to introduce her artist friend, a nice-looking middle-aged man wil an earring and a tattoo of an eagle on his forearm.

Klaas didn’t move. The man came over with an extended hand. Klaas only hit him once. Mevrou Grobbelaar says she’s sure Klaas would have liked to hit him some more, but the man stayed down. Sannetjie gave a little shriek and bent down next to the body. Then she looked up, and she had that look people get when a veld fire destroys the little patch of corn you watched over with so much care during the summer.

That’s why, clinging to the back fender of the huge lorry, Klaas left Rolbos in such a hurry.

And they almost got to Grootdrink before the sheep ran in front of the lorry and Klaas fell off, landing on his head.

He was never the same after that.

They couldn’t even prosecute Klaas for manslaughter. The judge sent him to a special place for people with unbalanced brains.

“At least,” Servaas says, “he’s in good company.”

“Ja,” Kleinpiet agrees, “he’s better off than us. We’re surrounded by lunatics, which is far worse? Did you see the paper? That fake hand-signal-man the president hired, should have stood trial for murder, but was declared mentally unfit in 2006.”

“They should make a law against people falling on their heads,” Vetfaan says, “instead of collecting them in parliament.”

Boggel says the problem in Boggel’s Place isn’t that they don’t have anything to talk about. It’s just that they always seem to end up staring at nothing, like people who’ve got a lot on their minds. Or maybe nothing at all.

Just like Klaas Kleynhans…

Will Our Esteemed President Resign?

Rev Canon B Pityana

Revd Canon B Pityana

A shocked silence greets Gertruida’s question. Resign? Our President? After all that he’s gotten away with?

“Why, Gertruida? He’s due for another term – it’s basically a question of rubber stamping a decision the ANC already took. They won’t let him.”

“Look, Vetfaan, you may think what you want, but the top structure of the ANC isn’t stupid. They’re highly intelligent men and women – the women especially –  and they’ve had a lot to think about lately.” Gertruida – who not only knows everything, but also still maintains good contact with her old Intelligence buddies – waits for Boggel to serve another beer.

“The Fake Interpreter Scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. I Googled ‘Court Cases Against Zuma’, and twenty million references. Twenty Million!. Now, maybe those hits only refer to the alleged 700-odd cases he was and is involved in, but it does say something. Add to that the obvious hostility displayed at the Mandela Memorial, and you’ve got some very worried comrades out there.”

“But you can’t blame the interpreter for the president’s problems. That’s not fair.”

“True, but he heads the government. The buck stops with him. Think about it: they’re now blaming mental illness as the cause for the interpreter’s actions. I think it’s blatantly unfair.  That poor man was contracted to do a job. And that’s the point where the analysis should begin. Who interviewed him? The person who suggested his services should have made a thorough check of his background. Simple things like: can he perform in front of a global audience? Does he have the security clearance to stand next to some of the most influential and powerful men on the planet? Does he own any dangerous weapons? Does he have a grudge against somebody? Is he on medication? Does he have a medical condition?

“So, let’s say he passes that scrutiny. Now that screening committee must make a collective decision and suggest his services to the organising body. He gets appointed to share more television time than any of the other dignitaries appearing on that stage on the day. He is to be the face of South Africa to millions of hearing and deaf people viewing the broadcast.”

Vetfaan nods. “So he’s a very important part of the ceremony?”

“Exactly. It turns out to be a slight miscalculation, and the world picks up on it. This time there’s no Constitutional Court to hide behind. So…what does the Powers-That-Be do? They shift the blame to this hapless man. No, they’re saying, it wasn’t us. He must take the fall.

“Spin. That’s all it is. Spin. And let me tell you: I feel sorry for him. Whether he’s a con-man or even if he has a serious medical condition, it’s not really his fault alone. He should never have been appointed.”

Kleinpiet nods. “But even so, Gertruida, you can’t expect the president to resign as a result of that?”

“I agree, but you should read the letter from Dr Barney Pityana, Kleinpiet. It is a damning message if ever I saw one. Most of all, Pityana isn’t happy about the way crime, corruption and the decay of morals in the country are experienced by the majority of the people. He blames the president for that, and he might be right.

“After all, when you compare the hope we had under Mandela with the despair we live in now, you can understand his argument. And did you not hear the reception the crowd gave the president the other day?

“No, my friends, there’s something terribly rotten in our system. If the ANC doesn’t clear up this mess, they’re going to get a terrible hiding at the polls next year.”

Boggel slumps on the counter, clearly upset.

“This whole thing makes me sad. So terribly sad. What has happened to Madiba’s dream? A country ruled in fairness to all it’s peoples? A just government, portraying the hopes and aspirations of a wonderful nation?

“Let us hope that clear minds and cool heads consider the questions raised. The interpreter is just a symptom, you guys. We need to address the disease, not blame that poor man for the real problem.”

Then, cynic that he is, he toasts the interpreter’s health. “Maybe he actually did us all a favour. He conveyed the right message, after all. He told us in no uncertain terms who we shouldn’t vote for next year.”

Bianca (# 14)

download (6)Time doesn’t count for much in the Kalahari. Days come and go. Seasons are a better way of keeping tabs on the passage of time. Boggel’s New Year’s party is maybe the best way to determine whether you are still in 2013 or not.

But in 2016 – most of the inhabitants are fairly sure it was that year – some remarkable events took place in Rolbos and elsewhere.

***

It’s not that nothing much happened in the preceding years. Not at all. There was the drought, of course. And the twins have the run of the town. And Servaas wears his sling to church but never in the bar – ‘in case I have to eat chips while I’m drinking’. And Gertruida was commissioned to write an article on Micro ecosystems in the Kalahari Desert for National Geographic, which received a special mention from the Planetary Ecological and Natural Investigative Society. She likes to think of that mention as the climax of her writing career.

The biggest talking point in Rolbos has been the movie Mister Featherbosom made in response to Bianca’s visit. He loves to entertain his guest at his lavish dinner parties with the story.

***

“…So up rocked this woman with my daughter’s passport. Can you believe it? I remember it like yesterday: it was Sunday morning – early, before breakfast – and the first thing she did, was to scold me for being in bed at 11am still. I don’t take kindly to being shouted at before I’ve woken up properly, but this woman had something - that something - which appealed to me. 

“Anyway, once she explained the situation, it was lunchtime and I excused myself to go and get dressed. When I returned, she had given the cook the day off, and was busy making a concoction in the kitchen. Called it bobotie and it looked vile. She told me to get some wine, which I did.

Click image for the recipe

Click image for the recipe

“While I opened the bottle, I asked her whether she was always as bossy as that. She laughed, and told me all men are the same: they like to be ordered around. I scoffed, but then she started talking about Afghanistan and Darfur. I was intrigued. 

“And that bobotie…it’s been my favourite ever since.

“She only allowed me to question her being there after lunch. She said two things make a man stupid: hunger and lust. So she shunted me around a bit before feeding me…and then said she had something to ask me.”

At first he scoffed at the idea of an international expose on the scope of corruption in the South African government, but the question of poaching weighed heavily on his mind. He said he’d make a few calls and talk to people he trusted.

That’s when the idea of a film was born.

“You see, news doesn’t last. Today there’s a tornado that wiped out a town. Next week nobody talks about it any more. Remember that Kenyan shopping mall disaster? Didn’t even last that long. The point is: people are so saturated by international scandals and disasters, they just don’t care any more.

“But a movie! First of all: it conveys a message. Over and over. It doesn’t go away, like the news of some pedophile who got caught in Ghana. Really…if you’re sitting in France, how does it affect your life? It doesn’t, so you file it under ‘Inconsequential’ and forget about it. In contrast: people still talk about Schindler’s List, The Sound of Music and Sophie’s Choice. 

“You make a good movie, and people will talk about it. It gets their attention. And – instead of spending a fortune on lawyers and years in court, a movie is fun to make and you get to make a profit. It made perfect sense, and so we made the movie, called it ‘Bianca’…and the rest is history.”

***

“That Bianca is a live wire, that’s for sure.” Gertruida folds The Upington Post, takes off her glasses and signals Boggel for a beer. “She and your father is attending the premiere at Cannes. The preview critics are raving – they say there might be an Oscar in the offing.”

“Ag, you know my daddy – never does things half-way. If he tackles a project, he insists on perfection. What surprised me, was how he took to Bianca. I really didn’t see that coming, but I’ve never seen the old man this happy…”

Fanny’s happy babble gets drowned by a prolonged ‘Owwwww!’ from Servaas. He’s been acting like a love-sick teenager ever since he heard about Bianca’s engagement. 

533“Oh, shush, Servaas. She was way too young for you – your heart would have conked in. At your age you shouldn’t even walk past that window doll in Upington’s Pep Store. Even Oudoom couldn’t help staring when he saw her.” When Fanny sees the old man’s hurt expression, she pats his shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll get a nice old widow for you. Somebody with asthma on tranquilizers  - you’ll be safe then.”

Servaas closes his eyes. He can just see the waddling, wheezing woman with a string of grandchildren, sitting on his stoep, crochetting a tea-cosy while shouting for her inhaler.

“No, I’m fine,” he says hastily, his imaginary pain forgotten for the moment.

“Anyway, I think the movie is going to shake things up a bit.”

“Yes, indeed.” Precilla sits back with a smug smile. “Since the government lost so much support in the 2014 election, the president has had a very shaky term in office. Something like this may very well be the last straw…”

***

“We’ll sue them!” The president pushes his glasses back on his nose with his middle finger. “We’ll stop the distribution of the film! We’ll arrest that man! Get somebody in here that can stop this nonsense!”

“Um, Mister President, sir…” the spokeman doesn’t quite know how to approach his boss today. He’s become rather erratic lately and his temper tantrums has alienated a lot of erstwhile political allies. “Sir, we can’t interfere with a film festival in Europe. You know the EU has lost a lot of regard for us, especially after your latest wedding. The evidence before the commission of enquiery into the Arms Deal is overwhelingly condemning and your ‘informal’ chat with the Head Judge got splattered over the front page of every major newspaper in the country. I’m afraid your influence and stature have been severely compromised, sir. That film will be shown.”

“But it is only a film. A story. Do you think the public will connect me with the plot?” A hopeful note creeps into the obese president’s strained question.

“Of course not, Mister President. Nobody in his right mind will suggest that you’ve ever done anything wrong. The Party, the Youth League…in fact the whole country, is behind you. One hundred percent. Definitely. Sir.”

***

Bianca+Balti+Dresses+Skirts+Evening+Dress+YaCUphrkzj7lWhen the credits roll across the screen, it is ominously quiet in the Grand Théâtre Lumière. The silence is so complete that even the sound of the traffic outside on Rue du Hohwald seeps into the auditorium.

“Oh my…” 

Bianca turns to face the man she’s come to love so much. Reaching up, she touches his cheek and isn’t surprised to find it damp. Yes, he’s put everything into making this film…her film. No detail was too trivial to be skimped, everything was done exactly the way it happened. “Shh, my darling. If the audience didn’t like it, it’s not the end of the world…”

Before she can say anything more, the audience erupts in appluase. As the lights come on, a spotlight swings to the couple who’ve made the movie possible. As if they practiced it, the audience all turn to face them. The clapping hands and the tear-streaked cheeks shout it out….Bianca is a success!

restLater, much later, they enjoy a quiet meal in the quaint Restaurant Auberge Provincale, Bianca lifts her glass in a toast.

“You gave me my life back. Thank you, darling.”

“We’ve only just begon, my dear…”

***

Boggel pushes over a fresh beer to Servaas. They are alone in Boggel’s Place after the rest of the patrons retired for the night.

“So, how is you shoulder, Servaas? I mean, really?”

The rheumy eyes peer from below the bushy brows.

“It’s not my shoulder, Boggel” Sevaas looks sad. Nobody really understands him. He sighs and taps his chest. “… It’s my heart.”

Boggel, the understanding barman, reaches under the counter for the box of tissues he keeps for just these occasions. “You know, Servaas, a bullet tears through flesh at an amazing speed; but love, real love, doesn’t have an exit wound. That’s why it hurts so much.”

He gets a wintry smile before the old man bursts into tears.

***

Gertruida says every story must end somewhere, and maybe she’s right. Then again: in politics and love it’s equally difficult to say where it started and where it ends. As for Bianca’s story, we’ll have to wait to see what effect the movie had. Watch this space towards the end of 2016. 

In the meantime the townsfolk of Rolbos – crazy, loveable, brave, lonely, isolated and opinionated – will chat away the hours. Boggel will serve the drinks and Gertruida will lecture them about stuff they never knew about. Oudoom’s sermons will guide his little flock towards the straight-and-narrow and Servaas will dream about the love he still hopes to find. 

In short: Rolbos will remain just what it used to be: small, insignificant…and content.

Bianca (# 2)

aaaaa“I hate all men…” Bianca whispers sweetly as she toys with Servaas’s left ear. She’s been sitting next to him for the past ten minutes, listening to the townsfolk discussing the drought.

Servaas’s smile can’t be any wider. He’s having a ball…

 ***

After Bianca’s arrival, Gertruida remembered the principles of business (despite her initial reaction) and showed her to the newly built room. Her smile was strained, but she kept up appearances. Sammie had been of great help with the interior decorating, and even Mevrou thought the room looked gorgeous. The new linen, curtains and furniture still had that factory-fresh-smell that reminded of pristine cleanliness and luxury.

“This is marvellous,” Bianca breathed, “much more than I expected.”

Gertruida relaxed a little. Maybe first impressions weren’t always right? Maybe this woman wasn’t the hussy she seemed to be.

Afterwards, later. in Boggel’s Place, Gertruida decided that one shouldn’t be so generous with benefit-of-the-doubt thoughts. Gut instinct is there for a reason…

“Sooo…what’s happeining in your town?” Bianca asked when she sat down.

“We farm,” Kleinpiet said enthusiastically.

“And we talk,” Vetfaan added. “Mostly, we sit around in Boggel’s Place, supporting his business. It’s our civil duty, you see? We care.”

“And we appreciate kindness…and beauty,” was Servaas’s contribution.

“You seem a very happy community,” Bianca said, addressing the men, “happy and content. I’ll guess you all spoil your wives.”

“Uh,” Vetfaan said.

“I’m not married,” Servaas quipped as he tried to draw in his paunch, smiling innocently. “Been alone for more than a decade. It gets lonely, you know?” He put on his puppy-dog face, which made Precilla cough loudly before saying ‘wharrajerk’  (it’s a Rolbos word), under her breath.

“Well, neither are Sammie or Boggel, for that matter. Married, I mean.” Vetfaan interjected, shooting the old man a warning look. “I suppose that makes three confirmed, happy bachelors. Quite content, too…just like Cliff Richard sang, if you ask me.” He hummed a few notes to show he knew the song.

“Oh wow! Aren’t you a defensive lot?” Bianca rolled her eyes theatrically. “Can’t a girl ask a simple question? I was just curious, that’s all. It’s a woman thing.”

Boggel served a round of beers. He liked to look at Bianca – and she had a lot to look at, as well. The tight blouse and the short skirt screamed ‘woman!’, while her almost-husky voice was impossible to ignore.

“Sooo, why did you choose Rolbos, Bianca? Why here?” Gertruida tried to steer the conversation to safer waters.

“Small town. Far away from everything. Quiet… I had to get away, see? Somewhere, where nobody would look for me. I’ve had a torrid time…” She blinked away a tear. “This is my chance to regain my freedom – I want to savour it.”

Can she cry on demand? Gertruida’s misgivings grew faster that a corrupt politician’s bank account.

“You want to tell us about it?”

“Ag, I don’t want to bore you with the story of my life. You won’t be interested…”

Now, that isn’t something you say to Gertruida. Five minutes later, Bianca relented, drew a big breath, and said okay then, if they insisted. So she told them…

That’s where the trouble started. The more she told them, the closer old Servaas moved his chair to hers; eventually laying a hand on her shoulder – to comfort, as he later explained.

 ***

Bianca Buurman, at the age of twenty-two, already had a reputation. She was the daughter of Herman Buurman, the best diesel mechanic in Brakpan – when he was sober. When he was younger, he was employed by one of the mining houses, lived in a comfortable mine house, and had a dream of opening his own workshop one day.

Hester, her mother, came from a completely different background. She was the daughter of Minister Hendrik Groenewald, the parliamentarian in charge of the country’s finances. She was also used to the best of everything.

The two of them met after the mining company held its annual Christmas party in 1966. Herman was dressed in his church suit, and kept mostly to himself. Later, when he joined some colleagues at the bar, he was persuaded to have a few beers. This is where he heard about Hester for the first time.

“Man, that chick will drive me crazy. Have you guys seen that dress?” Spanners Swanepoel pointed. “Now there’s a tune-up I’d like to do.”

“Stand in the queue, my mate. I saw her first.” Sparks Botha finished his beer. “I can blow a fuse or two there, myself.”

“She revs up my hydraulic system, I can tell you. Never knew I could build up such pressure.” Vark Venter ran his hand over his oily hair, making suggestive thrusts with his hips.

“You lot disgust me. How can you talk like that? She’s a minister’s daughter, for crying out loud. She’s got class.” Herman was upset. To talk a bout a woman like that…it’s not right.

“Class, my ass.” Vark said. “I betcha I can take that filly for a ride.”

“No man. That’s plain vulgar. You should be ashamed…”

Some Christmas parties are nice. That’s when people sing carols, exchange presents and try to say only kind words. But some – especially those given by large organisations – tend to be stiff, with most of the guests attending because they have to. They spend the evening wishing they were somewhere else, and find escape in the eggnog. These are the occasions where alcohol can have a devastating effect – after consuming enough punch, some men and women feel compelled to tell each other why they don’t get along so well.

That’s why Vark told Herman what a pompous, ignorant, stupid and self-righteous fool he was – and shoved him off his chair. And Herman, unaccustomed to alcohol, felt naturally that was a bit much got up and shoved Vark right back.

That was the Christmas party that people still talk about in Brakpan. A free-for-all developed, which ended when the ambulances started arriving – minutes after the police rocked up.

In those days there were no secrets in South Africa. The minister ordered a discreet little enquiry into the fracas, wanting to know whether there had been any political reason why a party he had attended ended so badly. Upon hearing that somebody had defended his daughter’s honour, he invited that person over to dinner at his mansion in Waterkloof.

***

“Who can explain attraction? Is there a reason for love?” Bianca is so convincing in her narrative, that the men all sit there, staring at her and shaking their heads in silent agreement: no, love is utterly confounding. Yes. Indeed. Ne’er a truer word… “So, that’s how Mom and Dad met. They got married…secretly, of course. Grandpa Minister objected heavily, but I was born seven months after the wedding. Very, very prematurely, they said.”

“We love stories in this bar,” Gertruida tries to sound reasonable, “and this is certainly fascinating. But what – on earth – has this to do with the reason you are here? That’s ancient history.”

“Oooh, aren’t you the impatient one, Aunty Gerty?” She ignores the deep frown between the older woman’s eyes. “Well…tell you the truth, it has a lot to do with it. Mom left Dad after a year – walked out on me and him. Back to the high life and her politician father. And father…he was devastated. He started drinking. Over the years he got worse and worse and then he lost his job. I was fourteen.

“That’s when…when I had to start generating an income. I…I loved my father, see? He tried his best. but it never was quite good enough. He knew all about diesel engines, but when Mom left, he lost his confidence. He was ridiculed at work – Vark Venter saw to that. So it was a downward spiral from there on: drinking, selling furniture, borrowing money he could never repay.”

Servaas leans over to dab a tear from her cheek. She rewards him by mouthing thank you with those red-red lips.

She draws a deep breath. “That’s when I started earning money. To keep us afloat, see? It was the only way…”

The Unique Bogus Reality of Life

article-2242722-1657FE04000005DC-339_634x474“Did you know,” Gertruida asks because she knows everything, “that people lie every day? Some studies have shown that men lie six times a day, almost twice as much as women; while others show that 60% of people will lie at least once in a ten-minute conversation. The studies vary so much, because people tend to lie about lying. Psychologists reckon that deception was important for the development of the rather large human brain.”

Now, you must understand, Gertruida has a way of throwing out this type of statement whenever the conversation in Boggel’s Place dies down and the customers lapse into staring at their half empty glasses. Or maybe they’re half full, depending on your point of view. If there is one thing she can’t stand, then it is the absence of communication.

“It has to do with the survival of the fittest, you see? Initially it was the biggest and the strongest Neanderthal that dragged the most beautiful female off to his cave. Now, if that trait continued, the world would be filled by giant men and every woman would be stunningly pretty – but that isn’t the case, is it?”

By now she gets a few curious looks. Where is she going with this?

“So, somewhere along the line, some little guy managed to convince the alpha male that he wasn’t good enough. Maybe he had to be cleverer to get somebody to cook his meal, or maybe he lied about the size of his clan (amongst other things) – but in the end, deception became a necessary factor for survival. Tiny, the diminutive Neanderthal, had to intimidate his huge nephew Brutus, to get to Delicious, the pretty one who got tired of being beaten up every night.”

“So you’re saying that the original lie was a way to stop domestic violence?” Servaas thinks this is all so un-Calvinistic, and his face show it.

“Well, you have the two extremes: brute strength on the one hand, and deception on the other. Deception can take many forms, mind you: setting a trap for Brutus, or waiting in ambush is as much a lie as telling him your sixteen brothers are on their way to beat him up. Making somebody feel safe while you’re waiting for him to fall into the cleverly-disguised hole you dug, is deception. So is telling Delicious you love her simply because you want her to share your cave.”

“Ag, alright, Gertruida. That’s all very interesting. People lie…I get it. Why bring it up?”

“Because, Servaas, the liars became more and more creative over the years. Brutus had no chance once Tiny and his offspring got to the point that the females stopped falling for the strongest – they went for the cleverest. And you know quite well that stupid people don’t lie so well. It’s the clever ones that mix fact and fiction to such an extent that you believe them completely.”

“I’m still not sure what this has to do with us?”

“We live in a world of lies, Servaas: we get fed lies from dawn to dusk every day. Do you think newspapers tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Every front page is slanted towards a political ideology. Reporters get paid to chase a story because we just love sensation – and then they write articles to tell us what the editor thinks we should know. What’s even more important, is the stuff we don’t get told about. The media filters the truth, Servaas, there’s no question about it.”

Precilla has been listening quietly. “Then advertising is simply sophisticated lying?”

2011716_StuyvesantCigaretteAu1970“Absolutely! Remember the Stuyvesant ads? They used images of planes, boats and ski-slopes – suggesting that people who smoke this brand are sophisticated and rich. So smokers used it as a symbol of their success – and they were lied to as well as lying to everybody around them. 

“Marketing involves creative lying. Skin products promise eternal youth, clothing brands want you to believe that you’ll be the envy of all if you buy their products, and consumers buy pure beef sausages containing anything but cow.”

By now, Servaas is sitting up straight. “You haven’t touched on politicians yet, Gertruida.”

“Who needs convincing? Look at Uncle Bob next door. Or Malema – himself not a paragon of virtue – who claimed that there were 700 criminal charges against our President? And who’ll forget the statement : I did not have sexual relations with that woman?

“To be a successful politician, you have to be extremely creative in the way you handle the truth. Simply sticking to the facts is not going to cut the cheese.”

“Ag nee a!” Vetfaan signals for another beer. “You’re depressing me here, Gertruida. You make it sound as if the world is stumbling along on a diet of fat lies. It can’t be that bad?”

“Wake up, Vetfaan. The Truth is a dying entity. Human evolution depended on the ability to lie. Nowadays, we reward liars by electing them to positions of authority or by buying product we believe will improve our lives. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but the fact is: the rule is in charge.”

“I agree.” Oudoom sighs as he joins the conversation. “We use an interesting term to justify lying: interpreting. People read verses of the Quran or the Bible – then they interpret it to suit their causes. Apartheid was justified by that. The fighting in Egypt, too. The list is long, but the point is: that’s the most dangerous untruth of all…”

“Where will it end, Gertruida? Are we doomed to live in a world of lies?”

“It’ll change, Servaas, but not in our lifetime. A very important thing must happen first: before we stop lying to others, we must stop lying to ourselves. Once we accept that we’re not as sexy, rich or successful as the adverts, and not as gullible to believe that other people must form our opinions, then humanity will revert back to the truth. And that will only happen when the drug of deceit is no longer addictive. When? Lies destroy, truth builds up. So, lies will cause such a major catastrophe that the world will change. 

“Maybe it’ll be a religious war, or a massive economic crisis, but in the end, only Truth will survive. It’s a tragedy.”

“I don’t agree.” Vetfaan empties his glass. “Fanny asked me yesterday whether I thought her jeans made her look fat…”

He gets a few sympathetic smiles, but the mood in the bar remains gloomy. One after the other, the patrons find an excuse to leave, claiming something to be done or forgotten.

“They don’t like the truth, Boggel.” A sad note has crept into Gertruida’s statement.

“No, Gertruida. They don’t. Lies are just so much easier to believe.”

The Death of an Era

“Nothing,” Gertruida says (because she knows everything), “is permanent. Life, circumstances, love, the universe  - you name it, and it’s got a sell-by date. Everything; from empires to wars; gets to expire somewhere along the line. And somehow we never quite get to grips with the concept of things being temporary.”

“Ja, that may be so, Gertruida, and you can sound very clever saying things like that, but it is human nature to hope that things will last. And sometimes it does, let me tell you. That Massey Ferguson is still going, and my father  bought it before Vorster became president.” Vetfaan smiles triumphantly, believing he proved a point. “I know it dies on me occasionally, but it is still as good as new.”

“Oh, pulleaze, Vetfaan, pull the other one! That thing alone increases Rolbos’ carbon footprint up to Cape Town’s category. It uses more oil than Shell can import. As for the carburettor…”

“Some things gets worn with age, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean I have to buy a new tractor. That machine needs a gentle hand and a bit of loving care, that’s all. It’ll outlive us all, I tell you.”

“There comes a time.” Servaas sighs heavily as he tugs at the collar of the black shirt he’s got on today. He’s in one of those moods again. “We have to let go of the old, Vetfaan. I listened to that tractor the other day – it hasn’t got far to go any more. Something wrong with the crank shaft, I think. It is still going, but for how long?”

You don’t argue with Servaas when he’s like this, so everybody remains quiet while Boggel serves the next round.

“Even F W de Klerk is in trouble, just like your tractor. He can get a new spare part, but it’s a question of time. And Madiba…we all know how he’s doing.” Servaas drains his glass in a single gulp, belches, and pulls a face. “Even the ANC is ailing. Who’d have imagined that? The once-mighty political machine is belching out smoke, misfiring, and losing speed.”

“It’s the season, Servaas. In winter everything grinds to a halt. Some things hibernate, others die. And comes springtime, new growth makes the world pretty again.” For some reason, she thinks back on John Steinbeck’s last novel, The Winter of Our Discontent. Is it possible, she reasons with herself, that the fallen hero could be great again? That honesty will persevere over corruption? That Love will triumph over Hate?

Or will we, like Ethan Allen Hawley, all be guilty of the murder of the town drunkard with the key to financial survival?

“The old order is passing, Servaas. Slowly but surely, one after the other of the pillars of our current democracy is leaving us to hold up the ceiling, and I’m not so sure we are strong enough to do it. It isn’t working in Egypt or Syria, nor has it lasted in Zimbabwe or the Congo.”

Sure, Ethan eventually made the right decision, but still his son plagiarised his way to winning a national essay competition. How much damage did the father’s own dishonesty and lack of integrity contribute to the future generation? And even if a new government gets elected some day: won’t the legacy of crime and corruption just keep on eating away at whatever moral fibre is left at that stage?

She sighs – there are no real answers, are there?

“You know, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for literature, even if the reviewers in America thought his work was without much merit. They stated that his criticism of a corrupt American society was totally unwarranted. More than a decade after his last book was published, the reviewers had to hurry to apologise when Watergate happened. They said they never realised America ‘had a condition’.”

“So,” Sevaas looks up sourly, his brows knitted together in a show of disgust, “you’re telling me two things: One – a country with a corrupt soul is bound to fail; and Two – the writers who dare write about it, won’t be appreciated by their own people?”

“It’s inevitable, Servaas. Vetfaan’s tractor won’t run forever. We’ll bury Madiba and F W de Klerk eventually. And…if we don’t prepare for the new season, we’ll be caught with our pants down.”

Boggel holds a glass up to the light, frowning at the crack in the side. It was one of the original glasses he bought when he opened the bar, and now he’ll have to throw it away. Gertruida is right, of course. He’ll have to budget for new glasses.

Gertruida doesn’t say it. She doesn’t dare to. But…South African society has become Ethan Hawley. The dire need for survival has eroded our culture to such an extent that we find it difficult to distinguish between the need for survival and honesty. That’s why the ANC will serve another term. Allan Hawley will win the essay competition.

And if we have the guts to turn away from the attempted suicide, the rising tide will get us if we allow the events of Rhodesia to migrate south of the Limpopo River.

In the end, we’ll only be able to blame ourselves.

Like Ethan Hawley did.

The Fable of the Grass and the Rain

images (14)“International politics – even local politics – is like a sordid and doomed love affair. Or like the clouds building up, and building up, with the promise of rain that’ll never come. People say things they don’t mean, show feelings they don’t feel, and say words they wouldn’t if they were honest. It’s all about getting what you want, and not caring about the rest. False promises, lies, and lots of video tape.”

“Gee, Gertruida, that’s harsh. Mister Obama seems such a nice man.”

Seeming to be nice is what it’s all about, Kleinpiet. It’s an illusion; strangers in the night, making promises they know they won’t keep… It reminds me of the Fable of the Rain and the Grass.”

images (13)Of course she waits. This is one of !Ka’s stories – something he told her one day while she showed him how to condense the evaporated water from vegetation on a plastic sheet. He said the story s an old one, and an apt reward for a new skill. Still, the pause causes a sense of huge satisfaction and she enjoys every second of her audience’s curiosity.

“Soooo…?” Boggel prompts her.

A long time ago, the Kalahari was a green pasture with many trees and tall grass.  Great Eland came here to enjoy the lush vegetation, grow fat and be content with the safe surroundings. And the Eland multiplied and became more and more, for the veld supplied all they needed and the grass was sweet and the water was plentiful.

eland_rctb-1155But the Eland wanted more. They became numerous and fat, yet they complained as they chewed the grass, demanding more and more as each day passed. And the grass cried out, saying this is unfair, they need more water to grow faster. Then the grass sent a bird to the clouds, demanding more rain; for how must they supply food to all these animals if the rain limited their growth?

Well, the clouds listened to the bird, and called a meeting.

‘Ah,’ Thundercloud said, ‘it takes a lot of energy to make all that lightning. Somebody has to pay. I can’t do it all by myself.’

‘Sure thing.’ This was Frivolous Cloud, the joker of them all. He usually rolled across the sky, raising false hopes. ‘I can keep on rolling by, you only have to follow me.’

Grumble Cloud, Thundercloud’s personal Imbongi, sighed. ‘ No, I demand more recognition. I’m always the fool to lead others to the spot where they then get all the honour and praise. I’m fed up. If I’m not allowed to rain – and be praised for my efforts – then I refuse to cooperate.’

‘It’s your ego.’ The disgust was clearly visible on Fleecy Cloud’s face. She’s the sexy one everybody else was chasing all the time. ‘You only want the glory, but you don’t want to do the work.’

‘And what about you? You try to look glamorous all the time, and that’s all there is to you. All face and no effort. Tell me: when last did you rain, anyway?’ Grumble let out a few deep-throated rumbles – his signature sound which everybody knew meant nothing.

That’s when Cumulus Cloud held up the regal column of authority.

‘Stop it, and stop it now. I hereby decree that you all be banned from the Kalahari. Because you are so consumed with pride, you shall venture there no longer. The grass will die. Only the hardiest succulents will survive on the few drops I choose to allow there; when it pleases me to do so. The rest of you shall not cooperate in this region any longer. If you venture this way, it’ll be as single clouds – no longer as a team.

27015‘And you know what’ll happen? All the Eland that used to feed here, will leave. They’ll tell each other what a horrible place this has become and seek new pastures. Only the Gemsbok will remain to guard this place. I shall supply him with two spears as horns, so long and so sharp, that no other animal will dare challenge him. As for the Eland, I’ll give him short, strange horns as a sign of how much his greed has cost him.

‘As for the land, I’ll leave the scorpions and snakes to live there, to remind people about the dangerous poison contained in the acts of greed.’

Cumulus rose high, evaporating as it approached its father, the Sun.

And the Kalahari became a desert.

As usual, an uncomfortable silence follows Gertruida’s speech. She has a way of making the customers in Boggel’s Place stop their humorous banter by forcing reality back into the confines of the small bar.

“I don’t understand,” Servaas bunches his bushy brows together in a puzzled look, “what has this to do with politics and Obama and South Africa?”

“Everything, dear Servaas, everything. There is too little grass. Too many fat Eland. And, because trade unions – they guys that have to ensure continued and improved production – are constantly fighting about higher wages and shorter hours and not doing what they’re supposed to do.

“So Obama came here, made all the right noises, and left. Do you think anything is going to change?” Gertruida sighs as she signals for a new drink. “When the Obamas and the helicopters and the CIA leave to continue their trip through Africa, they’ll leave South Africa just like they found us – a desert  where hope used to grow.

“The Kalahari is fortunate. The Gemsbok still survive there, but in the rest of the country they were poached by Corruption.”

***

Way out in the desert, near The Valley of the Buried Wagon, a lone Oryx sips the brackish water from a secret pool next to a rock. Straightening up, it sniffs the air.

It won’t rain soon…