If 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.)