Category Archives: History

Coulrophobia is alive and well..

12060d75ff7931e6cad9fc882e79b3ce.jpg“I think it started with The Joker in the Batman movies. That guy was as evil as they come, and boy, was I scared of him! Although…,” Servaas smiles wickedly, “I sort of admired his stupidity. Imagine taking on Batman? It’s a one-horse race, but still he didn’t give up. Evil would never trump Good, yet it didn’t prevent The Joker from trying.”

Gertruida nods. “Yep. A real bad guy. Wikipedia describes him as: ‘ a criminal mastermind. Introduced as a psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor…‘ Interestingly, he associated himself with various criminal elements, like the Injustice Gang and Injustice League. In short, a very realistic figure who resonates quite remarkably with us  – almost 80 years after he was first created. Interestingly, The Joker was created on April 25, 1940, just about two years before our prez was born.”

“Amazing coincidence, Gertruida. To create such characters in the middle of WW II might represent some form of logic. I mean, while everybody is shooting at everybody else, it is only natural that that period of time gave birth to some rather strange characters. I mean, Bob Hewitt was also born in 1940.”

“Ooooh…you just can’t generalise like that, Servaas! Some good people also started life in that year. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Kitch Christie, Eddie Barlow, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert – to name only a few.” Despite her stern tone, Gertruida pats her old friend’s shoulder. “It’s not the year, Servaas. It’s not the war. We simply have to stop blaming the past for everything – as if it absolves us from all blame and gives us the right to condemn modern society.

“The choice to become a criminal is a purposeful movement away from what is just and fair – by the individual. It is he or she who decides to swindle others in the community and steal or murder or act unlawfully. To blame it on circumstances is the original cop-out. To blame it on racism or apartheid or whatever other wrong, has become the norm – but think about it. Is it justifiable to engage in criminal activity because Jan van Riebeeck started something in the Cape, establishing a world-renowned and terribly strategic port? So successful was his endeavour that we may not breathe a word about ‘colonialism’ today.”

“That’s  Greek word, isn’t it?”

“It is. The Greek word kolon, means ‘limb’, and because of stilts, was also associated with clowns. Of course, if you say ‘kolon’ today, people hear ‘colon’ and think about the temporary store for stuff the body wants to dispose of.”

“Huh?”

“Ag Servaas! The word coulrophobia has it’s origins in the way the old Greeks amused themselves. Some men would walk about on stilts and thus try to be funny. They elongated their kolons to appear comical. They were the original clowns, see? So, in an obscure way, the word Kolon is the parent word for colony (a limb of the sovereign nation) as well as for clown.”

“So, if a colony is run by a kolon, we get coulrophobia?”

“The pathological fear of clowns? Just so, my ancient friend, just so.”

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Gertruida’s Fish-in-a-Bottle Analogy

images (2).jpg“You see, in the beginning everything is small  – but that tends to change as time goes on.” Gertruida smiles at her little audience in Boggel’s Place. After their protest march on Friday, they have decided not to talk about politicians for a while – but now it’s Monday and it’s time to take stock of recent events.

“Are you talking about babies, relationships or lies, Gertruida?” Servaas brushes his bushy brows flat with a drop of beer. “Nothing new there, I’m afraid.”

“Actually – yes and no. What I’m really referring to, is the fish-in-a-bottle analogy.” Her smile widens as she enjoys the blanks stares she gets. “It’s simple, really.”

***

One day, a man noted a number of small fish in the pond near his house. They were exceptionally beautiful and exhibited all the colours of the rainbow.

“I want those fish,” he said and strolled off to find a net somewhere.

“Haven’t seen a net for ages,” his friend said when asked. “It’s not something we do. Anyway, some of those fishes are quite poisonous, I’m told. Best to leave them alone.”

But the man was determined and made up his own net with bits of string. Then he thought about a container to keep the little fishes in and once again his friend advised against it.

“If you keep fish in a container, they will need to be fed. And you’ll have to clean the thing every now and then – fish swim around in their own poo, you know?”

images (3).jpgStill, the man ignored the advice. The only container he found, was an old wine bottle – the type with little handles at the neck. It was also a very precious bottle, something that had been in the family for some time. This, the man thought, would be a great container for the fish.They’d have plenty of room to swim around in and the clear glass would display their colours beautifully to anybody who cared to look. And who cared if the fish were poisonous – they’d be safe behind the glass. Anyway, they were to be looked at, not handled or eaten.

The man started catching the fish with his net. It was slow going at first, but he soon got the hang of it and he quickly filled up the bottle with a small school of lively fish bodied. Their colours were even more remarkable inside the glass container, causing the man to puff out his chest in pride.

“Nobody in the whole, wide world has fish as beautiful as mine,” he boasted. He’d spend countless hours admiring his fish, feeding them and watching them grow.

And grow…

And grow.

In time, the fish became so big that he wanted to put them into a larger container, but there was a problem. By then the fish had grown so big that he couldn’t get then out of the bottle any longer. The neck of the bottle had been large enough when the fish were small, but now – having been fed well and grown to a considerable size – the fish could no longer negotiate their way out of the bottle.

“My fish have grown too much!” The man wailed. “They are now trapped inside my bottle. Even if I wanted to, I can no longer set them free or return them to the pond.”

And still the fish grew and grew and eventually became so big that they no longer could swim in the bottle. They just hung there, suspended in water, eating all day while their scales slowly lost their lustre.

“Oh, how ugly and fat have my beauties become! I used to be so proud of them, but now they’ve become bloated and fat and lazy – and I cannot get rid of them.” The man wept as he tried to imagine what the fish looked like before.

“You have to break the bottle,” the man’s friend suggested.”Set them free in the pond and get rid of them.”

“But my bottle! It’s such a precious bottle! I belonged to my father, and his father before him. If I break the bottle, I’b be betraying their trust and disrespect their memory.”

“And if you don’t, the fish will die in that bottle and you’ll have to wait for everything to rot away before you’ll be able to get them out – piece by piece. Either way, the bottle is doomed. Either way, the fish get out. Your choice.”

The man didn’t know what to do. In the end the fish died, they rotted away and the bottle stank to high heaven for many years afterwards.

And the man had no choice. He discarded the bottle – which nobody wanted any more – and regretted the day he first thought of catching the beautiful little fish in the pond near his house.

***

“Oh, I get it.” Vetfaan’s face lights up with excitement. “You’re talking about the cows coming home. The chickens return to the roost. And being hoist by your own petard?”

“Exactly. The ANC tried to restrict the havoc Zuma caused by closing ranks and proclaiming their unyielding support for the president. Well, a while ago this might have worked and they could have gotten away with it. But now the elephant in the room has grown too big to ignore. The fish is now too big for the bottle. The only way ahead is now to break the bottle and set Zuma free to face the music, or to remain steadfast in their support and die with him inside the bottle. Either way, the ANC is causing terrible damage to the party’s image. The darling of world politics have become the skunk.”

“You mean a junk-skunk?” Vetfaan manages a lopsided grin.

“Just so, Vetfaan, just so.” Gertruida doesn’t return the smile.

The Pig, the Hogs and the Rest.

pig-1422160_960_720.jpgThe three little pigs grew up but they never forgot the fear and the hatred of their youth. Although the big bad wolf no longer blew houses down or threatened to eat them, the three of them insisted on building an impregnable castle, high up on a mountain. Of course, Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks, insisted on being honoured as Leader.

“See how clever we are,” said the Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks, “not only did I kill the wolf, but look at the luxury we now enjoy.” The clever Pig stuffed another tasty treat into his already-full mouth and grinned happily as his personal servants rushed to wipe the spittle from his chinney chin chin. “And as long as you do exactly as I say, you’ll be rewarded as well, my loyal comrades.”

They all nodded for they remembered Sitting Duck, the poor creature who once dared question Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks. Sitting had asked whether it wouldn’t be fair if all the food was distributed to all the animals. Surely, Sitting argued, the poor working animals deserved reward for their hard work and loyalty. The question caused a classic Pig explosion.

“What? Reward those stupid workers? Are you completely mad? You give them a small reward and next they want my palace! You, Sitting Duck, will now leave my palace and work amongst those you admire so much. Go now! I’m sick of your pathetic face. I never want to see you again.”

So Sitting Duck left the palace to become just another of Pig’s victims. Pig had become quite famous for his temper tantrums after that and many of his erstwhile friends soon tasted the sharp whip of his wrath. But Pig didn’t care. There were many, many others waiting at the gates of his castle in the hope of being invited in. These, called Waiters, knew all too well that nobody in the castle ever did any real work and that they received much more than they’d ever need – simply by agreeing with everything Pig said.

One day, Pig decided his castle just wasn’t big enough. His many Piglettes, Piglets and other family members had become so numerous, that the rooms in the big castle were all occupied. This happened soon after the Hogs – a family from the Far East – arrived with many clever ideas and a lot of money. The Hogs were members of a little-known family of distantly related Boars, a radical group of relatives known for their cunning ways. And Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks instantly recognised their genius and agreed with everything they said.

The Hogs, however, belonged to a dark and secret society which believed in pig sacrifice. Once they befriended a pig, it was their aim to get everything such a pig had. This, they called ‘bleeding him dry’ and was the origin of the saying “bleeding like a stuck pig”.

But first the Hogs had to get Pig to play along with their plans, which Pig gladly did. Initially the Hogs kept their promises and Pig was handsomely rewarded for his cooperation. Then Pig got greedy.If the Hogs could make plans…why, so could he! And then, Pig told himself, he’d become even richer, add more rooms to his castle and be known throughout the world as The- pig-who-outwitted-them-all.

So Pig came up with The-Most-Dastardly-Plan. He was going to steal all the money in the land, with which he’d not only build a few rooms, but castles for his extended family. By then, Pig’s greedy ways had made him to believe he had the right to everything in the country and he lived like that. He could eat more than everybody else, even Wolf, way back then. No amount of anything was ever sufficient. He wanted more…always more.

And the animals outside the castle saw this and shuddered. “We must stop Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks,” they said, “for he is taking food from our mouths.” And the animals outside the castle protested and protested, while Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks stood inside his castle, laughing at them.

Then something strange happened. Some of Pig’s friends inside the castle had to admit to themselves (softly at first) that maybe, just maybe, Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks, was the biggest manipulator in the land; that he used them all for only one reason: to increase his wealth.

“We had been used by Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks,” they whispered amongst themselves. “Look at the animals outside. Not a single smiling face, not a single happy creature. They all are suffering because Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks had tricked them out of their rights and their belongings.”

The more these animals whispered, the more they became convinced that something had to be done with Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks. One by one, they quietly left the castle, until only the Hogs and Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks remained. That’s when the Hogs – clever as they were – decided that they had had enough. Taking everything they could, they, too, left one night.

Poor Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks. He was left all alone in his huge castle and could shout (or laugh) at nobody any longer. So lonely was he that he longed for company – any company – even Wolf. But in the wide, marble-tiled corridors of his massive castle, only the mocking laughter of the Hogs remained.

And it drove Pig-who-had-built-with-bricks completely mad. He spent the rest of his days believing that he still ruled over the country, while the animals couldn’t stop ridiculing their former leader. And while the poor pig played his make-believe games, the rest of the animals started repairing the damage the Hogs had caused.

And later, much later, they all lived happily ever after.

But it took a long, long, very long time.

Rasputin Syndrome in South Africa?

Григорий_Распутин_(1914-1916)b.jpg

Grigory Rasputin

“Now, Rasputin – as you may know – was a rather enigmatic figure about whom there is still a lot of uncertainty. He was never a monk and had no religious training, but he became known as a mystic, a prophet, a spiritual healer and received (according to him) the gift of clairvoyance.” Gertruida is in full cry – it’s been a long night but the group in the little bar just can’t settle down. The cabinet reshuffle has caused a lot of debate, with the consensus that the country is in for a stormy future. As usual, Gertruida wants the last word. “But…he had an eye for a shapely figure, especially if the lady was well-connected or rich.”

“Gee Gertruida, do we really have to listen to a history lesson? Pravin Gordhan just got axed – as did that nice man, Jonas – and we’ve been trying to make sense of it all. And still you insist on telling us about some crazy Russian?” Servaas shakes his head – what is the world coming to?

“Listen, that man, Gigaba? I’m not so sure. He really sent tourism into a tailspin with all the new regulations. If he doesn’t understand the economy of tourism, how can he handle the whole country’s finances?”

“Wrong idea, Vetfaan.” Servaas wags a finger at his bleary-eyed friend. “You have to think big. He has to do much more than just balance the country’s books – he has to handle our president’s affairs.” He waits for a moment to allow the sentence to sink in before adding: “Which includes much more than mere money, I might add.”

“Rasputin never had any formal education and was illiterate until well into his adulthood. Despite this, Rasputin met the Tzar in 1905, bedazzled the ladies of the court and caused the Tzar to fall under his spell. Man, he really got under people’s skin, but the Tzar protected him at all costs.” Gertruida manages to ignore the other two. “But, ironically, it was his interpretation of sin that led to his fall from grace. You see, he believed that repentance was necessary for salvation. But…how can you repent if you have no sin? So his theory was simple: to prove he was not suffering from the sin of vanity, he…er…forced himself to be a fragile human creature and took to sex and booze to create the sins he had to plead forgiveness for.” She smiles at the incredulous looks she gets. “Yep. And you know what? Some of the most powerful people in Russia actually fell for that ruse.”

Vetfaan pokes a finger in the air. “I think I get what you’re getting at.”

“Good. And it was this spiral of increasing drunkenness and sexual exploits that caused his downfall, together with his complete inability to refuse bribes.”

“But they got rid of him in the end, didn’t they?”

“They did, Servaas, but it wasn’t easy. On November 19, 1916, Purishkevich – an important chap in government – made a rousing speech in which he stated: “The … ministers … have been turned into marionettes, marionettes whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin.”  It was the speech that started the plot to murder Rasputin.”

“Probably the only thing to do under the circumstances and at that time in history in Russia.”

“Yes, Vetfaan. Of course. Things were so much simpler then.These days even presidents have rights. But, to get back to Rasputin: first a lady attacked him and stabbed him in the stomach, causing severe injuries.”

“So he died?”

“No Servaas, he didn’t. A surgeon operated on him – in his home – and he recovered. Then a group of conspirators invited him to supper. They gave him some cake, laced with enough cyanide to kill five men. Rasputin didn’t bat an eye. So they shot him, and he fell down. Still he didn’t die. They shot him again, several times. Still Rasputin lived. So they rolled him in a rug and threw him in a river, where he drowned. At last Russia was free of Rasputin, but not of his legacy. He was the reason Russia doesn’t have a Tzar any more.”

A heavy silence hangs in Boggel’s Place when Gertruida finishes her tale.

“One man, delusional and somewhat charasmatic, with a love for women and money. And he, singlehandedly, caused the collapse of an empire?”

“True, Vetfaan. History is a strange animal, you know. It keeps on repeating itself.”

 

There’s a grave waiting…

images.jpgThe cemetery at the foot of Bokkop – outside the small town of Rolbos – is a rather lonely spot. Bearing in mind the handful of people living in town, one can understand that the cemetery cannot be compared to those in larger places like Loeriesfontein or Lekkersing. Why, the bustling community of Riemvasmaak sees far more of the extremes of human life than our little hovel in the Kalahari.

One of the most recent graves belongs to Siena, old Servaas’s sadly-departed wife. He finds solace in the memories of many years of marriage to the soft-spoken lady, as well as in the cold beers Boggel serves in the little bar. He says the one sustains the past while the other props up the present, The future? Servaas says it’s far too dark to contemplate at all..

Still, despite the relative freshness of Servaas’s loss, there is a new mound of red sand at the edge of the cemetery – just a oblong heap is sand with no cross or any other form of marking. And, because the place is visited so rarely, it is quite likely that the soft night winds will flatten the surface again before anybody should visit the grave of a departed loved one.

Now, the good people of Rolbos are not superstitious and they do not harbour gullible thoughts on irrational subjects. No, they will always find the most logical answers to the most difficult questions, like the time Gertruida questioned the decision-making prowess or our government. It was Vetfaan who reminded her that we – indeed – do not have a government in the classic sense of the word, but that we have been reduced to insignificance by a group of megalomaniacs. Good governance, he said, was an oxymoron, just like effective policing or, more recently, the term ‘public protector’.

So, should one of the Rolbossers notice the freshest grave in their burial place, he (or she) would want to know why he (or she) missed such an important event and why he (or she) didn’t have the opportunity to question Oudoom on the Church’s approach to thorny social issues. But, being summer and unbearably hot, the townsfolk spend their time in the most logical (and comfortable) place, enjoying a few cold beers and sensibly avoiding the scorching heat outside.

But it’s out there, on the plains of the vast desert, that death finally had the last say and the noble existence that once lived proudly, ceased to be. It simply had no fight left, no desire to compete against the odds that were becoming more and more unfavourable every day. Life is like that, not so? The risk of death increases with every passing minute, every hour of life that speeds by. Like a playful puppy, it keeps on crawling nearer, no matter how hard we try to ignore the inevitable.

The neglected mound next to the rusting fence is the last resting place for a pair of twins, in fact.  The inseparable Siamese siblings, Truth and Integrity rest here in eternal peace after a life-long struggle to impress upon the country the essence of their existence. Through the years they have been battered into submission – first by the Church, then by the media and finally by a succession of political leaders. Although sick, diseased, fatigued and in dire straits, the twins battled on bravely. They refused to succumb to the ever-increasing tide of scorn and lies levelled at them, prepared to fight to the last.

And they did. They fought bravely, making sure that the facts of so many lies and corrupt dealings got to the right people  at the right time; using newspapers, TV and common men and women to expose the greed and corruption eating away at the fabric of our society.

And then came the final blow; the act that killed the twins in such a cowardly manner that generations to come will hang their heads in shame. Professors in Political Science will tell the story for as long as there are students that listen, while others who had followed the liberation movement in the past, will stare at the pages of history books in shame.

Truth and Integrity might have stood a chance of survival under different circumstances. Had the country had a government of honour, the twins would have been with us still. But, with State Capture nearing completion, the final blow came with the appointment of a man to parliament who has no respect for the twins. He killed them with his tears, his lies and his desire to serve not the country, but the man who has shown a singular  and progressive lack of political insight over the past few years.

But, one must admit, the nature of Life is a strange phenomenon.Yes, the little mound of red earth will flatten as the winds caress the fine granules of red Kalahari sand away to the open plains. And yes, for a while people will forget the twins ever lived.

But…

How strange then, the fact that people forget so easily? That the odds of dying increases with every breath? And just like Truth and Integrity aren’t real people but still have died, so there are others that will have to succumb to the inevitabilities we all have to live (and die) with. Nothing remains hidden forever, just as nothing lives forever.

So, Mister President, the blood of the twins is on your hands – and those of your current favourite little friend, he of the crocodile tears and the many questions of his role in load shedding. Enjoy your season in the sun – for time marches on and Deceit and Corruption will have to die as well. The risk of that happening increases with every passing minute, Mister Commander in Chief. And when they, at last, cease to be – as they must – your family and the rest of the country will remember.

They’ll remember.

Everything.

With limitless shame.

Vetfaan’s SONA and #Time to face the music.

It’s been a custom for a few years now, so  – once again – Vetfaan is cajoled into predicting what (and how) the president will deliver his yearly State of the Nation  Address. To do this, he has to practice saying numbers the way only Number One can, which isn’t easy.

 

“…This year, we will spend one thousand, two million and five rands on improving the fire pool. I fully expect my cattle herd to increase by three thousand…listen carefully…three point twenty-five per cent, allowing me to pay back the money at a rate of fourteen rand and  fifty seventy every month. This will prove not only my innocence, but also my unquestionable integrity…”

“”What about the seven hundred and eleventy-three cases of corruption you are dodging?”  As this is only a practice session, Servaas feels free to interrupt. “#Pay back the money is nice, but #time to face the music, seems more appropriate now.” He waves a clenched fist in the direction of Boggel, who immediately realises it’s the old man telling the world he needs a new beer.

“Eish, you are a racist pig, Servaas. It’s people like you who make this country ungovernable – did you know that?” Vetfaan pushes an imaginary pair of glasses back onto his nose bridge. “Let me explain it to you – very slowly, so you may understand.” He now points a finger at his audience while he does a little hip-wiggle. “Look, Africa is the biggest continent in the world. It is so big, her rivers never reach the sea and it took Jan van Riebeeck more than sixe…six…sixteen hundred and…ah. Never mind. He took a long time in coming here, understand?

“Now, before Jan van Riebeeck, there was no corruption. Nothing. People never had to make laws about corruption because there was none. That is history. Go on, look it up: if you find a single law aimed against corruption before Van Riebeeck’s arrival, you can come and spend a weekend at Nkandla – free of charge.

“But then Van Riebeeck came and South Africa had to have something they never had before – laws. These laws governed the way the Dutch people lived at the Cape. Were they African laws?” He pauses for effect.  “No. They were laws imported from Europe. Why?” Again he waits a second. “Because Europe invented corruption, that’s why. One of my reading friends looked it up: it’s a Latin word. It appeared in its current form sometime in the fourtieth…er…fourteenth century – in English. Which must have been just before Van Riebeeck bought his ticket to come here. So that, I must add, is just another argument against colonialism. The Dutch and the English – they started the problems down here.”

“But what, Mister President, about the help you received during the struggle years. Were not the Brits and the Dutch deeply involved in your fight against Apartheid?”

Vetfaans eyes flash his anger. “How dare you corrupt a perfectly good argument with facts?  You must realise we had help from America and Russia as well. How could we foresee Trump becoming president? Putin, at least, is on my side. He said so, after we spoke about the nuclear powerstations. And don’t you go on believing Putin is a bad man – You’d be surprised to know how generous he was with me. He said Nkandla is nothing…for him it’s small change. The way he appreciates my friendship goes far beyond the Nkandla debt – in fact, I’ll be able to settle that score as soon as the Russian stations connect up to the power grid.”

“And the Chinese? They’re your very best buddies now? What will the Guptas say about them?”

“Servaas, you’re testing my patience here. I’ll keep my answer short. In politics you don’t have friends. Never. You have business partners, even though you’ll never admit that in public. In fact, you have to be very quiet about that. And if people start asking questions, you start talking about Jan van Riebeeck, colonialism and white monopoly. At the same time you get the illiterate vote by promising land reform, increased grants and nationalising the mines. Being president, my friend, is a question of playing the ends against the middle. Ask Donald Trump – we’ll never be friends, but I think he’d be a good African leader.”

“Aren’t you proposing more colonialism with that statement?”

Vetfaan sighs theatrically. “That’s the difference between you people and myself. You guys think in straight lines. That’s stupid.”

“…and your mind weighs up the convoluted odds of corruption, Van Riebeeck’s arrival and Putin’s generosity?”

“Servaas!” Vetfaan is so angry he almost forgets to use the right accent. “The fact that you are ignorant does not give you the luxury of an opinion, you hear? Anyway, you voted for the wrong party, so even if you had an opinion, it wouldn’t count.  And what’s wrong with Putin, anyway? Trump loves the man.”

“You seem to harbour a deep respect for Mister Trump, my president?”

“Well, his forefathers didn’t come to South Africa, did they? They went west, Van Riebeeck went east. So, he’s the opposite of Oom Jan. That makes him a good man….”

Boggel holds up a hand. “Hey you guys, stop it now. You were supposed to be funny – but the way you’re going on, will have me in tears just now – or applying for a Visa to the US of A.  I wonder if they’ll allow me in?”

Vetfaan sits back, relieved that his SONA is over. “Visa into America?  Go there and leave Rolbos? Are you completely crazy? I’d rather have Zuma than Trump.”

“And why would that be?”

“With Trump you’re never quite sure whether he is truthful or if he sticks to facts. He makes you doubt, you see?  With Zuma you don’t have that problem at all…”

“So the SONA doesn’t matter?”

“That’s right, Servaas. The SONA won’t change a thing. They’ll have the imbongi shouting the praises like in medieval times before things got a bit … more sophisticated. Then the prez will dazzle us with his ability to waltz through figures and facts without touching sides. Then you’ll have some of his friends telling you how well  he manages the stress of the highest office – even though he seems to be losing a bit of weight recently.  The opposition will scoff. And on Friday….we’ll all be just where we were on Wednesday, except for the surprise of the few who  thought the bovine faecal level couldn’t go any higher.”

Anger Trumps Ideology

donald-trump.jpg“But she’s a better politician, having spent a lifetime in public service.” Vetfaan shakes his head. Although he considered the American election to be a choice between rubbish and nonsense, he did favour Hilary.

“I don’t want to be the one who tells you I told you so.” Gertruida’s smug smile says it all. “It never was about political ideology or foreign policy. That notion died some time ago. Look at Turkey, Brittain, Brexit and our government’s leaders. It’s simple, really: at some point the voters become so disillusioned with reality, they’d jump ship at the slightest provocation.”

“Provocation? What are you talking about?”

“Anger, Vetfaan. Anger. Deep, festering, gnawing anger. Anger at the resistence to change. Anger at leaders deciding things that affect – often negatively – the common man in the street. Anger at power-hungry politicians who enrich themselves at the expense of the poorest of the poor. Anger at corruption and lies. Anger at rising taxes when the economy is sick. Anger at governments not providing stability or listening to society’s woes. Anger, my friend, because politicians have become insensitive to the fact that they must serve the people, and not vice versa.”

“And Trump tapped into that anger?”

“Of course. America, Vetfaan, brought out an angry vote. People say they are surprised, but I’m not. America is following – and adding momentum to – a new global trend. It’s an emotional movement, but a very real one.”

“And what might that be?”

“People are tired and fed up with being ignored. Taken for granted. Opinions swept off the table. Being told what to do and what to believe – while they want to make up their own minds. That’s where politicians miss the boat, Vetfaan. They become so impressed with their positions – and the power it gives them – that they think they’re untouchable. Once that happens, democracy will appeal to people who have lost hope. They’ll want change – demand it, even – to escape from oppression. It’s happened here in the past, it’ll happen again.”

Vetfaan shakes his head. “Again? How?”

“Look at our country, Vetfaan. Anger is all around us. There is racial tension. Malema’s message is one of hate. Zuma’s performance creates massive frustration. The government refuses to address the aggression in society. Rage rules the student protests, fury fuels service delivery dissent. Wrath directs xenophobia.

“Like I said: it’s a global tendency; a symptom of the time we live in; and governments ignore it at their peril.”

“Oh, my.” Vetfaan nods his thanks as Boggel serves another round. “So Trump is the tip of the iceberg?”

“Of course. Established governments will feel the aftershocks. Political parties will suffer surprising defeats.” Gertruida shrugs – some things are simply inevitable. “The world is angry, Vetfaan. And it’s going to get worse.”

“Thank goodness we’re living in Rolbos.” Boggel flashes an optimistic smile. “At least we’re not angry here.”

“Not yet, Boggel; but amen to that.” Gertruida closes her eyes, biting back the answer that almost managed to escape. Rolbos may be calm and happy on the surface, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t take notice of recent national events. The anger is there, below the surface.

Waiting….

 

“And days pass like this
Me, growing desperate
And you, you answering
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
Everytime I ask you
That when, how and where
You always reply me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
You are wasting your time
Thinking, thinking
For God’s sake
How much longer? How much longer?”
Osvaldo Farrès

The Rolbos Declaration

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Credit: Daily Maverick

We, the citizens of the minor little small town of Rolbos, wish to express our appreciation to all who have ensured the imminent release of the previous Public Protector’s report on the alleged misconduct of our president. Due to her fearless approach, the truth is now out: the rot of corruption has eaten to the core of our government.

 

We also wish to make known our dismay at the number of lawyers and other legal practitioners who have assisted some elected officials to conduct their affairs at a less than ethical level.

Furthermore, we fail to understand why so many, for so long, have stood by quietly, while all around them Rome was burning. Ministers and other officials, even the NEC, must have known how corrupt individuals managed their affairs. Was their silence due to some form of complicity? Did they, too, benefit from the prevailing criminality of (supposedly) their superiors? How deep, indeed, did the rot spread? Given the vigorous defense and support the president had received in the past, we are left with the overwhelming suspicion that the High Court in Pretoria  today only touched upon the tip of a very sick iceberg.

On a more positive note, we anticipate huge changes in the political scene of our country. Indeed, the recent municipal elections already suggested a massive change in the political mood of society. While the more loyal rats may choose to cling to the sinking SS Zuma, intelligent politicians (yes, we believe – despite evidence to the contrary – such individuals exist) will be gathering around the lifeboats and any other floating flotsam and jetsam left, soon after the boiler room explodes.

We pledge our support to any and all members of society who believe in a brighter future for our country. And, please, we urge all citizens to respect the lives and property of those who want to contribute towards hope, constructive engagement and peace. Venting anger and frustration on the already-crumbling infrastructure, will only make the road to recovery more inaccessible.

And finally, as a gesture of our sincere appreciation, we hereby offer the Freedom of Rolbos to the remarkable lady who had the guts to do her job with due diligence.

We salute you, Advocate Madonsela, and wish you all the best for the future. One day, when you are president, Rolbos will boast that we were the first to step forward and invite you to come and enjoy the freedom of our unique little town . Our esteemed barman – himself a man of integrity and honour – has already gathered the citizens in a guard of honour. While you may not find the time to visit us in the near future, we are quite prepared to wait.

After waiting for more than a decade for something to give us hope, a few weeks or months won’t make a difference. May we suggest the weekend after the president finally resigns? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful celebration – a true Kalahari Party?

The Circus Lion of Society

2B66E2C400000578-0-image-a-56_1439753878897.jpg“Isn’t it strange how some people manage to convince themselves that they  – or their deeds – are invisible? Fact is: the things you have done and said in the past, remain as historical facts. And, what’s more, we live in a digital age in which information is not only freely available, but it also spreads at the press of a button.”

“Ja, Gertruida, that is true for Trump and Zuma. No matter how much they’d like to bury the past under a heap of horse manure, there just aren’t enough horses around to help them out. Their actions – or lack thereof – remain as timeless accusations against their characters. It simply won’t fade away as the days and months roll by – in fact, they become more visible.”

“Society,” Gertruida pouts like she does when she’s in her cynical mood, “has become a circus lion, Vetfaan. We’ve been cowed into subjection, tortured to submission and dominated into impassive insensitivity.Where is that steadfast honesty and integrity our forefathers were so famous for….”

“At least some of them,” Vetfaan interjects, ignoring Gertruida’s disapproving frown.

“…and fought for so hard?” Gertruida ignores the taunt. “And, let me remind you: this never was a white or brown or black issue. Sure, we had some very bad apples spread widely through the development of our country, but somehow our spirit of adventure always had a foundation of justice to it. The Great Trek and the Freedom Struggle had more in common than meets the eye: both were quests for freedom from oppression and both were driven by men and women who sought civil justice. The methods differed, but the basic premise was the same.

“Somewhere along the line, however, we always seem to muddle things up. Power corrupts, Vetfaan, and that’s the bottom line. Too much power ends up in the very same oppression we tried to escape in the first instance.”

“That’s when we become circus lions?” Vetfaan arches an eyebrow.

“Sure. A lion is a vicious animal, a superb hunter and known as the king of the jungle. Then man comes along with a whip and beats the natural instincts out of him. The lion submits, forgets who and what he was, and becomes a plaything – a party trick to amuse the crowd. If the lion believed in himself, he’d easily overpower the man with the whip – he’d snap the ringmaster in two, jump out of the ring and go back to being a lion. But the poor animal has lost the will to fight. He’d rather jump through a few hoops to earn his measly dinner of donkey chops than roam free and live off kudu steaks.”

“Okay, so we’ve become a nation of cowards. What’s next?”

Gertruida stares at her friend for a second or two before answering.

“Time. That’s the answer. That, and the power of history. Lions don’t keep record of who growled what and when – they lack the skill of understanding history. And to them there’s no yesterday and no tomorrow – they eat, hunt and sleep as and when the need arises. We, on the other hand, cannot escape the past and are very much aware of the future.

“Nations – throughout history – have gone through periods of oppression. There have been autocrats, dictators and madmen throughout the ages, who’d thought their whips would be enough to keep the lion of society at bay.” She sighs, orders another beer and shrugs. “Name one empire – one single leader – who has survived it’s own injustices? Don’t even bother answering that, Vetfaan, we both know the answer.”

“So America and South Africa are in the same boat?”

“No, my friend. We are at the point where the lion is about to snap the whip in two. America’s circus is still in training…”

The Horizon Hunter #4

download (8).jpg“Life in Atlantis was okay, I guess. The neighbours all knew our story and warned us many times whenever the inspectors were checking up on people’s ID’s. However, my mother refused to send me to school – the danger of exposure loomed too large. Anyway, I was an unregistered child, remember? Basically – as far as the officials were concerned, I didn’t exist.”

***

Mo’s mother found work as a waitress in Cape Town itself, which involved a lengthy train trip to a fro every day. Mo stayed at home, under the care of Achmad, her brother, for a while. Achmad was the main middleman in the supply of dagga (hashish) to the local community. A friend of a friend had a hidden plantation in the Transkei and he had several distributors who acted as agents in the Cape area. In the days before drug lords, Achmad was the king of Atlantis.

Dealing in illicit drugs  was (and still is) a nefarious and dangerous business. Achmad could not survive without a network of dealers and informers. A lot of people depended on him for an income and quite a few were deeply indebted to him in more ways than one. One of them was the lovable Aunty Florrie.

Florrie was a remarkable woman. She used to be a social worker and even helped out at the small local school for a while, but the slippery slope of alcoholism deposited her squarely in the cul de sac of addiction. She was one of Achmad’s runners and – despite her sales – could never quite get out of debt with her supplier. Achad made her an offer she could not refuse: if she housed Maria and her child, her past transgressions would be forgiven. No more debt. A new start.

Florrie grabbed the opportunity and not only provided a roof over the poor mother’s head, but also started teaching the child the basics of reading and writing. Mo proved to be a fast learner.

At the time, Mo’s identity remained a huge problem. Achad suggested that he’d arrange with ‘some people he knew’ to register the child in his name. A sympathetic Methodist pastor agreed – rather enthusiastically – to baptise little Mohammed Sulliman, clearly a convert to Christianity from a Muslim home. Now, with documents from the church and Achmad’s ID papers, the Department of Home Affairs had to be convinced that the child’s birth simply wasn’t registered due to an oversight by the Sulliman family. Money changed hands. Mo Sulliman became a real, official person.

Aunty Florrie continued her home schooling simply because it kept Achmad off her back. No, she didn’t think formal schooling would bring out the best in the child – not at all. He was far too clever to be immersed in the second-rate teaching the government provided (she said) and she provided individual teaching, didn’t she? The other side of the coin also deserves mentioning: so profound was M0’s influence on Florrie’s life that she almost stopped using drugs. Almost. Not quite.

Initially Aunty Florrie guided Mo through the basics of learning quite successfully, but when the boy was about nine years old, her addiction flared up again. Achmad was dismayed and then had to face the problem of an almost-ten years old boy who never had formal schooling. A government school was out of the question – but what to do with a ten-year old kid with nothing to do? The solution: recruit Mo as a runner to make deliveries to the agents. images (22).jpgThis was a brilliant move. While his other distributors were adults, mostly convicts and generally known to the police, the little boy could fool them all. The only problem was his rather white skin – which was solved by generous applications of Coppertone and plenty of sun.

And so, gradually over the next two years, Mo became familiar with the underbelly of the Cape’s drug world. In turn, people accepted the little runner as one of their own, while his reputation of always managing to avoid the long arm of the law eventually earned him the respect of  a number of ex-convicts and other individuals surviving in the world of petty crime and other illicit activities.

At the time, the Anti-Apartheid Resistance Movement was gaining ground amongst the Coloured people of Atlantis. The community was ripe for rebellion – after their forced move from District Six, the mood in the community was distinctly anti-government. AARM needed informers and made a deal with Achmad: they’ll smuggle the new drug, LSD, to him, in exchange for information. Achmad’s network fitted their requirements like a glove: his distributors and users worked in the affluent houses of Cape Town and some were cleaners in government departments. A few even were employed as officials and clerks. And they all could be trusted to be true to the cause as long as the supply of drugs was guaranteed.

Mo became the trusted runner with stolen documents, secret messages and  drugs – a heady mix of danger and adventure for the youth who understood the necessity of secrecy all too well. But, in the end, even this elusive runner became the focus of police activity, for the officials also had their own network of informers. A reward was posted and Mo was caught.

What followed is not something Mo wants to talk about. His interrogation was merciless and involved the usual methods used on other so-called terrorists. Solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, beatings, water – these and other ways of making him talk were all used. However, young Mo stubbornly refused to answer any question, repeating over and over again that he knew nothing. He was a street child, homeless, with no real family. Yes, he knew Achmad Sulliman, he was an uncle. And yes, Achmad had adopted him, but that was a long time ago. No he didn’t know where his mother was. He survived by scavenging on the streets – go on, ask anybody in Atlantis: they’ll all confirm that he was seen here and there, doing odd jobs and living off scraps. His interrogators redoubled their efforts. Mo remained unbroken.

The one thing Mo still remembers, is a visit from Aunty Florrie.

“I only heard – later – that she had died a week before. I didn’t know that.  But one night, while I was shivering from being cold and wet and hungry – suddenly, as if by magic – Aunty was there at my side. I was so disorientated and confused, I didn’t question her presence or how she got there.

1990-02-03.jpg“Well, she held me in her arms and made soothing noises. It was wonderful. Then she told me I had to be strong, everything would change soon. I would be free again, she said. She said I must remember the date: it was Thursday, the 1st of February, 1990.”

Then, as suddenly as she had appeared, Aunty Florrie was gone. The next day, on the 2nd of February, President F.W. de Klerk announced the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the resistance movements.

 ***

Mo sat back, his characteristic smile replacing the scowl of recounting his experiences during those terrible days.

“I thought that would be the end of it all. You know – Mandela was freed, there were talks about a negotiated settlement and even free elections for all. And…you won’t believe it…my interrogators arrived on the Monday after De Klerk’s speech with new clothes and a hamburger. They said it didn’t matter anymore and that I’d be freed that Wednesday. A doctor came and examined me. They even sent a pastor to give me a lecture on forgiveness!

“Me? I didn’t care. All that mattered was that I’d be set free and that the beatings stopped. I was old enough to understand that everything had changed, but too young to be cynical about it. So, on that Wednesday, I was ushered to a back door in my new clothes, given ten rand and told to bugger off.”

Mo sioghed. “You know, I really thought that was the end of my troubles.” He shook his head. “Had I but known…”

To be continued…