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…and Gertruida was right. Again…

zuma.jpg‘The problem with Gertruida,’ Boggel sighs, ‘is that she’s right all the time. And she understands the great international power-play better than most.’

‘You talking about China again?’ The frown on Vetfaan’s face tells a story. ‘We all know those guys are colonising Africa – and gaining influence all over the show. I mean, Gertruida talks about their so-called ‘investments’ in infrastructure, military and agriculture all the time. And, she says, it’s not because they are a charity organisation – they’re in it for themselves.’

He gets a nod from Boggel, ‘You’re right, of course. Like all clever investors, they want a return on their investments. Like: We’ll build you a road, but we want your diamonds. Or tobacco. Or we want to export a few of our countrymen to live and trade amongst you guys. And then, after a few decades, we’ll have you in our pockets completely..’

‘Ug. We’ve got enough problems as it is, Boggel. Imagine Uncle Jacob combining forces with Beijing…’

‘Well, according to Gertruida, your president is already in bed with both the Russians and the Chinese. This, she says, is both good and bad.’ Boggel lets the statement drift away in silence. Vetfaan – not the most patient of men – has to prompt him to go on. ‘Well, Vetfaan, it’s like this: First off – it’s bad because we’re selling off crown jewels to line our leaders’ pockets. But there is a silver lining…’

‘Oh, come on, Boggel! Get on with it.’

‘In recent years two major things have happened almost without anybody saying much about the herd of elephants that brought into the room. You see, the world is moving towards a Mafia-like state. International crime syndicates operate on a global scale – these include religious fanatics, the pirate ships that cruise the oceans, money laundering by respected companies and unholy alliances between politics and economic forces. These, you may know, combine to keep dictators in power while the international community turns a blind eye. Look, for instance, how South Africa and Zuma and the African Union tolerated Mugabe’s antics, his mass-murders and the rigged elections for 30 years. How do you explain that? It’s a game of crooked thrones, my friend.

‘Anyway, there’s another aspect that contributes to our little metaphorical elephant herd: there’s no honour amongst crooks no more. The big boys want their pound of flesh and they want it on time. They’ll give you a bit of money, but they want it – and more – back. The days of free handouts are over – the name of the game now is: I’ll scratch your back, but you’ll return the favour many times, over and over. And if you don’t…’

Vetfaan leans forward with a glint in the eye. ‘Yes? What then?’

‘Well, China showed their hand with Mugabe. Gertruida says there’ll be a ripple-effect, because there’s no way that such a thing happens without it influencing the entire region. Also, the two big powers at play here is in competition with each other. A game of international tag, if you like.’

‘So what will happen? Will China lean on our president?’

‘No, Vetfaan. Gertruida says it is far worse than that. Russia will…’

‘First they woo you. Then they screw you?’

‘True Vetfaan. The guys singing to you, are in uniform. Never forget that.’

 

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Gertruida’s Conspiracy Theories about Uncle Bob and the 2023 Rugby Bid.

mug chin.jpg‘You really cannot talk like that.’ Vetfaan scowls over his beer glass. Gertruida has a silly way of analysing current affairs and then come up with the weirdest theories – and then expect people to actually believe her. ‘The Chinese would never do something like that.’

‘Oh Vetfaan, you can be so refreshingly naive! You must remember that those guys have thousands of years of political guile up their sleeves. When we were still rambling about all over the world while trying to figure out how to act in a civilised manner, they had already perfected the art of diplomatic horse-trading. The history of the Xia, the Shang and the early Zhou dynasties – which according to some, were concurrent political entities – date back to thousands of years before the Current Era. There can be no doubt that the Chinese are  masters at manipulating others to fit in with their plans – their recent and progressive colonisation of Africa provides ample proof of that.’

Vetfaan rolls his eyes. ‘So….they tell uncle Bob to send his general to China for a nice little visit. At the same time they whisper in his ear that his vice-president poses a threat to his plans to get Grace to follow him up. With the general out of the way – so they tell him – it is the perfect time to fire the vice, not so? Uncle Bob, who owes the Chinese a lot, gets a greedy glint in the eye. Of course, he reckons, his Chinese friends are right.

‘But there’s a catch.The Chinese aren’t stupid. For years they have poured resources and money in to Zim, only to see Uncle Bob pocketing half of it all. They look at the future and see Grace as the next president. No, they argue, that’s not good. They have to get rid of both Uncle Bob and his expensive wife. So, while the general sips tea with his Chinese friends in Beijing, they tell him all. Also, they say, the time for a coup is ripe. Go for it as soon as the vice-president is fired – and you’ll have the support of most people in Zim. Oh, and don’t worry about diplomatic repercussions – the entire Southern Africa is in our pocket. We’ll tell the heads of state to sound concerned – but to let it go.’

Gertruida’s smile reaches her eyes. ‘Well, well, Vetfaan! You really did listen to my theory after all. Yes, with Zim heading to normality, the Chinese are sending a message to the rest of Southern Africa.’

Vetfaan snorts and signals for a fresh beer. ‘And what would that be?’

‘Simple. They’re reminding the politicians who is in charge, that’s all.’

Boggel slides the beer to Vetfaan with a wavering smile. ‘Okay, Gertruida, if you’re so clever: why was our bid to host the World Cup unsuccessful?’

‘That’s easy, my friend. Do you think having a few stadiums or a nice organising committee is enough? The world is watching us, Boggel. They take note of Nkandla, Escom, Petrosa, the railways, our airline, our ministers of finance, the rampant corruption. They shudder at the thought of 52 murders every day and women who get raped at the rate of 15 per hour. They read what Jacques Pauw and Ronnie Kasrils wrote.

‘And on the morning of the vote, there’s  coup in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

‘Who – in their right mind – would vote for us?”

A terrible silence follows her question. It’s almost as if the shame of our government is worse than the mess on the other side of the Limpopo.

‘To divide and rule could only tear us apart;
In everyman chest, mm – there beats a heart.
So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries;
And I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.‘           Bob Marley

Big Zee! Elvis wrote ya a letter

maxresdefault.jpgDo you know who I am
Have you have any idea who I am
Yes it’s been quite a while
And it’s so good to see you again

Man, I’ve  just had to break my silence on this one. Geez, guys and dolls, when are you going to wake up? If even I start feeling the pressure to speak up, you folks should have done so long ago.

Now, y’all know I can’t really come back like this. I sang about it a long time ago, too!

Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name
Lord I can’t get back home this ole way

But, despite being the richest guy with nothin’ to my name, I’m sure y’all will maybe pay a bit of attention to what I have to say (or sing). People called me many things back then, some of them good but most of them not so nice. I don’t care. Like most prophets, I was scorned in my day. Who remembers the song I wrote ‘specially for South Africa?

Big boss man, why can’t you hear me when I call? All right
You know you ain’t so big, I said you’re just tall that’s all, All right
I’m gonna get me a boss man
One who’s gonna treat me right
I work hard in the day time
Rest easy at night…

But you didn’t listen back then. You’re not listening now. Mac Davis and Billy Strange wrote a song I used to sing. Man, I loved that song! I wanna give it to you folks now, so maybe you’ll take it to heart:

Clean up your own backyard
Oh don’t you hand me none of your lines
Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine

But no! Even from where I sit, I can see you following the big Zee into Cotton Candy Land. That ol’ man running y’all into the ground jus’ keeps on laughing all the way through your bank accounts.

Sandman’s comin’, yes he’s comin’
Take his magic hand
Now goodnight…now sleep tight
In cotton candy land

Whatever you thought about me or my music, I paid the price for fame and fortune; I surely did, yes sir. I got fat and eventually my heart jus’ had to give in, man. One moment tick-tock, the next … nothing. So you see; I can talk because I lived through that experience. To ride that wave so high and then come crashin’ down, is the worst trip you’ll ever been on. Even the Bachelor Boys sang that one very sweetly.

 

Well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it’s down at the end of Lonely Street
The Other Side Hotel
Where I’ll be–where I get so lonely, baby
Well, I’m so lonely
I got so lonely, I simply died.

Now, you folks down there in the South of Africa, it’s time y’all paid me some attention, understand? I’ve got nuthin’ to lose, but you? Oh my, you’re about to lose your country! Here’s how I feel ‘bout it:

I’ll never forget the night you told me
That you could live without my songs somehow
That’s all in the past, I knew it wouldn’t last
But I won’t care a hundred years from now

An’ that’s no lie. I shouldn’t care, but I do. That’s why I have this message for you and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the Big Zee singing along wit’ me:

I washed my hands in muddy water
Washed my hands, but they didn’t come clean

So, here’s a song for y’all:

Well, here’s my real message for your Big Zee. He might strut aroun’ and think he’s fooled everybody – including you – but boy! I have some news for that gentleman. He aint nuthin’ but a houn’ dog, you know?

Well they said you was high-classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah they said you was high-classed
Well, that was just a lie
Well, you ain’t never been honest
And you ain’t no friend of mine

The bottom line? Well, you know how it is. Someday you will all join me on the other side. No money, no fame, no nothing of your’s will work over here. The only thing you bring along, is your history. What you did and how you lived – that counts a hell of a lot over here (if you’ll excuse the pun)

Big Zee? You listenin’?

Be afraid.

Be very, very afraid…

When people ask the wrong questions.

Hat-with-Press-tag.jpg“I have a problem with strange diagnoses.” Gertruida wrinkles her nose – she hates anything she doesn’t understand. ‘Especially when they get bandied around without any substantive proof.”

“Watch out, Gerty, your tendency towards conspiracy theories is on public display again. You just can’t go about proclaiming one urban legend after the other as facts. That, my dear, is called fake news and it should be punishable.”

“Fake news, Vetfaan? What are you talking about? Journalists are favourite targets when people in high places get nervous about who knows what about them, That’s why Stalin set up Kamera, the infamous laboratory responsible for testing poisons on humans. Their mission was simple: to poison enemies of the regime in such a manner that the death seemed due to natural causes. And, over the years, there have been many examples of such assassinations.”

“You’re talking about the Bulgarian Umbrella?”

“Well done, Vetfaan! You’re obviously more than a mere beer drinker in a deserted little town! Yes, the sad case of a pellet fired from the shaft of an umbrella, carrying the poison, resin, to the hapless Georgi Markov, who happened to be an uncomfortably inquisitive writer. He had to be silenced – so he was. But there were others, many others. The Russians seem to be quite adept at getting rid of dissidents, journalists and opponents by using a variety of poisonous substances, ranging from cyanide to radioactive particles and even substances we have no clue about. One that comes to mind right now, is called Heartbreak Grass.”

“Oh, I remember something else.” Vetfaan frowns when he can’t come up with the story immediately, but soon brightens when he recalls the rumour. “In fact, there are two cases I read about. Zuma once claimed to have been poisoned three times, and Premier Mabuza of Mpumalanga accepted a lift on a Gupta plane to Moscow. He claimed that he had been poisoned and that the Russians cured him.  There were whisperings some time back, if I’m not mistaken, of Zuma being treated for poisoning by the Russians, too.”

“Well, all I’m saying is this: we have been so bombarded by bad news lately that we’ve become thick-skinned and almost unwilling to analyse the articles on the front pages of newspapers. I call it the bad-news-saturation-point, or BNSP for short. We also compartmentalise what we hear, because it’s easier. But the time has come, Vetfaan, to be a bit more circumspect. The State Capture Story permeates through the entire system of governance. It involves ESCOM, the railways, the police force, the officials of correctional services, the airways, everything. The Shaiks and the Guptas and the nuclear deals and the arms fiasko – they’re all related and intertwined.

“Why does the parliament keep Zuma in control, Vetfaan?” Gertruida doesn’t wait for him to answer. “Because the pres knows how deep they all are in this thing. He knows who gets money from what source. They can’t fire him, he’ll take them down with him.”

“So … ask the wrong questions and …. ?”

“Hush now, Vetfaan. We never had this conversation.” Gertruida smiles proudly.

Her point was made.

The Gupta Colony and Zille’s Tweets

colonialism1914-2.jpg“I can’t see why everybody is up in arms about Zille’s tweets. Sure, colonialism wasn’t good – but she acknowledges that. All she’s saying is, we’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”Servaas knits his bushy brows together in frustration. “South Africa did have the best roads in Africa, the best economical growth and  the best infrastructure…”

“And apartheid, Servaas.” Gertruida interrupts him quietly. “There was gross inequality between what the different races were entitled to, remember? It wasn’t right.”

“And, my dear Gertruida, everybody else in the world enjoyed equal rights? The Americans didn’t murder the indiginous peoples and neither did the Australians? Women had voting rights since Noah stranded the Ark and Afro-Americans had the right to vote before 1966?

“No, Gertruida, one simply cannot judge the 60’s by applying current values and wisdom. History – all of it – has to be seen in context. Fashions change, feudal systems get thrown out, the science and reasons for war have evolved, the Kitty Hawk does not represent the cutting edge of aerospace exploration any longer. Just like steam does not drive our factories any more, so society found it’s way past the restrictions of the past. Slavery is out, gender and race equality is in.

“But we had to develop to get where we are, Gertruida. It was a process that took centuries. And let me tell you: development without hardship is just about impossible. We are reaping the fruits of past injustices, but also of the progress forced unto us through those injustices. You see, Gertruida, the moment people start realising that no history is just good or just bad, attitudes will change. Wars are terrible, yet they have contributed to medical science as well as technology. That doesn’t mean that one should defend the acts of one nation obliterating the other, neither does it imply some sort of sick happiness when victory rests on the death of thousands…or millions.  But – and this is important – history is just that: it’s the study of the past. It tells us what was bad and it hopes to build on whatever positives there once existed.”

“So you’re defending Zille’s statement?”

“Absolutely. Storm in a political teacup, if you asked me. Being white entitles you to be accused of everything these days. The ANC seems to be intent on shaming whites into submission – and then they have the gall to call you a racist. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they’re the ones sensitising everybody about racial issues. Whites get blamed for apartheid and colonialism and monopolising the economy for your own benefit. White South Africans have become the perfect political ploy to divert attention from the atrocious way the ANC governs the country. Whereas the ‘old’ ANC had such noble aspirations, the ‘new’ leadership have lost their way. Mandela’s dream of a united South Africa rested on the principle of fairness to all and the right to pursue your dreams. Uncle Zuma, on the other hand, does not believe in fairness at all and grants us the right to pursue our worst nightmares.

“I can’t see what’s wrong with taking the good out of the past and building on it. I also say we must never, never repeat the injustices of the past. We must acknowledge the wrongs, but stop blaming each other. And, for goodness’ sakes, make speeches about the future for a change and stop telling the masses that it all went wrong when Oom Jan dropped anchor in Table Bay.

“Everything about colonialism is bad, is it? Then why do we have men dressed in black suits, wearing ties and calling each other The Most Honourable So-and-so. Why do we speak English when our indigenous languages – even Afrikaans – get less recognition? Why are our leaders calling each other Comrade and shouting Viva? Why is Jacob called Jacob?

“And Africa’s past isn’t brimming with honour and glory either. Shaka wasn’t an angel. Dingaan wasn’t the best host at times. The  Difaqane wars didn’t do much to encourage intercultural relationships. Whites made terrible mistakes, that’s true – but so did everybody else.

“But…being sold to the Guptas is just a new form of colonial political slavery and somehow that’s okay for the government of the day. The Gupta/Zuma economical monopoly far outweighs the funds in so-called white hands. These are the mistakes of our times we can do something about. The colonial stuff of yesteryear? We can’t change history, can we?

“It’s time to stop blaming the Vikings for what they did to England. And it’s time for us to do the same and concentrate on the future for a change.”

For once, Gertruida doesn’t offer and argument. She whispers a soft “Amen” before wandering off into the quiet of the late afternoon, shaking her head. “They want to get into bed with Russia? Build nuclear power stations? The biggest coloniser of all? How absurd! The issue shouldn’t be the recognition of the past’s positives, it should be about the present’s negatives.”

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.”

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.”