Spank the pope

And while we’re on the subject of today’s Constitutional Court ruling which once and for all outlaws the spanking of children by their parents, here’s something I wrote four years ago.


Dear Comrade Pope,

You said the other day that it’s okay to spank children as long as it’s done with dignity. At first I thought, hmm, that isn’t a very Christian thing to say. I mean, what happened to all this turning the other cheek and forgiving those who trespass against us? Never mind the lying down with lambs and whatnot.

Then I went to a shopping mall and remembered why children needed to be spanked. Dignity be damned. Grab the little fuckers by the throat and thrash them with a bicycle chain right there outside Game.

But that’s just me. If I were sufficiently evolved, emotionally and theologically, to understand why spankings should be administered in a dignified fashion, I’d be pope and you’d be a columnist clinging on by his fingertips.

I have always considered spanking to be a fairly undignified practice. Sure, you can have the pink fur-lined handcuffs, imported latex rubber cat suits and whips fashioned from the entrails of newborn turtles, but does that really make it any more dignified?

Regardless of accessories and mood lighting, there is going to be blood and screaming and, quite possibly, blaspheming. I am speaking from personal experience. When someone hits me – and not necessarily in a sexual way – I cannot help myself from taking the Lord’s name in vain.

“Jesus Christ!” is most often what I shout. A lot of men shout the same thing when they summit the peak of carnal pleasure – or so I have heard – but you will be relieved to know that I am not one of them. I shout “Judas Iscariot!” Fortunately, I am usually alone when this happens.

Too often, parents lash out at their children because they have made a mess of their own lives and they need to take it out on someone who can’t lay assault charges because they’re too young to drive to the police station. This random violence is probably not what you had in mind, but not a few ill-bred and poorly read mothers and fathers – stupid people, in other words – will rationalise the abuse on the grounds that the pope said it was okay.

The beating of brats is a difficult matter. It isn’t just one of your holiday games. I don’t know what you had in mind, but I have a few ideas you might want to kick around with the cardinals. Many children claim not to know why they are being spanked. I have heard it all.

“It wasn’t me.”

“I didn’t do it.”

“Who are you?”

So, for starters, we need to get the feral little felons to admit to their crimes. Parents might want to consider building confessionals in their homes. They needn’t be anything fancy. Poorer families could use the dog box. If they can’t afford a dog they shouldn’t be allowed to have children.

Perhaps poor parents could take their children to be spanked in rich people’s houses – people who could afford the fancy confessionals and cathedral-like trappings that would afford a damn good spanking the dignity it deserves.

Hang on. Would it not, Your Magnificence, be easier if we brought the loathsome striplings to churches to be spanked? You already have all the dignifiers in place. Mass is pretty damn dignified, right? You could call this Critical Mass. It would have to be in a separate part of the church, obviously. Nobody wants to be distracted by the wailing of freshly whipped children while they are opening their hearts to allow God in.

One could perhaps have their paddies whacked, so to speak, in a sound-proofed annexe around the back. There could even be a bit of an aisle for them to walk down. That would draw the process out and give them time to reflect on their misbegotten ways. There’s a reason cows are made to line up at the abattoir. Beasts know what they have done wrong and by the time the bolt is fired into their brains, they have had time to make peace with their deeds and are grateful for a quick death. I am talking about cows, here, not children.

Have you thought about opening up the Vatican to weekly spankings? Italian children are, next to Indian children, the worst behaved in the world. It would be a huge money-spinner for the Church.

Obviously I will want my cut. Shall we say ten percent per dignified spanking? Or, as you people would have it in Latin, spanko dignificio.

If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’m taking my idea to the Islamists.

Yours in Christ,

Father (of one) Ben Trovato

PS. I am in Cape St Francis at the moment. He was one of yours, wasn’t he? Walked around with badgers and wombats on his shoulders, if I recall. Spoke fluent pigeon. Good for him.

If you can’t join them, beat them

“The Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling by the High Court to do away with the common-law defence of reasonable chastisement when spanking a child.” In other words, parents no longer have a defence if they are accused of assault for smacking their children at home.

Today’s court ruling reminded me of something I wrote two years ago.


Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini says the problem with education today is that teachers are no longer allowed to beat the children. Speaking at a gathering of principals and school governing bodies recently, the patron of education in KwaZulu-Natal emphasised that children needed to be corrected.

The best way to do this is not to put a red line through an incorrect answer, but to leave a red line on the idiot’s bum. That’s a mark he won’t forget in a hurry.

My school in Durban North was a hotbed of thrashings. I don’t know how the staff found the time to get any teaching done. Around every corner there was a line of boys waiting to be ordered to bend over and take it like a man. I grew up thinking this sort of thing must happen to men all the time. But it doesn’t. I have never once heard an interaction of that nature between two adult males. Well, there was this one time in a nightclub … never mind.

Another favourite method of discipline was throwing things. You’d be staring out of the window wondering who would win in a fight between a kangaroo and an ostrich and for no good reason at all, a blackboard duster would be launched at your head from close range. I got hit so many times that when I finished school I was diagnosed with minimal brain damage and had no alternative but to pursue a career in journalism.

The use of corporal punishment in schools has historically been justified by the English common-law doctrine in loco parentis, which means parents are morons and as a result teachers have the right to punish children in their care.

King Zwelithini said children were motivated to do their best simply by seeing a stick. Obviously this won’t work if they don’t make the connection between pain and the stick. It’s no good just showing them a stick and hoping it will act as a deterrent. All that will happen is they’ll go, “Oh look, a stick” and continue with their experiments in human sacrifice and adolescent impregnations.

Everyone must therefore have a taste of the stick for them to understand what it represents. Children are no different to hamsters or rats when it comes to learned behaviour. And the king is right when he says the stick needs to be seen. What better place to put it than on the education department’s logo? Right now the logo features a lion with a spear and a wildebeest with a knobkierie fighting over what looks like a giant Easter egg. My money’s on the lion. I can’t read the motto on this internet image. It’s too small and my eyes are too weak. Or maybe just lazy. They deserve to be beaten. But whatever it is, it needs to be changed to something in Latin, a language born from blood. Ledo illis non cognoscere, vel ad fugiendum has a nice ring to it. It means, Hit them until they learn or run away.

Thing is, the use of the rod is, I don’t know, so very apartheid era. The king needs to move with the times. Sticks are all very well, but they are dull and commonplace and wielding one requires no skill at all. Besides, bludgeoning is heavy work and teachers in humid KZN wouldn’t want to get their Pep shirts all sticky with sweat and maybe even blood. So instead of beating kids with sticks, I suggest we use stun guns or Tasers in urban schools and cattle prods in rural areas.

Teachers could also use pepper spray to help children understand the importance of looking at the blackboard instead of their cellphones. And reusable sound grenades delivering a 130 decibel sonic blast will get any kids’ attention, no matter how ADD they are. Using these modern methods will send a message to the world that we are technologically advanced and not to be trifled with.

King Zwelithini doesn’t say whether corporal punishment should be administered across the board. Or across the gluteus maximus, for that matter. Some teachers might prefer to whack an outstretched palm while others might express a preference for the soles of the feet. What I’m saying is, should girls be treated the same as boys? I don’t think it’s a good idea. Girls have an insatiable desire for revenge. Smack her and years later she will hunt you down and kill you and then kill your entire family and your family’s friends and all their pets. If you don’t believe me, you obviously haven’t watched the documentary Kill Bill.

Quite frankly, I don’t think the king takes it far enough. Why stop with wayward kids when we have so many ill-disciplined civil servants? When I first heard there was something called a Chief Whip, I assumed his job was to flagellate the buttocks of backsliding members of parliament.
There’d also be a lot less malfeasance, negligence and general time-wasting if each department was overseen by a Director of Punitive Measures who dispensed floggings to the incompetent and the crooked on Friday afternoons.

Our former police minister, Fikile “Fokofpolisiekardashian” Mbalula, once urged cops to slap suspects, run them down, return fire with fire, crush their balls, make them drink their own urine, and, if they still hadn’t learnt their lesson, follow him on Twitter. Presumably we are entitled to do the same to corrupt cops.

In this country, it’s not the children whose behaviour needs modifying.

Malema declares war on media

News that Julius Malema had banned certain media from attending EFF events reminded me of a letter I wrote to him a few months ago. I’m still waiting for a reply.


Dear Comrade Julius Malema the First, Commander-in-Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Hero of the Poor, Prince of Pedis and Creator of the Revolutionary Onesie.

I see you have been having a spot of bother with reporters of the female variety. Join the club. Both my ex-wives were journalists and it was only the realisation that I would never again have another beer that stopped me from killing myself. That’s right. Alcohol saved my life.

I understand from the running dogs of the counter-revolutionary quasi-colonialist reactionary mainstream media that your most recent nemesis is a certain Karima Brown. To be honest, I can’t remember the reason you decided to broadcast her cellphone number to the ravening underclass, but I have no doubt she deserved it. How very dare she.

It must be said, though, that your strategy needs work. As a married man, you should know better than to make an angry woman even angrier. All women are angry all the time. Some simply disguise it better than others. This is something we have learnt to live with and it is a rookie mistake to deliberately infuriate them even more.

The Brown woman is now properly furious and would like nothing better than to see you sent to the Hague to spend the rest of your natural life in a tiny cell having your bottom interfered with by Charles Taylor.

Failing that, she wants to see the EFF removed from the ballot paper altogether. This takes the fight to a whole new level. It’s an old Cuban tactic perfected by Batista. This is a mistake. You are not a man who plays second Fidel to anyone.

If you really wanted to upset Ms Brown, you wouldn’t have tweeted her phone number to your shadow army. You would have ignored her. Women hate being ignored even more than they hate getting death threats.

By the way, are you aware that your second-in-command, Oberstfuhrer Shivambu, has only 783 000 followers on Twitter? This is a perilous situation, my friend. Don’t for one minute think he doesn’t envy your tally of 2.5 million. I’d keep a close eye on him. Not too close, though. He admits in his Twitter profile to being a heterodox. Quite frankly, I don’t care what he does behind closed doors but you might want to make sure you are fully dressed when he visits. You are an attractive man, Julius, and the sight of you with your shirt off might easily drive the most restrained heterodox to do something he will regret.

Oh, wait. I’ve just visited the internet to research heterodox porn and it seems I am mistaken.

A heterodox is someone who doesn’t conform with accepted standards or beliefs. I suppose he means it in the political renegade sense, although given the definition, a man with a fetish for clean-shaven sheep could just as easily call himself a heterodox.

Funnily enough, the word dox means “to publish private or identifying information about an individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent”.

While I am unfamiliar with Ms Brown’s sexual orientation, there is a good chance that what you did was dox a hetero. Small wonder that you and Floyd are so tight.

Your generously upholstered Oberstfuhrer also says in his bio that he is “blessed”. You might want to check this out. If he has been blessed by Pastor Lukau, it’s quite possible that your man is a zombie. Between you and me, I’ve always had my suspicions. There is something supernatural about his lumbering gait and hollow eyes. Then again, that’s me after a bottle of gin.

His bio ends with the words, “Todo por la revolución!” Does this mean Spanish will become the lingua franca when you are president? I hope so. I love the whole tapas concept and the peasants would soon enough get their tongues around the neo-Falangist slogans.

I see on your bio you proudly state that you have no Facebook account. Good for you. No real revolutionary would want to be associated with that digital despot Mark Zuckerberg. Other great leaders who feel the same way include Donald Trump and … er, that’s it. I don’t want to be an impimpi, but I couldn’t help noticing Floyd has a Facebook page. Just saying.

Condolences on not getting your way in having Cape Town International Airport renamed after Winnie Mandela. Maybe it’s for the best. It’s a dreadful airport. There are better restaurants and bars in downtown Lagos and as far as parking goes, you have more chance finding a spot outside Taboo on a Saturday night. Perhaps you should lower your sights a little. Would you settle for Brandfort Airport? It could do with a facelift. Then again, so could I.

I hope you have sorted out your issues with our minister of public enterprises. Pravin Gordhan might not be the kind of person you’d want over for dinner, largely because he’d do a mental lifestyle audit and the Hawks would be breaking down your door before the dishes were done, but he does seem to be freakishly ethical and honest. You’re not the only one who finds this unsettling. In South African politics, a man with nothing to hide is an aberration. Did he learn zilch from Jacob Zuma?

Maybe you can sic your mate Tom Moyane on him. Uncle Tom is a valuable asset in your struggle to turn South Africa into another Venezuela. He is, after all, an engineer with an impressive record. For instance, not everyone could engineer the collapse of the SA Revenue Service. Sure, the Nugent Commission found him unfit to hold office but so what? I’m unfit to hold a baby. You might be unfit to hold, I don’t know, public meetings or something else.

Hey, why are you so quiet about that explosive report revealing how the State Security Agency was manipulated and abused by the likes of Zuma, Siyabonga “My Wife Is Innocent” Cwele, David “Happy Endings” Mahlobo and Arthur “Fuck You Jacques Pauw” Fraser?

I don’t want to tell you your business and I know your raison d’être is to disrupt, oppose and get fabulously wealthy, but I do think it might be a mistake to only show support to the flawed and the faulty.

Have you thought about throwing your weight behind people who are trying to turn SAS South Africa away from the rocks rather than the pirates who are driving it onto the reef in the hope that the captain and his crew will drown, allowing them to cobble something together from the wreckage and flounder off to the glorious land of black monopoly capital and free everything for all?

Then again, you could just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. All the best parties involve shouting, drinking and fighting and there is no reason yours should be any different.

Anyway, boss. Keep attacking those meddling newshounds. You don’t need them on your side. They only have access to dozens of daily and weekly newspapers, social media, television and radio stations and online news sites read by millions. You have Twitter.

Good luck.


Application to al-Qaeda for the position of Leader

Today marks 18 years since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. In 2011, Osama bin Laden was tracked down to his hideout in Pakistan and killed. I applied for the post shortly afterwards.


Dear sir,

I understand a vacancy has opened up in your organisation and I thought it a good idea to get my application in early. From what I can gather, there is going to be quite a stampede for Osama bin Laden’s old job. Condolences, by the way. I’m sure he was a lovely chap and thoroughly undeserving of a bullet in the eye. Still and all. It’s an occupational hazard, is it not?

While I must commend your group on the great strides it has made in the business of crushing the depraved imperialist dogs of the West, I should point out that I will be making some changes once the job is mine.

I have asked around and many of my friends say they would love to join al-Qaeda. However, they are put off by the whole militant macho thing you’ve got going. They quite like the guns, but not so much the drab uniforms. I have to agree. Camo is so last jihad. You will be pleased to know I have convinced them that the wearing of robes is non-negotiable, although as a concession we may need to pretty them up with a sprinkling of silver and gold filigree. I suggest we model the new uniforms on the one worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he married those two gormless infidels the other day. Obviously we can do away with the silly hat. And yet I cannot help worrying about the effect turban-hair could have on morale.

While I intend keeping the art of torture, disembowelment and beheading as part of our training regime, I would like to incorporate a cardiovascular element. Aerobics is a fun way to meet fellow terrorists. The sessions could be conducted to a Lady Gaga soundtrack. Or even better, one of her music videos. That way the recruits would be reminded of why they are at war with America.

Although I am not of that persuasion myself, I do think al-Qaeda could benefit tremendously by encouraging gays and lesbians to sign up. These people have a lot to offer an organisation that prides itself on condemning those who disagree with their lifestyle. They don’t always condemn them to death, of course, but these are sensitive people and should be treated as such. The gays, by the way, will require regular breaks for sex. Many of them wither and die without it. To put these new recruits at ease, the training camp could perhaps have an Ibiza theme.

As al-Qaeda’s new leader, I will allow our members to drink. Not during working hours, obviously. Even I know that alcohol and explosives don’t mix. However, they will be permitted to let their hair down after a hard day of chanting revolutionary slogans and learning how to disarm an opponent with nothing more than 500kgs of Semtex. And since Sharia law makes provision for people to be stoned, the smoking of hashish will also be encouraged.

Speaking of hair, I am afraid the beards will have to go. If I am to modernise the organisation, facial hair must be sacrificed on the altar of style. I want our cadres to look as if they have stepped out of the pages of GQ and not off a Harley Davidson at a ZZ Top concert.

Obviously I will have to set the example, here. The world’s most wanted man has to be wanted by everyone – women as well as men – and if this means having a team of professionals grooming me around the clock, then so be it. It may take some time before I am ready to face the troops because I am married to a woman who has allowed me to let myself go.

Speaking of which, I will need the help of seven strong men to get Brenda accustomed to the idea of wearing a burqa. Once we have her wrapped up like a roti, the games can begin.

But first, I will need a codename. Osama would still be with us today if he had signed his name as, say, Britney Spears, when that courier from FedEx came around to the villa to pick up the weekly package of anthrax.

Your new leader,

Al Kyk-Daar Mustafa-beer bin Trovato (you can call me Al)


The Odessa File

So there’s been yet another mass shooting in America. Seven dead, twenty-one injured. This time it happened in Odessa, Texas. The name of the town rang a bell. Then I remembered. A hunter by the name of Tess Thompson Talley comes from Odessa. I wrote to the gun-lovin’ sweetheart earlier this year.


Dear Tess,

I had no idea someone as beautiful and brave as you existed in America until you posted that picture of yourself moments after executing an African giraffe. I don’t even care if you aren’t a real blonde. But if you are, praise the Lord! Which is exactly what you seem to be doing in one of the photos – thanking the Almighty for having guided this cloven-hoofed beast from hell into your crosshairs.

Your caption was so inspiring that it’s worth repeating. “Prayers for my once in a lifetime dream hunt came true today! Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite a while. I knew it was the one. He was over 15 years old, 4000lbs, and was blessed to be able to get 2000lbs of meat from him.”

On behalf of Africa, thank you for ridding us of another giraffe. They are violent, arrogant creatures that strut about the bush looking down on all the other animals. It’s no wonder so many of the little ones, like warthogs, suffer from self-esteem issues.

Stalking a giraffe isn’t for the faint-hearted. They move so slowly that even an experienced hunter like you runs the risk of falling asleep and being unexpectedly eaten by a passing lion.

If it weren’t for people like you, the giraffe population would spiral out of control and it wouldn’t be long before they started moving into our neighbourhoods and sending their kids to our schools. That your giraffe was black is obviously a sign. Or bonus. Whatever.

As you say, these ones are rare. But rare only means there are others like him still out there. Thanks to your fearless efforts, his kind will soon be extinct and we will all sleep a little more soundly in our beds at night. Unless, of course, you mean that you cooked him rare.

Love the picture of you and the dead kangaroo. It can’t be easy shooting one of those brutes, what with all their bouncing up and down. And you got to do it on your birthday! It must be every little girl’s dream to shoot a kangaroo in the face when they turn 35.

Did you convert one of its front legs into a backscratcher like your buddy Dustin suggested? Here’s another cool idea. Use his pouch to store your ammunition in! You said your roo was going to make a great mount. Don’t you use husband Andrew for that sort of thing? I’m not judging. If you want to get jiggy with a dead kangaroo, that’s your business. The French do worse things.

I see hubby has a pic of himself kneeling next to a dead sheep. Bravery seems to run in the family. It’s a good thing he was wearing full camo. There’s no telling what a sheep is capable of doing if it sees you coming.

And you’ve been redecorating your new home! Love the pic of nineteen decapitated heads scattered on the floor. I spent a fun few minutes spotting game in your living room. I saw a warthog, wildebeest, plenty of buck, an animal that looks like someone’s dog and even a turkey. And you still had eight more coming from South Africa?

I can almost hear Andrew from here. “Hun, we’re gonna need a bigger house!” You ain’t gonna stop killing so, yeah, maybe you should build a second house just for the heads. That way you can visit them without having their glass eyes staring coldly at you the whole time. I hate the way dead animals always seem to judge you. Do you ever get the urge to shoot them a second time?

I loved the picture of the cookies you baked. Little doughy deer, each with its own bleeding bullet wound. What a fantastic idea for a kid’s birthday party. You should bring out a compilation of your recipes. Call it The Psychopath’s Cookbook. Guaranteed bestseller. In West Texas, anyway.

So you were in our very own Limpopo province not long ago. A place called Marken? Never heard of it. Judging by the carnage, you and Andrew must have been on your second honeymoon. There’s nothing more romantic than a woman and her man walking through the African bush and gunning down animals side by side.

Great pic of you with your dead Vervet monkey and Andrew with his baboon. Tabatha asked what you’re going to do with them and you said, “Full body mounts. These ya don’t eat.” There are animals you don’t eat? What’s happening, darlin’? Don’t get soft on us. You turn your nose up at monkey and the next thing you know you’re one of them snowflake vegan chicks driving a Prius and treating Mexicans like they’re real people.

Stephenia asked if your monkey had blue balls. For a moment I thought she was talking about Andrew but then you said, “Such a pretty color huh lol.” Glad you can still appreciate the beauty in nature lol.

You told Regina that the US don’t allow you to bring none of that meat home, not even the giraffe even though he had such a yummy sweet taste. “But everything piece of meat gets ate,” you reassured her in your own special ex-cheerleader way. How do you stay so thin after putting away 2000lbs of giraffe?

So, anyway. If my government ever starts taking conservation seriously and bans trophy hunting, you could always stalk the children of illegal immigrants right there in Texas. Trump will probably move the kids out of cages now and into open-air enclosures where they at least have a sporting chance of survival. It could be fun. Anyone who makes it to 18 without getting shot is given a Green Card. You can’t get more humanitarian than that.

Odessa must be so proud of you, Tess. Not only does your town have the highest rate of violent crime in Texas, but they also have the cutest killer in the whole damn state.

Yeehaa, baby.


Health, Wealth and Other Cardiac Events

I received a very polite email this week. “Dear Ben,” it said. Right away I was suspicious. The last mail which started off that way was from my wife. This was followed by five months of celibacy, a three-year separation and, finally, divorce.

I am more comfortable with messages that say, “Friendly reminder: Summons process initiated for traffic fine …” This is not at all friendly. It’s a classic example of passive-aggressive behaviour and whoever is behind these well-mannered threats should expect a cease-and-desist letter from my lawyers. If there is any initiating to do, I will be the one to do it. I am a sensitive person and shan’t take this kind of abuse lying down, even though in my experience abuse is best enjoyed from a supine position.

The email continued. “As a member of Discovery Health Medical Scheme, you have complete peace of mind at every stage of your healthcare journey, knowing that your health is in good hands.”

There are a couple of things I need to clear up here. First of all, how long have I been on this journey and why don’t I remember packing or even leaving? Now I’m worried that I have passed the stage where I should have started worrying and haven’t realised it. I had a friend who was a member of Discovery Health who died of cancer not too long ago. He seemed not to have complete peace of mind for every stage of his journey. Perhaps his email was down.

I felt very relieved by your assurance, Discovery. Thank you for that. However, there are bits of my body that seem not to have got the memo. I have been receiving complaints from the hardworking detoxification department and one or two fairly important joints have raised objections. Is it possible that I am driving everything too hard in this healthcare journey of mine? Competitors in long-haul races like the Iditarod Trail whip their dogs to encourage them not to die before crossing the finish line. I treat my body the same way. It’s the only language it understands. Once you show weakness, it’s all over.

After scrutinising the email, I proceeded to instruct my brain to inform my liver and other highly stressed organs that there is no need for concern. I suppose there is a chance that one of them might send a message back saying, “It’s okay for you to have peace of mind because you’re the boss of us and just because you’re happy doesn’t mean we all are.” Quite frankly, this is something I wish to avoid. The moment the body develops a mind of its own, there’s no end to it.

“Excuse me, Mr Mind,” said Mr Foot via the internal server. “I seem to have a gouty toe and it’s fucking sore. I demand that you take us to the chemist for colchicine.”

“Dear Mr Foot,” replied Mr Mind. “Please inform Mr Toe we have recently been assured that our health is in good hands and there is no need to panic.”

In good hands. This is where things turn nasty. My hands, modest and unassuming – and yet quite proud at having been complimented on their dexterity beneath the sheets (complimented by people who aren’t me, mostly) – suddenly find themselves swamped by correspondence from the delicate squishy bits demanding some sort of guarantee from the grabby tools that they aren’t going to massively overdo things and spoil the fun for everyone. It is, after all, the hands that shovel all manner of filth into our gaping gobs. Without them, we’d be fine. Shoplifters in Saudia Arabia (post-sentencing) are among the healthiest people on the planet.

The email went on. “To get the most out of your chosen health plan, it is important that you understand exactly which benefits are available in 2019.” Being reminded that it was 2019 caused a minor cardiac event but I recovered quickly, eager to learn more about how I could get some bang for my R1700 a month buck.

I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of money to people with big families who are constantly getting sick or shot, but this is just me on my own. A boy standing in front of a medical aid asking it to not let him die because he can’t afford the Rolls Royce of covers.

I have a hospital plan. It’s pretty basic. No frills here, mate. Means exactly what it says. To claim, I have to be admitted to a hospital. And not just for a hangover, either.

I do want to get the most out of my chosen health plan. I really do. But this would mean losing a leg in a Great White shark attack and then being run over by a taxi while crawling to the nearest pub for a whisky to numb the pain. Even then, there’s probably something in the smallprint that deals with marine-based incidents.

“Unfortunately, Mr Trovato, you are covered for pyjama sharks only.”

I ignored the palpitations and clicked on the Understanding Your Benefits link. The images are of happy families glowing with health. They look like wealthy Mestizo models advertising a luxury housing estate in uptown Quito. They aren’t even in hospital. Wouldn’t pictures of normal fat people with tattooes posing in lightly soiled surgical gowns be more appropriate?

You might be terminally ill but, thanks to us, you have peace of mind and can now enjoy the final stage of your healthcare journey in this designated facility with three mediocre meals a day and a sullen nurse to scrub your giblets. Thanks, Discovery. It’s more than I get at home. I can hardly wait for the day I need surgery.

A requiem for Gavin Watson

The news that one of South Africa’s best loved white-collar criminals has died in a car crash reminded me of a letter I wrote to him and his brothers earlier this year.


Dear Gavin, Ronnie, Valence and Cheeky,

This is mainly a letter to Gavin, but I didn’t want any of you feeling left out.

Is it true that your father was a lay preacher? Given the size of the Watson family, he almost certainly got laid more than most men of the cloth. Maybe it’s a Port Elizabeth thing. Anyway, the world needs fathers who understand the importance of instilling solid Christian values in their children.

I believe congratulations and condolences are in order. Congratulations on proving that whities can be just as innovative as darkies when it comes to tapping into arteries of untold wealth using nothing more than a wink, a nod and a bag full of cash. Some of us were beginning to wonder whether white people could even get it together to plunder on a governmental scale. We were brilliant at doing apartheid, but then democracy happened and we all became a bit pathetic. Thanks to Bosasa and the ANC’s flooding of the civil service with an army of conscience-free cadres, our race can once again take it’s rightful place in the pantheon of villains.

Condolences, however, on getting caught. What the hell were you thinking when you hired an Italian? Couldn’t you find anyone more trustworthy? Was Glenn Agliotti busy? On the other hand, Italians do make the best mafioso. Also pasta. But when they squeal, and so many of them do, the reverberations are felt far and wide.

Angelo Agrizzi looks like a man made entirely out of Play-Doh who was once pushed off a table by a cat and landed face-first on the floor. He claims to have suffered a crisis of conscience and that’s why he decided to rat you out at the Zondo Commission. We now know that’s not true and he in fact suffered a crisis of being fired for stealing company money. He could hardly go to the CCMA so he reckoned the best way to get rehired would be to threaten you, Gavin. He didn’t just want his job back, though. He wanted the entire company for himself. He said unless you complied, he would tell everything and destroy you. And, in the process, himself. Like a bee. Or a horny male praying mantis. I’ve been married twice and I never came close to being as hated as much as Angelo hated you.

Did you think he was bluffing? Did you think that because you played rugby with black people in the 1970s you were untouchable? Struggle credentials can only be stretched so far before they snap. No, of course that wasn’t it. You thought you were untouchable because your pockets were bulging with politicians and prosecutors. My first wife once described me as untouchable but I couldn’t fathom out how to monetise it.

When you consider the full frontal horror show unfolding at the State Capture inquiry, I bet you wish you had never given Mr Potato Head the boot in the first place. Seems a bit odd that you fired him in 2016 for stealing. After all, corruption formed the very foundation of your business. I’m not judging you. I did a bit of shoplifting myself when I was younger. Perhaps, as a born-again Christian, you interpret the eighth commandment to mean that you shouldn’t steal from your employer. Everyone else is fair game.

You must surely be regretting not having taken the duplicitous deep throat’s “offer” (the things that throat must have seen). As far as offers go, it was a pretty good one. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill blackmail job. He was offering you ten million rand a month to never come in to the office again. You turned it down. There’s your insanity plea right there.

Mr Fatty Goombah told the commission that Nomvula Mokonyane, one of our favourite Teflon-coated ministers, was among the multitudes who lined up for their monthly benediction of the unholy sacrament. I understand that her blessing came in the form of R50 000. And she never even had to pick up the rand because it was delivered by you, Gavin. I like that. The personal touch is so often lacking in today’s corporate culture.

You also generously gave her a complimentary Christmas hamper every year that included four cases of whisky, eight lambs, forty cases of beer and 200kg of beef. She probably ordered extra if she had guests over.

When the Italian Rapscallion complained that Bosasa wasn’t getting much value for money from Mokonyane, you pointed out that she had a lot of clout and the company would find itself in trouble if it stopped the payments. That’s why I love this country. Bribe, by all means, but there will be hell to pay if you stop. Malice in Wonderland.

I laughed out loud when il ratto, a man weirdly unfamiliar with the noble concept of Omertà, told the commission that the bribe to correctional services went up from half a mil to R750k when Tom Moyane was appointed commissioner. Fair enough. Quality costs extra. Someone by the name of Sesinyi Seopela apparently distributed the cash among the more ethically challenged members of his and other departments.

Bosasa captured the prisons, man. That’s so cool. Big up to you. If there was a glossy magazine for criminals, you’d be a regular in the style section.

So, Gav. I understand you’re still open for business as African Global Group. Bosasa’s evil twin, basically. And you’re still leading the staff in daily prayers? That’s impressive. Even more so since your only defence, apart from insanity, is that the devil made you do it.

One thing I’m a bit curious about, boet. Did you or your corpulent whistle-blowing weasel ever encounter anyone in the public sector who refused one of your, er, incentives? Must’ve happened. There’s always one who wants to spoil the party for the rest of us. I think you should name and shame him. Or her. We don’t need their kind in this country. They can take their non-profit integrity and tedious moral rectitude and stick it up their permanently struggling fundamentals.

Funny thing is, the testimony of this double-crossing blabbermouth ratfink snitch bastard would be enough to bring down most democratic governments, let alone the god-fearing Watson dynasty. Luckily for you, Gav, our handful of incorruptible prosecutors will spend forever sloshing about waist-deep in denials and deviations and anything that does make it to court will be bogged down for all eternity in the mires and marshlands of the law.

Imagine if, at the end of it all, you and this backstabbing bean-spilling tattletale narc were allocated the same cell. Nah. Wouldn’t happen. There’s still too much Bosasa baksheesh floating about the system for that to happen.

Anyway, comrade. I’m missing happy hour. You might be a terrible Christian but you’re not a bad person. Maybe you are. I really don’t know. I’ve been married twice. I’m not the best judge of character. For that, you’d need a real judge. With any luck you’ll get one who’s on the payroll.

The time I was a food critic

Trawling through the malarkey I’ve churned out over the last couple of decades, I came across the first restaurant review I did for the Sunday Times. That was eleven years ago. Nobody has asked me for another review since.


Fish Hoek is not known as the food capital of the Western Cape. There are three or four restaurants, no bottle stores and two bars. So when one gets invited to the opening of a new restaurant in this slowed-up sliver of suburbia, one catches one’s breath at the excitement of it all.

The hour draws nearer. The terrible sound of bagpipes drifts across the valley. Has this something to do with the grand opening? Is it a Scottish restaurant? Is there even such a thing? I can’t be certain. What I will do, though, is take a concealed weapon. The Scots cannot be trusted at times like these. They are an excitable and unpredictable nation.

The Illicit Consort has misplaced the invitation and can’t remember what it said about dress code. “Never mind,” I say. “In Fish Hoek, smart casual means tracksuits.”

Some kind of circus ringmaster wearing a silver jacket and top hat welcomes us at the entrance. Spotting trays of champagne circulating within, I brush past him and bound inside. I am in mid-quaff when I hear a voice say, “Have you been invited?”

I ignore him and move swiftly in a crab-like fashion towards a quivering mound of oysters. He follows me. “I want to see your invitation,” he barks. I am instantly outraged that this character out of Deliverance is questioning my integrity. The Consort intervenes before things can turn ugly. Funny how the word ‘media’ turns fascists into fawners.

The Consort later said his attitude might have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing jeans, T-shirt, a black hoodie with splashes of red and a pair of slops three sizes too big that I found abandoned on Long Beach a couple of weeks earlier.

“Never mind that,” I snapped. “We are journalists and these people should be grateful that we’re wearing any clothes at all.”

Besides, the place is called The Bohemian Yard and I am dressed like a Bohemian. It takes several glasses of Pierre Jordaan before I am calm enough to look around the place. Despite management’s strong-arm tactics, I thought I’d give the place another chance.
Without the milling crowds, the Sartorial Police and four bottles of Pierre Jordaan inside me, the restaurant looks like a different place altogether. Elegant. Almost colonial.

As an accompaniment to the enormous tumblers of gin & tonic, the Consort orders dolmades with lemon (R12) from the mezze list. Other starters range from artichoke hearts (R18) to roasted pears wrapped in Italian ham (R30).

Safely ensconced with our backs to the wall, the Consort decides champagne is in order and asks what they have to offer. Moët & Chandon. That’s it. We laugh and wave the waiter away. Visiting the bathroom, I am so impressed with the warm ambience and creative décor that I could easily have my meal right there alongside the urinal.

On my return, I trip over something that hadn’t been there when I left. An ice bucket. And a bottle of Moët. The Illicit Consort bats her eyelashes. I restrain myself from batting the Consort.

Having no stand for the ice bucket is perhaps an indication that management never seriously expected anyone to order a R790 bottle of champagne.

The menu is a sheet of A4 paper covered in what appears to be Arabic. The Consort agrees that one would need the eyes of a sparrow hawk to read the small print, then rattled through the options without even squinting or holding it up to the candle.

Possessing the instincts of a carnivore, she orders grilled lamb cutlets with homemade chimichurri (R90) while I ask for the grilled linefish with parmesan cream and slow roasted tomatoes. Oddly, it’s listed as an SQ item. This is yellowtail, for god’s sake, not imported Maine lobster.

Each dish is accompanied by chips, salad or roasted pumpkin. The Consort has the chips, or, as the menu would have it, shoestring potatoes with lemon, garlic and parsley butter. I have the pumpkin with honey and sea salt.
I look for our drinks waiter and spot him settling in behind a piano. Then, from behind a curtain, Pearl emerges. The Diva. Built like divas should be built, Pearl is resplendent in a ballooning black silk dress and scarlet boa. I barely notice the Consort ordering a second bottle of Moët. Well, I noticed enough to say, “You’re paying”.

The diva hands the mic to another waiter who has the room spellbound with his version of Bette Midler’s The Rose. He moves like Bette. He even looks a bit like Bette. Then he plucks a white rose from one of the tables and hands it to the Consort, reducing her to jelly and me to jealousy.

The yellowtail tastes as yellowtail should while the Consort’s ample portion of chops, although done to perfection, are awash in a sauce that tastes more minty than chimichurri.

Dessert would have been pavlova with white chocolate yoghurt and fruit of the season (R35) but it wasn’t because the kitchen was closed. At 10.30pm? On a Saturday night? And we’ve just spent R1 600 on champagne alone? The waiter tries his best but the kitchen staff are standing firm. Must be one hell of a union they belong to.

We could, however, have Irish coffees. And we do. Repeatedly. Later, while the chairs are being put on top of the tables, one of the singing waiters brings me a dainty little handbag. “Courtesy of Madiba,” he says. I am thrilled. I tell the waiter to thank Madiba and ask for the bill. He gives me the lazy. “Not Madiba. The Diva.” The bill is inside the handbag. Without the ambrosia, it comes to R400.

The Diva thanks us profusely and personally escorts us to the door. I wee on the Dutch Reformed Church’s wall and we go home.


What would Jesus say?

There’s an Anglican church near me that often advertises upcoming events – cage fighting, mud wrestling, Russian roulette and so on. This week there’s a banner promising an upcoming series of sermons with the theme, “What would Jesus say to …” Beneath that are the mugshots of Elon Musk, Cyril Ramaphosa, Justin Bieber, Israel Folau, Harvey Weinstein and Caitlyn Jenner. Talk about the definitive guest-list for a dinner party from hell. It’s unlikely I will attend the sermons, but since the church has put it out there, let me take a stab at it.

Howzit, Elon. It’s not often I get to chat to someone from Pretoria. Like you, my father and I don’t have much to do with that region any more. Dad said that if I ever get around to the Second Coming, it might be best to avoid South Africa. This would mean that the ANC will rule forever. Sorry about that. So you want to establish a colony on Mars? There are more hospitable planets out there, you know. Oh, right. When Dad made the universe, he forgot to make it possible for humans to get much further than the moon. Maybe He just wanted to see what you did with the planet you were given. Bit of a mess, old chap. Can’t blame Him. Do us a favour. Don’t send any more Tesla cars into orbit. That one has already sideswiped a few of our best angels and we can’t afford to lose more.

Ndaa, Cyril. I like what you’re doing with your country. Well, thinking of doing. Promising to do. You are on the path of righteousness, my son. Quite unlike the man who came before you. It is a bit embarrassing that your predecessor has the same name as the original Jacob, a good man who featured prominently in my father’s memoirs. Our Jacob only had twelve children, though. It has come to my attention that, while your heart is in the right place, you lack testicular fortitude. People like me and my father can afford to play the long game. You can’t. Grow a pair.

Yo, Justin. Did you know that my father has a Twitter account (@TheTweetOfGod) and you are the only person He follows? Big up to you, bro. You must be some kind of special. I dig that your father was a carpenter like me. And also a mixed martial artist. I’ve kicked some ass in my time, let me tell you. Dude, I don’t have a whole lot to say, to be honest. I can’t even figure out why you are on this list. The church, like Dad, moves in mysterious ways. Anglicans are weird at the best of times. I like your tattoos, man. Don’t tell my father or he’ll be quoting Leviticus at me until the cows come home. Good move covering up the ‘Son of God’ tat you had on your tummy. You don’t want to be treading on my turf, homeboy. Love the new song you did with that ginger Ed Sheeran. Bodacious beat. Had me tapping my feet alright. Funnily enough, the song’s title, I Don’t Care, is one of Dad’s favourite catch-phrases. Don’t worry about what people say. Your voice is fine. My balls didn’t drop until I was 30. You still have a few years to go.

G’day, Israel. Love the name. Good people, the Israelites. Well, they were back in the day. I can’t speak for now. The Jews didn’t order my crucifixion, and it doesn’t matter what Mel Gibson says. Everyone has their own personal Judas. In your case, it is Cameron Clyne of Rugby Australia. Your dismissal from my father’s second-favourite team is nothing short of sacrilege. All you did was post a warning to homosexuals, drunks and liars that hell awaits them. It’s the gospel truth, literally. Check out Leviticus in the old testament and Corinthians in the new. But of course, you already know this. I’m not sure about drunks, though. Sure, my father isn’t a huge fan of the sodomites, but He turned a blind eye when I did my water-into-wine trick at that wedding in Cana. Boy, was I popular after that. Anyway, mate, maybe you should calm down a bit. I’m supposed to love everyone but you don’t always make it easy. Chill out. You’re a fullback, not a disciple. Leave the consigning of sinners to professionals like my dad. He is on Sabbatical at the moment and isn’t expected back any time soon.

Shalom, Harvey. Many devout people model themselves on holy men who feature in the old man’s memoirs. Onan, the second son of Judah, might not be the ideal role model, though. My dad had ordered him to give his widowed sister-in-law a child. I don’t know if he ran it past her first. Onan went along with it right up to the climax, so to speak, upon which he withdrew and spilled his seed on the ground. This is no way to give a woman a baby and he was rightly slain by my father. With your seed-spilling, there is no danger of the woman falling pregnant because she is generally to be found cowering in a corner shielding her eyes and crying for help. Luckily for you, my father is no longer in the smiting business. The same can’t be said for the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Dear Sir/Madam. You were a mister and now you’re a sister! How things have changed. You wouldn’t have been able to do that in my time. Back then, if you were born with a willy, you were stuck with it. Even if there was such a thing as sex reassignment surgery two thousand years ago, it’s unlikely I would have considered it. The Daughter of God just doesn’t carry the same weight. And there’s no guarantee anyone would have listened to me. You know what men are like. Had I flounced into the temple in a summer frock and slapped the money-changers, people would have said I was being over-emotional. I would have been given a piece of cake to calm down and sent to a doctor to be treated for hysteria. My father is old school and probably wouldn’t approve of what you did. He’d say a transgender Adam would have meant no people in the world. I think that would’ve been a good thing. There are too many humans, many of whom are Kardashians.


Neigh, my bru

I have never seen the point of horses. They are little more than tall dogs with inappropriately long faces. But if you dare mention it in front of them, they will not hesitate to bite your arm off and then kick you to death. They don’t care if there are witnesses, either. I have never seen such arrogance.

Perhaps I am bitter because a horse tried to kill me once. I went out of my way to treat it as an equal, but the moment I climbed onto its back and told it what to do, it took off like a rocket and did everything in its power to get rid of me. Needless to say, it was a black horse.

This morning the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman began babbling excitedly about the Durban July. She thinks that because I grew up in Durban, I should have the inside track on a race that’s been run every year since 1897. I was raised in a miasma of marijuana and mosquitoes in a suburb devoid of anyone who wasn’t a reasonable facsimile of me and my family. I think I saw my first horse about the same time I saw my first darkie. It’s quite possible the darkie was on the horse. Or maybe stealing the horse. I seem to remember gunshots.

I might have been a juvenile delinquent, but I was also a political neophyte. “So they can’t have the vote just because they don’t look like us?” I asked my mother. “No,” she said. “They can’t have the vote because they are horses.” This seemed terribly unfair. “And the others?” My mother sighed heavily and explained about apartheid, which made even less sense than the story she told me about horses having to wear shoes.

Skipping ahead. The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman suggested this morning that we should have a flutter. This is code used by the upper middle classes. We don’t speak openly of gambling because, as far as sins go, it’s right up there with gluttony and coveting your neighbour’s ass.

I have never shied away from things that might consign me to eternal damnation because they are usually the most fun. Besides, I have survived many Durban summers. Hell will be a piece of cake.

The betting shop nearest to my home is in Muizenberg. The closest cheap drugs and whores can also be found there. This should be seen as a failing of my own area rather than a feather in Muizenberg’s cap.

Pausing only to pat Cerberus three times, I strode through the entrance like a lion from zion. One cannot show fear in the tote or the tab or whatever it is these godforsaken places are called. I helped the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman over the sleeping security guard at the top of the stairs and entered what appeared to be some kind of twilight zone for the living dead.

I felt right at home. It was like being in the grungiest bar at the most derelict end of the universe. I bellied up to the counter and ordered a brandy and coke. A woman with the eyes of a sedated panda shook her head, then opened her mouth and made a sound like someone shoveling wet gravel off a concrete floor.

The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman was standing at another counter marked “Fixed Odds” arguing with someone who looked like he might have been the trigger man in the Sea Cottage shooting. I shouted across the room that the odds didn’t matter since all the races were fixed, anyway. If the punters had the strength to get off their chairs, they would have lynched me.

We found a rickety wooden table etched in a shaky hand with someone’s last will and testament. I picked up a booklet containing information about the pedigree and bloodline of every horse, trainer, jockey and owner. It was very complicated. I didn’t know if I was looking at the animal’s age, weight or odds.

I went over to one of the betting counters and put it all on number 25, my lucky number. The bookie gave me the lazy eye and said there were only 20 horses in the race. “I knew that,” I said. “What about this 52kg three-year-old? Is that the horse or the jockey?” She ignored me so I asked if she thought Magnificent Seven had a chance, but she said he had been scratched for coughing. “Seems a bit harsh,” I said. “Maybe he was just a little horse.” She asked me to step away from the counter.

My concubine backed Eyes Wide Open for a win. I put everything on Do It Again. You would have to be retarded not to bet on the favourite. Even if you don’t make much money, you still feel like a winner. I don’t know if he was the favourite. I just liked the name.

We went home to watch the event in an environment free of decomposing geriatrics coughing up bits of liver and showering the room with flesh-eating bacteria. Watching horses is not like watching rugby, where one must spend the entire day drinking heavily and gnawing on the flesh of dead animals. The main race at the Durban July is like good sex – it’s over in two minutes.

Obviously my horse won. One of the animals broke its leg and was shot in the head. Somehow it was my fault. She vowed never again to support this filthy bloodsport. “If lame horses get shot, why don’t they shoot lame jockeys?” she shouted.

Now that I am a winner, I want to see a lot more racing going on. Why stop with horses? Our game reserves are full of animals with nothing to do. Let’s saddle up the rhinos and unleash them at Greyville next year. We can even have animals riding other animals. Like meerkats on warthogs. Or aardvarks on lions. I’d put money on that.