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.

Losers, weepers

Today, 367 years ago, Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay and shouted, “Finders, keepers!” And that’s why it became known as Founders Day.

Alhough the Khoikhoi and San were taking decisions by consensus long before the Dutch navigator sashayed onto our shores in 1652, it was really the Europeans who brought the concept of modern democracy to South Africa. They also brought syphilis, guns, racism and Christianity, but we shall stick with democracy for now.

The very first ballot took place aboard the Drommedaris when the passengers and crew voted, through a show of hands and a fair amount of crying and screaming, to go back to Holland. “This looks nothing like the brochures!” they wailed. “Where are the quaint fish markets? The cycling paths? Where are the coffee shops and the dimpled harlots?”

Van Riebeeck said it was his boat and he would land wherever he damn well pleased, an attitude that gained in popularity as the Dutch settlers slowly mutated into Afrikaners.

In the years leading up to 1910, the British, the Zulus and the Boers had a whale of a time slaughtering one another. It was all fun and games until someone lost an eye and the British said they didn’t want to play any more.

“Here’s what we are going to do, chaps. We are going to let you become a self-governing dominion of the British Empire.” The Boers scratched their heads. Isn’t that where the British played dominoes? The Zulus heard about the plan last Thursday.

So it came to pass that General Louis Botha was elected South Africa’s first prime minister. Even though he fought like a tiger during the Boer War, he retained a soft spot for a girl who later insisted on being called Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, the Union of South Africa and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

As one of only three or four Boers who had ever been to London, Botha earned a reputation as something of a Brit-boetie, which was almost as bad as being seen kissing a darkie.

In 1947, King George VI popped in at the Royal Cape for a round of golf and a stern word with the Bantu. The following year, the National Party was voted into power and it was a long, long time before anyone from Buckingham Palace came near us again.

“Who are those dreadful people?” the king asked over a cup of Earl Grey beneath the royal gazebo at Balmoral. “They are called Afrikaners, daddy,” said Liz. “Rather like the Dutch, but a little more, shall we say, déclassé?”

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. On 15 September, 1910, people of a Caucasian persuasion came out in their thousands to vote in the first general election. The darkies thought the whiteys were leaving and spontaneous, yet hopelessly premature, celebrations broke out in the native yards.

Three main parties and a smattering of independents vied for 121 seats in the country’s first parliament. Nearly 105 years later, the number of parties fighting to get their snouts into the national trough has quadrupled. Parliament is also much bigger, but then so are its members.

Back then, elections were held every two, three or five years, depending on public transport and the calving season.

In 1915, the National Party made its first appearance on the ballot, as did the Socialist Party, which scared everyone by scooping 140 votes.

The Nats took ’24, ’29 and ’33 while 1938 was a huge year for the Socialist Party. Back on the ballot after a well-earned 13-year break, they took their first seat and predicted that by the end of the year everyone would be driving Ladas and calling each other comrade.

South Africa’s place in the world was well and truly secured in 1948, when National Party leader DF Malan (who later retired and became an airport) released a visionary manifesto supporting the prohibition of mixed marriages, the banning of black trade unions and job reservation for whites.

Thick, hairy clumps of farmers, their barefoot wives, wagon-mechanic sons and child-bearing daughters voted overwhelmingly for Malan – and the National Party remained resolutely in power until 1994. Good one, guys. Mooi skoot.

1960 was a particularly memorable year. A regular carnival. The mielies were fat, the lambs were healthy, the ANC was banned, there was a massacre in Sharpeville, a state of emergency was declared, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was shot and wounded and 850 000 white people voted in favour of cutting ties with Britain and then spent the next 35 years playing ‘international’ rugby fixtures against neighbouring towns, travelling ‘abroad’ to Margate and reading the Bible, the only book approved by the censorship board.

Soon after the Republic of Skunks and Polecats was formed, an aberration called the Progressive Party appeared on the ballot sheet. The party was so popular that by 1974 they had wracked up an impressive six seats in parliament. The NP, with 122 seats, shook with fear. Okay, so it might have been laughter.

Beginning to suspect that not everyone in the country was deliriously happy with existing political arrangements, the government held a whites-only referendum in 1983 to gauge support for the creation of a tricameral parliament that would allow coloureds and Indians to have a say in their own affairs, on condition that they tucked their shirts in and smoked their zol in the parking lot.

Meddling foreigners pointed out that the government had forgotten to include 23 million black people in the referendum. “What?” shouted PW Botha. “You lie, you bliksems. There’s nobody here by that name.”

By 1989 you couldn’t walk down the street without a bomb going off. It all became a bit much for Botha, sensitive man that he was. He had a stroke – a stroke of good luck for most – and was strong-armed out of the presidency.

The last all-white election took place in 1989. Feeling the winds of change hot against their necks, voters threw their weight behind the Democratic Party and … oops, wrong fairy tale. Here’s what really happened. A solid 80% of just over two million ballots were cast for the National Party, the Conservative Party and the Herstigte Nasionale Party combined. That’s how thrilled white people were at the prospect of a new society based on justice and equality for all. The Democratic Party limped in with 33 seats.

The country’s last white president pocketed a Nobel Peace Prize by unbanning the ANC and releasing Nelson Mandela. Then he threatened to sue the Truth and Reconciliation Commission if it implicated him in apartheid crimes and repaid one of the NP’s main financial backers by sleeping with his wife. Good man, that de Klerk.

Needless to say, 1994 was the mother of all elections. For the first time, darkies were allowed to vote. The ANC swept into power and, oddly enough, failed to nationalise the mines, torch the churches and eat our children.

And so here we are today. The state has been hollowed out by hundreds if not thousands of human termites, leaving behind an economy that belongs in calipers. Our parliament of whores is a national embarrassment. We have a president who is surrounded by more double-crossing back-stabbers than Julius Caesar ever was. And there are white supremacists out there who still believe they are god’s chosen people.

I’m so excited that, come the 8th of May, I shall vote for everyone on the ballot.

The Ben Trovato Files

Who among us doesn’t remember satirist Ben Trovato’s outrageously subversive trilogy of letters to and replies from the rich, famous and downright dangerous? Well, the madness continues as the letters are reincarnated for the first time on video.

Featuring scenes of the writer himself, the letters come to life in a creative mélange of stop-motion animation, live action and a liberal dose of artistic craziness.

The episodes will be short and punchy, each featuring a letter and its reply, with durations ranging from ninety seconds to three minutes. The team has produced a pilot episode titled ‘The Two Oceans Aquarium’ from a letter Trovato wrote to the big house of fish. He got a reply without even having to bribe them.

Working on this project is a close-knit production team including cinematographer Dave Aenmey and animation artist Lindsay van Blerk. Dave has worked on many commercials, music videos, documentaries and feature films during his 30-year career.

Lindsay has directed and animated numerous award-winning films including The Velveteen Rabbit and The Chimes. He worked as storyboard supervisor and director of animation on the feature film Zambezia and has also directed and animated TV commercials and television series.

The material is drawn from the many letters and replies that appeared in The Ben Trovato Files, Will The Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up and Stirred Not Shaken.

Anyone interested in helping to finance the series in return for a production credit is invited to contact Ben at bentrovato@mweb.co.za or leave a message right here on his site. Enquiries from producers and production houses are also welcome.

The pilot episode can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmafQMWDkrA