Dear Cyril …

Dear Comrade President Ramaphosa, Defender of the Lockdown, Punisher of the Pandemic, Destroyer of the Economy, Nemesis of Smokers and Drinkers.

May I call you Cyril? I don’t mean to be overfamiliar but you have had such an impact on my life that you feel like you are a close friend or maybe a distant relative. You’ve been a good parent to us. You might even have saved some of our lives, although from what I’ve heard, dying of the coronavirus is about as rare as getting morning fellatio after ten years of marriage. That was crude. I apologise. We are all descending to the level of savage beasts. I don’t mean you, obviously. You have a support system to prevent that from happening. I only have myself and a cat who goes out of her way to avoid me.

I wish I could have seen the look on your face on, like, day 20 of the lockdown, when it dawned on you that people were still obeying your order to stay at home. We both know South Africans aren’t the most obedient people. You tell them not to rape, pillage and steal and the next thing you know, there they are, raping, pillaging and stealing. You tell them to stay indoors, and they do. It’s inexplicable. How did you manage that? Did you have our water supply spiked with Rohypnol?

I imagine you must have suspected a trap. Is this why you mobilised the army? You anticipated some kind of Dingane/Piet Retief ambush situation, right? As it turns out, we are exactly what we seem. Just millions of compliant, docile worker ants and drones paying obeisance to their queen.

It’s like some kind of Jedi mind trick you pulled. Speaking of which, I currently look like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and Chewbacca and talk like Yoda because I live alone and have lost the ability to communicate.

Also, you don’t want to see the state of my sheets. I am filled with self-loathing every time I get into my petri dish of a bed. Please open the laundromats. Covid-19 hates washing machines. Tell the hawks in the Coronavirus Command Council that social distancing isn’t a problem in laundromats. Nobody goes there to hook up or party. You drop your clothes and leave. If you like to hang around laundromats, there’s something wrong with you.

I’m surprised it has taken this long for people to start pushing back. South Africans are born fighters. We don’t take shit from anyone. We have fought the British, the Boers, the Zulus and each other and yet here we are, as disunited as ever, still obeying your command to stay inside even if it does mean losing our jobs, sanity and will to live. It’s wearing a bit thin, though. You might have noticed.

People started turning against you after that disaster with the fags. No, I don’t mean … I’m talking about cigarettes. The nation erupted in a happy chorus of hacking coughs when you unequivocally said that the sale of ciggies would be allowed when the country goes to Level 4 on 1 May.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma angrily stamped her small but perfectly formed foot and said there’d be none of that. Who the hell is in charge over there? This is not the time for flip-floppery or jellyfishing, collective or no collective. You’re the president. You have a massive amount of power. You’re just a bit shy to use it.

It doesn’t matter. You are rich enough to pay other people to change your mind for you. I have to do that kind of dirty work myself. For instance, I often say, “I am never drinking again” but then, two days later, there I am, chucking the filth down my neck like there’s no tomorrow. That was before I ran out, obviously.

We were all very grateful when the Collective decided to let us out of our cages for three hours every morning on condition that we didn’t stray further than five kilometres. Things is, I can only walk for 800m or so before having to lie down for a bit. It’s very triggering to see people running past and getting their full quota of 5kms. If I can’t do it, nobody should be allowed to do it. Please ask your prime minister to reduce it to one kilometre.

It should also be said that I am a special needs case. I have no children who need schooling, nor do I have a dog that requires walking. I don’t recall ever having run anywhere unless being pursued by the law and I think bicycles are for children. All I ask, really, is that you allow me to get into the ocean and do a bit of surfing now and again. I had a rather poorly timed birthday recently and I don’t have many good years left.

Living, as you do, in the hinterland, you might not be familiar with surfing. I’m fairly sure your sports minister is unaware of it. For a start, it’s not a blood sport like rugby, which should absolutely be banned even when there’s not a pandemic. Generally surfers are a peaceful lot who want nothing more than to be given access to the ocean. And maybe some beers for after. Anyway, see what you can do. Next to laundromats, Covid-19 hates sea water the most.

I’m still enjoying the Command Council briefings. However, like the lockdown regulations, they can be quite hard to follow in terms of coherence and logic so I’ve started watching the sign-language interpreter instead. I’m happy to say that, thanks to Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, I now know how to tell a deaf person, “It’s your turn to roll a joint.”

The compulsory masks have made things interesting. In the old days, a smile would tell us everything we needed to know. But with our mouths covered, we need to learn how to use our eyes to convey emotions. My first wife’s eyebrows spoke a language of their own. Man, those things could express whatever she was feeling. It was mostly disappointment and anger, but still. There were nuances. This one time, I thought she was giving me the bedroom eyebrows and I whipped off my trousers and rolled onto my back but she was, in fact, giving me the I-want-a-divorce eyebrows. Reading eyes and eyebrows is not an exact science and misunderstandings are to be expected.

People are complaining that we are becoming a police state. What absolute rubbish. There is still a long way to go. Right now, we fall squarely between a nanny state and a police state. I do, however, feel the nanny could be more like Julie Andrews and less like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Imelda Marcos. It would also be nice if Field Marshall Bheki Cele stopped carrying on as if he’s from the Papa Doc Duvalier School of Policing. More lovey, less Haiti. Know what I’m saying?

Anyway, you must think we’re quite cute, with our petitions and campaigns, waving our little fists and making high-pitched mewling sounds, all the while under the impression that the government is paying us heed. I wouldn’t listen to us either if I were you. We’re all over the place. One day we want food, the next it’s jobs. There’s just no end to it.

 

 

 

70 thoughts on “Dear Cyril …

  1. Trock

    CR just might read this whilst doing his laundry. Many a true word spoken in jest – nevet more fitting!!
    Brilliant piece

  2. Olle Durks

    You made me realise that, while our president is known to struggle making a decision and struggle even more sharing what he has decided, ma’m Nkosazana has no problem in that department. Also, that when firmly told what to do, our prez obeys. I wonder whose slippers are pink and whose blue.

    • Raimund Buchner

      Very interesting comments.Just poured my first glass of pineapple beer. Not bad at all. Wish I had a cigarette to go with it.The ban on cigarettes is ludicrous as you can buy them for R50.00 a packet illegally. The fiscus is losing a fortune which can be spent on food for the poor. Be realistic Mr. President.

      • Andre Nel

        Hey Ben
        Thanks for your Dear Cyril letter. It speaks volumes for for all South Africans. Being a a surfer, you will be familiar with the cry: Surfing is living! Stay alive Ben keep on surfing ! and keep on keeping on.

  3. Oh Ben,you make my sides ache. Thank heavens for a good old belly laugh! I can’t remember when last I even giggled…. I am angry and feeling militant at the moment. Back in my rather rebellious youth, I performed in a play called “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” by Dario Fo(e) – not sure… But I find myself once again angry and rebellious. I Vape and drink usually white wine or Gin and am having serious withdrawal symptoms, insomnia, depression and agitation. This could well lead to my demise, and I almost feel that I want to get Covid just to put it at rest. If I could find a tyre, I would probably burn it and bugger the consequences. Thank you for your humour. I love you and don’t do the eyebrow lifting!

  4. Gregory Dodds

    Dear Mr Trovato

    Join a different us, I will sneak another surf with you. Listening to Cyril against your better judgement is your own call. Not mine. Come with me for a stroll up the peak for sunrise, lets live a little and find some more booze for the sun-warmed spell of the afternoon. I invite you, to challenge Cyril with me everyday, by doing it anyway. To not vote is the best right you got, even though it aint a lot.

    One Love Mr T

    Ps: waves for days

  5. David T

    Fuck Ben, now see what you’ve done! You poked the bear and now he wants us all dead. And seeing as though Corona is only doing the job mildly well by averaging 5 citizens a day, he has decided to up the ante somewhat by releasing 19000 so called “low risk” criminals back into society. People serving sentences in our correctional services for shoplifting generally return as better drug dealers! Havens of rehabilitation they are not. So, 19000 on the streets with no money, no job market and nothing to lose will likely come knocking at a door near you to politely request a donation. My advice…. add a “little friend” to your support system at home. The kind of friend that Al Pacino keeps.

  6. Marguerite Stubbs

    Oh shit Ben I have so missed your fabulous writings – I have not fallen off my chair for um…. a long time now (because the wine is long gone) but I fell off now laughing so hard!!!
    Thank you
    PS Hope the seas open up (part) for you soon. That will be a great miracle to witness! 🤣🤣🤣🤣

    • Paddy Smuts

      Thanks Ben so needed a good chuckle! I find the worst thing about the masks is now my phone won’t work on face recognition! Now I need my password! Which one for goodness sake and they all stored in my phone! My question is are you allowed to remove your mask to gain access to you phone or must you wait till you get home?
      Regards Paddy

  7. G C Hoets

    Thanks Ben. I really enjoy your commentary. I also surf… But not surfing is the least of my concerns. My concern is for my horrific delusion that all doctors must be intelligent. I can’t figure this out. How is it possible to graduate from med school and still assert the earth is 6000 years old or that New Zealand has conquered the Black Death? This has to be a dream.

        • Irvin Modlin

          Hey Steve,
          I come from Oudsthoorn/Cape Town and have lived in 4 countries and now the USA for 40 years.
          A comment that stereotypes 300 million people that have backgrounds from every race on earth is neither insightful nor thoughtful
          You pick up Mr Trovato’s style- relaxed and effective irony…..mix with a light touch of humorous criticism

          • Kim Stipcich

            Well, the fact remains Donald Trump is President of the U.S…. which renders Steve’s remark to be mostly correct – -small margin, but correct all the same.

  8. Alexia Alexia

    I’m amazed that people think that this is our specific governments orders being pushed on us. Even the surfing…the releasing prisoners…the threat of arrest/fine…it’s a world-wide narrative.

  9. Maria Kaondl

    Dear Ben, a wonderful essay 😊and I agree 100%…nay it be heard by the Government…enjoy ur surf..Maria

      • Dia

        Aloha Ben,
        Reading your thoughts over here in Maui where our Mayor encourages us to surf…. I wish our President (can’t write his filthy name) would make more people stay home while still letting them surf and exercise.
        Sounds like you better work on your jogging skills.

  10. Jules

    Loved this over our morning Coffee! I haven’t tried the eyebrow waggle with my husband in our 30 yrs together, usually it’s a vocal: fancy a shag? Or a WTF not tonight dear! But do get your drift. Married to a surfer all these years, it’s a popular topic in our household, that also morfed into dirt bike riding in the Bush away from other living beings…. but they can’t do that either! But the amount of dog walkers and cyclists zooming past from 6am is flippen hectic. We’ve tried the walking behind our buffs/masks etc and found our breathing a tad laboured. Plus the morning breath is enough to wake up the dead. In a blonde going grey now because my lovely young stylist can’t wade his magic wand over my locks no more, so I’m googling the grey brigade trend now…. it’s getting scary . AND we’ve run out of wine! The pips in garden are starting to grow so maybe we’ll have some “green stuff” by next summer though….. loved your write up!

    • Simon Kirk

      Thank you Ben I enjoyed but the use of the word hell ruined it . It does not add to the prose , the converse actually. Regards Simon Kirk

        • Maria Koutromanos

          Laughing 😂 so much can hardly write, excellent view of what most of South Africans are thinking

      • The absolute worst part is the time of year. We wait 11 months for this 1 month period when the waves are their best. Watching them of the webcam is total torture. Good read.

      • Christopher Bedford

        Really. I’m tempted to use the word prude but won’t stoop that low – however I do find it incredibly odd that there’s anyone so narrow-minded that use of “hell” spoils a really well-written piece of prose for you. For me, one of the sophomoric euphemisms would have made it a lot worse. As did your uneducated use of “space comma” and “space full stop”.

  11. Pierre Giraud

    One of the few people in this country who actually talks sense. Personally i’m wondering when this government are going to realise you can catch viruses from computers, and of course cell phones.

  12. Gary Behenna

    In the not too distant past, when someone entered a store / mall wearing a face nask, the occupants of the store / mall would flee for their lives, knowing that the store / mall was being held up; now we are all required to enter a store / mall wearing a face mask. We can no longer make the distinction between good, law abiding folk and criminals. WTF?

  13. Andy Pandy

    Ben, I had the misfortune of serving you in a pub a few years back.
    I know it was you as your eyes were bloodshot and you tried to sell me one of your books (to pay for the beer).
    Maybe this is karma telling you that geriatric surfing has had it’s day?

  14. Mark Schaufelbuehl

    Well-written and nicely cynical!
    Watching from afar, it´s so disappointing to see how the initial Covid measures have become a laugh. Is this an indication of the way SA will move in the near future? …so sad, that the comrades will most likely destroy the vibrant SA spirit…Surf´s down 😉 …Viva Prime Minister Zuma Zoll (sorry, forgot her realname!). Stuck in the past, ag shame!

  15. Mark Schaufelbuehl

    Well-wrtten and only mildly (helplessly?) cynical….
    Watching from afar, it´s so disappointing to see how the initial Covid measures have become a laugh. Is this an indication of the way SA will move in the coming decades? …so sad, the comrades will most likely destroy the vibrant SA spirit…Surf´s down 😉 …Viva Prime Minister Zuma Zoll (sorry, forgot her name!). Stuck in the past, ag shame!

  16. Rob Whitehorn

    I briefly suspected that you were a certain acquaintance (we have a hate-hate relationship) His way with words is eerily similar to yours,
    and almost as amusing He alleges you have known each other since the rinderpest pandemic of 1912. Commonly known as El Sayeed (aka El Cid). I am sure you would deny any knowledge of this disreputable individual.

    • Trudie Nichols

      Mr Whitehorn

      I am appalled that you would resort to the level of hurling such thinly veiled barbs at our national treasure!!!

      He should be celebrated and lauded.

      I must insist that you apologize to Mr Trovato by sending him some of your prized single malt to help him through these dark and difficult times.

      Kindest regards and salutations
      TH Nichols

    • Gregory Hoets

      Huh? Again. I seem to have forgotten how to read. I could understand Ben’s column no problem. In more simple English.. Are you grumpy with Ben? Is this a peom? Please either elaborate further or remove some in between words?

    • Rob Whitehorn

      Mr Trovato, my condolences. I would say more but your attorney might assault me. Even worse, he may set his wife on me.

      Ms Nichols, as for your unwarranted attack on me, I think Mr Trovato would appreciate all the thinly veiled Barbs (or Sarahs or Trudis…) he could lay his hands on. In any event, I would sacrifice my first-born (if I had one) to protect my dwindling stock of the water of life. After that is finished, I will be reduced to Mozambican Rum or Peppermint liqueur.

      Mr Hoets, this is neither a peom nor a poem. I have the greatest respect for Mr Trovato. My feelings towards his attorney, El Cid (the terror of the court, when he deigns to appear), are somewhat different.

  17. Michael Birbeck

    Perhaps this whole surfing thing is really a conspiracy? Call it the hodad’s revenge, secretly supported by non-swimmers and those unfortunate enough not to ride the mighty Muizenburg surf at a time when those insouciant surfing types, got the best girls and the best zol…

    Karma is an unused skeg! 😉

  18. Kenny Williamson

    i have a feeling that Cyril (if i may carry forward your allowance) cannot help but open the laundromats and the seas after your rousing letter.
    Perhaps if we send the same letter every few days and edit in a “few”more reasonings, we could get a couple more places open??

    So, please let us know when he responds…

    I think a weekly letter to the President would be in order… from “your desk to the President”.

    Keep up the good work, hello to Kitty.

  19. Michaela

    Well articulated Ben! Is surfing really banned? I keep on asking people in decision making places here in Namibia about the public health justification for many of our inane lock down rules – no coherent answers. On alcohol I ask why and they say because drinking alcohol diminishes your inhibitions and you don’t social distance. I asked in return if that was the case why didn’t we ban alcohol at the height of the HIV epidemic when no treatment was available. The answer: “We should have”…… Oh my…

    • Thanks, Michaela! It is indeed banned. Because it’s so much more dangerous to be on your own in the ocean than on the pavement with hundreds of sweating mouth-breathing joggers in the three hours of freedom allowed to us each morning. Your argument on the alcohol fiasco is sound and iron-clad. I might have to borrow it. We shall defeat them with logic and reason. To the barricades!

    • Martine

      Just imagine the baby boom we’re going to have, globally, especially in SA! All shacked up in one house/room…no alcohol, no cigs, just non stop supply of zol (now that you can grow and use it-legally) Hopefully Big Ben can stay in touch with uncle Cyril. Cvirus has gone to all the ministers heads, turning them into Covidiots….open the beaches!!!

  20. Mike Bisset

    Ben, I had the good fortune to serve with you on the UCT SRC many years ago. Since then, our political views have grown substantially closer- I hope we’ll have the chance to discuss these some day? Regards, Mike Bisset

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