An open letter to the president of Egypt #LegsMustFall

Dear President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,

Well done on your impeccable taste in chief prosecutors. When your top man decided to put that brazen hussy Rania Youssef on trial, I threw a spontaneous Egyptian-themed party in your country’s honour. It got a bit untidy around midnight when a pyramid we’d built out of beer bottles collapsed and one of my guests lost an eye while trying to mummify the cat. This probably happens all the time at your house, right?

I, along with every other decent God-fearing man in the civilized world, was shocked to see what Youssef wore at the closing ceremony of the Cairo International Film Festival. I have studied that photograph many times and each time I grow a little bit more aroused … I beg your pardon, shocked.

That dress was so revealing that I could see her legs. Her legs! Egypt cannot afford to allow harlotry on this scale. It starts with legs and ends with the fall of Rome. History is littered with civilisations that have fallen because women were allowed to reveal their legs in public places.

Quite frankly, the idea that women even have legs does not bear thinking about. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the legs themselves that are at fault. If these shameless limbs did not exist in the first place, we would not be experiencing this crisis. Even if women wear dresses that reach the floor, we are still painfully aware that legs are being concealed.

The solution is obvious. When a girl reaches a certain age, she must have her legs removed. She could keep them during her school years because we need our children to bring us beer and hash pipes. After that, though, it’s off with the legs.

Where do you stand on arms and hands? They, too, can be very provocative. Especially when they are not being used in the service of men. Idle arms are the devil’s handiwork. I say cover them up or lose them.

Of course, having a population of women with no arms or legs presents its own set of problems. They are going to have go out on trolleys when they do the shopping. Who will pull these trolleys? Not us men, that’s for sure. Perhaps they could have little engines mounted on the back. No, that would be tantamount to allowing them to drive. Next thing you know, you’re following in the footsteps of that liberal, backsliding nation Saudi Arabia.

So the charge against the Youssef strumpet is one of “inciting debauchery”. Are you sure this goes far enough? What is the sentence for a crime of that nature? Probably little more than a light stoning. You might want to consider adding a charge of treason. Maybe even murder. Sure, she hasn’t killed anyone yet, but with all that wanton flashing of legs it’s only a matter of time before someone dies.

Besides, men are very easily incited to debauchery and it is not our fault. As the famous faith healer Lady Gaga said, we were born that way. I personally can’t even look at a table leg without my loins stirring. I assume people in Egypt are expected to cover up their table legs. It seems the right thing to do.

Flowers should also be banned. I suffer the most embarrassing reaction if I happen to catch sight of an orchid with its soft petals and dewy inner … excuse me, I have to go and lie down for a bit.

Okay, that’s better. So this nymphomaniac is an actor? That is no excuse. Thank goodness the Egyptian Actors Guild has said it will discipline anyone who wore attire that clashed with the “traditions, values and ethics of society”. The last thing you want is an organisation that represents artists to start defending the creative and personal freedom of artists.

I am sure your chief prosecutor is a competent man. Unlike our former chief, who was known as Shaun the Sheep although his mother called him Little Penguin, but the less said about him the better.

Fortunately there are legal precedents for a tough sentence. As you know, Laila Amer was sent to jail for two years for appearing in a risqué music video while Sherine Abdel-Wahab got six months for telling a joke about the Nile River. This latest Jezebel should get fifty years at least. Failing which, send her to me. I’ll show her a thing or two.

Anyway, best of luck with your efforts to return Egypt to the glory days of the 7th century. Those were the days, my friend.

Yours in the fight against legs,

Mustafa Ben Trovato

 

Shedding loads and spreading lies

Eskom has been fucking with us for years and there’s no end in sight. Here’s a letter I wrote to the boss of the power utility in 2011. This was before the Guptas even got their claws into it.

 

Dear Sir,

This is the fourth time I am writing this letter to you. The first three times you turned the power off before I could press save. I was angry before. I am now incensed.

I live in Cape Town, supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but what the hell good does that do when I can’t see anything for most of the time? Oh, sure, the sun still works, but how much longer can it be before you find a way to switch that off too?

The first time Eskom plunged the province into darkness, you kept very quiet and hoped nobody had noticed. Truth is, we weren’t too bothered. Unless you were on a life support machine. But it was a novelty. The power cut forced married couples to go to bed early where, without the option of reading or television, they were left with no alternative but to have sex. Apparently this helps to keep couples together. Or at least from killing each other.

Then you turned the power off several more times over the next few weeks. Suddenly it wasn’t such fun. Weeping women, saturated with sex, begged their husbands to sell up and emigrate to a country with electricity.

People began going hungry, fridges defrosted, beers got warm. The only thing moving in the streets were four men on horseback riding from town to town shouting in what sounded like Aramaic.

You, in the meantime, denied that anything was wrong. “Relax,” you said. “Everything’s under control.” The rolling blackouts got worse. Suburb after suburb, town after town, became engulfed in darkness.

Your men in suits went into a huddle. “The masses are revolting. What are we going to call this thing?” A middle-ranking executive blew his chances of ever getting promoted by replying: “An unmitigated fucking disaster?” But the truth is not something to be bandied about at times like these, is it?

“Let’s call it load shedding,” you said brightly. “That makes it sound like we are getting rid of something that we have too much of. People will want to thank us.”

Apparently not, though. Instead, people wanted to hunt you down and ram a syringe full of sodium pentathol, or any kind of truth serum, into your fat lying capitalist arse.

Once the ANC had pointed out that your incompetence was going to lose them control of Cape Town, which it subsequently did, you said sorry in a very small voice and pretended to cry.

The then public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, felt so bad for you that he made up a story about a bunch of imaginary warlocks throwing a bolt into one of the Koeberg nuclear power station’s generators, damaging a rotor and causing a serious power shortfall in the Western Cape.

Since Koeberg is your baby, and a potentially lethal one at that, the last thing you wanted was the government suggesting that just anyone could walk up to the facility and gain entrance by scaling a wall. Oops, sorry, Greenpeace already did that several years ago.

So you dismissed Erwin’s claim. Erwin, under the mistaken impression that you were right behind him, quickly denied ever mentioning the word “sabotage” or even knowing where Koeberg was. “Look,” said Erwin, “I don’t even use electricity. I’m a gas man, myself.”

So not only were we surviving on tins of baked beans heated over cheap candles, but we now also knew that our shivering bodies could be incinerated in a boiling tsunami of radioactive particles at any moment.

Then, once businesses hit the magical mark of R500-million in losses, you began publishing a load shedding schedule in the local newspapers. But even then, you never lost your keen sense of humour. I bet you found it hard to stifle a giggle when you tricked people into thinking that they would be without power from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday, only for the lights to go out from 7pm to midnight on Thursday. You did this, with a twinkle in your eye, in towns around the Western Cape. And sometimes even in the Northern Cape, although it’s not quite as much of a laugh for you because the folk in Kimberley don’t even notice these things.

Sometimes, in the middle of a spot of load shedding, you would switch the power back on and then, a few seconds later, turn it off. What’s the point of earning R13-million a year if you can’t have a bit of fun? If you have the ability to make millions of people go “yay!” and, moments later, “fuuuck!” in perfect synchronisation, then you should go right ahead and do it. I know I would.

In the unlikely event that you decide to do the decent thing and resign, I would like to be the first to propose that Homer Simpson takes your place. He has worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Station and will cause far less mayhem than you already have.

Apart from the loose bolt, short circuits caused by mist and soot, an unusually high tide at Llandudno beach and the gay pride parade, the power crisis is the result of you believing in 1998 (accurately, as it turned out), that South Africa was doomed to become just another corrupt debt-ridden crime-ravaged basket case and consequently there was no point in maintaining your power stations or even building new ones because they would just be taken over by squatters or stripped down and sold on the black market.

In the intervening years the population has grown and a lot more boys have reached drinking age. More shebeens means more fridges to keep more beers cold. Now there is simply not enough electricity to keep all those new fridges running. This is how countries descend into civil war.

Now you are asking us to help you by bathing in cold water, cooking over primus stoves, washing our clothes in the river and eating by candlelight. It’s fine for the majority, but we white folk are simply not accustomed to this lifestyle.

Vote Homer Simpson.

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato

 

Rage, rage against the partying of the lighties

After hearing about the Matric Rage going down this weekend, I knew right away I had to be part of it. When I finished school, we didn’t have such a thing. On the last day of school, our teachers gave us a final farewell beating and sent us home to be beaten by our parents who sent us to the army to be beaten by our corporals. Good times.

I am delighted to see that school-leavers are finally venting their rage. They must be full of it. Rage against a derelict education system that left them ill-equipped for life on the outside. Rage against the puritanical purveyors of pedagogy who denied them the opportunity to experiment with sex and drugs and other essential rites of passage during break time. Rage against the parentals – against tyrannical fathers who maintain their tight-fisted grip on power by controlling the cash flow and cosseting mothers who merely extend instead of sever the apron strings. And, more than anything, rage against a government that has pocketed their inheritance and kicked them in the teeth.

I, too, am filled with unrequited rage and shall be expressing it at Plettenberg Bay. To be sure, I would rather have been at the Ballito Rage or the Umhlanga Rage because the constabulary in that region is a lot more laissez-faire and the weed is of a better quality. However, the holiday from hell is drawing to a close and I will be nearer to the Plett Rage. Since I am passing through the Transkei, perhaps I shall purchase several kilos of primo from one of the mendicant vendors who traverse those dusty boulevards and share it among my fellow ragers. On the other hand, perhaps not. There is nothing that dispels a good head of rage more than a good head of Transkei rooibaard.

During my research, I came across a rage page on the internet. Instead of extending an open invitation to anyone with rage bubbling in their hearts, it said quite the opposite. “To attend you have to have finished school and be no older than 25.” What? For a start, it was school that damn near finished me. And while my behaviour frequently exhibits tendencies that fall squarely into the realm of the juvenile delinquent, my well-travelled face will betray me when it comes time to demand entrance to this elitist, ageist gathering of the doomed.

The website promised bands, DJs and “beach activities”. You can keep your bands and your DJs. I want to be part of the beach activities. No. I want to spearhead the beach activities. American troops pulled it off nicely at the Omaha Beach Party in 1944, even though several thousand died at the after party. Since then, security has improved considerably and I expect fewer casualties at the Plett Rage.

In fact, ragers were reassured that an experienced security team “with close ties to the local law enforcement” would be on hand. Yes, this is exactly what rampaging mobs of pheromone-crazed teenagers want – surly bouncers on braaing terms with the local cops trailing them through the vomit-stained streets and breaking their legs whenever they showed signs of over-excitement.

The site also provided this coded message to ragers: ‘As you embark on your road trip to the paradise of Plett, say goodbye to exams, stress and deadlines and say hello to freedom!”

It must be code because if Plett is paradise, give me hell any day. As for entering a shiny new stress-free world full of fabulousness and frilly cocktails, well, I hate to pour acid rain on your dreams, but the best you can hope for is the chance to sign on the dotted line and work for fifty years.

And that’s if you’re lucky.

Get insurance against the insurers

Dear Comrade Johann Le Roux, CEO of Momentum Life.

Congratulations on steadfastly refusing to fork out R2.4-million to the widow of that 42-year-old Durban man who died while trying to protect his wife in a hijacking. Why was she even trying to claim in the first place? If you were in the business of giving money willy-nilly to families of policy-holders who get themselves killed, you would call yourselves Momentum Death.

But be that as it may. Dying is bad for business, especially when you’re in the life insurance industry. You pay a high price every time a customer dies. It seems terribly unfair. People these days make no effort at all to stay alive.

It seems, though, that some also think it’s terribly unfair that you are refusing to pay out on the grounds that Nathan Ganas had not disclosed his raised blood sugar levels when he took out the policy four years ago. For all we know, people with too much sugar in their blood attract violent criminals wherever they go. Let’s not forget that bees are also attracted to sweet stuff like pollen and cocaine, and you know how dangerous they are. It could easily be the same with hijackers. Studies have yet to be done into the link between homicide and diabetes.

Living in Shallcross, Ganas should have appreciated there was a better than average chance of getting murdered and should therefore have informed Momentum about his medical condition. If he was aware of it. But even if he wasn’t, that’s no excuse for non-disclosure.

Denise Ganas says she didn’t know about her husband’s condition. I believe her. My ex-wife would often say things like, “There’s something wrong with you.” Or, if she was in one of her better moods, she might ask, “What the hell’s the matter with you?” I would look at my feet and make whimpering sounds until she went away. My point is that we don’t always know what is wrong with ourselves, our loved ones or even the mentally unwell people we keep voting for.

Everyone tries their luck when it comes to insurance claims and you need to remain vigilant. For instance, you don’t want to be paying millions to the widow of a man who, say, dies in a plane crash if the post mortem reveals he had a high blood alcohol content when the pilot mistook a mountain for a cloud. It is vital that you include “Drunk” as a pre-existing condition to avoid payouts in cases like these.

Times are tough. Momentum only earned R2.8-billion in the last year. You need to save every cent you can. And yet you have buckled under pressure and agreed to refund the premiums paid by the Ganas family. This is ridiculously generous and sets a dangerous precedent. Policyholders will be flinging themselves off buildings on the assumption that the family will get the premiums back. Actually, I suppose the grieving relatives would initially expect the policies to be paid out in full, but once you have pointed out that their beloved’s application forms are riddled with omissions, spelling errors, coffee stains and so on, they will be happy just to get their parking validated.

Make sure they provide an affidavit indicating that parking has indeed taken place.

 

It’s all fun and games until …

Since I posted my column about Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town threatening disciplinary action against two students who “took a knee” in protest at the playing of the Israeli national anthem, I have received a couple of angry emails. One said I was “showing my true colours”. Another accused me of shrouding my “anti-Semitism in layers of irony and humour”, which makes me seem a lot smarter than I am.

When my weekly column first appeared in a Cape Town newspaper sixteen years ago, some readers were quick to describe me as offensive, slanderous and rude. Others said they laughed so much that their morning coffee spurted from their nose.

Then there were those who claimed to be my biggest fans – until the crosshairs swung in the direction of their own skin colour, their own religion, their own hard-earned prejudices and narrow political beliefs. Suddenly it wasn’t so funny.

Anyway. For those who deliberately conflate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, here’s another example of what I’m talking about – but from the other side of the barricades.

To the editor:

Good morning. May peace be upon you.
As a regular Sunday Times reader, I was extremely offended subsequent to reading Ben Trovato’s column, Ace That Job Interview (13/09/2009), where he makes reference to the Burqa (an outer garment worn by Muslim women) and Semtex (a plastic explosive), insinuating that the two are interrelated.

I am sure the Sunday Times values its Muslim readers, and publishing articles with this nature is a blatant insult to Islam and its followers.
I humbly request swift action be taken accordingly.
Thanks and kind regards

Ahmed

When I saw the letter in the paper, I emailed the editor.

Comrade Editor,

May peace be upon you.

I see that a couple of our Muslim brethren are objecting to my one-liner that contained the word “burqa” and “Semtex” in the same sentence and are now demanding that swift action be taken. If I have a choice in the matter, may I please have the flogging rather than the stoning?

We all know that certain sections of the Muslim population are horrendously intolerant, but I’ve never considered that sufficient reason to regard the entire Islamic world as off-limits to satire. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Knowing the extremists’ propensity for over-reaction, I have often held back or toned down the humour when it comes to Muslims. The fundamentalists have already frightened us into self-censorship, but surely we can stop short of a complete ban on lampooning this group?

I’m sure you rather fancy the idea of whipping the whipping boy, but to be honest I’d rather go for a symbolic stoning whereby you flick small pebbles at me and then we go off for a couple of beers.

In the meantime, keep the curtains drawn and watch your back.

Your man in the jihad,

Mustafa Ben Trovato

 

 

We live in testing times

My wallet containing a credit card, driver’s licence, R12.50 and a small but well-behaved family of weevils has mysteriously vanished into a black hole. I made the money back by dressing up in a monkey suit and dancing outside the Spar on Friday morning. Afterwards I went to the traffic department.

The parking lot was jammed with crudely fashioned bivouacs and cooking fires. Scrawny goats roamed freely and chickens pecked at the tarmac. I half expected to see Angelina Jolie appear through the smoke, designer kaffiyeh wrapped around her swan-like neck, flawless belly swollen with a fresh batch of perfectly formed foetuses.

I hired a Congolese corsair to guarantee me safe passage to the entrance where a brute with knife scars and no neck was lashing out at the frenzied hordes trying to get in. It was like the fall of Saigon. With seconds to spare before the 3pm curfew, I slipped past Cerberus and was in.

If outside looked like a refugee camp, inside looked like Catholic limbo. Ben in the bardo. Sad hollow-eyed people drifted from counter to counter, lips moving in silent prayer. I joined the other lost souls in the queue of the damned that led to Persephone’s cubicle. The earth revolved, reptiles evolved, another ice age came and went. Moments before I died of natural causes, a bullet-proof window was all that stood between me and her.

She opened her mouth and showed me her terrible teeth. Blinking her goatish eyes, she spat a pomegranate seed onto the floor.

“Next,” she bleated. It is easier to pass through the eye of a camel than it is to follow the goddess of the underworld’s instructions.

“Collect form RT6 from counter 8 and form WM3 from counter 4 then go to room 101 in the east wing for fingerprints and room 309 in the west wing for the eye test then go to the cashier at counter 2 on the 3rd floor and afterwards take your receipt to counter 3 on the 2nd floor.”

As I proceeded from pillar to purgatory, I encountered knots of strange misshapen creatures. Being closing time on a Friday, many of them were moving too quickly for their fat little legs. A grizzled hireling took my fingers and pressed them into an ink pad. Said he had been doing it for 25 years. He told me to relax my thumbs. My thumbs are the most relaxed part of my body. I said I didn’t know what else I could do to get them to calm down. This made both him and my thumbs even more tense.

I could barely hear what he was saying above the extraordinary gibbering noises that civil servants make when the weekend is upon them.

“Eye test,” he shouted. “But I lost my driver’s licence, not my eyesight,” I shouted. My vision is more white rhino than tawny eagle and I felt like an athlete being asked to take a urine test after drinking a bottle of dehydrochlormethyl-testosterone.

By a stroke of luck, the regular tester of eyes must have gone home early because a woman dressed as a cleaner took me into a room and asked how many fingers she was holding up.

“Three,” I said.

“Close enough,” she said. “Please leave now so we can all go home and start drinking.”

 

No safe harbour for Gigaba

Dear Comrade Malusi Gigaba, Honourable Upstanding Member, Minister of Affairs, Fighter of Tourism, Epitome of Sartorial Elegance.

Congratulations on your spectacular cinematic debut, even though it was very short. Needless to say, that’s the only thing about your appearance that was short. A week ago, critics were calling for your head and saying you should be bloody well hung. Then your video came out. That shut them up.

I had no intention of viewing your scandalous ménage à un, but a so-called friend mailed it, unbidden, to me. I am pleased to say that I never watched it. Not because I have Tanzanian tendencies when it comes to homoerotic flights of fancy, but because I find the male member an unsightly brute at the best of times. In my opinion, the best of times are when he is sound asleep, curled up like an infant pangolin. Besides which, should I ever desire to see a willy, I only need remove my trousers and look in a mirror. Or, if there is no mirror and the urge takes me, the glass frontage of, say, Mr Price at my local mall. For instance.

Unfortunately, my eyes did fall upon the frozen first image of the video. And even though I refrained from pressing play, it was enough. Having been led to believe that alcohol damages one’s short-term memory, I have been drinking heavily ever since. Not least to forget my inadequacies. My Sir Lancelot is a pale imitation. More pale than imitation, I am sorry to say. Do you have a name for that combat-ready heat-seeking missile? If not, might I suggest Mubi Dick?

Anyway. That is quite enough of that.

Of more pressing concern is your imminent political demise. By demise, I obviously mean promotion. It is a venerable ANC tradition to reward its most shameless and irredeemably exposed cadres with new career opportunities, usually in the diplomatic corps.

You appear to have upset some powerful people, my friend. I am obviously not referring to me or the other 57 million South Africans. We have no power. Well, we do, but we don’t really know what to do with it because we are saturated with either ignorance, apathy or alcohol. Oftentimes, all three. The unholy trinity.

No, I am talking about shadowy organisations like the Oppenheimer Cartel. These upper class thugs trade openly in diamonds while the rest of us go to jail if we so much as attempt to trade the last of our uncut emeralds for beer.

When you were in charge of public enterprises, you handed Eskom, Transnet and Denel to the Gupta Cartel. These Indians, they are not even dangerous men. My advice is that you do not mess with Don Nicky ‘Fireblade’ Oppenheimer. If he wants his own airport, give it to him. Give him whatever he wants. He is white and rich. History has shown that this an unbeatable combination.

Why on earth has Public Protector Busisiwe ‘Zuma Is Innocent’ Mkhwebane turned against you in the aviation matter? This is a woman who was trained to defend her comrades at all costs, and yet she has chosen to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds. Quite frankly, I don’t know if you are the fox or the hound. It’s a British expression. Nobody ever knows what they mean. It’s why we murdered them at Isandlwana.

Apparently a parliamentary portfolio committee has come up with a draft report saying you should be criminally investigated on suspicion of having been captured by the Guptas. This is outrageous. If the Guptas had indeed captured you, surely you would right now be tied up in a fur-lined dungeon in downtown Dubai while Atul the Dominator disciplined you with an ivory-handled camelhair whip. Instead, here you are, wandering about of your own free willy in the finest of suits, conducting government business, shaking hands, kissing babies, issuing denials and, in your evenings, remaking classics like Onan the Barbarian.

Somebody has poisoned our water supply with cynicism because nobody believes a word you say, but I drink beer, not water, so I believe you when you say there is an orchestrated campaign to ruin your career and prevent you from becoming president. To be hounded and condemned by much of the executive, a fair portion of the legislature, every level of the judiciary and virtually every man, woman and child in the country is the very definition of an orchestrated campaign.

I don’t know how they think they can get away with it.

Your response to this campaign of evil was sublime. “I am going to consult my lawyers in terms of how I am going to respond to this.” Even the most hardened of conspirators will tremble at the thought of your imminent consultations.

It is truly tragic when you consider that none of this would be happening if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma hadn’t been pipped at the post by Squirrel Ramaphosa. The man is a menace. Where does he think he is? Sweden? This is Africa, for heaven’s sake. A continent where every silver lining has a cloud, every dog its day and every cart its rotten apples. In flagrant contravention of tradition, Squirrel is giving every indication of being one of those aberrant leaders who think that upsetting apple carts is a good idea.

Is it true that you are refusing to resign? Of course it is. I would expect nothing less. To the barricades! No Retreat, No Surrender is not just a movie. It is the story of your life. You are the black Jean-Claude Van Damme of our time. All you need is better lighting. And maybe a plausible script.

You said you are “surrounded by militant comrades” who will defend you. I do hope you are referring to more than just the avocado-shaped Andile Mngxitama and his drunk, shouty friends.

If not, you might want to consider a Plan B. You are, after all, the Minister of Home Affairs. You get to decide who is a South African and who isn’t. Who may stay and who should leave. Do you see what I am saying? All you need do is declare your enemies persona non grata. Get a courier to take a letter over to the Union Buildings first thing in the morning, letting the president know that his citizenship has been revoked. Include an air ticket to Cairo. Economy class, obviously. The man should suffer at least once in his life.

Should you consider my advice sound and good, I hereby register myself as an enemy forthwith and request immediate deportation to a country with warm weather, cheap beer, good surf and plenty of sloths.

Every night is fright night

It is Halloween on Wednesday and I, for one, cannot wait to put on my succubus suit and go creeping around the neighbourhood late at night banging on doors, shouting: “Trick or treat!”

The real sport starts when the homeowner presses his panic button. You then have seven minutes to break into the house, tie the occupants up, find a treat and get out before an armed response unit can shoot you in the face. The kids love it.

For a lot of South Africans, every night is Halloween. The only difference is that these perennial pranksters can’t be bothered to dress up. To be fair, though, some do make the effort and put on a balaclava. Traditionally, a treat is a handful of sweets or, if you hit a vegan house, an eggplant without the egg. Our year-round rogues rarely settle for less than cellphones, money and guns. Or, at the very least, an HD-ready TV. Anyway. Who are we to judge? A treat is mos a treat.

I would advise against opting for the trick unless you want to watch someone juggling with your testicles or super-glueing your wife to the wall.

I have celebrated Halloween ever since I was dishonourably discharged from the army of Christ in the early ’80s. Standards were higher back then. These days they take anyone.

I would like to call myself a pagan, but I can’t. Worshipping nature is all very well if it knows its place. By this, I mean its place is not down my broeks stinging my bollocks to death. Nor does it have any business trying to crush me, drown me or bury me alive. It would be a far better idea if nature were to worship us. That way, the ants would stay out of the butter and sharks would be a little nicer to us. Is that too much to ask?

Besides, I have grown weary of flappy-lipped adherents of monotheistic religions using “pagan” in a pejorative sense while relying on me not to over-do the sacrificial lamb at our Saturday night synod. Adding insult to injury, they are the ones who invariably bogart the bong. Bloody heathens.

I generally refrain from defending my position for fear of inviting the fate met by Hypatia of Alexandria, a pagan philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who was killed by a Christian mob in 415 CE.

Unfortunately for the employed, Halloween is not a public holiday in South Africa. If only the Soweto Uprising had taken place on 31 October instead of 16 June. Youth Day would be so much more entertaining if it were combined with Halloween. The horror is already there. All we would need are police uniforms, nitrous oxide grenades, a few dozen crates of cherry-flavoured vodka and some live music. Also some live ammunition. And a smattering of German Shepherds all sniffed out and hoping to reach retirement age without any major drama.

At this time of year, carving vegetables into grotesque shapes is popular in some cultures. In my house, it’s called dinner. In Ireland and Scotland, they use scooped-out turnips. It’s that lack of imagination that allowed the English to oppress them for so long. In America, they use pumpkins. In Israel, they use Palestinians.

I don’t know what we can use here. If I tell people that instead of eating their madumbi this week, they should carve them so they look like little tokoloshes, they will think I work for the DA. And if I tell them to put a small candle inside the hollowed-out madumbi, they will think I work for the municipality. Either way, I’m screwed.

If only we could make some kind of genetically modified clone of Julius Malema’s head and carve that instead of wasting perfectly good vegetables. It’s the ideal shape and consistency. And scary as hell.

Halloween’s imagery is derived from horror movies and stories like Frankenstein and Dracula. Here, it can be derived from films and books like There’s A Zulu On My Stoep and Bitch, please! I’m Khanyi Mbau.

There are many overseas traditions that can be adapted to local conditions. Take apple bobbing, for instance. Instead of using your teeth to grab an apple from a bucket of water, you must use your political connections to win a tender wrapped in fly-paper and coated in honey. This creates a hilarious yet potentially sticky situation, especially if the Hawks find out about it.

The telling of horror stories is also a popular feature of Halloween. Gather the children around and, in the unlikely event that Eskom hasn’t already done it for you, switch off the lights. Tell them about The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Man Whose Mouth Tasted of Wormwood or The Second Coming of Jacob Zuma.

The important thing, comrades, is not to let your Halloween be co-opted by the Christians. We are more Nosferatu than we are Cosatu. No praying. No fasting. No skiving off to church.

Deconstruct all that Celtic reconstructionist propaganda and unleash your demons.

Crime me a river

I went to a braai on Saturday night. It was either that or give heroin a try. The house was full of normal people with normal faces and normal jobs. I should have gone with the heroin.

Braais aren’t what they used to be. It could be a generational thing or maybe it is location-sensitive. It could also be organised religion up to its old killjoy ways. Put any six people around a braai these days and at least one of them will be offended if you happen to shout, “Jesus!” for any reason other than being spontaneously suffused with the glory of God. Even if your flaming sambuca has set your hair alight. It’s epiphany or nothing.

Braais used to be things you went to so you could relax. I have been to braais so relaxed that it would be way past midnight before anyone remembered to light the fire. Or buy the meat.

Many of our braais simply turned into fires, some of which burned out of control for days. Our braais were an opportunity for friends to let their hair down. Or dye it purple. Or shave it into a mohawk.

The women weren’t in the kitchen making salads. They were staggering about the garden shrieking like lunatics and chucking tequila down their throats. The children, bless their black little hearts, were kept busy rolling joints for the grown-ups. It all worked very well. Until someone with a heart murmur would arrive with a bottle of amyl nitrate.

This braai I went to was attended (in the old days it would have been invaded) by your common-or-garden SABS-approved types. Creative accountants, financial advisors who lie for a living, paunchy tax evaders laughing the loudest, property developers with blood on their teeth, doctors milking the medical aid system and sweaty divorce lawyers fresh from bayoneting the wounded.

Once the chops are down, the talk turns to crime. Or rugby. Same thing, really. As far as I’m concerned, rugby is a crime. “Ja ay, speaking of the Stormers getting robbed, I know this oke down the road that got hit by a bunch of them who cleaned his house out and then sommer ironed his face.” Disgruntled domestic workers, probably.

The stories get wilder. It turns into a game of oneupmanship. I take the gap. “That’s nothing,” I shout. “A dingo ate my baby!” It was the wrong moment to lose my balance and almost knock the braai over, but I think my point was made.

I bet when cops braai, they talk about the books they’ve read and argue about what Descartes really meant when he said, “Cogito, ergo sum.”

The fire appeared to be dying so I began throwing bits of scrunched-up newspaper onto the coals. Those who take their braais seriously put this kind of behaviour on a par with paedophilia. Rather than getting a braai fork through the throat, I wandered off and read the newspaper instead.

It was a community paper, a mine of useless information swaddled in lashings of sunshine journalism. Under the headline, “Safety in North Durban”, residents shared their views on the darkie problem. They don’t call it that, of course. They call it the crime problem. It’s a delightful euphemism that helps keep accusations of racism at bay.

Here’s a good one: “I feel unsafe knowing KwaMashu, the crime capital of South Africa, is on our doorstep.” I imagine her, sitting at her William IV mahogany writing table in her horrible house dress and sensible shoes, dashing off one outraged letter after another in the hope that someone will take notice and move KwaMashu a little further to the north.

Madam, I do not know what your name is, but I shall call you Maude. It rhymes with bored. Which, I assume, is what you have been ever since your husband left you for someone who didn’t hear intruders in the house seventeen times a night.

If you are looking for someone to blame, Maude, which I expect you are, then may I suggest you follow the lead of our former president and blame apartheid? Prior to 1958, a not-inconsiderable number of Africans lived in Cato Manor, a safe distance from suburbia.

When the arch-liberal Hendrik Verwoerd came to power, he heard about the plight of these people and created an entirely new town for them. He called it KwaMashu – Place of Indescribable Beauty.

In a speech he made at home on a Saturday afternoon before going across the road to watch an international rugby match between Transvaal and the Orange Free State, he said all Africans deserved their place in the sun. Now, thanks to fifty years of deforestation, they have it.

Hold on. Where is this information coming from? Wikipedia has a completely different version. They claim the township’s name means Place of Marshall, in honour of Sir Marshall Campbell. An English settler, he was partly responsible for covering most of Durban’s hills with sugar cane.

We also have him to thank for introducing rickshaws to Durban. Without having a black man to pull me around, I would never have gone anywhere as a child.

Sorry, Maude. Got a bit carried away there. That was a rickshaw joke, in case you didn’t get it. So. What are we going to do about your problem, then? Either we move KwaMashu or we move your doorstep. I imagine you aren’t keen to move, and rightly so. I have no doubt you were living in your house long before the Nguni-speaking upstarts swarmed into the area two thousand years ago.

I am offering to spend the next couple of days driving through KwaMashu with a loud-hailer fitted to my roof informing half a million people that Maude of Durban North has requested they disperse in an orderly fashion to a place that is nowhere near her home.

These people will listen to me, Maude. I am known in these parts as the Zulu whisperer. Zulus are shouters. When you whisper they become confused and follow you, if only to find out what the hell it is you’re saying.

If all goes well, Maude, you will be able to safely leave your house by the end of the year. Just imagine – Christmas lunch next to the pool instead of in the fortified panic room!

Someone else wrote, “I can’t even pop down to the shop to buy bread without worrying if we are going to be caught in a robbery. What is happening? It’s like the devil has discovered Durban all of a sudden.” Don’t be ridiculous. The devil discovered Durban a long time ago. Why do you think it’s so damnably hot? And have you seen the city centre lately? If that isn’t hell, I don’t know what is.

Someone else wrote: “They aren’t scared of dogs either!” What? This is terrifying news. “They” have always suffered from cynophobia. Dogs were our last line of defence. Now what do we do? I’ve got it. I bet They are still scared of water. Dig moats, people! Dig for your lives!

 

To the Matric Class of 2018

Dear adultlings,

Congratulations on making it to the end of the beginning. Twelve years of being bullied, belittled and, in several thousand cases, banged up. A South African education prepares you for real life like no other.

I wish I could give you some advice on how to get through the exams without suffering a nervous breakdown. When I hear the word ‘exams’, my sphincter snaps shut and my knees sweat. And that’s not only because the last exam I took involved my prostate.

I regard the brutally interrogative nature of exams with fear and loathing. Sit down and shut up. Don’t move. Don’t look around. Answer these questions. Now. Think very carefully before you answer. Tell us how much you know. Tell us everything. And be warned. If your answers are wrong, we will make sure you never go to university. You will never find a job. We will destroy you.

If it were up to me, kiddo, you wouldn’t be asked to simplify tan(90° + x) .sin(-x-180°). In fact, I can’t believe they are still teaching this filth in our schools. If you are 18 and interested in relationships between fixed points and angles, you’re in a whole lot of trouble and I can’t help you. Trigonometry is the work of the devil. Sure, it can tell you the distance to a nearby star. But why do you need to know this? Are you planning on going there? Don’t you think your mother would start worrying when she last heard from you five light years ago?

The only numbers you need to know are the cellphone numbers of people who work for the government. Call them up and ask them to organise a job for you. Bribe, blackmail or threaten them. The main thing is to get your bum in the butter.

If you don’t manage to crack the Grade 12 pass mark of 30 percent, don’t despair. President Zuma has a Grade Four education and look how well he did. Of course, you are going to have to find a way of getting other people to subsidise your lifestyle. You probably have the gift of the gab, right? After all, you must have spent the last decade talking in class instead of paying attention. Start a political party. Tell people they will rot in hell if they don’t give you money. And smile a lot. If you can dance, so much the better. Make sure they watch your feet, not your hands.

The rest of you will soon have a senior certificate in your grubby little paws. This is an important piece of paper and will come in useful when you’re jobless and homeless and need something to burn to keep warm at night.

As a new cog in a very old machine, you may feel a little lost in this big, grown-up world. Don’t worry. It won’t last for long. Soon you will have lots of new friends phoning you at all hours of the day and night. Many of them will work for SARS, the municipality, traffic department, insurance companies, estate agencies and banks. Not all of them will want your money. Some will want your vote. Others will want your soul. Try to fight off the politicians and proselytizers for as long as you can.

Also, get yourself a gun. Especially if you live in KZN. If you find yourself being chased down the N2 by the police or hemmed in by a car full of blue-light bodyguards, the decent and patriotic thing to do is shoot yourself. This spares them the trouble of having to do it and they can get back to doing the important work we pay them to do.

Good luck, then. I do hope you aren’t the ones to nudge my country over the edge and into the abyss.