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!

 

An open letter to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula

Dear Comrade Fiks,

Well done on cracking down on sports that don’t have enough darkies in their teams. This is Africa, not Scandinavia. Did you know that in some parts of Norway you aren’t even allowed to be black without permission from the government? Of course you did. You are one of the few Cabinet ministers who know things they aren’t paid to know ­– like Beyoncé’s bra size. Or paid to not know – like whether bribes helped us secure the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Last week you decided that our rugby, cricket, athletics and netball federations would no longer be allowed to pitch for international tournaments because they had failed to meet their transformation targets. I don’t think you went far enough and I hope you’re not going soft on us. The people running these sports should be charged with treason and shot. I have my own AK-47 and I’m prepared to do the dirty work. All I need are bullets and a business card introducing me as The Transformer.

Like you, I have had it with white people and their Volvo-driving, child-rearing, dog-patting ways. Yes, we win a lot of games, but celebrating a victory perpetrated by a predominantly white team is like celebrating Germany winning the Kristallnacht Cup in 1938.

Quite frankly, I am astounded that netball is still a sport in this country. There are hardly any fatalities or crowd stampedes and the rules make absolutely no sense. No running with the ball? What the hell kind of sport is that? Why even bother with a ball? I watched a netball game when I was a teenager and at half-time, crazed with adolescent lust, I ran home and locked myself in my room for two days. I almost died.

Netball in South Africa is not only a racist sport but it is also deeply sexist. I have never seen men playing netball. Are they not allowed to? This is unacceptable. I should point out that if men do, in fact, play netball, I have no wish to watch them. Please do not send me any literature on this.

Your decision to ban our national netball team from competing against other countries does not go far enough. The players must be charged with treason and shot.

Cricket, too, is well deserving of your wrath. How dare they? I mean, really, how very dare they? Not only are they all white, apart from whatshisname with the face, but their uniforms are also all white. Sometimes they wear green, but it’s an open secret that green is the new white. And they call themselves the Proteas after a particularly unlovely flower that lives in Cape Town, the final refuge of white people. It is clearly a conspiracy.

Cricket is not a game that should be played by people, period. It should be played by animals. Dogs, particularly golden retrievers, would be brilliant at fielding but their batting might need work. The higher order simians would also make the game far more entertaining and I, for one, would certainly buy a ticket to watch the Jakarta Gibbons take on the Durban Vervets. Chimpanzees, too, are equipped with deadly bowling arms and it makes no sense that the likes of Dale Steyn and Hansie Cronje are allowed to play while they aren’t. The entire team should be charged with treason and shot.

I was delighted to see that you included athletics as one of the sports that needed kicking to the curb. Black people spent years jumping through hoops and running from the cops. They are natural athletes. White people can’t jump for shit and they only ever run when they’re late for their flight to Perth. I don’t even know what athletics is. Or, for that matter, are. I turned to the electronic oracle that dupes stupid people into thinking they’re smarter than they are and apparently athletics is “an exclusive collection of sporting events that involve running, jumping, throwing and walking”. Walking is a sport? I do it all the time. Well, on Friday afternoons, anyway. To the bottle store, mostly. Does this make me an athlete? Of course it does. Would I want to represent my country? Of course not. White people are only good for representing everything that is wrong with this country. This is the way it should be. Let us not even speak of the fact that when foreigners hear the term ‘South African athlete’ they automatically think of a trigger-happy psycho on stumps.

The athletics team must be charged with treason and shot.

And you’re going after rugby, too? You’re a braver man than I am, Gunga Din. I’m paraphrasing here. Unless, of course, your codename in the struggle actually was Gunga Din. It seems unlikely, though. Maybe it was Ganga Dim. I apologise. That’s the medication talking.

To be honest, I don’t think you should have blackballed rugby for being too white. Many of us only watch rugby in the hope that the game will degenerate into a bloodbath. If you take away the Afrikaners – a tribe that invented the bloodbath – we’d be left with Beast Matawaririua (is he Maori?) and the other one. I don’t remember his name. The one with the teeth. I’m just not convinced that black people should play rugby. They are inclined to stick to the rules and rarely try to murder anyone. Well, not on the pitch, anyway. Obviously all bets are off once they’re back in the township.

I urge you, then, to exempt rugby from transformation and instead target tennis and golf. You don’t get sports whiter than these. There is no reason why our top tennis teams aren’t all black. Well, apart from the white lie that black people have terrible hand-eye coordination. This is disproved by our very own President Jacob Zuma who is brilliant at seeing opportunities and grabbing them with both hands. It doesn’t matter whether it’s avoiding trial, making money or winning three straight sets, the man has talent. So if you agree that tennis is little more than a white-collar crime, you need to charge the team with treason and have them shot.

As for golf, the less said the better. Whiteys think darkies are only interested in joining golf clubs so they can meet women, drink the bar dry, steal the silverware and take home an Egyptian snow goose for the braai.

I can’t think of any high-profile black golfers apart from Squirrel Ramaphosa. As far as I know, the deputy president has never been seen washing his clothes in the water hazard, urinating openly on the fairway or using a machete to settle an argument over the interpretation of Rule 27. Then again, he is more a politician than a golfer.

Well done on leaving our soccer team alone. Even though you called them a bunch of losers two years ago, Bafana Bafana are a model of transformation. Well, they would be if it weren’t for Dean Furman and his white tendencies. You might want to charge him with treason and have him shot. It’s up to you. Meanwhile, the South African Football Association continues to set the benchmark for excellence and they stand as a shining example of … I’m sorry. I have to go and lie down for a bit.

Soccer

 BEN TROVATO has offered to help Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula enforce transformation through the barrel of a gun.

For the love of thugby

I inadvertently got caught up in the Sharks victory parade on Wednesday. It was like being on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on the 25th of August, 1944, as French and American troops swept through the Arc de Triomphe.

The liberation of Paris was nothing compared to this. As the bus carrying our conquering heroes drew level, I was so overcome with emotion that I grabbed the nearest woman and kissed her passionately. She pulled away and screamed. I screamed. Up on the bus, the players screamed. The car guards screamed. It was a time for kissing and a time for screaming. You would have been a fool not to do both.

However, I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of the sport. Some of you will think I am either a communist or gay. Or even a gay communist, although I imagine this is a fairly small demographic confined to a single neighbourhood in the more tastefully decorated part of Moscow.

The thing is, I wasn’t raised in a rugby house. Back then, the kind of people who played or watched rugby weren’t the kind of people my parents wanted me mixing with. I imagine that’s why my mother sent me for piano lessons. I don’t know what kind of men play the piano or watch other men play, but I sure as hell didn’t want to mix with them either. The lessons ended in tears and I was left wondering if my parents hadn’t perhaps mistaken me for another child.

I watched the Currie Cup final simply because I happened to be in a bar when the game came on. I suppose I should have been tipped off that something was up when the young man behind the bar lashed a rubber shark fin to his head. People do strange things north of the Umgeni and I had no reason to think this wasn’t just another Saturday afternoon on the east coast with a barman tripping gently off his painted face.

I knew trouble was brewing the moment I heard the national anthem. People around me began standing up and singing, not that you could call it singing. You can’t really call it an anthem, either. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is the only thing left in our pantheon of national symbols still pretending that all is well in this fabulous rainbow nation. It has tried so hard to be all things to all people that if it were a contortionist it would need the Jaws of Life if it hoped to ever walk again.

I never stood up and joined in the singing because once you start with that, you may as well go out and sew the seeds of civil strife on the sidewalks of your suburb. Besides, I didn’t know the words. Nor did I feel confident enough to stand up. Also, I am a journalist, and we don’t stand up for anything but press freedom and an open bar.

This wasn’t my first time watching rugby. Nobody can spend as much time in bars as I do and not see a game of rugby. I have, however, never watched the sport in a stadium environment. I once went to watch a game of cricket at Kingsmead and the unutterable boredom drove me to drink relentlessly beneath a particularly cruel February sun. The day ended badly.

I like to watch rugby primarily for the violence. Many of the players on both sides remind me of people from my past. Hugh Reece-Edwards was in my class at school. Or somewhere in the vicinity of my class. We were on nodding terms until he discovered that I played tennis instead of rugby. But that is not the past I am talking about.

There are rugbyists like Hugh and Patrick Lambie who have English-speaking faces. I am not being faceist, but you have to admit that few people would look at Gurthro Steenkamp and wonder if his parents hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Let me just say that while Lambie was living high on the hog at Michaelhouse, Reece-Edwards and I were being starved and beaten at Northlands Boys High.

The point I am trying to make, if there even is one, is that most rugby players remind me of bad times. I am not talking about Beast Mtawarira, here. Even though I grew up in a suburb where black men could be arrested or shot if they were caught on the streets after dark, the sight of Beast launching himself into yet another of his suicidal battering ram runs doesn’t make me wonder if my plasma TV is on its way to KwaMashu in the back of a taxi.

Most rugby players remind me of the corporals and sergeants who made my life a living hell in the army. They were supposed to teach me to hate communists and terrorists, but they were such utter bastards that I ended up hating them instead.

So when I see a fullback or a prop who looks and talks like the military policemen who routinely arrested me on the highway between Pretoria and Durban, I want him to be taken down and soundly stamped upon.

If there is one thing we all need in this country, it is catharsis. We should take it where we can find it.