The unbridled joys of Transport Month

Since 2005, South Africa annually observes October as Transport Month.

Let’s take a look at the themes.

2005: ‘Celebrating 20 years of delivering efficient, reliable and safe transport services’.

2006: ‘Transport – The Heartbeat of South Africa’s economy’.

2007: ‘Transport – The heartbeat of South Africa’s Economic Growth and Social Development.’

2008: ‘Transport infrastructure – Creating a lasting legacy 2010 and beyond.’

2009: ‘Safety in all modes of transport – air, rail, sea and road.’

2010: ‘Transport – the heartbeat of South Africa’s Economic Growth and Social Development.’

2011: ‘Year of Job Creation and Service Delivery in the Transport Sector – Moving South Africa to a Better Tomorrow.’

2012: ‘Working together to provide a safe and reliable transport system.’

2013: ‘Celebrating 20 years of delivering efficient, reliable and safe transport services.’

2014: ‘Together we move forward.’

2018: ‘Together we move South Africa forward.’

2019: ‘Together Let’s Keep the Service Delivery Momentum Going and Grow the Economy.’

2020: ‘Together shaping the future of transport.’

Forget the failure of imagination – at least the ANC has consistently maintained its sense of humour over the years. Of course, it’s only funny if you’re familiar with the state of public transport in South Africa today. Funny in a slash-your-wrists kind of way.

Here’s something I wrote 17 years ago today. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how much – and how little – has changed.

……………………………

I was beginning to think there was nothing worth living for when it suddenly occurred to me that today marks the start of Transport Month. Oh, what joy! Hurrah! Hurrah! A chorus of angels sounded their trumpets and a squirrel darted through an open window and handed me a nut. With a new lease of life, I sang like no one was listening and danced like no one was watching. It’s easy when you live alone. Startled, the squirrel ran across the road and got hit by a Golden Arrow bus. It was somehow fitting, coming as it did at the start of Transport Month.

Each province is celebrating Transport Month in its own unique way. In the Northern Cape, long-distance drivers have elected to wear condoms while entertaining their teenage guests in the tastefully decorated cubicles conveniently located behind the front seats.

In Gauteng, the Bombela Concession Company is allowing non-gay married couples to have a maximum of three minutes of sexual activity on the Gautrain. However, the chewing of gum will remain a criminal offence.

In the Eastern Cape, traffic police are waiving their usual Friday afternoon cash donations and will be accepting gifts of small livestock instead. If all you have on you is a sheep or a cow, the officer will, in keeping with the spirit of Transport Month, issue you with a chicken in lieu of change.

In Limpopo, truck drivers are being encouraged to enter win-a-tender raffles at the province’s many stop/go roadworks. With waits of up to three hours, motorists are invited to participate in the festivities by putting money into a hessian sack. The more you give to the Julius Malema Defence Fund, the more chance there is of getting to Polokwane alive. Fun for the whole family.

In KwaZulu-Natal, prizes will be given to truck drivers who can keep up with King Goodwill Zwelithini as he races between five star hotels and his palaces. In a gesture of, er, goodwill, the king has agreed to forfeit his regular blue lights, sirens and escorts. Instead, he will travel by helicopter. The first driver who beats the king to his secret destination will be taken away and questioned.

The Free State transport department will place koeksusters and nips of brandy along the N1. The first 500 truck drivers to make their way out of the province will be given assistance in emigrating. This is open to white truck drivers only. Black truck drivers can continue doing whatever they like.

And in the Western Cape, Her Royal Highness, Helen Zille, has decreed that the Sea Point promenade shall be opened to cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers and other assorted riff-raff.

Previously, use of the promenade was restricted to wheelchairs, walkers, pram-pushers and drug-pushers who may well be on wheels judging by the speed at which they disappear on the rare occasion a policeman hoves into sight. Maybe that’s just how the Nigerians roll.

Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport, roads and stormwater (in terms of incongruity, a poor second to Durban’s parks, recreation and cemeteries), said the move is part of the city’s efforts to “build an inclusive city”. Luckily, this excludes those who might otherwise spoil the whole inclusivity vibe for the rest of us. In other words, those who cannot afford a square meal, let alone a skateboard. And even if they could, they are so full of TB and tik that they wouldn’t make it to the edge of the Cape Flats, let alone all the way to Sea Point.

You’re not a proper Capetonian unless you use a bicycle like you use your drugs – for recreational purposes only. A drug stops being recreational when the gentleman to your left stabs you in the face because you didn’t leave any for him. This hardly ever happens in Constantia.

Releasing a statement into the wild, Herron said: “We will be monitoring the situation very closely during the trial phase. However, I am confident that the experience will allow us to overcome some of our misperceptions and prejudices around users of alternative transport methods, also known as Active Mobility.” What? This is how lawyers talk. I am astounded by the … oh, he is a lawyer.

Herron assures us that this revolutionary step, taking the DA ever closer to governing the country, has the full backing of the Sea Point Residents’ Association. Without their approval, nothing but the sun goes down in Sea Point. The accountants, attorneys, stockbrokers, human traffickers, crack whores, pimps and paedophiles are hostage to the whims of the association. Mossad takes instructions from them. They have access to an arsenal of weapons ranging from fragmentation bagels to self-detonating seagulls. I’m serious. You trifle with the Sea Point Residents’ Association at your peril.

Herron points out that this is not an invitation to professional cyclists. That’s where he is wrong. If you’re training for the Tour de France on the Sea Point promenade, then you’re doing the wrong kind of drugs and deserve to be there. Anyway, I’d far rather they were on the prom than clogging up Chapman’s Peak or inciting the Camps Bay rent boys with their shrieking Spandex shorts and ululating calf muscles.

Herron also says skateboarding tricks will be frowned upon. So, kids, no turning pensioners into frogs. The same goes for rollerblades. They are to be used for “leisurely transportation purposes”. The DA simply cannot bring itself to use the f-word. Fun. And a good thing it is, too. Fun leads to early pregnancies, school dropouts, higher unemployment, service delivery protests, famine, madness and death. Somalia used to be a fun place. Look at it today.

Herron says: “We have consulted local representatives for the various types of non-motorised transport, who have offered to launch Twitter and Facebook campaigns to remind their members of the basic rules of etiquette expected from Active Mobility users on the promenade.”

Translation: “We made a skyf with a couple of okes with dreads and they said they’d hit the web and choon their chommies to chill on the strip.”

I do so enjoy it when white politicians talk of the basic rules of etiquette. It reminds me of Kenya before the Mau Mau came along and ruined everything. We all need distractions from the murder and mayhem of everyday life, and it matters not whether it comes from the Fish Hoek Bowls Club or a gentle non-threatening perambulation along the Sea Point prom of a Sunday afternoon.

Herron also said that flooding the area with cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers would “have a slowing down effect on the general speed of traffic”. Indeed it would. The city has already tried traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, bergies and speed bumps. So why not try Active Mobility practitioners? Nothing discourages speeding more than a stream of ambulances racing back and forth between Mouille Point and Bantry Bay.

The new signs going up on the promenade depict three figures engaged in Active Mobility. All of them, apart from cycling, are known as gateway pastimes that lead to far more dangerous activities like unprotected sex, intravenous drug use and voting.

I congratulate the DA on taking this courageous step. And, when Transport Month is over and the wreckage has been removed, I will applaud them for returning the promenade to its rightful owners – decent god-fearing folk who seem harmless enough but who, if provoked, will not hesitate to call in an Israeli airstrike at the push of a panic button.

5 ways to get the perfect pandemic body

Lockdown has gnawed away at my fitness levels and I need to remedy this in case we become a proper police state. I don’t want to have Cele’s boys after me and find myself having to stop every couple of minutes to catch my breath. Mind you, they’d be doing the same. It would be the least dramatic foot chase ever. If our rest periods coincided, we could keep going for months. We’d have to go in circles because of the inter-provincial travel ban.

I got more exercise during Level 5 then I do in this latest turbocharged 24-karat deluxe version of Level 3. That’s because we were told that exercise, under Level 5, was not allowed. If you tell me not to do something, you can be sure I’ll do it. My parents realised early on that I was a prime target for reverse psychology. My mother would tell me that under no circumstances was I to tidy my bedroom while she was out. And if I dared do the dishes, there’d be trouble. The house would be sparkling when she got back.

It got worse as I grew up. People would tell me not to binge drink or take drugs. Don’t study journalism or sleep with other men’s girlfriends, they’d say. And never, ever get married. I showed them, alright. Oh, yes.

Then, many years later, someone in China eats a dodgy bat and coughs on someone else and the next thing you know, Cyril Ramaphosa is telling me I’m not allowed to exercise. I am, however, permitted to go to the supermarket should food become absolutely necessary. I would then go to Checkers and do push-ups in the canned goods aisle, sit-ups in the dairy department and jog between the baked goods and fresh produce sections. Take that, government. I’ll see your Level 5 and raise you Level Kiss-My-Ass.

They must have got wind that people were illegally exercising while shopping and subsequently brought us up to Level 4. The moment they said we were allowed out to exercise between 6am and 9am, I lost all interest.

Then came Level 3 version 1.0 and we were told we could exercise whenever we liked. That was the beginning of the end. It was as if they no longer cared about people who could only do something in reaction to being told not to do it.

I was devastated and stayed in bed for … well, I’m writing this from my bed now. I get up occasionally to visit the bathroom and kitchen, but it’s not much as far as cardio workouts go.

The moment I heard we were no longer allowed to buy alcohol, I put in an order with my local bootlegger for seven bottles of gin. I don’t even particularly like gin. It makes me cry. Then again, right now cat videos make me cry. Show me a crippled labrador splashing in a puddle and I’m a mess for days.

But there’s little joy to be found in illicit gin if one is unable to muster the strength to remove the cap from the tonic, let alone find the motivation to refill the ice trays. As for locating a knife sharp enough to slice the lemon that you don’t even have, the less said the better.

Flicking through Facebook with my last functional finger, an advert for a fitness website popped up. “Highly effective core exercises for seniors – no equipment needed.” What? I’m not a … am I? Zuckerberg’s androids must be mistaking me for someone else. Someone old.

Anyway, what exactly is a senior? I might be a little delusional at times, but I do know that I’m not a junior. The picture on the website is of an old man standing on one leg with his eyes closed. Please. I can do that. I did karate when I was a kid. My sensei, who carried a gun in his briefcase, told us the trick was to picture yourself as a tree with roots in the ground. I would practice in the garden at home and my sister would sneak up and water me. That explains why I grew half a metre in Grade 9.

“The core exercises in this article have been tested by over 1000 seniors!” They don’t say what happened after that. Did anyone die? Were there lawsuits?

They give a dictionary definition of the word “core”, which I found unhelpful, and explain how a strong core helps reduce the risk of falling. Thanks chaps, but the ban on alcohol has taken care of that already.

Then it starts. “Pretend I’m standing in front of you. Now imagine I have my hands on your shoulders and I trying to push you away. What would your reaction be?” Well, my first reaction would be to correct your grammar. Then, if you were a bloke, I’d knee you swiftly in the testicles. If you were a woman, I would, like any red-blooded South African man, take it as a sign that you fancied me.

The correct reaction, apparently, is to brace all my muscles and make my body stiff. And that’s what it feels like to engage your core. It also feels like rigor mortis prematurely setting in.

I am told to brace my core while walking, taking stairs, moving objects and picking things up off the floor. That’s ridiculous. I pay other people to do those things for me. Anyway, I don’t have any damn core muscles to brace. That’s why I’m doing this. If there was money involved, I’d ask for it back.

Now we get to the “highly effective core exercises for seniors”. Maybe they mean señors. It’s probably a Mexican thing. Make strong for to Rio Grande cross.

The first exercise is to bring your knees to your chest while standing. Not at the same time, obviously. You are allowed to hold onto a chair, presumably if you’re very hungover. The recommendation is: “x2 sets of x5-8 repetitions”. What does this mean? If I wanted a maths test, I’d go somewhere else. It almost made me give up.

Exercise #2 is basically sitting on a chair, then standing, then sitting, then standing … if you do this in public, men in white coats will come to take you away.

#3 is Heel Raises. In which you raise yourself on your toes. “Once you get as high as possible, pause for one second…” I don’t think anyone’s ever got as high as possible. New limits are being set all the time. Worth a try, though.

#4 is Bird Dog. I liked the sound of this one. Scampering about the neighbourhood, picking up dead pigeons with my mouth and giving them to the needy. Sadly, not. It does involve going down on all fours, though, but that’s where the fun ends.

#5 is Bridges. You lie on your back and repeatedly thrust your hips into the air. I felt comfortable with this one and kept going until I started having flashbacks to my first honeymoon and wound up in the foetal position whimpering like an abandoned chimp.

We are told to do this routine three times a week. Well, that’s ruined it. If they had instructed me to never try it again, I’d be at it all the time.

I felt a little better the next day when I read a headline that said, “Fitness industry on the verge of collapse.” I’m no virgin and I might not be very active, but if an entire industry can collapse without anyone caring, then so can I.

 

  • This column first appeared in The Citizen on 22 July. More every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/

Bored in the RSA

I am starting to get the feeling this government might not think we’re all that bright. I can understand where it comes from, I suppose, this notion that South Africans are morons. I can almost hear the conversations at the Coronavirus Command Council.

“The people will never fall for that.”

“Of course they will. They keep voting for us, right? They’re complete idiots.”

This is why our president can look us in the eye and tell us that we’re still on Level 3 when it’s quite clear that we are, in fact, somewhere between Mordor and Saudi Arabia.

There are still people out there who think Cyril Ramaphosa is some kind of divine saviour. Sure, Jacob Zuma set the bar as low as it could go, so it’s perhaps understandable that Cyril wormed his way into our hearts. Next to Zuma, even Trump would have been an improvement. But only just.

Somehow, though, there are those who have forgotten that politicians are professional blame-shifters with only a tangential entanglement with the truth.

If it were up to me, Ramaphosa would be strapped into a polygraph machine for the duration of Fellow South Africans. The sophistry starts right off the bat. By calling us his fellow South Africans, he is telling us that we are the same, that we are part of one glorious united brotherhood. That his struggles are our struggles. Bollocks. He’s worth R6-billion. We are only his fellow South Africans in that we share a common citizenship.

And when he says things like, “After careful consideration of expert advice…” what he really means is, “After days spent in Zoom meetings screaming, crying and threatening each other…”

A tried-and-tested method of torture is to give someone something they need, and then take it away. Then give it back. And take it away again. Repeat until they confess or go mad. Yes, obviously I’m talking about alcohol. I wasn’t the only fellow South African with “bottle store” at the top of Monday’s to-do list. Banning booze with immediate effect seemed unnecessarily cruel and vindictive. He couldn’t give us a day or two to stock up?

We are told that the public health system is coming apart at the seams because some people couldn’t handle their liquor and wound up hogging all the hospital beds. Yes, that’s the reason. Definitely not because the government failed to adequately prepare for the surge.

Anyway, why should people with Covid-19 be more entitled to a hospital bed than someone who does themselves a mischief while drunk? It’s elitist and could lead to Covid patients demanding Woolworths food and Netflix. There are people in hospital with Covid because they didn’t wear a mask, keep their distance from others or bother to wash their hands. That’s no less irresponsible than the guy in the next bed who got stabbed in the face by his mother for not sharing the last of the brandy.

I have been drinking for decades (pausing only to draw breath or shout for more beer) and have never hurt anyone other than myself. Nothing that required hospitalisation, I might add. Injuries to one’s person are among the less agreeable side effects of alcohol, but it’s an occupational hazard and those who drink know the risks.

We also know that some people handle alcohol better than others. It’s been that way since Nero got wasted and knocked over a candle, causing Rome to burn to the ground. When he woke up, he blamed the Christians and fed them to the lions.

By banning alcohol, the government is punishing the majority for the actions of a tiny minority. It’s absurd. Collective responsibility is an ANC thing. It’s how they shield each other from consequences. The same principle can’t be applied to the entire population. It’s like when King Herod ordered the execution of all boy children under the age of two because someone’s toddler got on his nerves. Stopping us from drinking responsibly is our own massacre of the innocents.

We are, right now, the only non-Muslim country in the world where alcohol is outlawed. Throw in the face coverings, a ban on smoking and patrols by Mustafa Bheki bin Cele’s morality police and we’re well on our way to becoming a caliphate. If we are going the Sharia law route, we might as well start chopping off the hands of those who steal. The number of amputees in municipalities alone would keep the prosthetics industry going for years.

I don’t mind the curfew so much. Sure, it’s a brutal violation of our right to freedom of movement, but if you are on the streets after 9pm in winter, you’re either a rapist or homeless and deserve to be locked up.

The good news is that we can now go to auctions, which are full of hustlers and gangsters, and we can also go to parks, which are full of muggers and perverts. Whoopee.

I’m still confused about tourism. Not as confused as tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, admittedly, but there are some things I don’t get. A couple of weeks ago, we could travel for leisure inside our provinces and stay in hotels and guesthouses. Now we aren’t allowed to stay anywhere. Presumably we can still travel, but we have to sleep in our cars or under a tree on the side of the road and if we get eaten by lions or Christians, it’s our own damn fault.

The taxi industry, which could give the official opposition a few pointers on how to behave like a government in waiting, has succeeded in scaring the ANC into submission. Taxis get you where you want to be – but then so does alcohol. In both cases, the wheels sometimes come off. Anyway.

Taxi drivers are now free to fill every seat on trips shorter than 200kms. What could possibly go wrong? As long as everyone wears a mask ha ha. Also, the windows must stay open. Cape Town’s hospitals will soon be overflowing with hypothermia victims.

Returning to the booze ban. I think we all agree that alcohol and guns are equally dangerous in the wrong hands. So let’s do this. If you want to buy liquor, you must be registered on a government database. You will be asked to complete a psychological profile and your records will be checked for any alcohol-related incidents.

If your registration is approved, you will have to undergo a competency test. After booking at a designated centre, an official from the newly formed Ministry of Alcohol will put you through your paces. Different drinks will be matched with different scenarios. For instance, you are given nine double brandies and locked in a room with a woman who pokes you in the chest and shouts at you for being drunk. Or you are given a dozen beers and a child to look after. Or you are placed in a simulated bar environment and plied with tequila shooters while being jostled by bearded men who taunt you about your religious and political beliefs.

Your response is carefully monitored. Any loss of control or violent outbursts and your registration is cancelled, your name goes on a national blacklist, and you will never be served alcohol again.

The sheer bureaucracy will encourage many people to give up drinking altogether. Or make them want to drink more.

Finally, before the cleaners came in to get rid of the smoke and clear away the mirrors, Ramaphosa ended Sunday’s requiem for a nightmare by saying, “We will restore our country to health and prosperity.”

The last line went unspoken: “But if we don’t, it will be your fault.”

 

  • This column first appeared in The Citizen on 15 July. More every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Scotch, say the pie rats

Hello. My name is Ben, and I am an addict.

Ever since the government unbanned the sale and possession of hot pies, I have been roaming the streets looking to score. I can’t get enough of them. No sooner have I wolfed a mutton curry than I want a chicken and mushroom. I finish that and almost immediately I need a steak and kidney.

Cornish pasties are the crack cocaine of pies. It doesn’t matter how many other kinds I’ve already had, if I can’t get my hands on a Cornish to wrap up it all up, I become jittery and more unpleasant than usual. Not violent. Not yet, anyway. Just insufferable in a passively-aggressive taciturn kind of way. Women will know what I’m talking about.

Since the government’s berserk clampdown on hot pies and its subsequent flip-flop (which, incidentally, might still be banned), some outlets remain afraid to stock them. Pies, not flip-flops. I imagine they fear some sort of Orwellian trap. They could be right. Lure us into a false sense of security and then, once our trolleys and faces are stuffed with pies, BAM! It’s spreadeagled in the parking lot with a knee on the neck and a whole lot of shouting about the source of the pies. We pie addicts don’t snitch. Pie dealers are safe. They need to know this. I would sooner give up my first born than the name of a reliable pie merchant.

It’s like what happened with marijuana, except in reverse. One day you’re doing fifteen to life for a joint, and the next, a sergeant with a sniffer dog is helping you find the stash you lost in your garage. That’s South Africa for you.

So anyway. On Sunday morning I was jonesing bad for a Cornish. My regular supplier was out. He said there’d been a run on Cornishes just after midnight and that a fresh shipment was being held up at the border. He refused to say which border. I think he’s lying. There’s no such thing as cross-border trafficking in pasties. If I do become a snitch, and I’m not saying I will, his name will be the first I give up.

There’s only one other dealer I know of that supplies proper quality gear. Pies that are 85% pure and rarely cut with penguin giblets or other unethical substances smuggled in from the coast. Pies that will make your pupils dilate and your heart race. That dealer is King Pie. If you want to make it in the cutthroat pie trade, you don’t want to be fannying about with cryptic names. You don’t want people coming around wanting to put R50 on number seven in the fourth race. No ambiguity. That’s the secret. Hide in plain sight. The Pie Police aren’t the brightest. They wouldn’t suspect a thing. Besides, they’ve all been redeployed to the Cigarette Squad.

There’s a King Pie in my area that’s too far to walk and too close to drive. It’s a problem. I might have to move. It would be easier if they moved. Thinking I’d suggest this to management, I drove 800m there, parked the car, and walked the remaining 200m. It seemed a healthy compromise.

Fellow pie junkies will know that King Pie is not a shop. Not in the sense that Woolworths is a shop. There is no standing in a hellish queue, then having your hands disfigured by dangerously cheap sanitiser before being allowed inside to browse like a gormless five-toed ungulate. It’s a counter. There is no going inside, per se.

I walked past a few times to make sure it wasn’t a set-up. For all I knew, the government had taken us back to Level 5 on my way over and undercover agents were watching every King Pie in the country.

Steeled for an ambush, I bellied up to the counter. “Cornish,” I said, “How many?” said the dealer. “All of them,” I said, checking over my shoulder. When I turned back, I expected to find her filling the bags. Instead, she had a gun pointed at my head. Slowly, I raised my hands. “I’m not a cop,” I said. “Just give me the good stuff and you’ll never see me again.”

Her face hardened and she extended her arm until the barrel was virtually pressed against my forehead. I closed my eyes. I was happy to die in the presence of my beloved pies. There are worse ways to go. Eating a pie as she pulled the trigger would have been first prize, but I was in no position to make demands.

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard her say, “35.6.” I opened my eyes. She had lowered the gun and was moving to the warmer with a pair of tongs. I watched her warily as she emptied the Cornish section.

“What?” I said.

“35.6,” she said. “You’re normal.” It’s been a while since anyone called me that and I wasn’t sure how it made me feel.

Right away, I went through the five stages of grief, except it wasn’t grief I was feeling and there were only two stages. Disbelief followed by outrage. Here I was, needing pies pretty damn badly, and this stranger had decided, of her own volition, to see if I was afflicted with the coronavirus.

You come in for a sack of pies and the next thing you know, someone presses a hidden button or blows a whistle and before you can flee, you’re wrestled to the floor by thugs in hazmat suits and dragged off to a rat-infested government facility to spend the rest of your life in quarantine. Doesn’t seem right. I turned bright red and my temperature shot up to at least 39.6. It took three Cornishes and a sausage roll to bring it down to manageable levels.

“How very dare you?” I shouted, spraying gristle across the counter. Things are spiralling out of control. What’s next? Cops outside bottle stores taking DNA samples to check if you’ve killed anyone? Psych students in shopping centres randomly selecting people to undergo the Hare Psychopathy Checklist? Actually, that’s not a bad idea.

You might think this flagrant violation of one’s rights couldn’t get any worse, but it does. Guy Hawthorne, who works at this very newspaper, had the gun pointed at his head at three different stores in under 45 minutes. His readings were 32.4, 35.8 and 33.7. You don’t do this to South African journalists of Scottish extraction. These people are unpredictable at the best of times and are almost certainly going to react badly to the news that they are in the final stages of hypothermia and will probably be dead within an hour.

Responding to the health emergency in the only way he knows how, Guy reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a half-jack of Highland Queen and, with a bloodcurdling cry last heard at the Battle of Bannockburn, brought himself back from the brink right there and then.

“Take it now, ye wee sassenach!” he shouted. So she did. This time, it was 46.5 and he was asked to leave the mall at once. He was never going to go quietly. His sort rarely do.

“They may take our temperatures,” he shouted, as security closed in, “but they will never take our freedom!”

Hey babe, take a walk on the solo side

I was standing outside my house last week wondering if I should go for a stroll or scratch the day and go back to bed. It was about midday. Just then a car drove slowly past. The driver saw me and started hooting. His passenger, a dishevelled brute with a red bandanna lashed to his cranium, leaned out of the window and shouted, “You’ll never walk alone!”

I gave him the finger and went back to bed. I don’t need threats at this stage of my life. I’m done with people telling me what I can and can’t do. If it means having to fight for my right to walk alone, I’d rather stop walking.

I can’t imagine anything worse than always having someone at your side when you go for a walk. The endless whining, “Are we there yet?” The inevitable, “I think we’re lost.” The complaining about needing to stop and wee, not here, over there, by the trees, at the bottom of this gorge, come with me, I’m scared. And the chatter. The inexplicable need to chat while walking.

Let me make this clear. I am talking about women, here. Heterosexual men rarely invite their male friends to go on walks. I have never had a bloke call me up and say, “Let’s go for a walk and have a nice chat.” If that had to happen, I would know in an instant that he’d been paid to lure me to an isolated spot and murder me.

When it comes to recreational walking, it is almost always done at the initiative of a woman. Men suggest drives, usually for insalubrious reasons, while women require walks. If a woman suggests going for a drive and insists on doing the driving, there’s a good chance she’ll be taking you to an isolated spot and murdering you.

Later that day, I noticed on social media that countless people were being warned that they’d never walk alone. Was this some kind of weird jihad against perambulating misanthropes? Upon inspection, it turned out to be a slogan attached to Liverpool Football Club, who had won some or other prize. Apparently the last time they won it was in 1990. I also haven’t won a prize in the last 30 years, but you don’t see me driving around threatening strangers with accompanied walks.

Do you know how they won? Of course you do. But in the unlikely event that you don’t, let me tell you. They didn’t win, as you might expect, by scoring a heart-stopping goal in the dying minutes of the game. In fact, there was no game. Liverpool, whose players were at home in their underpants guzzling lager and shouting at the telly, won because Chelsea beat Manchester City. There wasn’t even a roaring crowd because nobody was allowed in to watch. Did it even happen? This sounds like something the Russians might be involved in.

I have come close to becoming addicted to one or two things in my so-called life, but I am most grateful for not having become addicted to English soccer. I have seen otherwise rational people screaming with joy and buying everyone a round one Saturday, and the very next, head-butting the barman and being forcibly restrained from burning down the pub. There are only two things that will make a grown man carry on like that – phencyclidine and Premier League football.

I actually went to an FA Cup final at Wembley a few years ago. I had been drinking a bit and was fairly high on Moroccan hash, like everyone else in the crowd, and it was a fantastic experience. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it memorable, since much of it is a blur. But I do remember not caring who won, which made everything so much more fun. The energy from the crowd was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The voices raised in song, the flying of the colours, the weeing in the broeks. The bits I can remember were spectacular.

I’ve just checked who won. If I have the year right, it was Everton. Apparently one of their players fouled the Watford goalkeeper by heading the ball out of his hands. Go Everton! Elton John was the chairman of Watford and I think he might have been standing next to me. Jowly fellow with sunglasses. Could’ve been anyone, I suppose. Could’ve been a builder. I like to think it was Elton, though. He didn’t seem happy. Not because I wee’d on him. I’m not a complete animal. Not even back then. My shouting for Everton would have upset him more than the spontaneous micturition.

If I absolutely have to watch sport, I generally support the underdog – the side that’s throwing petrol bombs and staggering about with bleeding head wounds while dodging their opponent’s rubber bullets and stun grenades. Saturday’s encounter between Black Lives Matter United and a team fielded by the Louisville Police was a real nail-biter.

You know who should run this country? Soccer players. People don’t care about politics any more. They’ve had enough of politicians and their lying, thieving ways. What’s the worst thing a soccer player has ever done? Luis Suárez had a thing for handball and biting. Diego Maradona hoovered up half of Argentina’s GDP in cocaine. Benni McCarthy put on so much weight his club fined him. This is nothing compared to what politicians get up to.

Speaking of which, how come people can play soccer in the middle of a pandemic and I can’t go to a restaurant? What’s that? I can? Excuse me. I’ll be back soon.

I have cooked for myself for 95 straight days and might not even waste time getting dressed. I will appear out of the gloom like a ravening beast, naked and drooling, and they will have to let me in. They might ask me to leave, or at least erect screens around me, once they see how I behave around a plate of proper food.

There were only three other people in the restaurant, all women and all eating alone. Management couldn’t afford to throw me out, no matter how monstrous my behaviour. After leering at the other patrons for a bit, I realised they were mannequins brought in to ensure that we, the potentially diseased, were kept at a safe distance from one another. It was like something out of Westworld, but with a more coherent narrative.

The thrill of having palatable food brought to me was rudely tempered when the waiter asked what I wanted to drink. I have known the answer to this question for a very long time. But things are not what they were. Not being allowed to have a beer with my grilled chicken burger felt like an atrocity. A violation of my human rights. Being prevented from having a beer with my food felt like a deeply unnatural act. Like incest or line dancing, it wasn’t something I’d ever wanted to experience.

Can you even eat a chicken burger without a beer? For all I know, it’s never been attempted.

Whimpering like a freshly whipped puppy, I asked for a Coke. I had never felt more like someone with a drinking problem. It is, after all, only recovering alcoholics who order soft-drinks with their meal.

The next time I go there, I shall demand to sit with one of the mannequins. The conversation will be on a par with some dates I’ve been on, but at least I’ll be spared the relentlessly annoying, “Can I try some of yours?”

And if anyone walks in on their own, I will shout, “You’ll never eat alone!”

Money for nothing, Covid for free

Aside from dying, another unpleasant side effect of this contemptible virus is that everything comes with a form that needs filling in. For instance, if you have lost your job and hope to get money from the government, you’ll need to be physically and mentally prepared. Venturing into the UIF-Covid-19 Ters National Disaster Application System is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, if there is anything at all wrong with your heart, don’t even risk it.

I haven’t applied because, although my heart is strong, I don’t have the stomach for it. Ever since I was a child, forms have made me break out in hives. There are too many questions with not enough space for the answers. Religion, for instance. Everyone seems to ask that, whether you’re having gender reassignment surgery or applying for a fishing licence. The question tormented me when I was younger because my answer tended to run over into the next six or seven questions and then onto the back of the page. Later, I learnt that a simple ,”No, thanks” would do.

Look, I could probably fortify myself with the right drugs and take a stab at the application if it meant getting free money out of it. I’m a big fan of free money. Like the ANC, I don’t believe money should be earned. Money is a basic human right, but, basically, for certain people only. Done properly, wealth should be accumulated through phone calls, WhatsApp messages or, if you absolutely have to leave the office, a game of golf. The principle of less work, more money, served the government well during the Zuma years, but some of those taps have now been shut, or more likely stolen, and civil servants are having to become more creative in their approach.

I’ve been short of money ever since being asked to leave school. Does that make me a bad person? No. An idiot? Possibly. There are certain things you can do from a fairly young age that go a long way towards minimising the odds of it all ending in a pauper’s grave. Becoming a journalist isn’t one of them. When it comes to paying the rent, wildly exciting, lashings of fun and incipient cirrhosis just doesn’t cut it.

Thing is, I haven’t ever really needed money. Not in the same way that the very poor and the very rich need money. In the latter’s case, that’s a weird acquisitive addiction and they should probably have it seen to. Rehab for people who are never satisfied, no matter how much money they have.

It’s the others I feel sorry for. Those whom the lockdown has pushed to the point of penury and whose only lifeline is the elegantly named Unemployment Insurance Fund Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme National Disaster Application System.

Apparently R40-billion is up for grabs. Well, that was in April. It’s probably down to vouchers for Nando’s by now.

Desperately poor people, and others who are doing just fine but are nevertheless keen to exploit the system, need to go to the labour department’s website and register. There’s an explanation of what it is. “A special UIF benefit to pay employees that are not being paid or are being paid less as a result of Covid-19.” Already the lies start. The virus can be blamed for many things, but people’s inability to earn an income is a direct result of the government’s frequently irrational lockdown laws. Yes, yes, which are also a direct result of the virus, but let’s not waste an opportunity to blame the government.

To qualify for free money, you have to be a business in distress or “any employee who is a contributor (works more than 24 hours a month) and there is an employer and employee relationship”. For a start, nobody in this country works more than 24 hours a month. It’s not the South African way and we’re proud of it. To hell with the Japanese and their outrageous work ethic. We’ll see who lives longest. As for the other bit, well, I’ve had a couple of employer/employee relationships in my time and there were no demands for compensation afterwards. Not from me, anyway.

Once you have registered, you must accept the Memorandum of Agreement Terms and Conditions and the Letter of Agreement Terms and Conditions. If you are illiterate or too weak from hunger to peruse this welter of legalese, just agree and move on. It’s a government contract. Nothing can go wrong.

At some point you are likely to encounter an Excel spreadsheet which requires conversion into a CSV file. This is quite likely the cause of at least a few incidents of gender-based violence. History is littered with examples of brutality sparked by Excel spreadsheets. Without them, Stalin might never have done his purges. Poland would never have been invaded. And I’d still be married.

You are asked to check your profile for updates on the status of your application. Also, your application will be updated faster “if you have captured your employees manually”. It’s unclear if this includes the use of dart guns, nets and lassoes. It doesn’t really matter. Do whatever you have to. The important thing is that they are captured. Alive, preferably.

If you haven’t heard from the department and are not yet dead, you can check your payment status online. If your stolen laptop has been stolen, steal another. This is what you will be told: “If the Rand Value is zero, this means that there has been a rejection.” Coming at a time when you no longer have a job or friends and are likely to end up on a ventilator if someone with Covid-breath coughs on you, rejection is probably the last thing you need.

For those whom the UIF deems sufficiently worthy to be paid, bosses are asked to provide the department with proof that they have distributed the funds to their employees. This is where things get a bit loose. If it were me, it would be proof enough to submit a photo of the employee posing with two bottles of freshly bought brandy and a case of beer. Or, in the case of beneficiaries like Tshepang Phohole, who somehow got the UIF to give him R5.7-million, posing with a Porsche 911 Turbo, two Range Rovers and a race horse.

To be sure, there are bosses, coming from the treacherous class as they do, who will pocket the money and, with big moon eyes, tell their employees their claims were rejected. Such behaviour forms the bedrock of a new post-pandemic capitalism and should not go unrewarded. Employers who show initiative in exploiting the workforce in new and unusual ways are a shining example of the kind of private/public partnership the government strives for in its efforts to give corruption a more acceptable face.

There is, however, an in-built glitch in the system. After the Serengeti-like stampede for free money, it’s beginning to run out. Our lockdown-violating, camo-wearing Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu seems not to have been the only one who never expected the lockdown to be so crippling for the poor. If you don’t know any poor people, or are unable to grasp how money actually works, this is entirely understandable.

And this is why the lockdown has virtually been lifted. The government desperately needs to wean people off the hind tit of the Temporary Employment Relief Scam and get them back to work before this exhausted cash cow is well and truly milked to death.

Finally, if you suspect your employer of fraud, you can call the UIF on 0800-03007. If you suspect the UIF of fraud, I don’t have a number for that.

Scaring the nation with their guns & ammunition

I was surprised to hear that police in America kill roughly a thousand people a year. Not very impressive for a country that size. Here, our police get through that many in a month. Okay, I’m exaggerating. So shoot me.

Frankly, I don’t know why people are surprised. You know what would surprise me? If it turned out that the Ku Klux Klan was being funded by the Dalai Lama. Or that Steve Hofmeyr and Floyd Shivambu were romantically involved.

If a physics professor had to kill a bunch of people in the course of his work, I’d raise an eyebrow. But when I read that a cop has killed someone, I sigh and shake my head and open another beer. It’s a tragedy, but it’s about as unexpected as one of Helen Zille’s tone deaf tweets.

To become a policeman in this country, “you must be able to pass the psychological assessment administered by SAPS, which determines that you fit the profile of a police official”. The funny thing is, the very qualities that make you fit to be a policemen are the exact same qualities that should disqualify you from becoming one. It’s a sort of Dunning-Kruger effect for law enforcement.

Now there’s a word that makes you sit up and take notice. Enforcement. What do you think when you hear it? It evinces in me a fight or flight response. Or, more accurately, flight, followed by confrontation, then fight, maybe a bit more flight and, finally, handcuffs or hospital.

Some people are natural born enforcers. They can be found working as bouncers, repo men or bank managers. The rest are in the police. Obviously I’m talking about cops on the beat and not those who work in departments like forensics, ballistics, catering and so on, where they are hardly ever called upon to shoot someone in the face.

You might say we are all capable of killing a person if we really had to, and you’d be right. But we most likely wouldn’t be able to because it’s impossible to get a firearm licence and our knife skills are limited to buttering toast.

I’m not sure I have what it takes to kill people. I only recently stopped fishing moths out of the toilet, and that’s more because of lower back issues than any desire to watch the little fuckers drown.

You also have to be the kind of person who takes pleasure in telling other people what to do. Or, more accurately, what not to do. You need to enjoy taking command of situations. You can’t, for instance, be assigned to crowd control and then wander about saying, “I think everyone should just do whatever they want, man.” Your fellow officers are unlikely to appreciate it. The crowd would, though. They’d hug you and fist-bump you and pretty girls would offer to have sex with you. If I ever became a cop, I’d be that guy.

And you need to have a thing for uniforms. I pretty much wear the same clothes every day, but that’s more of a pandemic peccadillo than a predilection for uniforms. Some people turn into Nazis the moment they put on a uniform. Give a man a fishing rod and he’ll sell it for drugs. But give a man a uniform and a fishing rod and in no time at all he’ll be pepper spraying you and confiscating your fish.

We all know someone who possesses the attributes of a law enforcement officer. It could be a work colleague, a relative or even your spouse, although why you’d marry someone like that is a mystery to me. To be fair, they usually only become like that over time.

I saw them in the army. Even though we were all still teenagers, these guys were determined to make lance-corporal just to be able to have that tiny bit of authority over the rest of us who never gave a damn about rank and just wanted to get through two years without being shot or sent to DB.

The corporate world is awash in people with the instincts of policemen. I am ashamed to admit there have been times in my life that I have been a boss of people. One of the occupational hazards of working in the private sector, as opposed to the civil service, is that promotion is often a consequence of competence. I was merely the best of a bad bunch.

Having drunk from the poisoned chalice of middle management, I can say that I lacked whatever it took to rule through fear. Lacked might be the wrong word. We all have the capacity to be screaming banshees and utter bastards, but I got the best from my underlings without hardly ever having to put on the administrative jackboots. My crew knew it was okay to have a few drinks at lunch or arrive at work lightly stoned. Just as long as I could do the same. Egalitarianism rocks.

If someone had to force me, at gunpoint, to join the police, I’d choose whatever department it is that hostage negotiators work in. I imagine it’s the department with a Jacuzzi around the back, cold beer on tap and naked Polish fire dancers three times a week, otherwise what’s the point in having these mad negotiating skills.

In a situation, I’d ask to speak to the hostages. Get them to see things from another perspective. Make them realise that he’s so much more than just a maniac with a gun. I’d get them doing mindfulness exercises, then I’d walk in with my hands up and convince the hostage-taker to take us all to a nearby bar because it’s happy hour. The police would then have to bring in a second hostage negotiator to negotiate with me and I’d negotiate with that hostage negotiator to come into the bar and before you know it the place would be heaving with happy drunk hostages and hostage negotiators and a relaxed hostage taker and the police would eventually give up and leave and we’d all live happily ever after in a bar that never closes or opens.

I have met policemen in my life, but I have never had one over for dinner or a game of charades. When I was younger, a friend – let’s call him Gavin Meiring, because that’s his name – chose to do his national service in the police rather than the army. One afternoon he arrived at Durban’s Bay of Plenty in his yellow fokofpolisiekar. A few of us had been surfing and Constable Meiring seemed not to mind us climbing into the back of the van for a laugh. Then someone found a twist of weed ditched by a proper prisoner and we confiscated it right away.

My own father was a cop for the first few months of my life. He signed up because he fancied the idea of being a detective. That explained why, when I was older, he would interrogate me in the most brutal of fashions when I came home late after crashing the car. Anyway, his supervisor kept him on the beat, where he accumulated an impressive array of home-made knives and bloodstained screwdrivers that he’d bring home for me to play with.

We need to change the system. Stop recruiting people just because they have a matric, no visible tattoos, can speak a recognisable language and can’t get a job anywhere else. Let’s start hiring philosophers, psychologists and lapsed lawyers. Unleash brain power, not firepower. Open minds, not wounds. Spray love, not teargas. It’s very late. I should probably go and lie down.

  • This column first appeared in The Citizen on 17 June. More every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/

June goes well with alcohol

I cannot bring myself to write another column about the only thing people are writing columns about. How much more can be said about a virus, a lockdown or a government that … I can’t. I just can’t. All I can say is, at least we don’t live in America. Given the choice between a Clicks card and a Green Card, don’t bother looking for me at the airport. I’ll be at the self-medication counter.

What else do we have in common that’s unrelated to the mangled phantasmagoria that now passes for life on earth? A lack of appreciation for art? An aversion to hard work? A hankering for moist vanilla cake? Inspiring stuff. Hold on. How about June? We all have to live through June. April and May were the months of things of which we shan’t speak. But June. Now there’s a word redolent with possibility.

The ancient Romans had it that June was the most auspicious month in which to be married. My experience is that there is no good month in which to be married. November, though, is the best month in which to get divorced. The weather is good, holidays are around the corner and you don’t have to waste money buying presents for someone who enrages you on sight.

Juno, from whence June was named, is portrayed as either a cruel and savage goddess or a kind and loving one. Much like every woman I’ve ever known, depending on how hungry she was at any given time. Juno was married to Jupiter, king of the gods, who was also her brother. I imagine anyone would be a little unpredictable under those circumstances.

Not everyone in the world feels the same way about June. In the northern hemisphere, June makes people want to drink and have sex with each other. Out here in the southern hemisphere, June makes us want to drink and kill each other. Which isn’t all that different from other months, admittedly. It’s just that the onset of winter makes us more homicidal than usual.

In the United States, June is African-American Music Appreciation Month. Speaking from a panic room in the White House, President Trump called on black Americans to show more appreciation for their music and focus less on trying not to be murdered by the police.

June is National Smile Month is the United Kingdom’s largest oral health campaign, which is ironic given the torrent of filthy lies that spews from the mouths of Boris Johnson and his disturbing organ-grinder Dominic Cummings.

Monday, 1 June, was World Milk Day. It was also the day bottle stores reopened after weeks of prohibition. Forget milk. If you drank anything other than alcohol on Monday, you’re not a true South African and ought to be ashamed of yourself. I suggest that 1 June henceforth be celebrated in this country as National Drunk Day. June 2 should also be declared a public holiday. Let’s call it National Hangover Day.

Wednesday was Opium Suppression Movement Day in Taiwan. No wonder nobody wants to recognise them. If there’s one thing the world needs right now, it’s more opium. It should be piped into office buildings and shopping malls everywhere. Stop with the suppression, Taiwan. It’s not cool.

June 19 is World Sauntering Day. I am an accomplished saunterer and would easily take gold if sauntering were to ever become an Olympic sport.

June 23 is International Widows Day, a day for mourning and, for some, a day for celebrating.

No. I can’t do this either. I’d rather pour superglue into my eyes than keep writing about things that happen in June. The plague is the only thing to write about for the foreseeable future. There’s a redundant phrase for you. If the future is anything at all, it’s certainly not foreseeable.

I’m writing this on Monday afternoon after having opened my first beer in what feels like forever. That first cold gush of beery goodness sent my body into paroxysms of happiness. Well, maybe not my entire body. There will always be the odd organ or gland that sits there, arms folded, unwilling to join in the fun. “Here we go again,” they say, shaking their little sanctimonious heads.

I can’t say I’ve felt better for not drinking these past few weeks. Well, I suppose I can’t really say I haven’t been drinking. Technically, I did have a bit of gin and maybe a spot of rum. And the odd tequila shooter. But I don’t count that as drinking. That’s cocktails, that is. Now, beer. That’s different. Beer is a real drinking man’s drink. Look at that. I’ve only had one and already I’m making no sense.

Cursed with a pathological loathing for queues, there was no way I was going to go to the bottle store on Monday. I would give it two or three days to allow the stampede to subside to a dull roar. To my credit, I did make it to 10am before cracking.

The best thing about masks and social distancing is that it makes chatting to strangers difficult. I find chatting to friends difficult enough. I could see there were people in the queue who wanted to chat. What would we say? Been a while, hey. Yep. Thirsty. Yup. Looking forward to a sundowner. Yeah, right. Like you’re going to wait for sunset before tucking in. Haha. How about you? Well, since you ask, I intend experimenting heavily with many different kinds of alcohol and fully expect that, by the weekend, I will have met and married my third wife, discovered a vaccine for Covid-19 and learnt how to speak fluent cat. Never underestimate the power of alcohol.

Mostly, though, the people in the queue just wanted everyone else to think they aren’t like the desperadoes and berserkers who started queueing at 5am. We’re all just normal social drinkers lining up outside a liquor store at 10am on a Monday. Quite normal.

But their eyes betrayed them. Their eyes said they were anxious. What if they run out of stock before I can get inside? Should I become a wine drinker? And the unspoken fear of fears. What if I’ve actually enjoyed being sober and no longer relish that warm glow of incipient inebriation?

I want to turn around and reassure everyone that it’s all going to be okay. That this is only Level 3 and look at us, standing outside a bottle store that’s not shut or on fire. There are no vicious cops in sight, no carts being pushed through the village with a man shouting, “Bring out your dead!”

Life is good! We can buy rotisserie chickens! Our domestic workers can return! Life can only get better from here on. For a start, the giddy pleasures and wild delights of Level 2 have yet to be made known to us. And, if we are to speak of Level 1, let us do it in hushed, reverential tones. We dare not even contemplate what ineffable rewards our benevolent overlords may bestow upon our unworthy heads should we live long enough to make it to this mythical moment in time.

Surfers waive the rules

In these outlandish times, the measure of all things needs to be constantly recalibrated if we hope to stand a chance of emerging relatively healthy and sane. So I don’t know if what is happening is a good thing or a bad thing.

I went surfing the other day. Don’t judge me. I didn’t drive through the suburbs spreading death and disease to get to the beach. I walk out of my gate, over some rocks and into the big wet thing. Yes, technically I broke the Law, but I, too, feel broken by the Law, and that’s all I can say about that.

I was among a handful of outlaws bobbing about in a cold, undulating ocean. A few guys and girls in their early twenties, a smattering of wild-eyed teenagers. One kid couldn’t have been more than twelve.

The waves were on the small side and there was no aggressive hustling as there usually is at this spot. Everyone was getting their turn. The sun, fat and orange like Donald Trump but way more useful, headed for the horizon as flocks of sacred ibises flew overhead in perfect formation. Then, in an instant, the mood darkened. Four police vans pulled up in the parking lot. They were about as welcome as a swarm of orcs gatecrashing Bilbo Baggins’s birthday party.

For surfers surfing illegally, there aren’t too many options in a situation like this. You could try paddling to Australia but you’d just get thrown into one of their filthy internment camps. The best is to sit tight and hope that the cops get hungry and go back to the station for a bunch of confiscated pies.

I wasn’t too worried. I’ve been arrested before – once in the 1980s under the Police Act, which was interesting. What I wasn’t keen on was spending a night in the cells in my wetsuit. A man of my boyish good looks and natural charm, wearing nothing but a figure-hugging latex rubber bodysuit, could easily find himself in trouble. Maybe they’d let me go home and change. Slip into something less comfortable. It seemed unlikely.

The younger kids, though. They were panicking. Their parents had encouraged them to get the hell out of the house for an hour or two so that mommy and daddy can have some alone time. Now look.

Unlike sex, surfing is not a team sport. Someone might paddle over and begrudgingly give a hand if it looks like you’re drowning, but generally it’s every man for himself. The coronavirus doesn’t stand a chance. You’d have to pay a surfer to get him to give you Covid-19.

The youngest of the crew was sitting near me. He had been having a great time until the cops arrived. The unsmiling enforcers of our insane new laws had spread out, sealing off the beach, and were settling in to wait for their catch of the day.

As I said, your choices are limited. You could pretend to be a piece of kelp and stay very still and hope that a great white shark doesn’t mistake you for a wounded seal. Or you could just keep surfing and wait for cover of darkness.

“What should we do?” the kid said to me, the very last person anyone should ask for sensible advice. His little privileged face was creased with concern and he seemed close to tears.

And that’s when it struck me. In the days of yore, white South Africans saw the police as allies. You’d call the Flying Squad if you were in trouble. Or if you saw a darkie acting suspiciously by, say, walking in your street after dark.

Sure, that particular kid wasn’t around in those days, but even so, it’s unlikely he or anyone in his family had ever considered the cops to be anything other than the Good Guys.

This whole fearing, dodging and lying to the police is all very new to white people. Out of nowhere (China), a virus is rapidly causing them to rethink their loyalty to an elected government and reconsider their trust in a police service which is quite clearly more of a force than a service.

Even though most whities never really bought into the ANC as a party capable of governing, they still clung to the idea that they could call 10111 and know that help would be on its way.

Now, they’re not so sure. Now the police no longer seem like the kind of people you’d want to call under any circumstances. If you had to, say, suffer an ischemic event while out for an illegal walk at 10am, you’d call anyone but the cops. Nobody wants to face additional charges of being drunk in public because their speech is slurred. Police are trained to recognise the symptoms of drinking, not strokes.

Obviously not all cops are vicious brutes incapable of independent, rational thought. But some people simply can’t help turning into instant assholes the moment you put them in a uniform. Hitler was probably pretty chilled on weekends, slopping about the Berghof in T-shirt and leather lederhosen, getting high on Bavarian skunk while painting tastefully lit nudes of Eva Braun. But come Monday, it’s on with the Schirmmütze and jackboots and suddenly it’s all, “Erschlagen alle Juden!”

People say children are adaptable and can handle anything. I don’t know about that. The kid in the water with me looked genuinely scared. This was clearly his first face-off with a bunch of angry black men with guns and handcuffs. Rookie.

He also knew that if he was arrested, his parents would discover that he was out surfing instead of doing virtual homework in his bedroom. During lockdown, angering mothers especially is to be avoided at all costs. Having had their husbands in the house day and night for two straight months, they are perilously close to cracking. There would be repercussions. Banned from surfing and without access to his phone, there’d be no point in living. I feel the same.

A lot of white kids, unless they come from a family of self-righteous snitches, are discovering that the authorities are not necessarily on their side. It’s quite an awakening. Breaking the law is a novel experience for a lot of whities and there’s a good chance they will develop a taste for it. As I said in the beginning, I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It could go either way.

I didn’t surf today. Instead, I poured myself a bootlegged gin and tonic and stood in my sand dune of a garden, watching the sun melt into the sea. I saw a dad push his kid onto a wave. He couldn’t have been more than seven or eight. The kid, not the father, although they do start young in these parts.

Life seems so much better when the police aren’t around.

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  • This column first appeared in The Citizen on 27 May. More every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/

Of pork pies and piglets

Bit tricksy, this lifting of the locky-locky.

We don’t know how it’s going to work, but then again, I’m pretty sure they don’t either. In South Africa, the word ‘they’ is a bullet that’s been fired discriminately for many years.

In this case, They be the masters and mistresses of our fate. We are very much in an Us and Them situation. And for once, it’s not a racial thing. Well, it is, but also it isn’t. It’s primarily a power thing. If you command the army and the police, you can do whatever you please. Liberal snowflakes like Hendrik Verwoerd and PW Botha knew this very well. It’s no coincidence that our police  minister wears a pork-pie hat just like they did. Oink-oink.

I drove to the mall this morning after realising that if I had to spend another entire day in my own company, I’d almost certainly do myself a mischief. No, not myself. I’m too gutless for that. I’d turn on someone else. My neighbours, perhaps. I have reached Level Blindly Lashing Out and, going by what I see on social media, I am far from alone.

On my way to line up outside the supermarket along with hordes of other potentially diseased wearers of unclean masks and recalcitrant maintainers of social distancing, I drove past my local township. It looked like any other pandemic-free Saturday. The vegetable market was buzzing, women were selling second-hand clothes on the pavement, men were chatting and laughing, children played among the debris of their broken dreams.

Fine with me. What do you want to do? Chase everyone back into their corrugated iron shacks? Force people to buy masks when they can barely afford food? Arrest all 40 000? That’s a lot of paperwork, sergeant. Keep driving. We saw nothing. Let’s go harass those surfer kids down the road. Bust them for being in the ocean. Maybe we get lucky and find a granny walking her dog after 9am.

For obvious reasons, townships aren’t complying with lockdown regulations and police have given up trying to enforce pretty much anything apart from prohibition and the curfew. For equally obvious reasons, infection hotspots are more likely to develop in areas where people are jammed into taxis and pension payout queues and are living la vida loco like there’s no tomorrow. Which, as we now know, there isn’t.

Meanwhile, over in Karenville, the cops are stalking the beaches and leafy suburbs hoping to nail errant whities for violating one or other of the government’s many unhinged new rules. Covid-19 is unlikely to devastate too many white suburbs because residents have masks and sanitisers and big houses with gardens and snitches for neighbours.

The gummint says they will or might or are thinking about imposing different lockdown levels based on where the hotspots are. On paper, this means townships would stay locked down forever, while white people are allowed to roam free. It’s never going to happen. The optics would be appalling. Brutalist sociological architecture comes at a price and it took a virus for whites to pay it. Collective responsibility, collective punishment. Nobody ever said life was fair.

The mall was, at least, a brief diversion from the madness. Most shops were open and there was more stuff I was allowed to buy. I still had free will. Not entirely, but enough to not want to firebomb the building, form a rebel army and overthrow the government.

In the bakery section I spotted two illicit pies lurking in one of those incubator affairs. I demanded both and began wolfing the chicken and mushroom one right away. It was like warmed up crack. The pie lady said she needed to put a price sticker on it and, with some reluctance, I returned the half-ravaged pastry to its mutilated packet. I made sure to keep one hand on it. I was so overcome with my pie that I inadvertently made off with another man’s trolley.

On my way out I stopped at Dis-Chem for a bottle of cough mixture to wash the pie down. There was a queue of four people outside the door. I watched them for a while while they watched me watching them. Were we smiling at each other? There was no way to tell. Just a lot of weird eye action. The regular enforcer at the door wasn’t there. What had happened was this. A woman had decided of her own volition to wait for someone to leave before she entered. More people had come up and were now standing behind her.

I looked into the shop. It was virtually empty. As I walked through the door, I made big farmyard animal eyes and a baa-baa sound. I imagine they thought I was mentally unwell.

Then I almost collapsed in the self-medication aisle when my stupid mask decided to murder me. I was sucking in massive amounts of nitrous oxide, or whatever the hell it is that comes out of my mouth, when suddenly my vision went all blurry and I had to stagger to the geriatric section and sit down in a wheelchair, where I fell asleep.

 

  • This column first appeared in The Citizen. Fresh ones every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/