This is the 29th consecutive year since the advent of democracy in which I have neither murdered nor sexually assaulted anyone. I have refrained from hijacking cars and taking hostages. I have paid my taxes and even some of my traffic fines. I continue to withdraw money from ATMs instead of blowing them up and I hardly ever shoplift.
Today, National Orders will once again be bestowed upon the worthies, and, inexplicably, I have once again been overlooked. I don’t know how much longer I can maintain this aberrant lifestyle without some kind of acknowledgment from the government.
There are six orders and, like in the Olympics, you can win gold, silver or bronze. I don’t think I’d want to come third, though. It’s like being told you made a contribution, just not impressive enough. Can do better. Must try harder next year. I had enough of that in my school reports.
I am pleased not to have been considered for the Order of Mendi for Bravery because all three recipients of the silver died while saving others. It’s not that I wouldn’t try to help someone in trouble, but it would very much depend on who they were. I doubt I’d risk my life to save, say, Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin.
Nobody won gold for bravery this year, which suggests an unusually high bar for a country with such low standards in everything else.
Only two people took gold in the Order of Luthuli event, both of whom are no longer on this mortal coil. One was Ethel someone-or-other who “kept up the morale of our freedom fighters in exile”. Considering that today’s cadres have caused far more damage to the country’s infrastructure and economy than MK ever did, it is perhaps time to look for a fresh Ethel. It’s okay, I don’t know what I mean either.
The Order of Mapungubwe recognises South Africans “who have accomplished excellence and exceptional achievement to the benefit of South Africa”. That would explain why the podium was empty apart from two dudes with PhDs who scraped in with a bronze each.
My favourite is the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, and not just because most of Oliver’s latter-day companions turned into scoundrels of the first order. Five people won silver in this illustrious category. Tracy Chapman was one. Her first album came out when I was changing nappies. She helped me get through the horror. Thanks, Tracy. I would’ve given you gold for that alone.
Another was Peter Tosh (36 years posthumous). Didn’t see that one coming. “For his contribution to the liberation struggle using his musical talent to advance the liberation cause worldwide through incisive and awareness-raising lyrics in his music.” I grew up in Durban to the sounds of the Bush Doctor. Here’s a sample of his incisive lyrics:
“Doctors smoke it, Nurses smoke it
Judges smoke it, Even the lawyers too
Legalise it – don’t criticise it
Legalise it and I will advertise it.”
Now that Comrade Peter has been given a top award, perhaps the government will wake up and allow trade in South Africa’s most valuable cash crop. What’s the worst that can happen? The fiscus gets boosted by a couple of billion a year? People start driving too slowly? Workers take more snack breaks?
I’ve just discovered what’s worse than winning bronze. It’s being told that you made the list and then, a week later, hearing that you’ve been dumped. This actually happened. The Presidency removed Duma Ndlovu, Freek Robinson and Mike Horne from the list. I’m sure Freek had already bought a new safari suit.
Ndlovu was up for the Order of Ikhamanga (silver) “for his sterling work in the television and film industry”. Whoah, shouted the ANC Veteran’s League. Did nobody read the State Capture report? Sorry, mumbled Cyril, my bad.
Next up, Freek Robinson (also silver), “for his contribution to journalism. His work encompassed the recording of history in motion”. So you’re saying a man who went to Hendrik Verwoerd High School and was embedded deep in the belly of PW Botha’s SABC during the 1980s shouldn’t be lauded as a national hero? Damnably unfair.
Last in line to have his hopes raised and dashed was Mike Horn “for his contribution to action and endurance sport”. We aren’t told how, in the space of seven days, he went from being “one of the greatest living explorers of our time” to someone absolutely not suitable for an award, even if it was only bronze. Sure, he’s white and lives in Switzerland, but is that enough to disown the man? Probably.
Maybe it’s because he can run naked up Mount Everest and swim underwater across the Atlantic. Nobody likes a show-off. Or perhaps it’s because he once described the time he spent in a brutal battalion of bloodthirsty berserkers in northern Namibia as “a good experience”.
Next time, Mr President, let me choose the heroes. Or scrap the silly business entirely. The only orders South Africans are interested in are the kind you give to the barman.