The end of an error

2008-05-28 00:00

I get back from Spain and the first thing I see is a picture of a man in flames on the front page of the newspapers. My first thought was that Eskom had finally given up and people were setting foreigners alight just to keep warm at night.

I imagined families chatting about their day while huddled around burning Somalis, the children doing their homework by the flickering light as dad chucks a fresh Zimbabwean on the pile.

My second thought was: “That can’t be it. What’s wrong with you?” I got a firm grip on myself and set about getting to the bottom of this peculiar business. I thought I had the hang of it after about nine seconds of skimming the local papers, but then Essop Pahad, the Dalit responsible for keeping flies, journalists and international opprobrium off our non-resident president, complicated matters by saying: “We need to understand that xenophobia has historically been used by right wing populist movements to mobilise particularly the lumpen proletariat against minority groups in society.”

Of course. It’s blindingly obvious that the Boeremag is behind this. For a start, the violence has all the hallmarks of an organisation known for its raw cunning and razor-sharp intellect. Ever since police inadvertently uncovered their brilliant plan to lure all the darkies out of the country by leaving free food along the highways, the right wing has been looking for interesting new ways to mobilise the lumpen proletariat.

Cut to …

Union Buildings — night.

Mbeki: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore, and then run?

Pahad: I would say that society’s dynamics become manifest in the dynamics of the reciprocal connections created between reality’s myriad facets.

Mbeki: Johnnie Walker?

Pahad: Certainly.

Mbeki: From each according to his ability. Cheers.

Pahad: To each according to his needs. Nazdarovya.

I hesitate to write in any great depth about the recent events instigated by that Afro-Saxon quisling, Morgan Tsvangirai, to force Zimbabweans to go home and vote for him, because I am not altogether convinced that there is a lighter side to xenophobia.

Let me just say, though, that I think we should spare a thought for all the families out there who have been left without their Malawian houseboys and other imported factotums of that ilk. Good help is damnably hard to come by these days.

And so, to matters more serious. It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of circumstances necessitating that I relinquish this valuable piece of literary real estate with immediate effect.

More than a quarter of a million words. That’s what I have given you over the years. And what have I got in return? Vicious abuse. Death threats. Liver damage. Offers of marriage.

Many of you never failed to let me down in your steadfast refusal to send wads of cash or blank cheques when I was at my weakest.

Then there were the others — the ones who showered me with kind words and indecent proposals. Thank you. Some of you will be hearing from Brenda soon.

To those who mailed me mind-altering substances to encourage me to continue

writing, if I could remember who you were you would not be forgotten.

To those of you living overseas who keep ordering my latest book via http://bentrovato. book.co.za/ please stop it at once. The postage costs me more than the book is worth.

However, now that my filth will no longer disgrace this fine newspaper, I anticipate something of a stampede for On The Run, the collection of columns available through the aforementioned blog and in assorted book shops.

The offer to devalue your copy by scribbling something in it still stands.Ultimately, the responsibility for all of this nonsense must fall squarely on the head of Cape Argus editor, Chris Whitfield, who, as editor of the Cape Times in 2002, over-medicated on Windhoek Lager one winter’s evening and rashly agreed to let me loose on the op-ed page.

When I sent off a carefully crafted and highly emotional e-mail informing him that I was laying down my pen after 65 straight months, he was so devastated that all he could manage was a single word. “Nooit,” responded Whitfield. A man of few words, indeed.

One word less and he would be a man of no words at all. I can only imagine that the wracking sobs and floods of tears precluded him from saying more.

The incumbent editor, Tyrone August, has courageously fielded much of the fall-out generated by this so-called column and I have no doubt that the Freedom of Expression

Institute will want to award him some sort of medal in the near future. That goes for The Witness too.

That’s it, then. My work here is done. Time to saddle up the old dromedary and limp off into the sunset.

Adios, bandidos.

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