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Ben Trovato

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

White people love complaining almost as much as they love rugby and Woolworths

White South Africans, much like white sharks, are one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet.

They have a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and non-Caucasians are often afraid to venture into their territory for fear of being attacked.

Some, however, are merely inquisitive and will circle warily before racing off in their Toyota Cressidas. Others, perhaps sensing their way of life is under threat, might go on the offensive. A lot of the time, though, this will be nothing more serious than a mock charge. Stand your ground and they will more often than not back off.

White people, particularly alpha males, are easily enraged. They have been bumped from their slot at the top of the food chain and are struggling to adapt to their new position.

In many instances, they can be calmed down with offers of raw meat and brandy. There is nothing a white South African likes more than a chunk of charred chicken and a bottle of cheap liquor. If he has just eaten and is already drunk, he might show no interest in your offer. This is when he is at his most dangerous.

The best way to ward off an attack, verbal or physical, is to threaten him with charges of racism. He will retreat faster than a vampire being sprayed with holy water.

The artist, the gallery and the newspaper folded like a weak hand of cards

By the time you read this I’ll be on the road somewhere between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Yes, indeed. I am running in the Comrades Marathon. My first ever.

I found myself in the area quite by chance last week. Brenda lured me into the car with a handful of biltong and a bag of pills way past their sell-by date. “Come along, boy,” she urged. “We go walkies.”

I jumped into the back seat and lay there slobbering and panting until she slipped me a chunk of kudu and what looked like a distant relative of the amphetamine family.

We recently joked about my gradual withdrawal from the outside world, marked by disturbing symptoms of senile squalor syndrome. Okay, it wasn’t so much joking as it was Brenda standing in the doorway hissing and spitting like a wounded wolverine while I sank deeper into my nest of filth.

I had spent nine days in front of the TV watching a drama that should have been slapped with an 18 age restriction, so brutal were the scenes of an artless Freedom of Expression, wearing little more than a trusting smile and a pretty frock, being dragged kicking and screaming from the 21st century and bludgeoned to death right there in front of the children.

When a lynch mob marched on a house of art and threatened to hang Freedom of Expression from the nearest tree, I passed clean out.

Open Letter to Comrade Jacob Zuma, Regarding “The Spear”

Dear Comrade Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the First, by the Grace of God President of the Republic of South Africa, Head of the Household, Defender of the Faith, Pastor of the Flock, Defeater of the Mbeki, Unifier of the Nation, Msholozi of Msholozis, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Conqueror of the Apartheid Regime and Owner of Property in Nkandla, I hereby greet you.

I am using your full title as I do not wish to be accused of disrespecting you. Please do not think all white people are the same as Brett Murray. Did you know that Brett Murray is an anagram of Merry But Rat? How appropriate. Point this out to your lawyer.

And did you also know that he has a master’s of fine arts degree from that bastion of white supremacy, the University of Cape Town? The title of his dissertation was A Group of Satirical Sculptures Examining Social and Political Paradoxes in the South African Context. I don’t know what this means but I know it can’t be good. That was in 1989, which means he was trying to destroy our fragile democracy five years before we got it.

The Merry Rat has also won two Irma Stern scholarships. As you know, Irma Stern was an Imperial Wizard of the Schweizer-Reneke chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Furthermore, Murray’s so-called art is harboured in countries like Austria (Hitler, anyone?) and Angola. If I were you, I would call up Lindiwe Sisulu right now and tell her that we march on Luanda at dawn.

You want to get all upper-case with me?

My face could have been ripped off when the bank decided to freeze my account.

Let us, for argument’s sake, agree that I was having a business lunch at, say, Teazers on Tuesday. I am speaking hypothetically, of course.

Where I come from, business is best conducted late at night among rogues and reprobates and the eternally discreet Mr Jack Daniels.

Imagine, if you will, that I spent the evening sampling a range of imported beverages, while appreciating the assets of several fecund fillies fresh from the Balkans.

The bill is presented in a manner befitting the lickerish milieu. Perhaps it is written in curlicue on a pair of lace panties, or rolled up and constrained by a scarlet garter.

I produce my credit card with a flourish and a doe-eyed Ukrainian virgin takes the card away to be cloned so that her family in Sevastopol may survive another month, but then returns two minutes later with a gentleman who is 3m tall and has metal hooks for hands. He is there to explain that my credit card has been declined.

Even though he speaks Russian, I get the message, because he has me by the throat and is apparently planning to perform a rudimentary tracheotomy with the sharp edge of my card.

From my bed in the casualty ward, I use my one unbroken finger to e-mail my bank to find out what the hell happened. The reply is quick: “I have done an investigation and noticed that the account is placed on a Fica freeze.”

My first encounter with auto eroticism

Many of you have been sending cards, flowers and even boxes of African spitting scorpions in the wake of the brutal murder of my beloved Hyundai.

Thank you for your condolences, but that’s enough now.

For those with benzodiazepine addictions, let me refresh your impaired memory.

Two months ago I took my car to the tyre experts in Fish Hoek to have its wheels balanced ahead of an urgent trip to Durban. They offered to service it as well. Having been repeatedly dropped on my head as a child, I accepted.

To cut a long journey short, the engine blew up before I had even reached the N2.

An industry specialist (not a relative) subsequently found that if the garage had done its job properly, this tragedy could have been averted.

President Zuma is partly responsible for what happened next. He is our role model when it comes to the rejection of culpability under any circumstances and he set the bar pretty damn high in 2009. Or low. Never underestimate the power of denial. It wozzen me. I didden do it. You godda problem? Squeak to my lawyer. Many of our citizens continue to follow his example.

Let them eat crake

This is the fourth consecutive year in which I have neither killed nor raped anyone. I have refrained from hijacking cars and taking hostages. I have paid my taxes and some of my traffic fines. I continue to withdraw money from ATMs instead of blowing them up and I hardly ever shoplift.

And yet I have been overlooked for national honours once again. I don’t know how much longer I can maintain this aberrant lifestyle without some kind of acknowledgement from the government.

Any idiot can see I am more deserving than many of the recipients on this year’s list. I should at the very least have been given the Order of Mendi for Bravery.

Even though I failed to rescue anyone from drowning, which appears to be the criteria, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I spent almost every day on the beach looking for people to save. Apart from two attention-seeking tail-gunners in Speedos pretending to drown, everyone swam about with no trouble at all. Damn their selfish eyes.

I even offered a farm boy R27 to allow me to carry him from the surf and give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

There may have been a misunderstanding because he resisted fiercely when I moved in to deliver the kiss of life. An angry mob chased me off the beach as if I were little more than a common pervert.

I should also have been in line for the Order of Ikhamanga.

The government’s information website says: “The Ikhamanga (Strelitzia) plant symbolises the unique beauty of achievements by men and women who carry colourful South African [sic] aloft in the fields of creativity, arts, culture, music, journalism and sport.”

I would carry anyone aloft if it meant getting the recognition I deserve. Well, maybe not anyone. It would be a struggle to lift, say, Khulubuse Zuma without the help of a block and tackle.

But struggle is what these honours are all about. Johnny Clegg struggles to lift his foot above his head these days and Cheeky Watson struggles to keep his son, Luke, from vomiting on the Springbok jersey. That’s why they were both on the list.

People think Africa is the doomed continent. They are wrong.

I am struggling to build up a good head of outrage. Everything I read seems unpleasantly familiar. Cops are crooked, tenders are rigged, men are shot, women are raped, the capitalists are winning, the Sharks are losing …

Perhaps I should pack it all in and begin a new life. Get a proper job, drink light beer, take up jogging, go out for family pizza night, recycle my rubbish, wear V-neck sweaters, take an interest in sport, vote for the DA and, most important of all, stop reading newspapers.

While trying to decide which would be less painful – changing my lifestyle or shooting myself in the face – a headline caught my attention: “Bong sale calms Dutch market.”

I imagined the market was in uproar because Israel’s nuclear weapons programme was making the oil-producing countries jumpy and driving up the price of fuel, which, in turn, drove up the price of cheese, eels and poffertjes, which can’t possibly be as gay as they sound.

The Dutch aren’t big on rampaging, so the market probably ground to a standstill as shoppers gathered in small, tidy groups to mutter darkly and shake their heads. In Holland, this is the equivalent of a full-blown riot.

Then, moments before a policeman arrived, a hemp-coated hippie set up a table and began selling bongs for 80% off. People crowded around, laughing and chatting and stocking up on hubbly-bubblies ahead of the cruel European winter.

Apparently I misread the headline: “Bond sale calms Dutch market.”

The story was full of weasel words like “budget limit” and “savings package” and “deficit target”.

The crisis was caused when Geert Wilders pulled his Freedom Party out of the government because he was no longer willing to be dictated to by Brussels, whatever the hell that means.

Wilders looks like the result of an experiment that went awry in one of Josef Mengele’s racial purification projects. He is over three metres tall, with platinum hair that is styled in a wind tunnel driven by solar power or, on overcast days, 28 Arab refugees on bicycles. In terms of Freedom Party policies, these are the only immigrants who should be allowed to live in Holland.

People think Africa is the doomed continent. They are wrong. Europe is the new title-holder. While the rich dig their moats, making sure the drawbridge man is on speed-dial, the wretched refuse are abandoning their teeming shores like the rats they are.

If my birthday present doesn’t speak English, I may take her as a second wife

It is my birthday today and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a sultry, underdressed babe from the Balkans to participate in the festivities.

Every year, for the past 47 years, Brenda has asked me what I want for my birthday. My reply is always the same. “A threesome, please.”

It almost happened in 1969 but Brenda discovered they shared an interest in horse riding and, while I was in the garage mixing up a bucket of amyl nitrate and baby oil, they went off to the stables.

I have resented horses ever since.

This could be my lucky year. In fact, if my birthday present doesn’t speak English, I think I may take her as a second wife. Talking is the cause of a tremendous amount of marital discord and a permanent communication breakdown with a spare wife could be the answer to a happy marriage.

I must say, I rather like what Jacob Zuma is doing with the Vietcong-type underground tunnels connecting his bedroom with those of his wives. Every country should have a president with a revolving door policy, even if it is only visible to the naked women.

I would also like a tiger for my birthday. Stripes make me look thinner. I expect this is the reason wildlife filmmaker John Varty began collecting tigers a few years ago. I will do things differently. For a start, I won’t call my tiger Corbett. Tigers prefer fierce names, like Shere Khan or Imran Khan.

So you could hardly blame Corbett for taking a swing at Varty last month. “Now who’s got a gay name?” snarled Corbett, flicking blood from his claws. The other tigers were suitably impressed. “Farty,” they shouted as one. “Farty has a gay name.” Tigers can’t say their vees.

From what I saw, fracking is too good for the Karoo

I have been doing a fierce amount of travelling between Cape Town and Durban of late. The East Coast is hungry for crystal meth and perlemoen while the West Coast is crying out for marijuana and vindaloo. It’s a lucrative trade if you don’t mind being seen behind the wheel of a bakkie. Personally, I can do without that kind of stigma.

Anyway. It was just the other day that Brenda and I and her stinking epileptic dog Julius Seizure drove from coast to coast in a Land Rover that was about as reliable as Jacob Zuma’s recall of his role in the arms deal.

Then I had to fly to Durban after my beloved Hyundai (may he rust in peace) was serviced in much the same way that a flexible Thai ladyboy on the mouth-watering buffet that is Phuket’s Bangla Road might give you a service – then have his kick-boxing boyfriend mug you on your way out.

I was back in Cape Town for a week before loading up the Landy and pointing its snout in the direction of the Indian Ocean once again.

“Oh no you don’t,” said Brenda, sawing at the wheel as I set course for the Wild Coast. “You’re not subjecting me to the Transkei again.”

The last time we drove through Mthatha, I had to use a blunt machete to hack a path through baying mobs of matric certificate-wielding youths whose angry eyes reflected the horrors of Obersturmf├╝hrer Zille’s notorious Western Cape refugee camps.

I’ll see your tenderpreneur and raise you a squatter camp

We live in deeply confusing times and many of us turn to the media for answers. I am not talking about myself. When I want answers, I turn to the bottle. You would be amazed at what secrets and solutions lie in a half-jack of Klipdrift. Of course, if it’s meaning-of-life stuff you’re after, you’ll probably need the full 750ml.

But if you simply want to know the cricket score or where Julius Malema currently stands in the inexplicably convoluted labyrinth that is the ANC’s disciplinary process, then the media is your best bet.

However, and this is a big however … If I had my way, this entire space would be taken up with the word HOWEVER. This would not only mean that I had finished my work for the day, but it is also a word that South Africans would do well to be reminded of.

It implies that there are two sides to every story. Well, not in the case of my murdered Hyundai, naturally. The garage and I disagree on the interpretation of the word “negligence”, and all parties are lawyering up as we speak. A supakak situation all round.

However. Returning to the media as a cheap, yet relatively reliable oracle that one can consult, then feed one’s dog upon. Don’t try this if you get your news off the TV.

The importance of relying on more than one source to stay informed was never more fittingly illustrated than it was this past Wednesday. Following Tuesday’s press conference by the ANC’s top brass, most daily newspapers had the story as their front-page lead.

Here’s The Mercury: “ANC’s sham show of unity”.

And here’s The New Age: “ANC’s strong show of unity”.

See what I mean? After reading both versions of the same event, one would invariably be in a stronger position to make an informed choice. Brandy or whisky. London or Perth. Razor blade or revolver.