Dear Comrade: Letter to Mandela

13 July 2008, 10:52 am

Following is the English version of a letter to Nelson Mandela, commissioned by the books editor of Rapport in celebration of his 90th birthday. The Afrikaans version appeared in Rapport, 13 July 2008, with minor cuts and variations of meaning:

Dear Comrade

Firstly, even as I have never been a member of the ANC (or any political party), allow me to address you as “Comrade”. After all, growing up into a politicized young adult during the 1980s in this heart-breaking country, I shared (and still do) many of the broad visions of the future that the ANC then held.

You are now 90, and I wonder, when you look at everything around you, what goes through your head? We are a long way from the heady days of my own politicisation, and, of course, a long way from your own birth, from your eventual entanglement with and incarceration by the Pretoria regime of old. Your life has been remarkable, but you don’t need a snotkop writer to point this out. So I won’t go into detail about your achievements and credentials. Neither will I engage in my normal anti-hagiographic critique of which my friends have heard enough.

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The Joys of Smoking

16 August 2001, 12:27 pm

(originally published at World Online, 16 August 2001. Alas, it’s no longer online.)

I LOVE life. I love it because I love smoking. I’m drinking coffee and smoking away as I write this. At my desk, in my room, where I CAN smoke.

Not too long ago, at some literary thing in Cape Town, I bump into the editor, skulking like James Woods behind the giant Strelitzia, sunglasses in one hand and dragging on an absolute or final light cigarette. ‘Fuck! Absolute lights!’ I laugh in derision.

As scum of the earth, we naturally huddle around our common plight. ‘The last enclave of offense against bourgeois health,’ I joke.

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You can’t get lost in the samoosa triangle

1 September 1997, 1:37 pm

(originally published as “‘n Moerse Samoosa” in Student Life, September 1997; to understand the racial ‘anthropology’ behind this article, first read “Fish and chips for the Soul“.)

THE TRIANGLE is geometry’s favourite form. Circles, rectangles, squares, trapezia — all are composites of triangles. And the triangle is powerful. In soccer, keeping players in inter-connected triangles is effective as attack and defence.

Some mysticism surrounds triangles. There’s Pythagoras and his hypotenuse. And there’s the Bermuda Triangle.

A triangle can be divided into smaller triangles. Take the Samoosa Triangle. Nationally, one can plot the points of a giant samoosa from Cape Town to Durban to Johannesburg. Apartheid kept the samoosa out of Vrystaat, but Euclideans say things are changing.

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Fish and chips for the soul

1 April 1997, 1:27 pm

(originally published as “Slap chips for the soul” in Student Life, April 1997)

YEARS OF observation show that white people smell their food and coloured people kick other people’s dogs. Black people wear fuzzy socks. In the 70s, brothers who sniffed their chips applied for reclassification and let sleeping dogs lie.

Thus our divided community. But these divisions are artificial. My launderer indicates that even Wit Wolwe own fuzzy socks. Whites thus should raise their ankles and express black pride. And brothers can sniff – without fear of being labelled play-for-white – AND wear fuzzy socks to matinee discos.

And thus the ubiquitous chip: whether slap or crisp, it husbands the nation’s unity. Yes, fish-an’-chips, soulfood of the nation.

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That Nescafé Moment

1 March 1997, 1:12 pm

(originally published as “Bean me up” in Student Life – now SL – Magazine, in March 1997 [!])

I’M ADDICTED to LIFE because in life I can drink Java. When I die, I won’t wake to smell the first 500 mils. of the good stuff. Waking with that dried cow-pat feeling in the mouth, nothing starts my day like a toothbrush and half a litre of fresh brew.

This past season was a special pleasure since Santa delivered my funky Bosch grinder. Lazily, I ground the bean and brewed away, rolling a cigarette before I poured the coffee. Aah… don’t forget the cigarettes.

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