On Forgiveness

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Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?


Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

American news anchors are outraged at the news that Oscar Pistorius is to be released after serving ten months for the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

“This is unforgivable!’ bloviated one. “South Africa you should be ashamed!”

In a country heavy with terrible deeds, it is difficult to know what criteria a crime must meet before it requires public repentance by its perpetrator and forgiveness from its victim – or American news anchors.

I was pondering on these things in relation to Clive Derby-Lewis’ invitation to Chris Hani’s widow to visit him so that he could make a personal apology to her.

In papers presented to the court during his successful appeal for medical parole last week Clive Derby-Lewis asked South Africans to forgive him for robbing the country of an ”icon” and a potential future president.

But despite Derby-Lewis saying that he had experienced severe guilt and remorse, for many, his remorse is like an innoculation that doesn’t take.

Derby-Lewis, the mastermind behind the April 1993 assassination of Hani, and hitman Janus Walusz, who pulled the trigger, were convicted of the murder in 1995.

Derby-Lewis, 79, is dying of lung cancer. He has been repeatedly denied medical parole since he began his battle to go home several years ago.

Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? In his TRC testimony Clive Derby-Lewis made religious justifications for his crimes:

“As a Christian, my first duty is to the Almighty God before everything else. We were fighting against communism, and communism is the vehicle of the Antichrist.”

Would it help if Clive Derby-Lewis offered to wash Hani’s widow’s feet? Perhaps foot washing as community service?

Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

There is, it seems no psychological balm in this Gilead. There is no forgiveness or wish to heal.

Those who refuse to release resentment remain puppets of the past. The truth about our past should transform all of us from a fragmented nation into a unified people who care for each another.

One remains puzzled at the antipathy towards Derby-Lewis, which is in sharp contrast to the response towards Eugene de Kock’s expressions of regret.

Why was such charity shown to the man who has been dubbed “Prime Evil’ and ‘the deadliest cog in Apartheid’s racist machine?’ The most notorious Apartheid-era assassin received parole after spending 20 years in prison.

As commander of Vlakplaas, de Kock and his men planned the deaths, kidnappings and torture of anti-Apartheid activists. As someone put it, de Kock became a kind of polygraph machine of the commission as he connected the dots to reveal a grisly catalogue of horrors.

The former SAP colonel received amnesty for the crimes he had committed for political reasons, but enough of his deeds remained unpardoned for South Africa’s courts to afterward find him guilty on 89 charges and sentence him to 212 years in prison.

He openly confessed his regret directly to victims and admitted that nothing could redeem him.

Many of his commanders refused to apply for amnesty. Politicians denied that he had carried out their orders.

During the TRC hearings, an army general and 19 high-ranked members of the SADF appeared in court on charges of murder and creating hit squads to destabilize the country, but after a seven-month trial, all 20 were cleared, so de Kock, dubbed ‘Prime Evil’, became one of only three white men after 1994 to be jailed for atrocities committed during Apartheid.

Is this forgivable? Is this why there remains such antipathy between (certain) blacks and whites?

Why should one forgive? Who should one forgive? Do white people require more forgiveness than black people? Is forgiveness possible in this instance?

***
Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

Willem Ratte, as second in charge of the Western Area Battalion at Nepara, wrote an open letter to the former South African Deputy Minister of Defense, Adriaan Vlok. Ratte’s view was that Vlok had betrayed the South African Defence Force:

“I could not help noticing that in 2006 you washed the feet of one so-called Reverend Frank Chikane, a political priest and supporter of the race-based Black Consciousness Movement and later an influential member of the African National Congress’ National Executive Committee which had earlier waged war against us.”

***

A number of psychotherapeutic models of forgiveness have been developed, implemented, and evaluated with a variety of outcome measures. Two of the most frequently used and researched models are those created by Enright & Fitzgibbons (2000) and Worthington (2006).

In their early work on forgiveness, Enright and the Human Development Study Group (1991) described forgiveness as “the overcoming of negative affect and judgment toward the offender, not by denying ourselves the right to such affect and judgment, but by endeavoring to view the offender with compassion, benevolence, and love while recognising that he or she has abandoned the right to them.”

In a later article, Enright, Freedman, and Rique (1998) explained that forgiveness is more than just accepting what happened and moving forward with one’s life because this strategy has not changed one’s perspective about the offender.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, but instead, forgiveness changes how one thinks about the offence.

Forgiveness is more than just releasing anger toward the offender; forgiveness also includes developingcompassion, generosity, and even love.

Forgiveness is not just for the person who was injured. Because of how forgiveness affects the injured person by decreasing negative thoughts and emotions and increasing positive thoughts and emotions, those close to the individual also can be positively impacted by the injured person’s improved psychological functioning.

How very, very far we are from this nuanced – and advanced – spiritual and psychogical state of being. How much hatred still festers. I see the xenophobia and I fear the ball of anger in South Africa will split it apart.

***

Recently I was watching ‘Angels in America” Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name.

At the funeral of his estranged Bubbe, Louis tries to get his rabbi’s advice about his instinct to abandon his lover who has AIDS.

Rabbi Chemelwitz of the Bronx Home of Aged Hebrews snaps:

“You want to confess, better you go see a priest.”

“Catholics believe in forgiveness. Jews believe in Guilt.”

Unfortunately, this spiritual leader (played by Meryl Streep) offers Louis no advice on how to assuage his guilt.

According to the Torah, it is a mitzvah, a divine command, to forgive.

However, spiritual enlightenment will not provide the forgiveness Louis craves. Jewish law rules that a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for crimes committed against others.

Offenders are required to express remorse, genuine repentance and provide recompense to victims if necessary.

Offenders must directly approach their victims – and ask for forgiveness three times.

In the midst of their grief over the Amish School Shootings in 2006, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, and they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbours visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

The Torah explicitly forbids us to take revenge or to bear grudges (Leviticus 19:18). It also commands us, “Do not hate your brother in your heart.” The Lord’s Prayer speaks of “Forgiv[ing] us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

But in the end are these not white, Western constructs?

***

Perhaps it is the societal status that the victim holds that decides?

Apparently those murdered on farms don’t require public apologies. Somalis and other ‘illegal immigrants’ who are torched to death obviously don’t need to be apologised for. Neither do rape victims…

As is always the case in South Africa it’s the little things that are considered outrageous while camels pass through the eyes of needles with ease.

There are some that found the recent ‘hatred’ experienced at the Franschhoek Literary Festival totally unforgivable.

Mike van Graan, playwright and director of the African Arts Institute puts it this way:

South Africa’s reputation as a violent country reached new heights at the recent Franschhoek Literary Festival where Democratic Alliance members – thinly disguised as festival audiences – assaulted mostly young black writers with their collective white gaze.

One young writer, Ntomba Zana, spoke of her tremendous pain after being hit by a volley of compliments about how well she spoke English. “Phew! I now know what Saartjie Baartman must have felt like”, she said, vowing never to return to the festival as a performing monkey, unless it was “to teach these people to say ‘Nkandla’ properly.”

***

Perhaps it is time that we accepted that South Africa is a geographical destination. There are no common credos about forgiveness or repentance. Until we share a commonality on such things deep divisions will remain in our society.

Until we are united in our grief we will not be able to heal. DM

P.S. Let the record show that I was on an assassination hit-list and my apartment was bombed by a faction of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, led by one Cornelius Lottering.

He still hasn’t apologised to me.

Jani Confidential A Memoir by Jani Allan is published by Jacana Media.

This column was originally published by the Daily Maverick on 11 June 2015.



The post author book tour hangover

With Sarah Britten, Peta Eggierth-Symes, Wendy Machanik and Marika Sboros at Exclusive Books, Hyde Park.

With Sarah Britten, Peta Eggierth-Symes, Wendy Machanik and Marika Sboros at Exclusive Books, Hyde Park.

Before I left for my author book tour of South Africa my friend Steven posted something by Anne Lamott on Facebook and said I should take note of number 7.

“Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published… Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t.”

I sniggered. How ridiculous is that. Of course getting a book published will fill my Swiss cheesey holes! Won’t it? Having a book published will give meaning to a mundane existence. Won’t it?

Dear Reader, indulge me, if you will. Might I confess that having a little taste of fame (re-fame?) and having the nipple taken away leaves this soi-disant demi-celeb in a kind of rootless panic.

Rootless panic, as you know, is fame’s co-walker. For the non-famous, the rootless panic which accompanies pain of divorce, having a double mastectomy, being retrenched, knowing that menopause is looming, can be assuaged by passages and rituals that will blunt the pain while one forges a new identity.

But the famous are a minority whose needs and anxieties are not understood. There are no ceremonies to mark end of a fortnight of “fame,”to ease one back into rag-mop reality.

“Fame” is in inverted commas, because of course I do know that my ‘fame’ was limited to a narrow strata of South African society for about ten days.

But in my defense it is said that there is a limit to the degree of time and attention which a human being can experience. The attention of 150 million people, or 724 million people (the number who saw Neil Armstong stake his giant step for mankind) or 21 billion people (the global TV audience) does not feel any more rewarding that the attention of the few hundred people I encountered at Jenny Cryws-William’s Book Event at the delicious Munro Hotel. Nor is it any different to addressing the Adele Searll 100 Club in the Ballroom at the Mount Nelson or even answering Alison Lowry’s Q and A’s at my favourite book emporium in the world, Exclusive Books in Hyde Park.

**
After a decade and a half of living in a blaze of obscurity, anonymity has been the lukewarm bath in which I wallowed.

The prospect of going to South Africa to promote my book made me anxious. With each day that passed and the date of my departure loomed, I felt like a watch spring that was being wound tighter and tighter.

On the way to JFK Airport in New York I snapped at my friend Tim.

“Writing this book was the worst idea!” I was suffocating in a terror of my own making. I have a mind that is a paranoiac sponge.

I shan’t bore you with too many details of the trip, but somehow, surrounded by the entire Jacana Media village that supported me, as well as new friends and old, I started believing that the universe is a giant spider’s web of meaning. Stretching infinitely in all directions, it sharpened my appetite for life, my will to live.

I was gobsmacked by South Africa; by the Walt Disney blue skies, the glamour, the poverty, the tangle of humanity, the high-white walls, stratospheric cost of living and something called load shedding (which I wrongly assumed had something to do with weight-loss.)

For two weeks I was making speeches, doing fund-raisers, signing books and being interviewed on television and radio. It was a gruelling schedule but adrenaline surged through my being. My mind felt so sharp it could have picnicked on a razor blade.

It is said that there are two deserts. One that is glory to the eye, the other that is weariness to the feet.

For two weeks, I saw only the former.

It was at a book signing in Kalk Bay that someone asked me “After all this how are you going to put on the hair-shirt of New Jersey and waitressing?”

How, indeed?

**
On my return to New York, there was no-one to fetch me at JFK. I waited for two and a half hours and finally took an Uber. (It cost $265 – about R2,650).

I had been fussed over like a black guest at a Hampstead dinner party. Now I felt displaced. I didn’t know whether I was Arthur or Boksburg.
Those that followed my tour on social media had some idea of what I faced on my return.

Steven’s wife looked at me with pity. “How are you going to return to serving? You’re like Dorothy who finds herself back in Kansas in a black and white world.”

Another friend had an even more extravagant metaphor.

“You’re like The Last Emperor!”

I thought that metaphor a little outré.

Pu Yi was a grown man who had never done anything for himself. He didn’t know how to tie his own shoes or turn off the tap after filling a glass with drinking water. When we see him at the end of the film, he is working as a gardener in Peking.

He seems happy. His re-education was a success because it was essentially education in the first place for a man whose whole life was directed toward making him impotent and irrelevant.

The Last Emperor’s life is a sad irony and his end is a bittersweet elegy.

Everything involving the life of Pu Yi was a waste. Everything except one thing: the notion that a single human life could have infinite value. The Dragon Throne argued that making an emperor into a god ennobled his subjects. The Chinese revolution argued the same thing, by making him into a gardener.

**

Whatever. I have returned to waitressing and the author tour is a gorgeous fantasy. Whether it was a fantasy that was an escape from reality or whether it was a fantasy in which a determined author wrote a book that is praised by clever people is for you to say dear readers.

What I have learned is that writing a book will not make meaning of your life. Perhaps it will provide spoor, some kind of proof that I lived.

Since my Post Author Tour Hangover has more or less abated, I have come to realize that meaning – or mental health – depends on the world around us. Meaning is something that saunters in on a spring morning. Meaning can be found in the sight of the cherry trees wearing their pink and white blossom petticoats. Meaning is in the frooooosh-froooosh of the small waves lapping the beach and the piercing cry of the seagull. Meaning is the tiny, steady snores of a Pomeranian lying on the pillow beside me with her petal pink tummy turned upwards.

Jani Confidential – a Memoir is published by Jacana Media.



Homeland or Hurtland?

cliftonview

Then, Daniel 4:34 records the king’s response: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.” Interestingly, the king said that his pride caused him to lose his sanity and that now, as a result of being humbled by God, his sanity was restored. In order to humble him, God humiliated him. Indeed, a humiliating experience will almost always humble someone.

Perhaps my sanity has been restored.

I will be in South Africa in the middle of April for my book tour.

That is if SAFFASTRACK works its magic and secures for me a passport in time!

A book tour. Hnh.That sounds about as daunting as going on an Iraq tour.

Everyone wishes to know whether I will return to South Africa.  Well, they keep humming “Should I stay or should I go” as the Clash song goes.

Will I return to South Africa? Yes. No. Possibly. Yesnaby.

I came to America in 2001.

Within a year I married an American.  I was still reasonably attractive. Reasonably.

He insisted that I obtain a Green Card.

To this end we made countless tedious trips to a Russian Immigration Lawyer in Philadelphia.

As my sponsor, my husband had to provide proof of his ability to support me. Bank records and tax returns were demanded. I had to provide details of my employers for the past ten years. (Three.  Cape Talk, the Sunday Times and MWeb.)

Then there were the affidavits, certificates of birth, marriage, photographs of us in happy times etc. etc.

I was fingerprinted and photographed. I was blood-tested and AIDS tested and psychologically profiled by a designated doctor.

Exactly as per the movie “Green Card,” on 13th December we went for our final interview in Callowhill, Philadelphia.

We were asked the dumb and predictable questions which ostensibly would provide evidence that we were a bona fide married couple. “What side of the bed does she like to sleep on? Tea or coffee? Wendy’s or McDonalds?

The interviewing officer was entirely satisfied. In response to his statement “I can tell you are a married couple” I quipped feebly “Do we look that bored?”

He promised us that the Green Card would be issued “within weeks.” The reason for the delay, he said, was “because of 911.” The FBI is requiring “extra precautions.”

A year later the Green Card still remained elusive. Every attempt to find out its status quo was thwarted.

The man to whom I was married now started using the Green Card as a threat and his violence towards me escalated.

Most rows ended up with him vowing to throw me out on the street and “forget about your Green Card.”

I couldn’t work or drive and I was trapped in a loveless marriage.

Was I not supposed to be “Hashtag living the dream?”

After all I was in America, land of the free and home of the brave. When at first you don’t succeed remember the last four letters of American. America is the place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time.

Alexis de Tocqueville said that not until he went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did he understand the secret of the genius and power.

Ronald Regan went further. He said “God has a divine purpose in placing this land between two great oceans to be found by those who had a special love of freedom and courage.”

This wasn’t the America I fetched up in.

Freedom? I was a virtual prisoner. If fear is pain arriving from the anticipation of evil it would be true to say that I lived in fear.

Six months after leaving him, the husband made good his threat.

He withdrew his petition of support for the Green Card.

I was homeless, jobless and Green Card-less in a foreign land. I had no Medical Insurance, no car and no recourse to any help.

“Since he has withdrawn your application for a Green Card you are theoretically stateless and illegally here,” my lawyer told me.

**

Time passes. A lot of time. The world’s second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore.

So I shan’t bore you with the endless, rococo details. Suffice it to say that I am now in possession of the prized Green Card.

I have a Mcjob. I pay almost $200 a month medical insurance and I have a little yellow car with rotting tires (or so the bloke at the DMV told me last week.)

Things are looking up, no?

I live in an historic river town favoured by wealthy New Yorkers. There are antique shops, countless galleries, a thriving art scene and a fabulous cheese shop. It is über gay-friendly (i.e. desirable) and when I walk my pups – even in the middle of the velvet night – I know the name of every companion animal and its caretaker we bump into.

Most nights I forget my keys on the outside of the door. I leave the car keys in the car. My little pups have a circle of furry friends. We have playdates with the Wu’s Chins. They love Finnegan (a charming rescue) who lives upstairs. There’s Henry, a Cavalier King Charles, Triscuit and Macaroon (Triscuit is a petite white Maltese and Macaroon is a glossy Newfoundland the size of a pony).

Photo credit:  Anneli Martin

Photo credit: Anneli Martin

I am CLOSE to New York City, three hours from Washington DC and 40 minutes from Philadelphia.

Yes, there’s a high price tag.

I pay $1400 (R15000) a month for a tiny flat on a car park. I overlook a Mexican restaurant.

I work six nights a week – brutal mule work under a manager who scorns us as if we are barn people or meth-cookers from the Ozarks.

**
Will I return to South Africa?

Certainly I wouldn’t be the first to return to South Africa.

Spiraling rates of white flight have been off-set by returning South Africans. My friend Melanie Millin-Moore (Sol Kerzner’s trusted PR) left a successful agency in New York to return.

“I missed being able to go to the bush….I missed my elis (elephants), the sound of people speaking Afrikaans.”

She admits that it was almost as difficult to give up the Green Card as it was to obtain it in the first place.

“The US Embassy in Cape Town was incredulous. They wanted to know if I had been forced to give up the elusive Card.”

Jonny Steinberg has recently written about his reasons for returning to his native land:

“It is to surrender myself to a world so much bigger than I am and to the destiny of a nation I cannot control. In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering, of what it means to be alive.”

In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering of what it means to be alive.

I have been musing on that for some time now.

I wonder what you would do if you were tenanting my very scruffy Uggs?

As TS Eliot wrote

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Will it be so for me, dear reader?

 



On Valentine’s day – then and now

When I was working at the Sunday Times in Johannesburg on Valentine ’s Day, my  office looked like a florist shop.

‘No one has the right to have so many admirers!’ adjudicated a reporter spitefully.

It’s a very South African thing to define someone by what they have, what they wear, what they drive and where they live.

I tried to heed the caveat of my yogi raj Mani Finger: Take your work seriously, but not yourself. If you take your possessions seriously what will happen if you lose them.

What will happen if you lose them?

I thought about that when I took the roof off the car and drove home with Talking Heads blaring, the song-snatching wind blowing through my hair. At times like this it was easy to believe that I had hit three gold stars on the fruit machine of life. Did I deserve my good fortune? What gods were smiling on me – and more worryingly – would they always do so?

My first husband, Gordon Schachat, bought me a Lancia Spyder. It was postbox red convertible and I called it Valentine, since that was the day on which I got it.

When I was instructed to leave South Africa, an acquaintance introduced me to someone called Manual Ramos. (Here come the jokes about ‘His parents called him Manual because they couldn’t spell Automatic.’)

Manual claimed that he would fly the car to the UK for a mere R1500 (this was in 1990) courtesy of TAP.

“Eesa no problem. Lissabon. Lonnadon.” said Ramos impatiently.

For some reason the stipulated R1500 was inflated to R4,500.

“Eesa deposit. You will get eet back,” said Ramos irritably. He made the fovant gesture beloved of London taxi-drivers: it’s a gesture that purports to mean ‘Thank you’ but actually means “F*** off out of my way.”

My hairdresser Debbie followed me to a hangar at Jan Smuts Airport (as it was then called).

“Oy!’ she said. “I wonder if you’ll see that little car again.”

Weeks passed. Ramos failed to fax or phone me at any of the London numbers I had given him. Rumours festered. The car was spotted (they said) in Sandton City. In Italy. At the Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks.

Ramos’ phone, somewhat disconcertingly, was ringing disconnected.

I called the Acquaintance.

She, somewhat disconcertingly started clicking her tongue impatiently as the pips alerted her to the fact that I was calling from overseas.

“Again with the car story……” she sighed heavily.

Two months later, the car was located in the Port of Dover. It had been strapped to the deck of ship, vandalized and the kilim rugs and other precious things Ramos had told me were ‘quite fine’ to stash in the boot, had disappeared.

Ramos, naturally, had disappeared too, leaving not so much as a spot of grease.

A friend kindly found a British actor who collected Italian sports cars and I reluctantly sold Valentine to him.

I wrote a pathetic note to the actor:

Please take care of my Valentine. If she should ever need a home I hope my circumstances may have changed and I can take care of her again.

**
This Valentine’s Day I will be muling at the restaurant.

Creating the masterpiece.

Creating the masterpiece.

Call time will be around 2 pm. After the usual sidework (Hoovering, cleaning the loos etc) we will transform the restaurant into a ‘Winter Snow Palace.’

This involves a ton of faux-snow. Three inches of “snow” will be spread over the floor, along the tops of the window sills and even on the tables side tables where the champagne flutes wait in sparkling serried ranks.

The whole effect is quite breath-taking.

I will open bottles and bottles of Bollinger/Veuve/Gossett and Moët et Chandon. There may even be the odd Krug…

What are the chances that a diner will leave the waitress a thimble?

Jejune.

One of the most challenging lessons I am learning is that I am now a downstairs person.

Downstairs people live to serve upstairs people. The Americans who come to the restaurant believe that they are upstairs people.

Occasionally there will be a marvellous surprise; someone on whom I have waited actually noticed me.

This week a couple who usually ask for me to serve them, gifted me with a beautifully-wrapped bag. In the cerise and lime green tissue paper and bound with ribbon that matched the label perfectly was a bottle of Perrier-Jouët champagne and beribboned boxes containing gift certificates for The Chocolate Box and Savour.

Champagne, chocolate and cheese! My three main food groups.

The note was even more precious.

“…. A few little treats so that you can pamper yourself…you are so gracious when we see you, we wanted to do something special for you… ” J and N.

**

This morning I got a card from Seamus, an Irishman I have known for a decade and a half.

“One man loved the pilgrim soul in you,” he wrote.

“As usual a candle burns for you in front of the Shrine of St Valentine in Whitefriar Street, Carmelite Church in Dublin.”

These are the things that I will think on tomorrow night, when I trudge through the faux-snow living to serve, serving to live.

I will endeavor to Lee Strasberg myself and give the performance of this part of my life. I will act like an angel in a striped bistro apron.

As it says in Hebrews 1:14

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Mandy Rice-Davies – From High-life Scandal to High Life

I met Mandy Rice-Davies in the summer of 1989. mandyjani

We got on like port and nuts. She invited me to have supper with her and Ken Foreman, her husband, at Le Caprice in Arlingston Street, Picadilly.

She said she was interested in how my life was going to turn out.

It was with sadness that I read of her death this week.

This is the interview I wrote after meeting her.


The first thing you notice about Mrs Foreman, née Mandy Rice-Davies is that she looks innocently young. It’s been 26 years since that spot of bother with Profumo, Keeler and Co which led to the collapse of Harold Macmillan’s government. But the years have passed without leaving the barest trace.

Enviable figure, too, Wafer-thin and perfectly groomed, she looks exactly right in the opulent setting of her Knightsbridge drawing room. ‘This old pair of camel slacks? It’s from the corner shop.’ Mandy’s corner shop, you understand, is Harrods.

‘I hate shopping.’ she says, ‘Sometimes Valentino around the corner will call and say there’s something I should look at, so they send it around. But I’m not a shopper. I hate buying things you have to try on. Shoes are better. I love shoes. And paintings.’

Your eyes travel from a pair of lambs-ear-soft black ballet pumps to the opposite wall. A Picasso portrait of a woman. Is it real?

‘Hope so!’ giggles Mandy.

‘There’s also an Andy Warhol somewhere in the cupboard …’

The telephone ‘prillos’ discreetly in another room. ‘Please excuse me, that’s my daughter. She’s opening a restaurant so she’s on the phone to me every five minutes. She’s 21 and wildly in love. God, it’s so boring. I wish she’d grow out of it.’

Mandy Rice-Davies is a remarkable woman. Perhaps one of the quintessential ’60s icons, she has survived not the sulphurous singe of scandal, but baptism by its fire…

At 16 she looked much as she does now – a pretty, blue-eyed blonde bimbo. Except she had brains. Her pony Laddie (he was called Silver Socks for gymkhanas) interested her more than men. Top student at junior school in Solihull, Warwickshire. Never anything less than A’s.

‘My heroes were the show-jumper Colonel Llewellyn and his horse Foxhunter. I stuck pictures of them all over my bedroom wall.’

Somewhere between mucking out the stables, doing a paper round and reading romantic novels, she decided she wanted a slice of Saturday night (make that a large slice of Saturday night). She started to feel misplaced in the life that she was in,

Stunningly pretty, she’s got so much personality she could sell it by the kilo. She always got what she wanted in life. Self-disciplined and single-minded, she’s a perfectionist, a shrewd businesswoman. And not one to look the gift pony in the mouth.

She took a job in a snooty grocery store and was soon modelling during the lunch hour. (One of the other mannequins is now the Mayoress of Westminster. (She left after six months. She was awfully grand.)

One catwalk leads to another. In 1959 the wraith-like blonde was crowned Miss Mini.

Picture the scene, October 1959. Mandy. Draped over a Mini. The combination of Mandy mit Mini was revolutionary! Grand Prize R100. One week in London, wined, dined and feted.

‘I thought ”This is for me!” I went back home and it was all rather flat and dull, When I asked my parents if I could go to London there was a resounding ‘No!’ So I ran away.’

It was your actual She’s Leaving Home script: Note on pillow. Twenty quid in pocket. Cardboard suitcase in hand.

‘I thought that if I didn’t get a job, I could always go back. But of course, you don’t, do you?’

She saw an ad for dancers in a club and got the job on the spot. Then she met Christine Keeler – Britain’s notorious good-time girl whose liaisons with War Minister John Profumo and a soviet naval attaché led to the 1963 scandal.

The rest is history. Or money in the bank.

She laughs her gorgeous giggly effervescent laugh.

But while Christine has shrivelled under the limelight, Mandy seems to have become Mandy – but more so.

In the best Dale Carnegie tradition, she neatly (well, perhaps not that neatly) reversed the worst scenario into the best opportunity.

She went on to open a string of restaurants and nightclubs in Israel, published the first glossy magazine in that country, released hit-records and starred in movies.

‘I haven’t seen Christine at  all. We’re two different characters.

It’s a question of perseverance and courage. It’s the ability to put things behind, not continually harp on what was and what will be, but what is now. And to take if from the Socratic each time. Life is one thing after another? You have to be very careful not to make historic mistakes.”

Has she made any historic mistakes?

‘Well, yes. Obviously!’ She is practically overcome by a surge of giggles.

‘But lets get back to how I reacted differently to Christine, I’m a great believer in not subscribing to the victim theory in life. I’m in charge of my own head.’

‘That’s why I always have framed photography of Einstein around – to remind me of the power of logic over emotions – the way that  you can get anything you really want in life. Being blown off course is depressing. And annoying,

Fearless as a child, she admits that she ‘got her breath knocked out of her in 1963. ‘I no longer lapse into hubris. I also don’t read newspaper cuttings. I keep them in a bag for about three years.

‘People go on about having a free Press. What we must aim for is a free and responsible press. What makes me very angry is injustice and bureaucratic stupidity. I’d still give myself six-and-a-half out of ten for a life score.’

There are Writing Days and Other Days. A Writing Day starts like this:

‘My husband makes me coffee and I lie in bed and smoke a cigarette. Ah, you’ll have to ask my husband what I wear in bed. He gets up at some horrible, unearthly hour like seven o’clock. If it’s a Writing Day I think what my character is going to do, or about the article I’ve got to write.

Then she drags herself to the bathroom, splashes water on her face and brushes her teeth.

‘Then I go to the kitchen for my second cup of coffee and my second cigarette then my third cup of coffee and my third cigarette…And I think about dinner that evening, whether we need fresh flowers or anything else I can to avoid writing.’

‘I put it off and put it off and put it off. But when you start you’re in Never-Never- Land. You can’t stop!’

‘Huge panic when hub calls. Jump into shower. Make-up. Perfume. He comes in the door and it’s ”Hellooooo darling!” ‘

At night it’s all restaurants. For business entertaining. She likes French, Italian. The Connaught for upmarket occasions. Scotts for upmarket occasions. The Savoy for (very rare) lunches.

She has summer drinks and winter drinks. In summer she sticks to champagne. Bollinger. And she likes vodka. Neat.

And of course wine. Ken’s something of a connoisseurs so coming to South Africa will be fun. Mala Mala sounds like her kind of place.

The Scarlet Thread is her second novel. It’s been described as a stirring wartime saga in the spirit of Gone with the Wind.

The dangerous world of the crumbling Ottoman Empire is the dramatic backdrop. It took three years to write. Her compassion for humanity is apparent. And sincere. ‘But,’ she giggles, ‘I don’t think the world is ready to accept my book on philosophy yet.’

Hers has been a Rich and Colourful life. The highs have been perilously so (acting with Sammy Davis, launching her autobiography Mandy andstarring in Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen in the West End.

Let’s not dwell on the lows. She hasn’t.

Perhaps Emily Brontë’s quote would be an apt description of the Mandy Rice-Davies phenomenon;

No coward’s soul is mine. 

The first thing you notice about Mrs Foreman, née Mandy Rice-Davies is that she looks innocently young. It’s been 26 years since that spot of bother with Profumo, Keeler and Co which led to the collapse of Harold Macmillan’s government. But the years have passed without leaving the barest trace.

Enviable figure, too, Wafer-thin and perfectly groomed, she looks exactly right in the opulent setting of her Knightsbridge drawing room. ‘This old pair of camel slacks? It’s from the corner shop.’ Mandy’s corner shop, you understand, is Harrods.

‘I hate shopping.’ she says, ‘Sometimes Valentino around the corner will call and say there’s something I should look at, so they send it around.But I’m not a shopper. I hate buying things you have to try on. Shoes are better. I love shoes. And paintings.’

Your eyes travel from a pair of lambs-ear-soft black ballet pumps to the opposite wall. A Picasso portrait of a woman. Is it real?

‘Hope so!’ giggles Mandy.

‘There’s also an Andy Warhol somewhere in the cupboard …’

The telephone ‘prillos’ discreetly in another room. ‘Please excuse me, that’s my daughter. She’s opening a restaurant so she’s on the phone to me every five minutes. She’s 21 and wildly in love. God, it’s so boring. I wish she’d grow out of it.’

Mandy Rice-Davies is a remarkable woman. Perhaps one of the quintessential ’60s icons, she has survived not the sulphurous singe of scandal, but baptism by its fire…

At 16 she looked much as she does now – a pretty, blue-eyed blonde bimbo. Except she had brains. Her pony Laddie (he was called Silver Socks for gymkhanas) interested her more than men. Top student at junior school in Solihull, Warwickshire. Never anything less than A’s.

‘My heroes were the show-jumper Colonel Llewellyn and his horse Foxhunter. I stuck pictures of them all over my bedroom wall.’

Somewhere between mucking out the stables, doing a paper round and reading romantic novels, she decided she wanted a slice of Saturday night (make that a large slice of Saturday night). She started to feel misplaced in the life that she was in,

Stunningly pretty, she’s got so much personality she could sell it by the kilo. She always got what she wanted in life. Self-disciplined and single-minded, she’s a perfectionist, a shrewd businesswoman. And not one to look the gift pony in the mouth.

She took a job in a snooty grocery store and was soon modelling during the lunch hour. (One of the other mannequins is now the Mayoress of Westminster. (She left after six months. She was awfully grand.)

One catwalk leads to another. In 1959 the wraith-like blonde was crowned Miss Mini.

Picture the scene, October 1959. Mandy. Draped over a Mini. The combination of Mandy mit Mini was revolutionary! Grand Prize R100. Pne week in London, wined, dined and feted.

‘I thought ”This is for me!” I went back home and it was all rather flat and dull, When I asked my parents if I could go to London there was a resounding ‘No!’ So I ran away.’

It was your actual She’s Leaving Home script: Note on pillow. Twenty quid in pocket. Cardboard suitcase in hand.

‘I thought that if I didn’t get a job, I could always go back. But of course, you don’t, do you?’

She saw an ad for dancers in a club and got the job on the spot. Then she met Christine Keeler – Britain’s notorious good-time girl whose liaisons with War Minister John Profumo and a soviet naval attaché led to the 1963 scandal.

The rest is history. Or money in the bank.

She laughs her gorgeous giggly effervescent laugh.

But while Christine has shrivelled under the limelight, Mandy seems to have become Mandy – but more so.

In the best Dale Carnegie tradition, she neatly (well, perhaps not that neatly) reversed the worst scenario into the best opportunity.

She went on to open a string of restaurants and nightclubs in Israel, published the first glossy magazine in that country, released hit-records and starred in movies.

‘I haven’t seen Christine at all. We’re two different characters.’

‘It’s a question of perseverance and courage. It’s the ability to leave things behind and not continually harp on about what was and what will be, but what is now. And to take it from the Socratic each time. Life is one thing after another. You have to be very careful not to make historical mistakes.’

Has she made any historic mistakes?

‘Well, yes. Obviously!’ She is practically overcome by a surge of giggles.

‘But lets get back to how I reacted differently to Christine, I’m a great believer in not subscribing to the victim theory in life. I’m in charge of my own head.’

‘That’s why I always have framed photography of Einstein around – to remind me of the power of logic over emotions – the way that  you can get anything you really want in life. Being blown off course is depressing. And annoying,

Fearless as a child, she admits that she ‘got her breath knocked out of her in 1963. ‘I no longer lapse into hubris.I also don’t read newspaper cuttings. I keep them in a bag for about three years.

‘People go on about having a free Press. What we must aim for is a free and responsible press. What makes me very angry is injustice and bureaucratic stupidity. I’d still give myself six-and-a-half  out of ten for a life score.’

There are Writing Days and Other Days. A Writing Day starts like this:

‘My husband makes me coffee and I lie in bed and smoke a cigarette. Ah, you’ll have to ask my husband what I wear in bed. He gets up at some horrible, unearthly hour like seven o’clock. If it’s a Writing Day I think what my character is going to do, or about the article I’ve got to write.

Then she drags herself to the bathroom, splashes water on her face and brushes her teeth.

‘Then I go to the kitchen for my second cup of coffee and my second cigarette then my third cup of coffee and my third cigarette…And I think about dinner that evening, whether we need fresh flowers or anything else I can to avoid writing.’

‘I put it off and put it off and put it off. But when you start you’re in Never-Never- Land. You can’t stop!’

‘Huge panic when hub calls. Jump into shower. Make-up. Perfume. He comes in the door and it’s ”Hellooooo darling!” ‘

At night it’s all restaurants. For business entertaining. She likes French, Italian. The Connaught for upmarket occasions. Scotts for upmarket occasions. The Savoy for (very rare) lunches.

She has summer drinks and winter drinks. In summer she sticks to champagne. Bollinger. And she likes vodka. Neat.

And of course wine. Ken’s something of a connoisseurs so coming to South Africa will be fun. Mala Mala sounds like her kind of place.

The Scarlet Thread is her second novel. It’s been described as a stirring wartime saga in the spirit of Gone With The Wind.

The dangerous world of the crumbling Ottoman Empire is the dramatic backdrop. It took three years to write. Her compassion for humanity is apparent. And sincere. ‘But,’ she giggles, ‘I don’t think the world is ready to accept my book on philosophy yet.’

Hers has been a Rich and Colourful life. The highs have been perilously so (acting with Sammy Davis, launching her autobiography Mandy, starring in Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen in the West End… The lows have been What-Can-I-Tell-You-Doris-If-It-Had-Happened-To-Me-I-Would-Have-daaaaaard..

Perhaps Emily Brontë’s quote would be an apt description of the Mandy Rice-Davies phenomenon;

No coward’s soul is mine. 

 

*This column originally appeared in the South African Sunday Times. It was Jani Allan’s final column for the publication.



The danger of gun control in South Africa

‘Terror rushes through my body and floods my brain, roaring in my ears.  He shoves the gun against my right temple.’

Scene of a crime, Clifton, South Africa

Scene of a crime, Clifton, South Africa

Jani Allan recounts her ordeal of when she was held up at gun-point outside her Clifton home in 2001. She also weighs in on the new debate surrounding gun control in the wake of the murder of Senzo Meyiwa. Allan contends that a licensed firearm is a viable means of protection. She continues to diagnose a ‘gun culture’ image problem in South Africa. 


Cape Town, 2001

It is one a.m. in the morning. I have just finished doing a radio show at Cape Talk in Cape Town.

I drive along Victoria Road in Clifton in the black, bandaged night.

As I turn into the driveway of La Corniche, I notice a young black man walking towards me with a jaunty gait. He is wearing an expensive leather jacket.

The young man comes closer. I assume he is trying to help me open the boom gate.

Since he looks Muslim, I say  “Shukrain, shukrain” – ‘thank you, thank you!’

Still he comes closer.

I urgently fish around in my bag to give him some money. ‘Shukrai…” I begin again. Now I know he isn’t looking for a tip.

He is standing a yard away from me, right up at the half-open window of the car. I can smell him. It is the acrid smell of evil. His face is expressionless. Only his eyes move like those of a lizard behind the cracks in a stone wall. He reaches down into the front of his jeans. Oh my God! He is a flasher. The thought crackles through my mind like electricity.

Slowly he reaches down and pulls a huge gun out of his trousers. Terror rushes through my body and floods my brain, roaring in my ears.  He shoves the gun against my right temple.

‘Give me the car…the cell phone…the dog….’ He says cocking his head to where Tiggy, my three pound Pomeranian is lying in her little traveler on the seat beside me. All that stuff about seeing your life before your eyes is more or less true. My mind goes into slide-show mode.

I see the inside of the car spattered with blood. Half my head is blown away. The next is the dashboard flecked with gobs of flesh…the next image is that of a tiny auburn dog lying in a pool of maroon congealing blood. It’s pure Pulp Fiction.

Before any of these images can become a reality my left arm swings up and with all the force I can muster, I hit the gun away from my head, using the heavy African bracelet I always wear. At the same time I hear an eerie scream which grows louder and louder. It is an ancient siren; a banshee wail that swirls around the car swoops down to the crashing waves and then drifts up to the mountains.

“Noooooo….. oooooh……”

The Munch-like scream is coming from me.

The man with the gun looks as though he has seen something he was not expecting to. His eyes widen. In truth, he looks frightened. He turns and lopes off into the night like a jackal. A jackal in an expensive leather jacket.

**

I confronted murder twelve years earlier in 1989 when I survived an assassination attempt on my life.

I appeared on the same ‘hit list’ as Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk. The Orde van die Dood (Order of Death) began with a campaign of intimidation.

Prowlers outside my apartment.

Death threats by telephone.

Dead white roses at my door – a far cry from my  favourite bouquets of St Joseph lilies.

Then came the limpet mine that exploded in my Sandton apartment.

Their original plan was to kill me with a crossbow.

But it was being held-up with a Magnum 44 that capsized my anti-gun stance.

**

There are over 17,000 murders a year in the killing fields of South Africa. For the first time in 20 years the number of murders and the murder rate has increased for a second consecutive year.

In post-apartheid South Africa, the machinery of social control has collapsed. The chasm of freedom has been filled by rabid, competitive and conspicuous displays of consumerism. And sport.

Glitz, bling, beef, jocks, chicks, guns and wheels, the spectacle of the high life, are, for many, the only image of desired existence in post-apartheid South of Africa.

Americans often ask me why South Africa is such an endemically violent society. I try and explain that this is the legacy of an unequal and race-based society.

Add to this the current economic stagnation in South Africa, insupportable frustration with rising unemployment, broken education systems, social immobility and the growing disparity between rich and poor.

Oh, then there is a ruling political elite that is hallmarked with moral turpitude.

Historically, Dutch and British colonial subjugation led to the dispossession and uprooting of native inhabitants.

During apartheid, black people were brutalized by poverty and their family structures destroyed as the male migrant worker population was enslaved.

Fast forward to 2014.

The white Afrikaans communities – those in the higher income groups – are politically disempowered and this results in vast reservoirs of underlying resentment, fear and anger.

An underclass of white squatters – how the roles have been capsized – is similarly aggrieved.

Both blacks and whites have obsolete patriarchal baggage.

At best, this becomes manifest in a general attitude of suspicion, distrust, barely suppressed aggression, and a readiness to defend bodily integrity with every means at hand. (CF Oscar Pistorius)

At the worst it flares up during incidents of road-rage, temper tantrums, public brawls, racist shooting sprees and family murders.

**

‘Murder is the most violent and potent of society’s destabilisers. It presents a dangerous puzzle, and we study it constantly in an effort to find a solution.’  I chose this analysis by Professor Dap Louw in the wake of the murder of Bafana Bafana captain, Senzo Meyiwa. The government has responded to Meyiwa’s murder by pledging harsher gun control measures.

Amnesty

If past performance is an indicator of future performance then we should be gravely concerned that the government is taking up the mantle of gun control. The firearm amnesty set forward by the Firearms Control Act (2000) has been undermined by the rampant corruption of the South African police:

  • A 2012 report estimates that the police lost 18 196 firearms between April 2005 and March 2011.
  • A recent report establishes that 14 000 police firearms are now estimated to be in the hands of criminals.

Citizens that gave up their firearms in good faith now find their guns used against them at home and at shopping malls. A source alleges that (at a price) the police hand stolen guns to inmates as they leave prison or the cell-block at the police station. A 2011 investigation by the South African Institute of Race Relations revealed that police criminality was rife. The institute examined 100 cases where the police were involved in assault, murder, rape and armed robberies.

Charl van Wyk was in the Saint James Church, Kenilworth in 1993 when AK47-wielding APLA members attacked it. The attackers killed 11 worshippers. He was the lone-armed congregant who shot back at the attackers. The commander of the Marxist group who claimed responsibility for the attack said that the congregation was attacked because they were believed to be unarmed. The St James Massacre in 1993 and the East London pub attack (among many other unreported or unreported upon, incidents) are examples of lives saved by licensed firearm owners returning fire.

Several schools in the USA (which are gun-free zones) have been attacked, which proves that the mere status as a gun-free zone does not prevent homicidal attacks. Innocent people are sitting ducks as the cliché goes.  There are a plethora of murder cases in South Africa that may have offered different outcomes had the victims been armed.

****

‘South Africa: Former First Lady murdered at home’.

I am disbelieving in my 17th century silk mill home in Pennsylvania as my home country is violently thrust into my psyche.

Marike de Klerk is immortalized on celluloid as the devoted First Lady – unknowing of her husband’s betrayal.

She has been stabbed, beaten, raped and strangled. 

The foundations of white privilege in South Africa appear to crumble before our eyes.

Murdered in her home; Marike de Klerk

Murdered in her home; Marike de Klerk

De Klerk, a political figure in her own right as the former leader of the National Party’s women’s league could no longer count on the protection of bodyguards after her divorce from FW de Klerk. Her new status relegated her to travelling with a can of insect spray on the passenger seat. The high walls and sophisticated security of Marike’s secure complex would offer the wealthy residents peace of mind were it not for an internal threat. A security guard at the complex employed to protect residents would  abuse his role by stabbing, beating, raping and strangling the final first lady of the the Apartheid era.

Fast-forward two years and the Mail & Guardian publishes a report on a massacre in Sea Point that left nine dead.

Scene of a massacre: Sea Point.

Scene of a massacre: Sea Point.

”Sea Point ‘unrecognisable’ as gangs move in”

Blood-stained floorboards.

Tales of torture.

The only survivor drenched in blood stumbles to a local garage to raise the alarm.

Scene of the crime? An unassuming little white house on Cape Town’s desirable Atlantic Seaboard.

Nine gay men – mostly young Afrikaners – brutally murdered by two assailants at Sizzler’s massage parlour in Sea Point.

The tragic vulnerability of these victims also speaks to a gun culture that fails to fully represent society. Women and gay men may feel either excluded and/or wary of a gun culture that often appears exclusively white, heterosexual and macho on steroids.

Gun culture

These unarmed victims don’t fit the profile of a gun owner.

Instead we see Oscar Pistorius is the ideal poster-child for gun control. The locked bathroom door tragedy  precedes the zombie-stopper and tales of restaurant fire. His behaviour also speaks to a Pistorius gun culture.

The Pistorius family reportedly owned 55 firearms. Pistorius’ father Henke allegedly shot himself in the testicles while in the company of his then girlfriend, former Miss World, Anneline Kriel. These kinds of men, it seems, equate guns with virility.

Elsewhere this gun culture may prevail at a braaivleis  in a white working-class suburb. This ritual evokes the early Afrikaners that rode across the endless veld and cooked their game in the open. This evocation of the hunter-gatherer is a deeply masculine and nationalistic mental image.

The  braaivleis may be punctured by ruddy faced men sporting wife beaters that struggle to conceal their expanding girths. Tumblers overflowing with klippes and coke. Alcohol leads to displays of bombastic bravado and this is when guns come out.

Still, these social portraits are not reason alone for draconian gun control measures. They instead represent a crisis of attitudes. An attitude that qualifies a gun as confirmation of a man’s masculinity. The likes of Adam Lanza, Oscar Pistorius and the braaivleis repeat offenders suffer from arrested development.

A gun culture should instead foster the ideals of Swiss gun-owners. The famously ‘neutral’ nation has the fourth highest rate of gun ownership per capita in the world – yet maintains low crime rates.  The nation has not been afflicted by a series of school shootings as it benefits from ‘a culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation.’

As Charlton Heston once confessed to me: ‘Vanessa Redgrave is a close friend, although I differ from her politically.’ If the long-term president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) can find common ground with Vanessa the Red then I believe we can reshape gun culture.

Rigorous gun safety classes and the psychological screening of licensed firearm candidates will always be preferable to a wholesale ban on licensed firearms. The nation would have to be lobotomized to trust the SAPS to handle another firearms amnesty.

Most licensed firearm owners – the silent majority – are responsible.

The death of a talented young footballer will be a deeply psychological blow for South Africa’s black youth. Perhaps if the brilliant young footballer was armed he wouldn’t have been gunned down.

I’m with Switzerland. Citizens are required to own a firearm and be proficient in the handling thereof.

(Additional research by Gareth Davies)



I refuse to be the poster child of slut-shaming

dailymaverick
Slut-shaming is the act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity.

I left the country in 2001. I live in a blaze of obscurity (sic) in America. I am a recluse by choice and a PONTI – a person of no tactical import in South Africa. Yet my epic humiliation and allegations about my sex life remain, it seems, an all-consuming story to certain South Africans.

 

On Friday, 19 September at the Open Book Festival at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town, the Daily Maverick hosted a mini-gathering to debate the future of independent, free and intelligent journalism in South Africa. At one point the panel began discussing media coverage of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

A panel member quoted Ray Hartley as saying that EFF were receiving 90% of party coverage in the country. (This is not surprising since the party members wear red onesies and miners’ boots to Parliament and routinely threaten revolution.)

At this Ferial Haffajee (City Press Editor) said that “[we] have seen this phenomena before with Eugene Terre’blanche”.

Haffajee then turned to the audience and said that “Jani Allan had been impaled on the blue flames of ET’s eyes” and asked “could she not see his holey underpants at the time?”

It was a cheap and puerile shot at me made in an attempt to garner laughs from the audience. Those present were in no doubt that Haffajee was slut-shaming me.

The reference was made as if it were a comical anecdote – again compromising any relevance it had as a fair point in the discussion. Some of the older members of the audience laughed obligingly, others were unmoved. The younger members of the audience did not understand the reference at all.

According to the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), “women in the media are still on the receiving end of discrimination”.

“Discriminatory practices, structural inequalities, cultural factors, prejudices, patriarchy and sexism are still alive and well in newsrooms,” the study noted. Ferial Haffajee described the results as “shocking”.

The “snapshot survey” was compiled from responses to a questionnaire answered by 40 of Sanef’s 149 members. It was undertaken to establish the realities and challenges faced by South Africa’s women journalists – especially senior women journalists – and to identify strategies for change.

“However, it has also been established in various studies that women often perpetuate the existing male constructs of the newsroom environment”.

It seemed men still needed to work on their gender awareness and sensitivity. It also seemed as if men’s relation to women staffers and their advancement was not an important issue among senior male news journalists.

“This impacts on how women journalists are treated and how news content is assessed and represented.”

“Racism is hounded by the media themselves, yet they not only allow sexism in their ranks, but even perpetuate it through certain actions (and non-actions).”

Dear readers, I ask you two questions (with tears in my bloodshot, aging eyes):

  • What culture puts someone through 25 years of ritual humiliation and

  • Where are the feminists in all this?

Women’s sex lives and sexuality are matters of their own choice and nobody else’s business. Except in my case. While the AWB leader escaped with his reputation unsullied among his adoring ‘volk’ (and even enhanced by some male supporters, who thought an attractive white writer, then in her 30s, to be a prime conquest) my life was all but wrecked by these allegations.

Many indiscretions find their way into the public domain. Somehow it always seems as though the women carry the taint.

The Elliot Spitzers and Anthony Wieners profess abject regrets, retire from the spotlight for a while – and then re-enter the arena as though nothing had happened. Some even get rewarded with a television talk-show. (Spitzer). Literary analogies are as plenty as Hydra’s heads.

In Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy the title character has a highly public affair with the affluent Count Vronsky: Anna Karenina is rejected by her friends, while the reputation of Count Vronsky remains more or less untarnished.

My life, in terms of such media descriptions, is defined by an alleged relationship and a pair of green underpants (which allegedly had holes in them.)

Phillis Chesler’s book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman points out that women are capable of misogyny too. The mean girls you knew at school are now grown up and mean girling on Twitter. Researchers have been looking more closely and they have diagnosed something they call “intrasexual competition”.

The personal is political and we should understand it.

In the wise words made famous by Beyoncé – feminism is the “social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.

Sexual competition among females seems to increase due to circumstances that tend to be particularly common in affluent societies. Stigmatising female promiscuity — a.k.a. slut-shaming — has often been blamed on men, who have a Darwinian incentive to discourage their spouses from straying. But they also have a Darwinian incentive to encourage other women to be promiscuous.

Women who make sex too readily available compromise the power-holding position of the group, which is why many women are particularly intolerant of women who are, or seem to be, promiscuous.

I have always believed that since sex is coveted by men the best way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of this resource is to limit access to it. But no-one really cares about what I really, really think.

Emma Watson recently said at the UN the view feminism is ‘man hating’ has to stop. She encouraged men to take up this mantle for their sisters, mothers and daughters so that they can be free from prejudice – but also so their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human, too.

How about some of my gay chums – let’s start with them – taking up the mantle on my behalf? I am not the first person to be publicly humiliated. I have just had to learn to deal with it. Some people can’t.

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers student was secretly streamed via Webcam kissing another man.A few days later after being scorned, derided and abused on social media he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. The instant communication afforded by the internet not only dehumanises but it also enables the most bloodless and egregiously cruel social commentary.

We are living in a culture of all pervasive humiliation. Historian Nicolaus Mills speaks of a zeitgeist that encourages and revels in Schadenfreude. In this milieu, those that humiliate are rewarded.

Gossips columnists, late night comedians, paparazzi, Twitter trolls, Facebook trolls; the media circus has never quite moved on from me. I accidentally stumbled upon a website a while ago, a kind of forum in which journalists of the seventies and eighties were in a frenzy of slagging me off.

I gazed at the bile spewed about me. It was so over-the-top that is made me think of Vonnegut when he described someone as being dressed up in a suit of armor to attack an ice-cream sundae.

Then, I supposed my face broke like a dyke. I could not hold back anymore. I have watched those that sought to discredit me grow in girth and wealth. Their children are grown. Some have left the country.

I have reinvented myself and created a new narrative and way of being. Will the haters ever acknowledge this or will it remain a koan?

Journalists should serve the public as watchdogs and truth-tellers. News organisations need a broad array of voices and perspectives. To thrive financially, they must appeal to an equally broad array of potential viewers, listeners, and readers. Content analyses and anecdotal evidence suggest that a newsroom leader’s gender can have a subtle but important influence on everything from what stories get covered and how, to who gets promoted and why.

That is why when a woman editor of the caliber of Ferial Haffajee (for whom I have enormous respect) chooses to humiliate me it is especially unfair and incorrect.

I refuse to be the poster child of slut-shaming forever.

This column was originally published by the Daily Maverick on 2 October, 2014.



Kendall Jones – Evil in a Rah-rah skirt

Kendall Jones, 19, is a Texan cheerleader who sparked outrage on Facebook by posting pictures of herself with animals she hunted and killed in Africa.

Huntress, Kendall Jones.

Huntress, Kendall Jones.

She has responded to her online backlash, using President Teddy Roosevelt in her defense.

“He killed the same species that hunters now chase today under a mound of anti-hunting pressure,” she posted on her page. “Yet, how can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the Earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they’ll never understand.”

Kendall, don’t you realize that you capsize your own arguments by brazenly admitting that you are “looking to host a TV show.

This is not my first rodeo with your kind. TV presenter, Melissa Bachman shares both your vanity and utter disregard for animals.

So far, nearly 300,000 people have signed a petition asking CEO Mark Zuckerberg to delete the Kendall Jones public figure page on Facebook because it “promotes animal cruelty.”

Might I respectfully ask all readers of this column to add their names to the petition?

I will leave it to the pro-hunt enthusiasts to massage the stats whichever way they wish.

There has been a long march not only through the institutions but through the minds of the young. When some young people want to praise themselves, they describe themselves as “non-judgmental.” For them, the highest form of morality is amorality.

I am afraid I don’t fit that age demographic. I am deeply judgemental – and unashamedly so – when it comes to the destruction of animals.

For crying out loud, Kendall, who believes you when you say that your hunts involve a “fair chase?” What is your idea of fair?

What nonsense to claim that “they take place in areas where animal populations sometimes have to be controlled.”

Who told you that lion and leopard populations have to be controlled? The PR your daddy must have employed?

Kendall, let us leave for a moment the world of statistics and get to the nettle that must be grasped.

What is it that makes a nineteen-year-old want to kill a noble creature?

No-one ever answers this question. Instead, I am machine-gunned with statistics and spurious claims that ‘it is good for the environment and conservation.’

Here we enter the realm of culture and ideas. (Which means you will need an interpreter, Kendall.)

Why would a healthy young woman, seemingly normal, be so lacking in empathy for animals?

According to psychiatrists, the people with no capacity for empathy are at best utter narcissists and at worst psychopaths.

Simon Baron-Cohen, a famous psychologist, says empathy has, or is caused by certain pathways in the brain, and that these may be defective for various reasons: genetic or environmental.

Whatever the cause, evil and lack of empathy are one and the same.

In Rwanda, for example, if accounts are to be believed, thousands of ordinary people, of no apparently psychopathic tendencies, took up their machetes and killed their neighbors, then enjoyed their goods and feasted on their food and celebrated what they had done.

It is said in some circumstances – fear, mass-hysteria or adrenaline-induced – some circuits in the brain overwhelm other circuits in the brain that are necessary for the expression of empathy.

According to David R Hawkins, the capacity to recognize and comprehend truth is concordant with the levels of consciousness as reflected not only the evolution of brain anatomy, but more importantly also, by changes in the physiognomy of the human brain and its patterns of processing information.

These, in turn, depend on underlying, unseen energy fields. In humans, critical and profound changes occur in the brain’s physiology and patterns of processing information at consciousness level 200.

Kineseological testing has shown that gratuitous trophy hunters calibrate extremely low. Their ‘intellect’ becomes primarily a tool of animal drives and primitive self-serving goals.

As the world grows more and more evil, so a bigger and bigger percentage of the population loses its capacity for empathy.

Emotionality is based on perception. Compassion is a result of discernment.

Kendall, I am afraid that I must rebuke you. Your actions are pure evil. The pictures of you dragging the corpse of a leopard are repulsive. Have I made myself quite clear?

Clearly you are hungry for your 15 minutes of fame.

I suggest you go about it the normal American way. Make a sex tape. Marry a basketball player for a few weeks. You could even become a weather girl on TV. You have the teeth. 



The Marquis of Debris

Jeffrey David Hamilton.

Jeffrey David Hamilton.

Not long after coming to the little river town in which I live I met an extraordinary man.

His name was Jeffrey Hamilton. He resembled a kind of Indiana Jones and was seldom seen without his trademark battered and greasy hat. His hands could open parking meters and with his craggy, tanned good-looks, he must have broken hearts like hickory nuts when he was younger.

His family was studded with over-achievers. His father, Jim, was a Broadway set designer. His French mother, an accomplished ballerina and cook.

One of his sisters, Gabrielle, wrote a best-selling food memoir “Blood, Bones and Butter” and runs a wildly successful restaurant in New York called Prune.

The other sister, Melissa, together with her colleague Christopher Hirscheimer publishes four cook books a year. Oprah rated the Canal House cook books as her favourites in the Christmas shopping list.

Jeffrey, although Stanford educated, marched to a different drum.

‘I spent $80,000 on his education,’ said Jim. ‘What does he do? Collects junk!’

As the self-styled Marquis of Debris, Jeffrey drove around in a huge van clearing out people’s basements and attics.

He had a talent for picking our gems amongst the garbage. French colonial chairs. Sevres porcelain. An early American jelly cupboard.

For years he would store his finds in a huge barn in Aquetong Road. Once a year he would have a barn sale.

Actually it was an excuse for him to chef it up and provide his friends with food and drink while haggling pointlessly.

There was nothing like traipsing through the dusty barn on a hot Sunday morning. You never knew what you would find: a Victorian plaster birdbath for $10. An entire collection of Encyclopaedia Britannicas for $5…

I used to tease him and say that he was a hoarder, that he was an ideal subject for the television series on people who hoard because they have emotional problems.

“Really?” he would say. He was genuinely bemused.

Whenever something was exceedingly desirable he would say “Oh no. I’m not selling that. That’s for my kitchen. It’s French.”

“It’s French” became our code for something that’s unattainable.

**

When he was nineteen he went to the Congo to live with the Mbuti pygmies for two years. I thought it was a bold move for a Solebury kid.

He went to Africa hoping to find the Noble Savage living in Utopia. I have a copy of his book. It is called ‘Going Native’ by J J Bone.
“A young man’s quest for his identity leads him to an African forest and its people…”

In the Prologue to the book he writes of how he became enchanted with the arrowheads which he found while scouting on the banks of the Delaware River.

“I was elated that I’d discovered something that so wholly captivated me, yet sad that these people were no longer where I stood now…I felt happy and melancholic at the same time…I dreamed then of the day I would live with the people who are still living in remote areas of the world by hunting and gathering.”

The book records his transition from adolescence to manhood and provides the broadest and deepest account to date of what it really feels like to live with a tribe. This is the book on culture shock.

George D Spindler, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology and Education at Stanford University wrote:

 “There is a directness…that really beguiles one. Mr. Bone says things that many anthropologists would say, but could not, and keep their respectable academic identity.”

Jeffrey and I would laugh like hyenas about his experience in Africa: how the pygmy chief kicked him out because he said they were stealing. We laughed about so many things.

He had an ear for the phoney baloney in politics, arts and literature.

We understood each other’s version of the world.

He would call me ‘my fiancée’. We thought it hilarious because both of us were emotionally battle-scarred and completely uninterested in a relationship.

Instead, we bumped into each other, giant pieces of kelp, floating rudderless, in the river town, from time to time. I was a resident alien, and so was he on some level.

Each conversation interested me. We would talk about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, aesthetics – and if he was dining in his father’s Grill Room as he did occasionally – oysters.

He spoke French and had a gourmand’s knowledge of food. His parents took him on his first trip to France when he was fourteen.

On his birthday in mid-September he would hire the boat belonging to Gerenser, the ice-cream shop. A bunch of his friends would bring food and drink and party hearty while the boat chugged up and down the Delaware.

In the last couple of years, as the economy tanked, he was no longer able to pay the rent for his barns in which he hoarded his finds.
Perhaps when he lost his barns and his truck, he lost his Marquis of Debris identity.

Perhaps, because there are few job opportunities for an over-educated white man approaching sixty: perhaps because the world in which he lived became intolerably cruel and uncaring: perhaps because he was terminally depressed and could not see the way forward through his fog of depression…

Jeffrey Hamilton, the Marquis of Debris hanged himself on the 25th of June 2014.

The flags of the river towns are flying at half-mast.

 



Conversation Envy

Anaïs Nin once observed that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

I have pondered this for some time and am bound to disagree. Life shrinks or expands, at least to me, in proportion to one’s conversations.

Last night I had an acute episode of Conversation Envy.

I can tolerate the drivel most of the time, but deep down I secretly yearn for a philosophical argument and a fresh point of view with the odd bon mot thrown in the mix to keep things fresh.

Living in a blaze of obscurity has its drawbacks. One is the quality of chat to which one is exposed.

Quentin Crisp said that the key to speaking with style is to command of a vocabulary large enough to give you both flexibility and precision in expressing yourself. The more words you have the more accurate and entertaining will be your self-portrayal in conversation.

Recall the startled bemusement of Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain in “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.” “Good heavens. For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing it!”

These days one is engulfed in incoherence. Grammatical errors aside (“Between you and I”, problems with “infer” and “imply”, “flout” and “flaunt”), there is a paucity in topic matter.

Last night I was waiting on a table of distinction. Both elegant women wore the kind of important necklaces that one can only buy at the Metropolitan Museum store: heavy amber beads and interesting silver.

The men were straight out of Renoir’s Boating Party.

At the end of the evening I had occasion to be near their table. Their conversation stopped me in my tracks.

One of the men suggested that love, like evil, is a mystery.

There was mention of ‘meaningless malevolence’ and references to the Classics. They may have quoted Yeats and TS Eliot. There was objection to using the word ‘apartheid’ in contexts other than the South African one.

I did know what I was hearing, however. The quartet was engaged in mental calisthenics and the exchange of ideas.

I yearned to partake of this conversational feast.

I was having an attack of Conversation Envy!

One of the chaps, Michael Curtis, was talking about a piece he had written for American Thinker and how he had titled it “When will Irish Eyes be Smiling on Israel.”

I was engrossed.

Usually I don’t bother to eavesdrop on conversations. They are invariably as useless as wet newspaper. Most of what passes as conversation flows as swiftly as papier-mâché. No one really listens to anyone else and if you try it you will see why. There is a difference between conversation and speech. People have not lost the power of speech. They have lost the art of conversation.

Things are more interesting when a couple has a row. Then there are little popcorn bursts of truth. There is also a chance of collateral windfall. An arguing couple once stormed out of the restaurant forgetting a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

The kitchen staff talk about sex and mime unspeakable things with rolling pins or French loaves. The bus kids talk about surfing and how they did/are going to do Molly this weekend. The other servers talk about what a bitch that woman on 45 is and how they will never serve her again. Or they rat each other out: “Whose job was it to do lemons? Who hasn’t done their side work?”

I have one or two friends with whom I discuss what other people like to call Conspiracy Theories.

But in the main I am a conversational anorexic.

When I was a journalist, I had unfettered access to interesting people. I interviewed Charlton Heston once at the Hyde Park Hotel in London.

Jani Allan with Charlton Heston at the Hyde Park Hotel in 1990 for a Sunday Times (UK) interview.

Jani Allan with Charlton Heston at the Hyde Park Hotel in 1990.

“Mr Heston,” I said, “My friend Elaine and I have had a crush on you since we were 13.”

“Where’s your friend Elaine,” was his wry response.

During the lunch gabfest he told me that his life’s philosophy was based on Winston Churchill’s exhortation to never give up.

He leaned towards me and in pure Churchillian metre he intoned:

“Never, never give up. Never, ever, ever, give up…”

Political Correctness and the fear of treading on sensitive corns has all but bandaged conversazione. One certain way to prevent conversation from becoming boring is to say the wrong thing, but who has the brass ones to do so these days?

I want to sit at a table and listen to people sbottonarsi as they say in Italian – open up. Or mettere in piazza – make public those things that are private. I want a grand buffet of conversation. I would like to discuss The Waste Land. T E Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Andy Warhol’s From A to B and Back Again

As Schopenhauer wrote in “Our Relation to Others”: Politeness is a tacit agreement that peoples’ miserable defects, whether moral or intellectual, shall on either side be ignored and not be made the subject of reproach.

I am tired of politeness and weary of anaemic conversation. Come sit here and talk to me….

This column was originally published by Jani Allan in 2013 on her My Grilling Life blog. 



Jani on Art

‘Art has been the needle that has pulled the tapestry of my life together’

Jani Allan at home, Kallenbach Dr, Linksfield Ridge. Painting 'Apartheid' by Norman Catherine (Gordon Schachat Collection)

Jani Allan at home, Kallenbach Dr, Linksfield Ridge. Painting ‘Apartheid’ by Norman Catherine (Gordon Schachat Collection).

I started Art lessons when I was 9. I was taught by Betty Clur in Linden in her tiny dining room. Margaret Brewer, another little girl in the class has gone on to become a famous botanical artist and lives in Canada.

One of my drawings – a dog and a kitten entitled ‘Me and my tiger’ was published in the Blairgowrie school yearbook – along with an essay I wrote about ‘Road Safety Depends on me.’

The latter was a bossy little tract about how you should help little children to cross the road safely. It won some prize as I vaguely recall.

My mother had her heart set on me becoming a concert pianist. I was supposed to do a B Mus at Wits. Instead I enrolled for a Fine Arts degree.

I wanted to wear hand-tooled leather sandals and Indian kirtas. My mother relented. She was a painter herself. She was related in some way to Pierneef.

My days in the Fine Arts Department of Wits were the happiest of my life.

I loved the History of Art Lectures especially. There was something magical about sitting in the darkened auditorium and have Professor Elizabeth Rankin explain the world to us through art.

She had a little pointer which she would use to guide to what we should be looking for.

Composition, contrapposto, chiaroscuro….I was enchanted.

Professor Rankin’s explanation of Hatshepsut’s Funerary Temple, of the architecture of Gothic Cathedrals – the apsidal chapels, the clerestories, the nave and the sculptures are embedded in my memory.

I recall the difference between Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek Sculpture.

When I was lucky enough to go to the Arena Chapel in Padua I remembered her lectures about Giotto Di Bondone 1266 – 1337.

I always loved the cool, blonde colours of the Northern Italian painters. Piero della Francesca was my favourite.

Later I was to discover the 17th century Dutch painters and I fell in love with Vermeer. I loved the way he transmogrified the everyday into the timeless and the iconic. Glimpses into quiet, ordinary rooms, a quietness – the patina of familiarity ennobled.

I was lucky enough to have extraordinary teachers.

Cecily Sash taught us design. Robert Hodgins, painting. I was even fortunate to have the matchless Judith Mason as a teacher for a while.

When my apartment was bombed I lost two wonderful Judith Mason drawings. If I could own one work of art in the world it would be a Judith Mason.

Once Judy offered to swop one of my paintings for one of hers. I was too bashful to accept such generosity.

The painting she had taken a liking to was a pomegranate seed swirling in Prussian sea. Now it is in an attic somewhere.

Judy bequeathed to me a little lecturing job that she had held. Once a week I would lecture the girls at Greenoaks College.

I tried to emulate Elizabeth Rankin, but of course I couldn’t. Instead I found the fine art references in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I loved sharing my passion for art with those young women, some of whom went on to become scions of business.

At Bryanston High School, I also taught Art. I am afraid I was young and caustic and hope I didn’t deter any would be artists.

I do remember Keith Calder being in my class. He is now a wildly successful sculptor.

As a columnist I was blessed to be able to interview some of the most remarkable painters.

Walter Battiss (who conferred on me the status of The Scribe of Fook Island), Norman Catherine (Norman, King Norman of Fook Island), Tretchikoff, Eris Silke, Edoardo Villa, Beezy Bailey, Gordon Vorster…

Gordon Schachat to whom I was briefly married, has become a pre-eminent art collector in South Africa. His late uncle Louis had Die Kunskamer in Cape Town.

Art has been the needle that has pulled the tapestry of my life together.

Soon before he passed Andy Warhol was supposed to do a portrait of me.

Who knew that I would come to America and live in the 17th silk mill, that Andy Warhol used to come to every weekend from New York?

Later I would work for Jim Hamilton, the Broadway set designer who had originally restored the Mill.

I have fetched up in an historic town which Forbes magazine lists as one of the prettiest towns in America. It is full as a pomegranate is with pips with art galleries – and artists.

While walking the Poms I come across Luis Vilela or Robert Beck of Miles Cavanaugh… (I get a kick out of the fact that Michaelangelo is said to have had a Pomeranian too!)

When the weather is fine, the canal tow path and streets are dotted with plein air painters, hoping to capture the light dappling on the water or the tree-lined avenues and the manicured Federal homes.

Through art one understands the world.

Through art, artists express the nature of the societies in which they live.

Watch “The Duellists” by Ridley Scott. Every scene in the movie is composes like a painting. The light is extraordinary, since he shot either at sunset of dawn.

Few things can move me to tears. Kindness to animals is one. Great works of art is another. I remember seeing Las Meninas, by Velasquez in Madrid. I wasn’t prepared for the size of the work, nor the impasto that dances on the picture plane.

When I saw a Leonardo da Vinci painting in Washington DC I also wept silently.

The creation of art ennobles man.

The one painting I yearn to see is Rembrandt’s Night Watch in the newly restored Rijksmuseum.

If I had a ‘do it again?’ chance, I would have been a painter not a scribbler.

 

This piece was commissioned for the new creative arts magazine, Arty Elephant



LETTER TO OSCAR …

Dear Oscar

Many years ago an Afrikaans man fell in love with me. It was a complicated situation. I was a journalist and he was a story.

Things became as messy as a cat’s sandbox. When he drove into the gates of the monument at Paardekraal he was taken to court. I was called as a witness. The man whom I thought was a leader and an inspiration to his people took to calling me obsessively and crying noisily on my answerphone.

Once he drove to my apartment in Sandown in the middle of the night. When I refused to let him in he fell into a drunken stupor outside the door. Another time, he and his wife turned up to beg me to testify favourably and to ‘stop the press’ from writing about us. His young daughter was with them. I implored his wife to make him realize that it was his court case and that he should desist from hounding me. At this, he theatrically fell on his knees and started bawling.

When his Darth Vader mask was removed I saw an unformed man, someone who had no innate integrity, no spirituality and one who certainly had not developed as an individual. What I saw was pitiful and strange and incongruent with whom he purported to be.

His name was Eugene Terre’blanche.

Of course the circumstances were dramatically different from yours, Oscar … (more…)



MEN vs WOMEN REDUX

Neanderthaler_FundAnd so, praise the Lord, another Restaurant Week has come to a close. Restaurant Week is the week when most of the regulars stay well away and people we have never seen and may never see again descend on the restaurant. Why not?

A mere $29.95 (tax and gratuity additional) will get you a three-course meal at a restaurant that you would traditionally reserve for a special occasion. Like announcing you want to consciously uncouple. Or propose marriage.

Last week on Monday night a female co-worker – let’s call her Miss Bunny – and I served about 50 people. No hostess, no bus, just the pair of us. (Sounds like a Cole Porter song right there, I know).

Miss Bunny and I hardly needed to speak to each other. We anticipated each other’s needs. Just a tip of the head and I knew that she wanted me to finish clearing table eleven. I reached for the olive oil and found she had already herbed a little ramekin for me.

(more…)



Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Frankly I am not interested in what two consenting adults – or three or however many are up for it – do in order to obtain sexual gratification.

However when I read that there is a flourishing business in Denmark in which people pay in order to have sex with animals, I am moved to write a few words about the repugnant practice. Call me a keyboard warrior, if you must.

The law (in both Norway and Denmark) states that bestiality is perfectly legal “so long as the animal involved does not suffer.”

This is a statement so broad as to be comical. The animal must be restrained and is unable to talk. How does one gauge how much suffering is involved or what implements are used in the process?

According to the Danish newspaper 24timer, this “interesting gap” in the law has led to a flourishing business.

On the internet, several Danish animal owners openly advertise their services. Pimping out your pooch, it seems, is quite ‘normal’ these days.

The newspaper contacted several animal pimps who assured them that the animals “have been engaged in this kind of activity for several years and that the animals crave the sexual stimulation.”

This is akin to saying that kiddies crave the sexual stimulation that pedophiles offer. (more…)



Evolutionists have been making monkeys of us all

“A long time ago …” is the traditional beginning of a fairy story.

When a long, long time ago a princess kisses a frog that promptly turns into a man, we call it evolution.

Some years ago the scientific mafia announced that the “Missing Link”, the earliest direct ancestor of humanity, had been discovered in Ethiopia.

So funny.

Heidelberg man was also applauded as the “Missing Link”. Only later was it conceded that perhaps the evidence had been somewhat flimsy to have made such assumptions.

Piltdown man, too, is these days – after appearing in the textbooks as bona fide proof of evolution for over sixty years – acknowledged as a hoax.

In 1929 Nebraska Man was presented as the most indisputable evidence of evolution yet. Three years later it turned out that the sole evidence on which this premise had been based was a single tooth – that of an extinct pig.

From small molars great fossils of falsehood grow. (more…)



Pik Botha – poetry and waves of politspeak

Pik Botha appeared on BBC’s Question Time last month. He looked as irrelevant as the solitary man sitting at the end of the bar. But it was not always so.

Many years ago I interviewed the then South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha. This is what I wrote:

Often running, frequently jumping and rarely standing still, Foreign Minister Pik Botha’s name snags newspaper headlines internationally and daily. After a quarter of a century – make that half a century – in the killing fields of détente, his gungho tyle of dueling has his detractors groaning. But there are those that smile on the showman as Elgar would on the young Menuhin.

Minister Pik Botha tells me he has a passion for Greek philosophers.pik1

Especially “That guy who used to have his castle next to the river in Athens. He would receive his guests with tremendous hospitality. And charm. But his particular fun was that when night came he would put them into a bed. If their bodies were too lengthy for the bed he would chop them off until they fitted the bed. If they were too short, he would stretch them until they fitted easily.”

“And that is South Africa!” he says triumphantly.

I have no idea what he is talking about.

Tell me about stamina, since you have the franchise, I suggest. (more…)



By Golly! It’s Hello Dolly : RIP Joan Brickhill

I have just heard of the passing of Joan Brickhill. As a tribute to her I remember an interview I did with Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke.

Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke. Photograph by Andrzej Sawa.

Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke. Photograph by Andrzej Sawa.

The giddy glitter and G-string gun ‘n doll of South African stage and cinema fulminate into the room – Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke.

Before I can say Follies Fantastique, I am whirled out, slow-slow-quick-quick-slow into Joan’s garden to ‘ooh-aah’ the marvel of Joan’s Green Thumb.

“She talks to them you know,” Louis explains proudly, whizzing me past outsized rhododendrons….

“….and of course they respond!”

We zoom past seed-packet Technicolor ranunculus, delphiniums and snapdragons, before stopping at a giant rose-garden that would have done Capability Brown proud.

“She’s had a rose named after her you know – yes! ‘Joan Brickhill’ It’s a beautiful yellow rose…”

The original of the beautiful yellow rose is clad in lemon-meringue yellow. She’s an immaculate Barbie Doll.

“Oh Louis, let her come in out of the rain!” she calls in a modulated voice.

I had forgotten it is raining. Why should I remember when the sunshine and spangle of the Brickhill-Burke’s twosome is beamed at me?

Louis obediently polkas me back into the house and on to an antique chaise-longue. His mother Poppy Solomon (I later learn) danced with Anna Pavlova.

“That’s Dick King’s couch you’re sitting on!” he barks, accusingly, immediately assuming center-stage … (more…)



Diagonal Street Déjà vu

Twenty five years ago on January 8th I was told by my editor to write a front page interview which was to be entitled Jani by Jani. In those days the Sunday Times cost R1.61 +19c tax. Many of the key players in this storm in a thimble are dead. Hopefully the other haters are dying off. I write this for a different generation and for those with a sense of the ridiculousness that has always been a hallmark of many things South African. Cf Nkandla, Malema, Zuma etc. 

Jani by Jani

Hot on the trail of South Africa’s most wanted journalist.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s the Jani and ET show. BOM. Bring own mud.“Broedertwis! Blondine!”

Credited with the honour of single-handedly destroying the weerstand of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging is the liberally loathed, much adored but alas not ignored Sunday Times columnist, JANI ALLAN. The mask of theatre never drops – even in journalism. Behind one mask there will always be another. Unless Jani Allan – sound of ripping canvas, interviews Jani Allan Face to Face.

I track down the Bitch to her lair.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Better still unleash the baying newshounds. They’re far more vicious. Skewered on a spotlight, the private muse – at last! – is public domain. It’s open hunting season. Track the bitch to her lair in the Diamond Building in downtown Diagonal Street, Johannesburg.

Her kennel is of such modest dimensions that if a dog were to occupy it, it would have to wag its tail up and down.

Glamorous building. An architectural hybrid, part Gothic cathedral, part Concorde. The painted pariah herself looks glamorous too (I grudgingly concede).

A human hybrid, part Gucci, part Guinevere, she is wearing – sharp intake of breath – haute khaki and colour co-ordinated Polyfilla. Is the haute khaki courtesy Out of Africa. Or…raise one eyebrow – Allan with ‘Blanche?

She’s a dangerous woman. A gevaarlike vrou, they say. (more…)



Death by tabloid

nigell11

Dear Nigella,

You probably won’t remember me. We met briefly in Londinium when you were still married to John Diamond. I was an avid reader of your restaurant reviews in The Spectator.

I have seen your star rise and scintillate. You truly are a domestic goddess. Actually, make that just a goddess.

But goddesses are on pedestals and how delightful it is knock something from a pedestal. How the public enjoys to see a fall from grace. This is the theatre of schadenfreude. How they love it! Why, the scribblers are filled with such joy as rises like the aroma from the bœuf en daube!

I have been reading about your trials in the court and my einüfhlung is at full throttle.

You see, Nigella, I also mistakenly believed that one could expect justice from a court. (more…)



Making a mockery at Mandela’s memorial

obamainterp

 

From the far side of the world I watch with open-mouthed disbelief. You can’t make this stuff up.

The world’s focus is on South Africa. The world is mourning the passing of a great man.

The gravitas of the occasion knows no precedent.

Therefore how deeply insulting to the world that the ANC hires Thamsanqa Jantjie, a  faux signer to stand a few feet away from Obama!

There is only one thing more preposterous than a corrupt African leader. That is the exaggerated respect accorded him by the West.

Consider:

Obama has been surrounded by a 24/7 Secret Service detail beginning in the spring of 2007, months after he announced his run. He received Secret Service protection earlier than any other candidate in history because of what is euphemistically referred to as “the historic nature of the campaign” (i.e., the fact that he is a black guy).

Now most people know very little about the Secret Service; they just picture the instantly recognizable image of a fireplug of a man wearing an ill-fitting suit with an earpiece. In theory, the fireplug of a man is willing to sacrifice his life for his protectee.

Scout Tufankjian a photographer with Polaris Images in her book, Yes We Can , documented her two years covering the Obama campaign.

Says Scout over of the course of the campaign, ”I got to know many of the agents quite well. In fact, it sometimes felt like traveling with the 40 or so older brothers and sisters I had never wanted: They were nosy and overprotective and fun to be around. I came away from this experience deeply impressed by their skill and professionalism. ”

”People would come up to Obama as he was shaking hands and express their concerns, nakedly expressing the fear that he might be (more…)



Rhinos under siege? It should be poachers and their customers under siege!

rhino1

In the same week that a summit is held in Skukuza, South Africa about rhino poaching, the Dallas Safari Club issues a press release about its plans to auction a hunt for a black rhinoceros in January.

The hunt will take place in Namibia, which is home to some 1700 black rhinos.The DSC will sell the hunting permit during its annual convention and expo Jan 9 – 12 2014.

Again, a comedian has weighed in. This time it was Stephen Colbert. The black rhino is a species listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. So how do we plan to save them? Hold an auction to shoot one. Harharhar.

It’s rather like fornicating to encourage virginity.

Rhinos are under siege. To-date this year, at least 793 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, including many reproductive or pre-reproductive females.

The Safari Club’s executive director says that it is a big, bold idea.

Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society isn’t that enchanted.

“Auctioning a rhino hunt at this time is tone deaf.” The idea of auctioning a rhino hunt at a time when the world is mobilizing to save the animals from mercenary poaching is wrong. The proceeds, we are assured, will go towards preserving this magnificent and critically endangered species.

The International Rhino Foundation does not condone the hunt, but recognizes that it is legal under Namibian and United States law, and under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora  (CITES). (more…)