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.

Especially “That guy who used to have his castle next to the river in Athens. He would…

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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.

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…

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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.

Photo credit: James Soullier.

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


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Death by tabloid

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.

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Making a mockery at Mandela’s memorial


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.


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…

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

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…

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Dear Melissa

I have to hand it to you.

That pic of you sitting gloating triumphantly behind the huge male lion you killed has gone viral.

I’m not saying that people aren’t admiring your big strong teeth or even your big strong breast implants.

But your timing was all kinds of special.

A week after we hear the Western black rhino is officially extinct, you post this picture of yourself on all your social media sites. Now you are front page news in many countries.




Even the comedian Ricky Gervais has weighed in. He thinks you are a great hunt. Typo.

When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal.
What then do we call a person who shoots a wild animal?

Not for food, or even for their pelt. Just for…

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I think my Pomeranians have taught me much about friendship.

After a gruelling shift I walk down the lane in the violin-case dark to my little apartment. My footsteps quicken. I peep through the window and there they are, waiting expectantly.

They are greeted in order of seniority. Breeze (aka Tallulah Wiggles), whirls like a top waiting to be picked up. China hasn’t quite mastered the full-spin so she does a ballerina three-quarter turn.

Molly, agitated with delight, runs into the other room and picks up a toy, squeaking it excitedly. She promenades around the apartment, beeping it importantly while I prepare their late-night supper

After half an hour in the company of my pups – interesting how God is dog spelled backward – the cares of the day boil down to sediment. Often times I will…

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At the beginning of 2001, things were not looking sanguine for me in South Africa. I was sacked from Cape Talk Radio. I was held up at gunpoint outside my apartment in Victoria Road, Clifton. Mario Oriani-Ambrosini*, who had insisted that I come back to South Africa from the UK to work with him and Prince Buthelezi, now insisted that I leave the country. He bought me a business class ticket and sent me to Washington DC.  I felt I had no choice in the matter. I was allegedly on a hit-list (again with the hit-list!) …


Pieter-Dirk Uys once described me as a Statue of Liberty standing in the vast bay of South African journalism. He then went on to say (as I recall) that I defeated all would-be assailants with kryptonite. Or wit….

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The Swan Supper Club in Lambertville, New Jersey, meets in the historic upstairs dining room of Anton’s at the Swan.  Each month the local fashionistas and intelligentsia gather to enjoy good food, wine and conversation. On the 24th October I was invited to be the guest speaker.  Among those present were award-winning artist Luiz Vilela who promised to paint a portrait of my pups!

Welcome to the Supper Club – and my coming out party. No, alas, I am not gay.  In fact, the two of the most tragic things in my life is that I was not born either Jewish or Gay. So I am not coming out in the tumbling-out-of-the-closet gay sense. But I am coming out as being someone other than Juliett, that old British woman who is a server at Hamiltons. The woman…

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I have been doing a fair amount of research to re-orient me with the South African zeitgeist. Apparently you don’t read that much, but I am taking the liberty of updating you on this impoverished wretch-in-exile’s progress.

I came across one Dina Pule the other day for the first time. You do remember her, don’t you? The one you fired only recently for having too much fun with the SABC where, I am told, laughter – along with truth – is in short supply.

Being something of a fashionista, what really caught my attention was the fact that it was Dina’s Louboutins that caused her to topple from grace. You don’t have to have read any Shakespeare to concur that this is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions (“Is this a pair of Louboutins…

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Feeling Beautiful and Turned On? Sorry…

I wrote this piece for the Sunday Times in 1981.

EVER since I saw Twiggy on the cover of Petticoat magazine I was obsessed (like every other 16-year-old) with becoming a model.

I used to practice making up my face for hours (‘if Twiggy could wear three pairs of false eyelashes, then so could I).  My hobby was skin care. I would dash home from the rigours of Caesar’s Gallic Wars (BK 1) and plaster my face with home-made face-packs, elbows rammed into lemon-halves.

I painstakingly cut out hundreds of pictures (with pinking shears) of glamorous vacuous-looking models from every magazine from Huigenoot to Harper’s Bazaar …

I just KNEW that modelling was my vocation.

Once I was through with my studies I would fly to London, Paris or Rome (I wasn’t fussy). I would be spotted in the streets of one…

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A Letter to Joost

Dear Joost,

Not many people know that when someone screams in agony I tend to respond. You see,  I speak it fluently. Agony, I mean.

I read today that your attempt to stop The Book has failed. As one who has been at the epicenter of scandal, perhaps my words will make a small difference. I have been to the gates of hell. Why, I could have opened a hot-dog stand there – except that I am all organic and mostly vegetarian these days.

Firstly, let me confess that at first  I thought Joost and Amor were a cartoon strip. Sorry, I’ve been out of the country for a long time.
But I am familiar with the South African religion they call rugby and back in the day I interviewed Naas Botha and watched him play at Loftus. I remember then thinking how like gladiators rugby players are. So for you to have…

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It has been a quarter of a century – a generation-and-a-half – that you and I have been estranged. No, let us be frank, divorced.

I happen to believe in divorce because, as someone once said, there has to be in marriage, as in every other experience of life, a corrective of mistake and tragedy.

Much troubled H20 has flown under many bridges both for you, South Africa, and for me. We were getting along famously, you and I. Well, me and my famous soi-disant chums. Anneline Kriel, Sol Kerzner, boring Richard Loring (joke), Cliff Saunders, Taubie Kushlick, Tretchikoff, Walter Battiss ….

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

Your job…

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Of course, everyone of my generation knows who this child is (here seen taking some strain with me lapdancing on him during my Sunday Times days).

Would you believe that Mr Pincus (that’s his real surname) is 70 years old?

Watch this fabulous 1978 medley on YouTube.

Does anyone remember his Sun City shows? Shmaltzy? Camp? Retro-cool?  Yes, all of that.



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A week before Christmas in 1984 veteran broadcaster Kim Shippey accompanied me to Robert Kirby’s play “Wrong Time of Year.” It was followed by supper at The Palace in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

This is what Kim wrote about our evening together:

What does one say about a girl who loves TS Eliot and Vivaldi, Cote d’Or and Camelot and thinks she’s a vampire?
I suspect even Erich Segal would be stumped by that one.
Draw a little blood, you might say, and analyse it carefully?
Or keep out of her way.
But what do you do when she insists that she’ll lose her job unless she can take you to a show of your choice and a nightspot of her choice?
Turn up the volume on Richard Harris and see what he says about handling a woman?
No, you climb meekly…

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You need not do anything. Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait. Just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. – Franz Kafka

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