It's exactly five years to the day that the Sunday Times decided to axe the column that got so many people talking on a Sunday morning (and genuinely boosted sales to a level far above today's "claimed" circulation). There are those who feel that this was a good thing and that my five years spent barely surviving in abject poverty in the journalistic wilderness are no more than I deserve. Then there are others, like the folks I met at a restaurant in Somerset West last week, who mourn the passing of the Out to Lunch column and swear that they will never buy a copy of the Sunday Times ever again. To borrow from Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, "frankly my dears, I don't give a damn".
Life moves on and the SA newspaper industry's decision to dumb down may have resulted in more readers but they are no longer high net worth readers in the eyes of the advertisers and that is what matters. But since I have absolutely no interest in writing for a newspaper ever again this is , thankfully, not really my problem. However it's worth mentioning that I was in the old Avusa (now Times Media again) building last week to film a short interview on the Rolls Royce Phantom for the TV programme Ignition and the stench of hopelessness is obvious as soon as one enters the building.
Cost cutting is draconian and I didn't see one happy face....a sharp contrast to a decade ago when one could make a fortune in journalism. I once worked out that if my remuneration had been adjusted for a normal working day and a normal working week then I would have been earning R3.5 million a year. Since I didn't want the burden of all that money I only worked the equivalent of one day a week for around R700000 p.a.; an amount that enabled me to just get by.
This being the anniversary of the infamous column I couldn't really let it pass without attempting to raise hackles once again. After all, what is the point of having a weekly column if you don't ruin somebody's day?
Trevor Manuel's comments that the ANC is running out of excuses and must stop blaming apartheid shows that he has been a loyal follower of this column over the years. Admittedly I made the same comment years ago and coming from my pen it would have obviously been deemed "racist", as is any informed comment from a white loudmouth that doesn't fit the ANC's agenda for plundering the country.
"Oh you hate to see the black man doing well" they bleat and the right response is that we hate to see the black man doing well by helping himself to public money and awarding lucrative contracts to buddies who clearly aren't up to the task. With any luck our own chubby version of Kim Jong-un, Julius Malema, will soon be spending time in prison and that may act as a deterrent to others with similar ideas. And pigs may fly.
The problem with Trevor Manuel's exhortation to stop blaming apartheid is that it doesn't leave the ANC with any credible excuses. Let's face it, they're not going to own up to being the most incompetent bunch of bozos to have ever run a country are they? And they're hardly likely to say that it's all because of cadre deployment that government, the civil service and municipalities are in the mess they are in.
As we have seen with the SABC, the idea of the right person for the job is not high on the qualification agenda for senior appointments in this country. So, with the greatest respect to Trevor Manuel, I would suggest that the ANC continue to blame apartheid (and Hendrik Verwoerd particularly) for everything that goes wrong just to save them the sheer mental effort of having to think about another excuse or sparing them the embarrassment of coming out with the truth which would go something like this... " Yes, we were great as a liberation movement but that didn't involve running a country. Unfortunately we are way out of our depth here....would somebody else like to have a go?"
But Trevor Manuel and I finally agreeing on the hollowness of always blaming apartheid for the ANC's failures isn't going to have the volcanic effect of the final Out to Lunch column the Sunday Times ran five years ago. So let me suggest something else.
Apart from no longer blaming apartheid why don't the ANC also concede that they were damn lucky to inherit a country with a superb infrastructure back in 1994. The fact that much of that infrastructure has been allowed to decay as a result of gross mismanagement I will overlook for the moment.
Why don't the ANC thank their lucky stars that South Africa was colonised by civilisations that brought great things to Africa? Hell, if this place had been colonised by the Vikings all you'd have to show for it is IKEA flat pack shacks. And can you imagine the financial chaos if the Italians or Greeks had got here before the English and the Dutch?
So just count and publicly acknowledge the many blessings of colonisation (not the least being Stellenbosch architecture) and please stop bellyaching about how the past is always to blame for the present. For Trevor's sake if not for mine.
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