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The UK and Europe is so far ahead of the US when it comes to Corporate Responsibility. If I only had a penny for everyone who said this. I hear this almost every single day. And not just from those in England who have a slightly superior attitude when it comes to corporate responsibility. I hear it from people here in the US just as often, if not more. The truth is that we are comparing apples and oranges. Is cricket better than baseball? Only if you are from England. Although you wouldn’t know that from recent results. And you would only like cricket more if you enjoy sitting in the sun and rain for five days and still not get a result. But I digress. They are both ball sports but they are vastly different. They might even share a common history, but that is where it stops.

In the US they believe in Corporate Citizenship and in the UK they believe in Corporate Responsibility. More or less the same, but different just the same. Corporate Citizenship is about what you do in your community. How you interact and how you support them. Corporate Responsibility is about how you run your business – it’s about operations and how you work. The impact is important to both, but in Corporate Citizenship you look at your community and their needs first and the way you work in your community might have something to do with the way you operate, but does not have to. In Corporate Citizenship you focus on your role in society through your operations and the impact you have, and then you improve on these. Through these operational changes you will have a more positive impact on society. Both benefits society, but they have slightly different points of departure.

The reason why the community focus is so central in the US is because there is less of a safety net in the US than in most of Europe. People do not expect government to solve their problems or protect them from every single little thing in life. No, people do that themselves and they tend to look after themselves and after each other. They expect to solve issues themselves. Americans like the idea of less interference by government and more control by themselves in taking responsibility of their own lives. It might have something to do with the open spaces, but Americans do not like people telling them what to do. They want to be masters of their own destiny. Less government and more power to the people.

In the UK and much of Europe there are much more of a reliance on government to interfere in daily life. People expect government to take more control of their daily lives and maintain the rules of how society engage and organize themselves. The rules of engagement. And they want government to identify the common areas of good that will help improve society. Government will tell you what is bad and help you to become better. All that is left for companies to do is ensure they do their best through operations and compliance to government regulations.

That brings me to a second point of difference – regulations and compliance. Corporate behavior is managed through regulations and compliance in the UK and Europe. Everything you do is regulated and not left to the company to try and innovate on their side. Any leadership position you develop is very quickly turned into a government requirement. (Your window of opportunity to show true leadership will stay open for a very short period in this environment). It helps that there is a strong central government in Europe. It makes it easy to push through new regulations. And it is even easier in Europe where the European Commission is hardly held responsible by ‘the people’ and have an almost free ride in bringing in new regulations. No wonder that Europe brought out regulations to define what a banana is – up to the curve needed to be defined as a banana. And I am not joking…

And it is also easy to bring in new regulations in the UK. It is a small island with a central government that runs the rule over everyone. Yes, Scotland and Wales have some autonomy, but the UK is still pretty much ruled from London. It is easy to understand the drive towards more regulations with so much power in the hands of a central government. It is in the nature of government to try and rule their own way. And each new government want to leave behind some kind of legacy. And what is easier than to bring in new regulations that can be sold as ‘for the good of everyone’.

It is different in the US. States control their own destiny much more than any regional authority in the UK. The federal government do not have the power to control everything. Even taxes are different from state to state. And some states like Massachusetts might regulate more towards the protection of people than those in say Texas, but it is up to each state to decide what is most relevant for their state. Federal government can provide guidelines and try and push through federal laws, but this is generally fought tooth and nail by states. The art of the federal government is to try and keep a balance between inching forward on the regulatory front and encouraging states to take control at a local level. But change happens at state level and not federal level.

This approach allows for companies to take more risk in trying out new practices and to develop a leadership position. They know they can bring in these practices without the danger of it being regulated to death. Yes, it is a fine balance. They still have to tell the truth in advertising and not make claims that can’t be backed, but they can be more risky in taking chances. Over in the UK it is slightly different. The aim of regulations is not to bring best practice into law, but to rather identify the lowest common denominator that could be passed as acceptable behavior by companies. I know, both have a place – best practice and lowest common denominator. In the US they lean more towards the former and in the UK more to the latter. It fits their societal and political needs.

Of course the US does have one thing that ensures that the lowest common denominator is ‘self regulated’. The I-will-sue-you culture. You make one mistake and the consumer will take you to the cleaners. Yes, it is out of control, but it creates an incentive for business to not do something that can harm the public. There are enough lawyers here to ensure that you will get sued. Businesses in the UK can hide behind compliance of law and it is much more difficult to sue someone if they haven’t broken the law instead of suing because they didn’t look after the public interest.

And some of the regulations make the way companies act very different. For instance, both the UK and US have regulations regarding how foundations are run. And these are very, very different. US corporate foundations are not allowed to do any work that can directly benefit the company. This was put in place to ensure that companies do not see this as a way to hide money, and to ensure they spend their foundation money on what is good for society as a whole. Very different in the UK. Much more freedom to be strategic in the way they spend their foundation money. They can spend the money on helping suppliers of the company and still write it off under foundation rules. The unbelievable work the Shell Foundation (UK) has done in development in poorer countries would not be allowed under US rules.

The US also likes rock stars and celebrities more than anything else. Man, their news are pathetic over here – give me the BBC please. Every second story is about some celeb and their latest escapade. And that plays out in the way company CEO’s act as well. The CEO and Chairman tend to play a major role in the public view of the company. Bill Gates is Microsoft. Howard Schultz is Starbucks. Steve Jobs is Apple. And each one have to make their mark in this world. Not because they want to, but because people expect them to do their thing from the front – lead the way in how and what they give and the way they run their company. They are the people others look up to and aspire to become. These leaders drive change across all businesses and are needed in a less regulated business environment. They are by default the people who drive real change through their own commitment to making business and society better. Thank God for them.

Less so in the UK. Companies are seen as more important that the individual. A few has made it to the front – Richard Branson as one. But they stand out because they are so different from the rest. The focus tend to be on the company and not the individual who runs it. Yes, they play a role, but the company is seen as less dependent on the CEO and/or Chairman than in the US. Another reason why the UK loves splitting this role while the US wants the same person in charge. Two big egos would be difficult to control in the US.

One area where the US is way ahead of the UK is in communicating their corporate citizenship. They tend to focus on the communications part more while the UK tend to focus more on the operational changes. Maybe it is because the UK society is more reserved than the US, but it means that Ben and Jerry’s is more respected in the US than Unilever. But in the UK it is the other way around. Of course this can be exploited and can confuse the consumer. A classic example is the current discussions in Washington about ‘green’ advertising and marketing. But the best tend to rise to the top and consumers do know to take things with a pinch of salt.

In short, the US is different because it fits in with the way their society organizes itself compared to the UK. Both approaches have real value. Both approaches will improve the world little by little. Both approaches will have failures and successes. But the one is not better than the other. Just different. Dealing with their own little peculiarities in their society and political systems. Both work. And both fails. I don’t need to remind you of the current economic failure in the US thanks to a regulate-yourself culture. But the US is not in any way behind the UK when it comes to the role of business in society. No. They are just different. A US approach won’t last a second in the UK. And the UK approach won’t survive a second in the US. The real challenge for them both is to adapt when they are outside their own borders, culture and comfort zone. For example, neither will last long in China or South Africa if they just try to continue working the way they do in their country of origin. New rules and new ways of operating is needed. They have to bring the best of their world and merge it with the societal and political expectation in these new countries. And that won’t be better either. Just better for that specific country.

Bu the discipline of business in society benefits from this dynamics – bringing different approaches to the table. And it is when these merge and mingle that we move further ahead in this world of ours. Of course there is one approach that works no matter where you are. The South African approach. But I won’t be giving away our secrets just yet. No, I am way to responsible to do something like that.

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thanksgiving_turkey_2

My “liberal” credentials might take a bit of a beating here. But, what the hell, I am African… I can’t pull punches just to make people feel better about themselves. I have some beef with what we eat…

You know I don’t like Palin. She an empty head with lots of background noise. I’m not even going to go into that. Just have a look at a few of the things I’ve written about her to know I am not a fan. See the letter I wrote to Sarah, or how six degrees of separation makes her anti-American and not a maverick, or what I want in a Vice President. Oh, there are many more. But those will give you a sense of my dislike of the lipstick pig.

And here I am defending her. Dammit. I thought about it for a while… But I know I have to. It’s about meat you see. And I am a meatarian. Ooh… Not everyone likes that part of me. Mmm. A few nice tjops and a boerewors on the open fire… Mouth watering sh*t I tell you. Anyway. Go have a look at my views on eating meat. Unpopular? Maybe. Do I care? Hum… Sorry… Was that a question? I eat meat. Live with it.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the “turkey incident”. You know, the one with Sarah “Empty Head” Palin talking to the media while a guy is busy cutting the throat of a turkey in the background to drain the blood. And of course, kill the bird. Here is a link to that just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Do what I did… Turn off the sound and just watch the guy in the background. I really have no reason to hear her voice. She sounds just like a bunch of turkeys in any case. And about as predictable. Have you ever stood with a bunch of turkeys and made the turkey “kulu-kulu-kulu” sound? Yep, they all react the same way by singing it all back to you in unison. Just like Sarah and her gang of bigots. You push the button and she’ll sing it back… So predictable. Anyway… Here is the video.

It was all over the news. People were up in arms about her being so stupid to stand in front of the cameras while the guy is killing the bird in the background. How could she? Is she that stupid? Hum… Yes, this “bird” is that stupid but it has nothing to do with the bird in the background. I really don’t get what the fuss was about?

Are you shocked about the killing of the bird? WTF? How did you think that turkey got on your plate over Thanksgiving? Do you think they were massaged till they died a peaceful death? Or that they died of some natural cause?

Yep. They did die of a natural cause. Natural for a turkey in any case. They got slaughtered. And nicely packaged for your convenience. Ready to place your order for a 16 pound turkey and pick it up at Roche Brothers the day before Thanksgiving. And then you stick it in the oven for a few hours and… Wallah! Turkey time!

(Oh, we had a chicken on steroids for Thanksgiving. Eight pounds – the smallest one you could order. Hey, the butcher frowned at our un-American size turkey – even after we explained we are four very normal size people. Two kids and two grown ups. But that maple syrup did the trick. Nice and juicy! Thanks babe.)

Back to reality… The meat you eat were once little calves and chicks and little piggies and little baa baa white sheep. Yes, they were cute once. But now they are dinner. Or maybe just mashed up into a burger or something. Get used to it. The things we call meat were once alive. Now they are nicely done (medium rare as the chef said) and on our dinner plates. Live with it.

More importantly, own it.

I find it amazing that people were shocked at the video. I just can’t understand how people can think that food comes nicely packaged without any consequences. Meat doesn’t grow on trees. Their natural state isn’t wrapped in plastic and in cold storage. They don’t grow up from little 1 ounce steaks into the half-pounder you slap on the grill.

I don’t have a problem with what I eat. I slaughtered a few sheep in my time. And cattle for that matter. Plucked a few chickens. Even helped a turkey or two from their kulu-kulu state into my plate. That’s life. I am from Africa and had to go to the farm when there was a break from school. I’m glad I did it.

And I am happy that I slaughtered the sheep and cows and chickens and rabbits and deer or whatever else came my way from the farm or when we went hunting. We ate what we killed. It wasn’t for fun. It was for food and to control the numbers. Too many wild animals and the semi-desert area would turn into a desert area if we didn’t cull the animals and control the numbers. Like I said, it wasn’t for fun.

But I am still glad I knew what I ate. And I am glad that I could take ownership of what I ate. From the farm to my plate. I knew the animals and knew what they were for. We always looked after them and fed them. Gave them space to live and kept them healthy. But they weren’t there to be played with. We respected them and treated them well. And then we will slaughter them in the best and quickets way we can. Always with respect and acknowledgement that we owe them as much as what we own them. Because we knew that in the end we will eat them. And live.

My only problem now is that I don’t know where my meat comes from. I know about the force-feeding of turkeys and the steroids for juicy steaks and the transporting of sheep. I don’t like it. I don’t. But I have to make a choice. I either eat it and know what might have happened along the way or I should shut the f*ck up and go eat some celery.

Oh I try to be organic when I can afford it and when I can get it. I make sure I have as much information as possible. But I am not going to live in the clouds and think that there are no consequences. I know that there are some major sh*t going on in the US when it comes to the stuff they call meat. Those large commercial farms are not a pretty sight. But that happens when you want your steaks and you want your burgers. It’s as horrid as you can imagine and then some. Sh*t happens when we want to eat meat.

Know what you eat. Live with it. Don’t try and think you are all “eco-activist” by getting worked up about the turkey getting slaughtered. Those horrid pictures… That’s life. That’s how you get your food. Know it. Live with it. And then eat it.

I do. I’m not going to bullsh*t myself. I might be a disgusting bastard and barbaric African for eating meat, but I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Don’t think your all organic green salad is that much better. Farming soya is killing the Amazon forest. And it tastes like crap. (No thanks, I’ve tried it many, many times in different ways. It always tastes shite.) What makes a plant so much worse than a cow? Just because it doesn’t have whiskers and a heartbeat?

It’s so stupid. People trying to humanize the animals we eat. Cows with glasses on? Yeah, it is funny… But it is also a piece of steak away from being on my plate. Chicken Little? Wait till he grows up. Babe? Mmm, wonder what the farmer did with him when he got old? Sorry, these animals don’t live the lives we are told on the telly or read in those nice bedtime stories. Those are stories, not life. I laugh at the stories of animals done so beautifully by Pixar and the Disney gang and I love Back To The Barnyard. But I also know that calling the main cow Otis doesn’t mean he won’t be eaten when the time comes.

You like cats or dogs? Guess what… The stuff you feed them? Used to be the crap left over after they cut the choice meat for us. Or the fish heads left over after we got our frozen bits cut into nice cubes. We eat meat. Or some of us do. And we should know what we eat and not be disgusted by how we get it. That is bigotry. Or at least hypocritical.

Thank God we don’t hear the broccoli scream as you snap the stem, dry freeze it before it is stuffed in a plastic bag and then dropped in boiled water or nuked by the microwave. Oh, those poor, poor broccoli. And the cute little peas. What did they ever do to you? Or do you wait for the carrot to die a natural death?

No. I am not going to eat roadkill. I know what I eat. Or at least as much as what I can know. I am not going to flinch when I see a picture of a dead animal getting slaughtered and packaged. I am going to look at it and then slap it on the grill.

I know it. I see it. I own it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Do you?

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looking-back

Do you ever look back? Look back and remember those faces and places of your past? I look back and often realize that there were people in my past that don’t realize how much I learned from them. Or how much they meant to me. It’s not that I miss them. Or that we left on bad terms. People I worked with and people I was friends with or I met at school. It just fizzled out. No harm done and no bad feelings. But I do wish I can go back in time and tell them what amazing people they were/are. That I liked them then because they made a difference even though they might never have known. Even though I didn’t always know it at the time. We don’t always stop to tell people that. It’s not bad. It’s just life. But I do wish I could reach back and tell them I loved them (or at least liked them), that they were cool and that I still think of them even though I have lost touch with them.

There are too many people I would like to reach back to. And for the sake of a happy marriage, I’ll leave all my ex girlfriends out of this! (“How you doing?” – in my best Joey voice.) Life’s been an education. Some people played big parts with short sentences. Let me tell you about one such short sentence…

I’ve said before that my path has been an education. I wasn’t born to be this way. From a racist family to fighting on the side of justice. But it wasn’t that much of a journey. It has been no more complex than an amoeba really. Once you set the path you can’t turn around. It’s just a ride. But I really didn’t have a “moment” that made me “see the light”. It was little things. One sentence stands out though. The first time I realized there might be another story out there that I haven’t been told.

It was just a passing comment. Almost a whisper. I don’t think the person who said it realized what they were doing. I would like to think they did, but it was just a comment. Thrown my direction and then they walked on. Or told me to keep on walking.

He was my history teacher. And he was a short little shit. Funny as hell. Always walked around with a little cane ready to give you one on the backside or on your hands. Mister U.E. Grant. I still have no idea what the hell U or E stood for. Anyway… He was always walking around throwing questions at us. Left, right and centre. I loved it. I wasn’t a great student, but I loved history. The stories of those who won. The battles. And the lessons. Where we came from. And how we landed up where we were back then.

Actually, it was the last one that wasn’t answered in our history classes. You weren’t told of the ANC. Or of Nelson Mandela. Or the oppression of my fellow South Africans. They were not only banned from the country, they were also banned from our books. So we were taught this history of the brave Afrikaners. Half of it was over-glorifying what they achieved and the other half was just plain bullshit. But I didn’t know. I just saw it in the books. And books don’t lie, do they?

I can’t even remember what we were being taught on that day. Something about South African history – maybe a story of some brave Afrikaner fighting the British masters. Maybe the Bezuidenhout brothers fighting at Slagtersnek (Slaughters Hill). I was so into that. Frederik Bezuidenhout fighting the English masters and standing up for the Afrikaner. Or at least that was what was written in our history books…

No one told us that the language Afrikaans wasn’t even established or spoken yet. Or that the concept Afrikaner wasn’t even close to being a seed to be planted yet. Or that this “Afrikaner” hero was actually married to a Xhosa woman. White wasn’t as white as they told us. Oh, they did say that he actually got his ass kicked by the English – killed in the hills. Anyway…

I thought he was a hero back then. Now I know he was, but not for the reasons that the Apartheid government told us. But because what old U.E. told me.

As always, I was late in getting my bag packed for the next class. The rest of the class was already on their way out. I grabbed my bag and headed for the door. And U.E. looked up from his desk and shouted, “Mister C! Come here for a minute.” (Meneer C, kom gou hier.)

And then he said it…

“There is another history of South Africa that you won’t find on the pages of these books.”

Just that. Nothing more. No further explaining or advice or anything. Just that simple one line. Actually, it was more like this:

“Daar is ‘n ander geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika wat jy nie in die bladsye van hierdie boeke sal vind nie.”

But I thought I should translate it for you…

I looked at him and wanted to ask him what he meant, but he just shook his head and told me to get going. That was it. Nothing more. Just that one sentence. Make no mistake, I don’t think he was a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. My school was as conservative and right wing as you can get in Apartheid South Africa – and proudly so. But he still said it. I still don’t have a clue why he did it. But he did. And it never left me from that minute on. It still lives with me today. Never forget history, not even while we are busy making it today.

I would love to think that he somehow knew I liked questioning things. I was already known at school for poking fun at politicians. But I knew nothing about real politics. Oh, I asked questions in class – trying to find out more. But I had no political knowledge or understanding or any liberal leanings. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Really.

Maybe he liked the fact that I was willing to stand up for things when I saw an injustice. Whether it was a kid being bullied or just helping a newbie. Or the time I made everyone cut their hair off (a number 1 cut) because I thought the hair rules were stupid. My hair was way short and I kept on failing hair inspection every single Monday. So I got (read “forced”) everyone at the hostel to get a number 1 cut – administered by myself. Of course I was called to the office of the headmaster the next day… And Mr Grant was there as well. The headmaster looked at me and asked if I had anything to say. I was about to say something when Mr Grant (standing behind the headmaster) just made a silent “shh” sound with his mouth and shook his head for me to be quiet. I kept my mouth shut – Yeah, that was something new for me as well! But I was lucky, the headmaster was going to kick me out of school if I opened my mouth that day. I broke so many rules in one go. Oh, apart from cutting their hair myself and a few other things, I also managed to cut the hair shorter than what was allowed under the rules…

Yes, maybe Mr Grant saw something. I hope he did. I didn’t. But he planted a seed that has steadily grown over these years.

Those words stuck though. I kept on digging deeper and deeper to try and find more answers. Nothing in the library. Nothing at home. My friends knew nothing. No one was telling me. But I kept on digging. And I kept on asking. And slowly but surely the answers started coming. That’s a story for another day. You know, my digging and finding a few answers along the way. But I am still digging. Still looking. All thanks to Mr U.E. Grant. Whether he meant it or not – He helped start this journey. So go and blame him!

Thank you Mr U.E. Grant.

I don’t think he’ll remember me. But I’ll never forget him. Because I’ve never stopped looking. Have you?

thank-you-mister-grant

I’ve never tried writing fiction. This is a first attempt. Written at midnight. Just a start. Just a beginning of a story that has been forming in my mind. But like I said, I am not a writer so see it as a first shot at something written very late at night. Let me know what you think.

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Waking Up

A blink and he is awake. It’s always like this. Just a blink and his eyes open and he is awake. Nothing but a blink. No tiredness and no dreams to remember. Just a blink and he is awake.

The darkness is total. There is no window to let the light seep in, but he doesn’t need any light yet. He just lies staring at the darkness for awhile; staring at the tin roof hidden in the darkness. Letting his eyes find the first signs of light and life. Any second now the tin roof stars will show themselves. A little spot of dull early morning light that fades through a tiny little hole, first one then another one and another one, turning the holes into dancing stars on the tin roof. His tin roof stars.

The tin roof stars dance around and pop up everywhere. Every nail that was ever used on the tin sheets of the roof is shining and dancing. Every hole left by the nails is a memory of better days; the days before it was a tin roof in a shanty town.

But he isn’t thinking of the memories of the holes. Not this morning. He is looking at the dancing stars to see if a brighter light will shine through any of the holes, because that spells trouble. A brighter light means a hole in the thick black plastic sheets that are spread out and tied down on the roof. These plastic sheets are the defense against the rains. A bright light is a leaking roof. But this morning there is nothing but dancing stars. He smiles into the darkness at his tin roof stars. Today is going to be a good day.

Slowly the shanty town morning noises seep through the walls. The far-off hooting of the taxis at the taxi rank a mile away. Telling the squatters they have space for a few people more and ready to go. The voices of women talking amongst each other as they walk through the narrow passageways between the shacks making their way to the taxi ranks to catch the early trucks selling fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables they’ll need as they lay out their tables at the market before people come to buy their daily goods. Taxis and women are the shanty town voices of the morning.

He’ll be at the market a bit later this morning, buying an apple or banana on his way looking for work. And so will his wife. She’ll be there before she comes home from her day looking for work, buying a potato or two, maybe some carrots to put in the stew that goes with the pap. The market is the main artery of the shanty town. It feeds the people who feed the shanty town.

But right now he just lies in bed and stares at his tin roof stars. And listen to the shanty town morning voices. He lies there for another twenty minutes or so. Slowly the room starts showing itself. But he doesn’t need to look at it. He knows where everything is. He’ll rather just look at his morning beauty, his wife lying next to him.

His wife never wakes up like him. She always takes her time waking up. He watches her every morning as she wakes up. It’s the perfect start to his day. It is life waking up to a new day.

She’s lying on her side cuddled up with the teddy bear he got her from the charity down the road. She starts with little moaning noises like a puppy dreaming. Then the waves start. Her body making slow rhythmic moves as she moves her arms and legs like some underwater dancer seducing the gods. This is when he knows she will open her eyes or whisper to him. The bed is too small for the two of them. Just a single bed mattress made for two. She turns around to stretch out but there is not space. Her hand hits his chest as she tries to stretch. Some mornings she gets a fright as if she didn’t expect someone to be lying there. Not him or anyone. But not this morning, this morning she starts with a smile. His morning beauty.

“Morning baby”, she whispers. Her eyes are still closed but she is smiling. That’s all he wanted, just a smile and a whisper. He kisses her softly on her lips and whispers back, “Molo Beauty”. He pulls the blankets a bit higher to cover her shoulders and then slowly slips out of bed. “Lie down Beauty. I’ll boil some water and make us something to eat”, he says to his wife as he leans forward and gives her another kiss on her forehead.

Thank God it is summer, he thinks to himself. He hates winter. It’s always a rush to get his clothes on before the coldness takes over. But in summer it is easy. He slips on the pair of jeans that has seen better days. More patches of denim and off-cuts than the original jeans. A shirt over his t-shirt and then his boots and he is ready.

He slowly walks over to the little paraffin lamp. Taking special care not to bump against the bed where his wife is still lying with her eyes closed. He picks up the matches lying next to the lamp and takes out one match before turning the knob on the lamp. And in what seemed like it was part of the same movement, he strikes the match and light the lamp while shielding the bright light with is hand. He turns the light down to a shimmer so save on paraffin and to not let it shine too brightly before his wife gets up. He’s done this a thousand times. He doesn’t even think about it anymore. It’s like flipping a switch.

He leans down to pick up the water bucket. It’s empty. His wife forgot to fill it last night. He smiles to himself. He remembers why she forgot. He looks over at her to say something but sees that her eyes are still closed. He shakes his heads with a smile, picks up the bucket and heads for the door. No need to get her out of bed. The taps aren’t far. It’s a quick walk to the community centre and he’ll be back in thirty minutes at most.  It’s one of the advantages of not having a steady job, you can take that extra thirty minutes to go and fill the water buckets. No boss to chase you around if you are late. Beauty will wait for him. It will be over before she knows he is gone. Well, almost. It will be quick. He’ll be back to make them some black coffee they can share in their little shack called home. A moment of peace before they take on their day.

(I am okay with it up to here. Still rough around the edges but it is more or less where I was hoping to go. The rest I am not sure about. Not sure I want to take it there, but thought I would leave it in for now.)

He just stepped outside the shack when he heard someone behind him. He knew who it was. It was Sipho, the boy next door. “Morning Sipho”, he whispered. Sipho was about to say something but he stopped him by waving his finger and whispering, “No Sipho. Beauty is still asleep. Do me a favor and keep an eye on her for me. I’ll buy you an apple today”. Sipho grinned and held up both his thumbs. That was a close one, he thought. Sipho is a great kid but is always making a noise to try and get his attention. He’ll make it up to him later and chase him around the shacks. That always gets Sipho going.

The walk to community centre was quick. He enjoys walking through the shacks this time of the morning when it’s not too busy. There are women walking to the taxi ranks to buy their goods but most people are just starting to wake up. You can still hear your footsteps on the hard ground this time of the morning. He was quickly lost in his own thoughts.

Thank God it’s too early for the queues, he thought to himself, just a few women filling up their containers. He goes to one of the taps and starts filling the bucket. He’s been away for about ten minutes now. Beauty will be up wondering where he is. She’ll see the bucket is gone though and know that he came to fetch water. She might even be getting some bread ready for them to eat together. He smiles thinking of how she always puts too much butter on his bread. She knows he loves butter and they can’t really afford it but she always somehow gets butter just for him.

The bucket is filled; time to go home and make some coffee. The walk back is more difficult because the bucket is heavy. He laughs to himself thinking about the women who carry the buckets on their heads. Men can’t do that. Their necks hurt and they can’t balance the buckets. Whoever thought that men are the tough ones should come to this shanty town and look at the weight that these women carry. He is always amazed at how Beauty carries such a heavy bucket as if it is nothing. His Beauty.

He was still deep in thought when he heard the shouting. It was coming closer to him. Louder and louder. Closer and closer. It was Sipho. He could make out that it was Sipho but he couldn’t make out what he was shouting. He dropped the bucket and started running towards the shouting; his heart pounding in his chest. Did she fall and hurt herself? Oh please let her be okay.

He could see Sipho dodging between the shacks as he was getting closer. Still shouting and calling for him. He didn’t even look where he was going. Sipho was just running like crazy. He kept on calling his name and shouting, “Jonas! Jonas! Quick!”. Sipho looked up while running and saw him coming towards him. He tried to shout for Sipho to calm down, “Sipho! Calm down! What is it?” Then he saw Sipho’s face. The face of fear.

And Sipho kept on shouting and shouting…

But all he could hear was, “It’s Beauty. They are taking her…”

You know, sometimes we needs loads of evidence to point to someone being Souf Efrikans. But sometimes one photo tells the story. Unfortunately for others, 3 photos are not only enough proof to show they are Souf Efrikan, but also enough to make sure they won’t ever get a visa to go anywhere else in the world.

Take today’s victim friend… He gave me 3 photos. Was he crazy? He could have given me one corner of one half a photo and I could have pointed it out to him. Hell… This guy is so Souf Efrikan that even Mandela calls him boet. I bet you he has the typical 1, 2, 3 of Souf Efrikans – 1 liter brandy, 2 liter Coke and 3 liter Ford. That’s Souf Efrikans for you. As easy as 1, 2, 3…

I give to you Koos Baardman (Chuck Beardman)… Oh, he thought he was Keven Bennet from Seattle, but we know he is Koos Baardman from Sonderwater (Withoutwater). But let me give you a bit of background on Koos…

Every year millions of Souf Efrikans go down to the Cape for a holiday. Those Vaalies, or as we call them, Klipkakkers (Hum… Rockshitters…) come down in their numbers. Getting away from the craziness of living up at high altitude. Only problem is that they are the crazy people and they all gather down at our place. And guess what happens? It’s the same crazy people doing the same crazy things – but just with a better view. Ja, bleddie Klipkakkers…

We have a few of the farmers coming down as well. Bringing their caravans, sheep and mother-in-law with them. That is also the order of importance. Koos does that. He is a farmer. He rents a place right next to the sea every year. Okay, what he defines right next to the sea. It’s about 5 miles in and right next to the sewerage plant. But that’s no problem. Five miles is just enough for the mother-in-law to go missing for the whole day. Or whole holiday. And the smell of the sewerage plant remind him of the kraal (enclosure for sheep and cattle) back home. He is from the land where men are men and sheep are scared…

So here we have Koos at his little place by the sea. Let’s see what evidence we can find. A bit of a tester today. Try to match the red arrows to the statement of his Souf Efrikan roots…

The afdak… (The lean-to) 

Every good Souf Efrikan has got one. An afdak. But not just any afdak. There are certain things that tells us this is a Souf Efrikan afdak…

Now, let’s match the arrows… Join the dots… Check the lines… You get what I mean?

1. A roof made of old blue overalls and stitched together by his lovely wife Ant Bettie. (Blue overalls are the standard outfit for farmers in Souf Efrika.)

2. Leg of blue overall still hanging down the side of the afdak.

3. Old school lawnmower for when the last sheep is on the braai but the grass still needs to be cut.

4. House at the back where mother-in-law is locked up at night. (Just to keep her away from the booze and boys.)

5. Window Aunt Bettie uses to shout instruction like, “Pulls up yor pents Koos. Duh hole nayburhood dusn’t neet to see yor builders cleavage.” (Proper accent included.)

6. Forest for feature braai wood. It used to come right up to his back door. Yes, Koos likes to braai. Often. And big.

7. Pipe to let the steam out from the “braai”. It isn’t really a braai. It is a home made mampoer factory. (Mampoer is the strongest drink ever made. And it is home brewed. Not to be used close to an open flame. But can be used as a paint stripper. Made from fruits. Any fruits. We Souf Efrikans aren’t too picky…)

And… Did you see the generator driven computer in the background? That’s to keep up with what’s going down with AA! Fox News for Africa. Unfiltered and unbiased… Hah!

The workshop…

But you would think the guy will stop there right? That he won’t give me any more reason to “show him the way”? He did…

1. The stick part of a broom used to poke the coals, chase the bloody dog who just grabbed the meat off the braai and also to flip the dog turds off the grass like a professional golfer. (Was once used to keep Ant Bettie away when Koos by “accident” had an “accident” in the kitchen sink after too much mampoer.)

2. A telly to watch the rugby and cricket on. This is cricket you see because no true contact sport for men will really have so much padding or wear helmets. The motto of rugby players… “Real men don’t wear helmets” and “it doesn’t hurt if you can stitch it back on”.

3. A coffee mug. Koos’s favorite coffee mug. He drinks everything from this mug. It says, I Love Mum. Not allowed to be washed, only rinsed, as Koos believes the residue of coffee, mampoer and braai sauce leaves a nice aftertaste. Also known to repel flies from the braai area. And cats won’t even crap close to it. (Currently has mampoer in it.)

4. Wooden fence to keep the noisy neighbors out. Especially the mother-in-law.

5. Bag of charcoal. Only to be used when wood runs out or when you need something hard to chuck at the dogs crapping on the lawn but you don’t really want to get up from the chair.

6. The “Mampoer Bucket”. Used for any type of residue left after making mampoer. From the leftover fruits to the brown and green stuff that grows at the top of the liquid or the yellow watery stuff that comes from you after consuming too much liquid. Once the bucket is filled… Used to kill ants and bees in the garden. And stop the dogs from crapping on the lawn. And makes a mean mix with some ice and a lemon. Not sliced. Called Souf Efrikan Cocktail.

7. Chair taken from the rubbish dump and welded together again by Koos. He made his whole dining room set this way…

8. Big bag of crisps hiding behind the chair. Ant Bettie doesn’t want him to eat so much crisps. But he needs his fix. Also used to store biltong when Ant Bettie isn’t looking. And spare beer.

9. Huge bowl of dip for the chips. Currently covered in tinfoil. Key ingredients… Onion, salt and the stuff from the mampoer bucket.

10. Grass where the dogs crap. No matter what you do there will always be fresh crap in the morning.

11. Big cooler / small paraffin fridge to keep the beers cold. Always stocked full. Because you never know when the “Big Wind” of ’78 might hit you again. That was when Ant Bettie made bean stew and forced Koos to sleep outside for a few days until his “Big Wind” passed. And passed completely.

12. Spare canister attached to braai / mampoer factory to hold extra cold beers while waiting for the mampoer / braai to be done.

13. Tools hanging from braai. These tools are proper antiques and the London Museum has offered Koos loads of money for this already. They want to use it as part of their Neanderthal display. But Koos said his dad gave it to him and he has fond memories of those tools. And he can show the scars on his butt to prove it.

Koos himself…

You think that is enough? How Souf Efrikan can he be? Much more…

 

1. Neck. Made for playing rugby. Take no prisoners! Real men play rugby and real men have real necks. Not rednecks.

2. Hair shaved for the holidays. Generally covered in big floppy farmer hat. Good to get a haircut once a year. Gets rid of all the things that live there. At least 3 previously unknown species was found by the Nobel prize winning group of scientists who make this yearly pilgrimage to what is known in scientific circles as “The Haircut”. (It is not known whether any of the new species will be able to survive outside the Koos habitat.)

3. Fence also used as spare wood for really big braais. It used to be 60 feet long. But then, Koos had a couple of really big braais since then.

4. The bakkie… Like every good farmer Oom Koos drives a bakkie that is diesel and the smoke it creates when you start it can be seen from space. Rumored to have led to the invasion of Iraq as the bakkie was seen as a WMD. But he drove it back to SA quickly once he filled his oil drum (now used as a braai / mampoer factory.) The US never suspected a thing. Oom Koos is good in that way. Or maybe Rummy was just bad in that way. And yes, when Oom Koos drives the bakkie it can also be heard from space.

5. The kraal where the sheep stay during the holiday. Barren because the sheep have eaten almost all the grass. Not a problem because Oom Koos have eaten almost all the sheep already. Yes, Oom Koos and Ant Bettie have been there on holiday for almost a week already.

6.  The towel used to wipe bloody hands when Koos slaughters the sheep. Also used to dry himself after a swim at the beach.

7. The path to freedom. Or at least to the outside toilet known as his “office”. That’s the right turn where he makes his number 2’s. Number 1 is done on the grass like all good Souf Efrikan men do. Koos turns left for his 1 and 2. 1 Liter brandy and 2 liter Coke. The shop is just around the corner. Oom Koos is known to be more inclined to go left than right. It’s a natural thing for him to lean towards the left.

8. Braai made from an oil drum. You know, the one he got in Iraq. He cut it in half and just welded a few spots together. High tech for a Souf Efrikan but then, he is known for his edgy attitudes towards braaing. He was once seen braaing chicken! What the hell is a salad doing on the fire? A question asked by the many onlookers. If it’s not red it’s not meat. If it’s not meat you can’t eat.

9. Rooster to place the meat on. The rooster (grill) is a key component of any braai. It leaves nice lines across the steaks. Best place to get a rooster is to cut one out of the frame of a grocery trolley. And it’s shiny too!

10. Battery backup for the mampoer factory. The clamp is used to charge the battery that runs the mampoer factory. At the moment not on as the braai and mampoer can’t be done at the same time. Koos generally empties the mampoer into his mug for “safe keeping” while he braais. No one knows how safe this really is. Not this close to an open fire in any case. Koos uses it instead of fire lighters. No, he doesn’t pour it over the coals. He just breathes over the coals. So strong that no matches are required either. The term “spontaneous combustion” was named after Koos and his fire lighting abilities.

11. Tongs used to grip the rooster. Koos is also known as an expert in grabbing thongs with his tongs. The screams of surprise and the horror when they see him can also be heard from space. Koos doesn’t mean anything with this. He just needs something to cover his hands when he grips the tongs. They get hot. Unlike the girls he gets his thongs from.

12. Meat and fish pot. Koos is famous for his daring braai techniques. You can see the pot where he mixed fish and chicken together. Men call him names because of this. Names like “traitor”, “Mr WTF” and “stupid doos”, but Koos doesn’t mind as he is a Renaissance man. Just don’t call him a maverick… Let me just clarify Koos being famous for this dishes. Infamous might be a better word for it. Eating this dish is not allowed under the Geneva Convention. It makes grown men cry. And get very, very sick. There is no known cure for this. Have you seen the movie Awakening? Now you know why…

13. A red arrow. I just threw an extra red arrow in there to make it look even more impressive. Honestly? I actually forgot why I had that other arrow in there. Or that one…

14. The chain. Some people think that Koos have dog chains around his neck. No, it isn’t. It’s his keys, tools (drillbits and screwdriver), earbud (he has used the same one since 1984. They always come clean after a rinse under hot water. Or after repeated use), tobacco for his pipe, his pipe, glasses and Swiss Army Knife. Oh, and a can of Bullybeef (Spam/Corned Beef) and a half-jack of mampoer. A man can never be too prepared. He hides it really, really well.

15. Boep. The paunch that you see is the pride of all Souf Efrikan men. Or like they would say, “I work-ad werry hart forr dis boep. U no how mutch beer I hed two drinked two get dis boep? Et leest wurf 40 bucks. Part off my retiremint plen.” A Souf Efrikan man without a boep is like having Italy not change their government every year. Or the English not lose against Souf Efrika in rugby or cricket. Or President Bush without a f*ck-up once a day. You know it is possible, but it ain’t gonna happen.

16. Rugby jersey. Every man in Souf Efrika must have a rugby jersey. You never wear it on the farm. But you also never take it off when you go on holiday. Including at night when you go to sleep. Alone. Outside. Also never washed. NEVER washed. Wash it and you could be deported and lose your citizenship. Another reason to sleep outside… The smell. Just ask Ant Bettie. Koos played rugby. He was a winger who played on the left. A left winger.

There you go! And who said that KB isn’t Souf Efrikan? Hell, he is more Souf Efrikan than me! Seattle is only where he visits for the duration of his lifetime. But Souf Efrikan he is…

Sorry Kev, but you asked for it…

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Who’s next? Come on… Don’t be afraid. I’ll be nice…

The next sucker… Hum… I mean victim friend to share her photos with us… SanityFound! But she is no ordinary Souf Efrikan. Nope. She is from the city. Pretoria… (Shiver)… And this is about her journey… Of love…

Let me start by saying that she is a deeply disturbed Souf Efrikan. She does things that makes us just shake our head and go… “What is happening to the youth of today”. Or in a more pure Souf Efrikan way, “Wat are heppening to duh yoof off twodey?” She is a wild one… But don’t believe just old me. I have photo evidence. And more than one photo…

You think her name SanityFound has something to do with finding her “inner” self? Her deep side? Haha! Suckers. Not even close. It’s about her journey from Pretoria to Cape Town. About love found and lost. And found again and lost again and found again. And then lost again. I give to you SanityFound’s journey as a Souf Efrikan.

Her real name is Ossewania Smit. (To non-Souf Efrikans… It’s something like Oxwagonia and the most common surname you can get.) Born and bred in Snor City (Moustache City) – Pretoria. She went to a girls only school – Langkloof Hoerskool (no umlaut & too rude to translate!) She was Miss Langkloof even with the braces and thick glasses. Because she was still the best looking one at school. Yeah, the competition was really weak. She was the only one with her own teeth. And without a cauliflower ear. And the only one to actually make it to her final year at school. And then she was set free…

Okay, she left school and went to a party in Joburg.

And there it all started with some trouble with the law…

The whole gang (Jannie, Sannie and friends) went to the park in Joburg to celebrate their freedom. They went to the beach – Benoni. No sea in a 1,000 miles, but it had a swimming pool and all the stuff you find at the beach. Fat guys with long socks and beer. Women with two beers in their hands and a swimming costume 4 sizes to small. Sand that got stuck in your underwear. And, that Souf Efrikan speciality, a mugging to go with your shopping at the boerie stand (hot dog stand). Oh, they had so much fun…

But Ossewania had too much fun. Taking drinks from Jannie who always had the hots for her. She didn’t realize that they ran out of beer hours ago, but Jannie kept on filling up her glass… Jannie was known t be 100 per cent proof.

The problems started when she decided to chat up the tall handsome dude she was leaning against. It was early morning so she couldn’t see that well. She thought he was a bit of a stiff, but she always liked tall guys.

So she started catching a vry (smooch) with this guy. She thinks he said his name started with an S. But she couldn’t be sure. It could have been the wind. His lips were a bit hard. But she put that down to inexperience. Or that it was her first time without her braces. She lost that opening the last bottle of beer with her teeth. But at least he had strong solid arms. Like tree trunks. (Oh, she also lost her glasses somewhere during the party. And the bottom of the Coke bottles didn’t work as well as before.)

And then she heard it… “Freeze you woman!” She froze. Threw her arms up in the air. And her date just stood there behind her. He didn’t do a thing to protect her. He stood there like a piece of wood. Almost like he was rooted to the spot.

But she made a dash for it. She headbutted the guy she thought was the cop. Ouch. That hurt…

But she made it. She was free. She ran and ran her little legs off. Even changed her name. To Eeufesia Smythe (Centuriafestivalia and fancy surname – these are real names by the way!) It sounded so much fancier.

She got lost somewhere between Joburg and Cape Town. In the Karoo. A dry desert area. They say the f*ck-all grows 6 feet high there. And that it is so quiet and dead that f*ck-all happens there every hour and that it goes on for days. It was just our little Eeufesia and her friend Saartjie Visser. Stumbling along in this dry country. And then she saw him… She fell for him… really hard… She knew it the moment she fell over him… Her one true love…

And I mean literally fall over him. He was that short. But like a little rock.

Her little Rhino she called him. Rhino Post. (Where rhinos rub their butts. Serious. They must be men.)

She loved her little Rhino. He was short. He was smelly. He wasn’t much of a kisser either. But he was her little Rhino. Her rock.

But she lost him somewhere during the night. She had to go pay “beer rent”. And couldn’t find him in the darkness. She wondered around shouting his name. “Rhino! Rhino! Where art thy Rhino!” But he didn’t answer. He was the quiet type. She sulked in the arms of Saartjie. Cried her little heart out. Because she missed him so.

Oh where could he be? Her man. Her little Rhino Post. She could still smell him on her clothes. Her fingers. Her hair. Her lips. Ewe! Aargh! It smelled really bad. But still. Her heart belonged to him and only him.

And then she saw him. Her little man. Her rock. Her smelly rock. Her Rhino Post butt rock.

I wish I could tell you that it had a happy ending. It didn’t. Eeufesia went for a walk one day and came back only to catch him cheating on her. With a Rhino. And she found her glasses.

But there you go. That’s our SanityFound. Down in Cape Town now (or close enough). Still sulking about her Benoni lover and about her little Rhino. She’s getting better now. But we think it is time for her to leave. The rocks in South Africa isn’t good for her. But at least she can tell her children one day about her journey of love. Her life of love found and lost. And her life story as a Souf Efrikan.

It’s a shame it didn’t work out though. Rhino Post and Eeufesia would have had beautiful kids. Okay, scrap the beautiful part. A rock is a rock.

_______________________

(For those non-Souf Efrikans – We call really stupid Souf Efrikan men “rocks”. They are that dense, thick and hard headed.)

Who said us Souf Efrikans aren’t that computer savvy? We get it dudes and dudettes! We are “with it” when it comes to computers. Just look at how we make sense of it all – computer terms explained the Souf Efrikan way…

Monitor– keeping an eye on the braai (braai = BBQ)

Download– get the firewood off the bakkie (bakkie = pickup truck)

Hard drive– trip back home without cold beers

Keyboard– where you hang the bakkie and bike keys

Windows– you shut it when it’s cold

Screen– you shut it in mosquito season

Byte– What mosquitoes do

Bit– What mosquitoes did

Megabyte– what mosquitoes at the lake does

Chips– bar snacks

Micro chips– what’s left in the bag of chips

Modem– what you did to the lawn

Dot matrix– Oom Jan Matrix’s wife (Oom = term used for odd old guy we all know “Old Uncle”)

Laptop– where the cat sleeps

Software– plastic knives and forks you get from KFC

Hardware– real stainless steel knives and forks

Mouse– what eats the grain in the shed

Cursor– the old bloke that swears a lot

Search engine– what you do when the bakkie won’t start

Yahoo– what you say when the bakkie finally goes

Upgrade– a steep hill

User– the neighbour that keeps borrowing things from you

Network– when you have to repair your own fishing net

Internet– complicated fishnet repair method

Netscape– when fish maneuvers out of reach of net

Online– when you hang out the washing

Web– what spiders make

Website– the shed or under the veranda

Mainframe– what holds up the shed

Server– the person at the pub that brings out lunch

Main server– the bloke at the pub that gives you beer

You see how computer literit… litarite… literite… litterrit… dammit – you see how we know computer hey?

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Thanks Saffer for emailing me this. It is excellent! You know I am going to upgrade from pigeon to dial-up soon. Promise boet.