Please forgive us Tata


Dear Mr Mandela                                                                                 23 June 2012

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. My name is René and I was born in our beautiful country in December 1977. I grew up in, what was then a small mining town called Witbank. Being raised in a liberal home in the 80s and 90s proved to be very challenging for a young girl in an Afrikaans family.

In hindsight, growing up I made a lot of enemies due to my and my family’s political views. I must add that we were relatively sheltered against what was going on outside politically. We were not aware of historic incidents such as Sharpeville and Hector Pieterson or what our government was currently doing to the future of South Africa. All I knew was that we were pretty much on our own. What with an Afrikaans father who very quickly became seriously involved with the then Democratic Party together with, Zach de Beer, Denis Worrall and Wynand Malan. We had no chance!

But the purpose of this letter is not about my childhood or what I “endured”. The purpose of this letter is to get my feelings across to you. As you are to me, and to the rest of the world, an icon. A hero. Someone who was put on this earth to change the world as we know it. And you did just that.

Today I am 34 years old. I have 2 beautiful young children and a wonderful husband. I am still Afrikaans, still white and still trying my best to look at what is happening around me in a liberal way. The latter proving to be harder each day after I listen to the news…

I feel compelled to apologise to you for what is happening in South Africa. The one cause you were willing to give your life to. 27 years you spent behind bars. And each day you forgave yet another person who was responsible for putting you on Robben Island. Where you found the strength from God alone knows. But you carried on. And I truly believe you did that because you had hope for a new South Africa. Somewhere amongst all the racial chaos taking place, you had a dream. A dream that will one day change everything.

I remember your release day so clearly. Maybe it was because we were few and far between in celebrating in our small town! But maybe it’s because I will never forget the image of a free man walking, side-by-side to his wife, waving and smiling. Exuberating kindness through eyes that should’ve been filled with revenge. Instead I saw a leader. A man who forgave. I remember the guilt I felt as a white African. Barely 12 years old and I suddenly realized that all of this was wrong. I realize now that this could’ve been the start of my rebellious political streak amongst my fellow Afrikaans pupils in a very Afrikaans school? Or maybe politics really do run in the genes?

Tata, our country is crying. When I think about South Africa I see fire. I see fighting and warfare. I see bank notes being pulled and ripped. I see hatred. I feel hatred. I see an ever-growing infliction of racism that, I believe, will never die down. I feel fear for my children. I am anxious. I sometimes find myself looking at other countries and I long for freedom. But then I realize freedom comes with a price tag…

Weeks before your 94th birthday I would like to send you a personal heart felt message to apologise about the state of our country. I feel ashamed to live under a government who cannot provide education to our learners. I feel helpless when yet another murder or rape statistic is released; knowing the families of the victims will possibly never find closure. My heart aches when youth leaders publicly release statements proclaiming that warfare is needed for land claims. When a mentally handicapped child is raped and exposed in the media and the perpetrators run free. Poverty amongst the very same people who voted for the leaders who are not protecting them. Murderers become celebrities. Drug dealers start operating at the age of 10.

I believe that there is no future for South Africa if the youth in our country is denied the basic right to education. 5 year old learners sit under a tree through rain and sun. Teachers have to fight their way through the voices of 80+ pupils in a room…but I guess you know all of this.

My heart aches. South Africa my country. I do not want to leave you. We have so much to offer to this wonderful place.  May God guide us in retaining hope and never losing faith.

I wish you a wonderful 94th birthday Madiba. Through all the wrong Africa has done we must have done something right to be honoured with your presence.

Thank you for believing in a nation who let you down. Thank you for always smiling. Thank you for forgiving. I will never stop praying for our land.

Yours sincerely,

René Pienaar

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Through the eyes of a child

Wow. I haven’t blogged in years. I think about it often. Often conjuring up wonderful topics with witty funny anecdotes but I never put it on my blog. Why? Surely the first answer is TIME. Or lack of it – or maybe that should read time management. I guess time is a legit excuse. As I get older and our kids become more “time consuming” I have tried to prioritise my projects. Whether it be family time, school time, me time, friend time or gym time, I have come to the realisation that in today’s rat race time is a precious commodity. Something we will never have enough of. Something we wish away so often. Something we can’t wrap as a gift. Something we can never stop. Something we steal so often. And most importantly, something we do not own to begin with…

Friday 06h20. The harp alarm on my iPhone softly strings on volume 4 next to my bed. I snooze it. 10 minutes. Miraculously I fall asleep again. 06h30. I “slide to cancel” and get up. We have half an hour before we leave to school. I wake my youngest with a “morning my girl, you have to get up and get dressed otherwise we’ll be late, we’ve half an hour. Would you like Bfast?”. I go next door and wake my son “morning angel, come it’s 6h30 we don’t have time to waste this morning. All bran or Pronutro?”. They get dressed in record time – we are blessed, I realise that! Downstairs at 6h39, both of them shoes and socks in hand – they are creatures of habit. Still half asleep they shove over crowded spoons full of cereal in their mouths. I make cappuccino and organise school bags. Pack lunch boxes (which I make the night before to gain an extra 7 minutes) and fill water bottles. Then I start rushing them. Eat up, socks and shoes, brush your teeth, fetch a hair brush. Back up for hair fasteners. Teeth check. Water-comb my boys’ hair, sometimes wiping his toothpaste stained mouth with the kitchen cloth. Library books check, soccer kit check, show and tell … dam it! Take this pepper grinder, look it’s got Himalayan rock salt, tell the kids (they’re 5 for goodness sake!) dad got it when he went to the Himalayas and it’s magic! Show and tell check 🙂 R8 for baking check, Echinae force drops, Multi vitamins check. Right! With 2 “I love yous” and have funs I guide them out the door to their awaiting lift. It’s 7am and I need to sit and have a well deserved break with a luke warm cappuccino…

I am sure you’re not as interested in my day-to-day activities as I might well believe anyone would be so I won’t continue at 12h30: first pick up at school starts. At 18h30 we at last return home from cricket…

I will cut to the chase and make my point: Our children are born into a world where time will never stand still. And time used to stand still. Hardly 30 years ago. I remember because I was there. And my time often stood still.

Witbank 1985. I was in Gr2 and 7 years old. It’s 13h15 and I’m waiting for Mom at the school gate under the tree with the glue on its bark. It has big old roots where we tunnel and make roads for our tree town. I eat the glue. Only the really hard bits not the soft runny clumps. The hard bits sometimes glue my upper and lower teeth together so severely that when I eventually undo them I have to check if I didn’t loose a tooth. But I never stop doing that. There’s glue all over my uniform, mom will get upset with me again. Every day she tells me to stop getting the glue on my uniform. But I don’t listen. I’m a kid. I’m hungry, my lunch box empty by first break already. My knees are stained from crawling around in the sand, my school shoes hopelessly scuffed. But I am happy. Having so much fun digging and tunneling. And of course eating the glue! Boomgom I called it. Stuffing some clumps into my pocket just before Mom arrives. I’ve been playing for about 7 minutes but it felt like hours. My time stood still.

LIfe was so much slower. I can’t remember ever really rushing. I guess living 3 blocks from school and living in an era where children walked or cycled to school from the age of 6 made a difference. The only form of advanced communication being a Telkom landline. Or a hand written letter. We all lived within a few hundred meters from each other. The only rush being the lunchtime sandwich shoved into our mouths in 3 bites to get out the house! On the bikes, down 2 roads and into the veld. Tying long grass together in the pathways for innocent passers to trip over 🙂 Climbing trees and endless tunneling under roots, in hardened building sand, shooting clap guns, scraping R2 together for a cream doughnut and some gum. Not in the least aware of that thing called time. All we had was time. And life was good. Uncomplicated. Or so it seemed for a 7 year old girl with only boy friends digging, climbing, boxing, shooting, cycling, falling, creating, planning. How wonderful life was!

I realise now that we are the creators of our own worst fears. We are the masters of our destiny. My life has made a full 360. I am the pupil and I learn from the masters, my children. They teach me invaluable life lessons every day. Laugh more, rush less. Dance more, plan less. Do less, do more. Plant, paint, dig, roll, eat, wrestle, draw. 

To you my children, I will forever be in debt. Thank you for teaching me what I do not know. For the mistakes I make are mere lessons which I did not learn as a child. I am a master in the making and one day when you are a pupil again I hope that I can teach you as much as you taught me. I love you more. Image


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SpeakZA – Bloggers for a free press


Bloggers For a Free Press

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth

League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a

letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political

journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This

complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain

journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani

Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation

that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by

Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a

grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards

dictatorial rule in South Africa.

We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the

actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic

safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their

positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under

difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial

moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note

that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target

journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to

silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC

Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of

complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and

the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a

response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the

so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to

intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information

about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and

other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

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A bit of blank about blank

I don’t like thinking of a topic for my blog. Sometimes in the middle of the night I think of a great topic but the next day I’d forgotten it. Hate that. Then when I open this blog and read through some of my previous posts I SO wish that I can just start typing about some arb thing and it all turns out ok…so that is what I’m going to do today. No topic. Just stuff.

So what’s hot in my life, you ask? Let me put my last 3 months in a nutshell for those who are interested:

In January of this year my dear husband had a freak accident at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Thank the Germans for Volvo. The car was written off but miraciously my precious husband was ok. Apart from some whiplash, bruising stiffness. He was ok. On that same day his uncle died. 2 Days later my sister and her family went back to Australia. A dreadful week indeed.

Just as the dust settled in Feb, one Friday evening my dear husband started complaining about a toothache. He’d had an abscess in August last year that almost sent him into the looney bin (or jail, not sure if he was going to loose his mind or murder someone…). So he knew the signs…it was the start of 2 veeeery long weeks. Needless to say the dreaded abscess was back and there was nothing, ziltch, squat, nada the doctor could do for him except give antibiotics, pain medication and send him home. It was a nightmare. He couldn’t eat, sleep, talk, walk, stand, lie. Pretty much nothing was accomplished. In his defense, he is a wonderful patient. Purely, I think, cause I’m not such a wonderful caregiver-of-adults…I think? Oh well.

The tooth eventually cleared up. He’d lost about 4 kgs (I know, I was hoping  tooth abcesses were contagious….) but he looked and felt like a human being again! We were all happy, Yeah! But I started feeling a bit ummm, tired?

Meanwhile I had to go on anti biotics twice in 2 months for a recurring cold. Which in turn prevented me from going boxing. Which in turn meant that I had a lot of surpressed energy that went nowhere. And that, I of course had to keep all to myself as another surprise was hiding behind the corner..

On 11 March my husband had to have a small growth removed from inside his eye. He’s had it removed once before many years ago but it grew back. I am not sure why he thought that this was a good time to have it done. Anywho….

He had someone drop him at the eye hospital as we had arranged that I will pick him up at 1pm and then fetch his car from the office sometime this past weekend. In a mad rush to get to the hospital in peak lunch time traffic (which I had NO idea as to it’s location) 8 kms ended up taking me 50 mins to cover. I seriously had a map sent to us by the doctor which I think his 6 year old daughter drew. Nowhere on that map did it even say where my husband was being operated on…yes yes I should have maybe taken the time to communicate with him WHERE the op was being done but alas…I did not include all the in betweens in this post leading up to this op, so HEAR me out!!

He got out of theatre at 3h15….Thank Apple for iPhone. Did some surfing, chatted to my sister in Aus, read e-mail, played copious amounts of mind numbing games and changed all my settings about 4 times.

Yeah the op was done and a success! So I see that he ate his sandwiches and drank his coffee and I hord him into the car. Let’s go, let’s go let’s go! Time is few and traffic is a nightmare!! Get in get IN GET IN!!

Day 2 of the op and the eye is really not feeling great. Pain medication not really working. He can’t lift anything heavy or bend down. Can’t drive. Can’t really move very fast. Can’t seem to concentrate for too long. Eye is becoming a small issue in my life. Volvo. Tooth. Eye. And eye for a tooth and a volvo for a …..whateva. Thought I’d be clever.

In the meantime I’m feeling something brewing. Aches, pains, headaches general miffness. On Friday afternoon when I got an sms from him warning me that there are many many people at our house I just replied “Not coming home until amount of people have halved”. Sweet darling accepted that reply and indeed sms’d me when they halved (although the remaining half all stayed over…).

Cooked, cleaned, entertained, served, chatted to! Tried my best to be sweet! If you know me very well I am GREAT at what I know I’m good at but I absolotely suck at what I don’t WANT to do and try….so I guessed I sucked.

Saturday morning off to the big interior shop to choose my well deserved new gas stove for our new house!! Whoopwhoop! Been waiting ages for this day! Get there, saw it, decided on it. Let’s go he says. And I think, uhm No? Go home now? To do what? For me to cook again? Serve again? Entertain again? Hell. No. So we did go. And I threw a tantrum – not a fabulous one as I was driving due to sore eye so I had to concentrate and tantrum and that sucks.

And I was very rude. And I felt better after being that rude, but I also felt very bad. Because in hindsight it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t choose to have any of these things happen to him and in turn to me. All he wanted was to be healthy and happy and not in pain. And all I did was internalise all this frustration. I couldn’t take a break. I couldn’t just sit down. I couldn’t refuse the visitors. I couldn’t take it out on anyone else but him. So I did. And I was truly sorry for doing it that way. No I haven’t apologised personally. Although after 15 years we have our own way of dealing with things. I got the message across. He listened. Didn’t agree with any of it. But listened.

And after this whole experience we’re stronger! Sometimes my pride comes in the way of asking: “Please help?”. I’d rather risk losing a limb than asking for help. And I have no-one else to blame but myself. An early inheritance from my mother 🙂

And never ever will I find another understanding more loving wonderful thoughtful sensitive amazing funny clever loyal gorgeous complimenting successful man in the world. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for our love and for our children.

I love you.


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So today my mind is small. So what.

Yes yes I know. This place might as well close shop. I did find some cobwebs and something else growing on this page when I opened it this morning….felt bad that I’ve neglected it a bit. But now I’m here 🙂

So the talk of the town is the Joost skandaal. Well it was really big news back in July when our favourite newspaper (read trash) had a LARGER than life article on the front page with pictures of holy underwear and Pringle socks (which weren’t his as he’s never heard of Pringle…) spread across it. As they do, he vehemently denied all rumours the following day, declaring that his heart belongs to God and that he loves his troph….I mean wife, tsk, and that he would never ever never ever cheat on her – a bit like Lola from Charlie and Lola who will never ever ever never eat a tomato…or oyster or something 🙂

I knew then that it was him. It was confirmed by various sources in the know. The drugs situation surprised me a bit but the “sexual relations”, him.

We’ve all heard the different opinions about the events of this past weekend. The sudden acknowledgement, the crying a lot and some more, the Please forgive my I am not worthy, the I used to think I was invincible. Blah blah blah. And the wonderfully chance occurence of releasing a tell-all (whateva that may mean, as if we care) biography over the SAME weekend and asking for forgiveness and again not answering interviewer’s questions after accepting interviews from various radio stations (at a fee I pressume) and generally talking around the topic. Again. Running circles around enquiries about previous affairs: “I can like to only have been cheating one time”. You know what, if you have laid your cards on the table and have come clean with your wife and yourself about any other previous incidents, then be a freaking man and say so publicly.  My question is simple: Why would a respectable public figure like Charmaine Weavers admit to having an affair with you when it is not true? Why would she put her entire future on the line, when she had nothing to gain by coming clean in public? It’s not like it would be an achievement to have an affair with him? She didn’t manage to seduce someone like Matt Damon or any other good looking stable husband and boast about her achievements in public? She actually did it to make peace with herself? I think. Not sure why she did it really….embarassing.

His loyal followers have forgiven him. They’ve obviously forgiven him because they never believed that it could be him in that video. Isn’t that when you forgive? So you don’t have to forgive if you haven’t really believed in someone or loved someone or felt that someone has betrayed you or taken away something from you or disappointed you? My point is, I don’t have anything to forgive him for. I don’t feel the need to forgive him for what he did. I feel nothing for his actions. I have sympathy for his wife and his family who DID believe in him. Whom he DID disappoint and embarass. She is just a wife who loved her husband. Sure she has made mistakes of her own. Sure she has rumours floating around about her 🙂 Rumours I say, tsk. But when is enough enough? How do you pick up from this and carry on? How do you even start about thinking of a normal happy future with all this baggage hanging on your shoulders? I commend her for still standing upright. She is just a woman fighting for her marriage and for the father of her children…

I don’t forgive him. I have nothing to forgive. He must plot on. He has been an adult for the last 20 years of his life. I have no empathy because I have never lead a life of wealth and fame and talent and booze and drugs and sex and available women/men at the age of 20. And I can’t say that I would have made exactly the same choices as I have to date with all of the above. But what I will say is that I have a moral responsibility to 1. Myself 2. God 3. My husband and children and 4. My family. I have been tried and tested many times in my life. I have failed a few times – more silly decisions than ethically wrong really – but I have always kept my selfrespect. Yes we’re all different. Yes I am critical and have high standards and forget that not everyone think the same way. Yes I accept that not all the deicions I make are the right ones. But are morals and ethics not a universal trait? Is the difference between wrong and right not generally black or white? Very few grey areas there….unless you choose to see grey obviously. That changes everything.

Joost, I can honestly say I don’t like your actions. I don’t like your decisions, I don’t like what you’ve done to those people around you. I have never supported you (purely because we are the biggest anti-bulls-supporters :)) and I would never want to win An unforgettable evening out with Joost van der Westhuizen, for instance. But most of all, I don’t like you for the sleasiest most shocking and easiest cop-out that you made: “I have never cheated on my wife because my heart belongs to God”. When I play that statement in my head I feel as if you blamed this all on God. And you put a nation of followers on a guilt trip. You lead them to believe that …..”all our fellow Afrikaans Christians, you should know and believe me because I mentioned God in my denial”.  And that makes it so much easier for me to just forget you. Nothing to forgive. Just forget.

Get on with your life. You only have one. Be a man. Grow some balls. Tell the truth. Make it right.

But remember to ask Him to forgive you for passing the buck. If you can forgive yourself, great. Then make the best of what you have left of your life.

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People in glass houses shouldn’t leave magnifying lenses lying around…or something.

I went to Sandton City today. Not an everyday occurance. But the kids are visiting their grandparents so I have ample time to endure traffic and have some me-time. Not that Sandton City is my IDEAL me-time outing. Despite the distance and traffic, another reason I don’t go there is the general uhm, what’s that word….snotty(?) feeling I get when I walk in there.  To make matters worse, a lot of private schools are still on holiday at the moment so inevitably a place like Sandton City would be crawling with kids. Wow I’m getting old.  Save your comments for when I’m done, don’t start swearing at me halfway through this post….but my GENERAL feeling is that MAJORITY OF people who hang out at SC as well as Hyde Park Shopping Centre is a breed on their own.  Man. It’s so strange. I don’t get intimidated easily. And when I do, I pretend that I’m not. I play the intimidator role right back if I have to. But THAT place!

I got the feeling in more than 1 store that one gets checked out immediately as you step inside the door of the shop. I am sure they distinctively place checker-outers throughout the shop. Like field workers almost. Some dressed in “shop” uniform; others under cover. They have a secret sign language. Flick of hair towards left = cool chick. Drop of wrist downwards, palm up = not interested chick. And obvious shake of the head = poor chick. I suspect I fell into the poor chick category more than once.  You know that feeling you get when you get checked out to SUCH an extent that you start feeling GUILTY for some obscure freaking reason?!?!?! All you did was walk into the store and you got a quick once-over and then the guilt begins….do I LOOK ok? Why do they stare at me and when I look at them they smile VERY WIDELY? Why are they following me EVERYWHERE??  Now I’m pissed. Now I will have an attitude with them. Remember, this is all just going on in MY head….

I scan for the most expensive looking  jacket. I spot it. It’s long, it’s real fur (grrrr) and it seems so expensive it hasa halo sitting above it? I ask to see it. She (reminds me of Cruella de Ville….) gives a TOTALLY plastic, botox smile, walks towards to hanger and takes it down. She says, “Zis won ees pricee”. I say oh, well it’s totally worth it, ’cause I see it’s fox and rabbit…? I made that up, but it turned out to be correct! Rene 1, She 0. She drapes it over my shoulders.       Oh. My. Word. It fits like a freaking glove! A genuine fur coat that LOOKS nice, feels like silk, as light as a feather and hanging over MY shoulders! I love it. I should hate it, but I LOVE it! I want it. Which is a problem ’cause I picked it for it’s expensive look, not because I ever thought that I would Like it, let alone LOVE it! But i LOVE it. She brings me the belt and we turn it into an evening coat. Oh. My. Word. It is breathtakingly beautiful!!! It was made for me. She comes floating towards me and whispers (well she spoke but it was all a haze…) “it ees also reversable…”. Before I could think I say “stoppit!!!”. And she says, “Reaaally”. And we flip it and it is just as beautiful on the inside!! All brown and soft and fluffy around the neck and wrists…and i LOOOOVE it. And i finally ask, “this was how much again…?”. She whispers (bellows) “R16, 352….”.  I say (whisper) “O yes, but it’s SOOOO worth it….”, without blinking, swallowing, blushing or peeing my pants. Just poker-faced comeback. Then I hug it, and stroke it and say “I will bring my husband here later…thanks for your time, see you later”. I leave with a headache and buy the Sarie at CNA.

These shopping centres are a flipping scream! I am able to sit and have coffee for hours, literally cup after cup – ok maybe not JUST coffee, say 2 coffees and then some water – but just sit and sip and watch them. The mall-trawlers. The kugels. The business men. The mutton-dressed-as-lamb. The 13-year old girls with minis, mobiles, tart-heels and make-up. The mothers of the tart-upped 13 year olds. They fascinate me. And I wonder. I wonder what on earth is the meaning of all of this? All this earthly stuff? The designer heels on sale for R2,500. The fur jacket for a bond payment. The painfully skinny girls.  The 5 year old throwing a tantrum and getting his way.  Am I missing the point? Or are THEY missing it?

And when I breathe a sigh of relief when I finally leave through Entrance 14 I realise that I am not missing the point. I am who I am. But I may not be judgemental towards how others choose to live their lives. They might look at MY life and have the same opinion I have over theirs (just completely different, if you get my point?).  But we all choose different things in life. My life is different right now because of me, my circumstances and my decisions. Someone elses life is completely the opposite due their own plans and choices. And that is all OK. In the GREEEAAAATER scheme of things it is all OK.

I want to leave you with something from The Shack: “Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being” .

Go well.


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Skrywenswaardige artikel – ek like hierdie ou!

Soos ek vanoggend op News24 gaan om die artikels te lees, sonder om die fotos te sien van bejaarde mense wat aangerand word en verkoolde lyke in Australie ala Beeld…..lees ek hierdie ou se artikel raak. Ongelukkig gaan ek myself in baie van sy kategoriee moet sit want (en ek se hierdie UITSLUITELIK om myself beter te laat voel) ek is menslik. Maar goeie artikel. Publiseerwaardig hier op die Mielie stronk 🙂

Margaret Atwood once wrote, apropos of the Holocaust and the common human condition of evil, “The trouble some people have being German? I have being human.”

Well, the problem some people have being scum-sucking bottom-feeders, I have being a journalist. Sometimes.

Is exposing Joost van der Westhuizen‘s private life in the public interest?

The Mail & Guardian staff broke one of their fantastic exposes last week, revealing ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus as a fraudster, effectively ruining his life. Well, at least until he gets rehabilitated in the Allan Boesak Church of the Second Chance.

Is exposing Carl Niehaus in the public interest? Most would say yes – he’s the spin doctor for the ruling party, a party that’s plagued by corruption allegations. The public needed to know how peculiarly well-qualified for that job he was.

But Joost van der Westhuizen? Exposing him seems to be more about an interested public than public interest. Of what possible relevance is it to me that an ex-Springbok is allegedly a hypocrite, a drug-taker, and a user of prostitutes? I never thought sportsmen were anything less than human, and I hope that, after Hansie Cronje, we’re all beyond thinking they’re anything more.

The South African Beckhams

I’m busy reading Steve Hofmeyr‘s intriguing autobiography, Mense van my Asem, and although I hold no brief for celebrities who whine when the hand they feed bites them, hearing the story from the other side does give you pause for thought. He describes Joost and Amor as “the South African Beckhams”, which becomes even more apt given current circumstances.

Now the customary argument here is, if you want to be a celebrity, you shouldn’t complain when the media hounds you. And that’s a fine argument, if what you’re arguing about is whether celebrities have the right to object to certain kinds of coverage.

It’s not an unassailable argument, of course. Tabloids and gossip magazines seem to feel that the fact that they and celebrities are involved in a symbiotic relationship of publicity and sales, means that the celebrity has sold his soul to the devil, and it’s the job of all vigilant tabloid saints to take every opportunity to burn him at the stake.

This can come back to bite them, as with the News of the World and Max Mosley, where the paper ended up paying £60 000 in damages, and £850 000 in costs.

But I’m not a celebrity, and neither are you. We’re readers, and the question we should be asking is, why do we want to read stories exposing celebrities as frauds and/or hypocrites?

Voyeuristic vampires

The only possible answer must be – because we’re childish wankers, voyeuristic vampires whose lives are empty and meaningless without the constant fort-da of erecting tinpot gods and then tearing them down, erecting them and tearing them down.

Carl Niehaus I can understand. There’s a certain kind of schadenfraud in it (like schadenfreude, but more particularly, the pleasure corrupt politicians experience when one of their own gets bust for fraud – and they don’t). There’s also a certain righteousness in that Niehaus is, in a sense, a servant of the people.

Hansie Cronje I can understand, Jacob Zuma and the Arms Deal I can understand. But a man who has no bearing on anything that I do, that my country does, and on anything that matters a damn – why take him down so viciously?

Sure, he’s a Blue Bulls supporter, but jeez – even that’s no reason. Some people will say that he claims to be a Christian and a family man, so he needs to be exposed as a hypocrite. Well, last time I checked, Heat magazine wasn’t exactly a magazine that had “pushing Christianity” and “building better families” as two of its editorial pillars.


Let me make this clear – I’m not riding a holier than thou hobbyhorse here. I’m not querying the editorial decision to publish a Joost expose. If you asked me baldly, would I, as an editor, have made the Joost video available for my readers, the answer would, unhappily, be yes. When the Joost video becomes freely viewable on the net, will I take a look? Unhappily, yes.

In both cases, I could propose mitigating circumstances. The video will inevitably be available everywhere anyhow, so I might as well be the first to show it to my readers. And I’m a writer, so I need to watch it so as to comment on it.

But in both those cases, I’d be lying to make myself feel better. I’d show it because I want to beat the competition. I’d watch it because of prurient interest.

There are more ramifications to this tabloid culture than just inconvenienced celebrities. In the UK, 27-year-old “reality TV star” Jade Goody has just been told that her cervical cancer is winning the battle with chemotherapy, and she has just weeks to live.

Comment around this includes people saying she doesn’t deserve sympathy, that her imminent death is in some way a punishment for being exposed as a racist on Big Brother, and that they’re looking forward to seeing her death on tv.

People seem to feel she isn’t human. She’s a celebrity, a reality tv star, a creature created by the media. She’s fair game.

We’ve stopped believing that celebrities are human, it seems. And for every celebrity we dehumanise, we lose a bit of our own humanity.


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