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Sunday, 21 November 2010

An African jolly, lunacy recollected in tranquillity - and the rise of kleptocracy

On the left is Brian Mdluli's beautiful 4 year-old daughter Katlego who was with us for most of the day yesterday.

We went on what turned out to be a 12-hour jaunt in a minibus with Brian, his wife, and 6 friends. Or was it seven? Hard to tell because we travelled in the closest thing to a mobile bar I've ever seen.

I realised I'm getting too old for this - and for no particular reason my mind flew back 29 years or so to a day we took a coach-full of our agency staff down to a very smart country hotel in Sussex.

On the way there we had a drink or two and some nibbles. Some thoughtful soul had cooked a cake with some hash (unknown to us) in it, so what with the odd glass of champagne we were all feeling exceptionally spirited after lunch.

At one point in the afternoon the hotel's owner asked one of our art directors who was browsing in the library and who seemed relatively respectable, "Are you in charge of this rabble?"

"No, they're in the swimming pool."

It was true.

My partner Glenmore and I had jumped in with all our clothes on.

On reflection our little trip yesterday was by comparison downright tranquil.


When we saw the Apartheid Museum on Friday I was reminded what an important role the press -especially a magazine called Drum -played in exposing the dreadful facts in those dark years.

Today they are doing much the same thing. The papers are full of detailed reports of the astonishing corruption and greed of politicians here. One junior politician squandered astounding sums - millions - over a four year period staying at a 5 star hotel because he didn't like his free official residence.

What a lot of good that money - and he is just one example - could do for the millions of desperately poor people here.

He has just been promoted.

A sad betrayal.

By the way: here's the best argument I've ever heard of in favour of marriage. Polygamy is legal here, and I'm told the President gets a few million rand when he takes a new wife.

I have no idea if this is true, but with me it's usually worked out the other way round.

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