Enough to drive you bananas

30 November 2011 - 02:03 By Peter Delmar

If you eat a banana from Uvongo it'll probably contain a flesh-eating bacteria that will devour you one cell at a time. Then you will die. In extremis. That's the good news.

The really bad news is that you won't expire before experiencing the agony of watching your innocent children being eaten alive by the same evil, pestilential necrotising fasciitis that is munching its way through your face at the rate of 2cm to 3cm per hour.

"Recently this disease has decimated the monkey population in the South Coast. We are now just learning that the disease has been able to graft itself to the skin of fruits in the region, most notably the banana," intones a doom-laden missive now doing the e-mail rounds.

"It is advised not to purchase bananas for the next three weeks! If you have eaten a banana in the last two to three days and come down with a fever followed by a skin infection, seek MEDICAL ATTENTION!!!"

It's on the internet so it must be true. Uvongo, in case you didn't know, is on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal; you know, where the bananas come from.

At my local fruit and veg I accused the owner of wilful negligence by not informing his customers as to where his bananas came from and for not alerting them to the small matter of flesh-guzzling necrotising fasciitis.

He didn't know what I was talking about. The Uvongo flesh-eating gogga warning is complete and utter rubbish. It seems that Costa Rica supposedly had flesh-eating bananas a few decades ago.

Now somebody somewhere has got it in for Uvongo banana farmers and, aided by the internet and the gullible people who use it, has spread a ridiculous rumour about something even readers of this column wouldn't normally believe.

That's an example of a bad viral e-mail. There are other sorts; an e-mail making the rounds last week was subject-lined "Christmas 2011 - birth of a new tradition".

It seems everyone has had it, myself included, several times over. Whatever the unknown author's motivation is, is neither here nor there, but I have no reason to believe that he or she is motivated by anything other than an honest desire to have more people buy more local products this Christmas season.

Here's what the e-mail says: "As the holidays approach, the giant overseas factories are kicking into high gear to provide us with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods - merchandise that has been produced at the expense of South African labour."

It then goes in for a bit of hectoring but proceeds to suggest how we might buy people things other than Korean TV sets or plastic Chinese toys or Swiss chocolates.

It suggests giving gift certificates for haircuts, car washes, oil changes, repaving friends' front yards, book certificates, locally made jewellery and crafts. Give your mates and other loved ones a certificate for a couple of breakfasts, suggests the mail, adding: "Remember, folks, this isn't about big national chains - this is about supporting your home town South African with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open."

Christmas, it suggests "is now about caring about us, encouraging small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other South Africans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. This should be the new South African Christmas tradition".

It's schlitzy schlop, but it's a sentiment I am happy to endorse. The majority of the people who read this column have loved ones who already have everything. (And who probably drink too much anyway, so forget the bottle of whisky - it's Scottish and the only people wearing pants and making a buck out of it are importers and retailers who are already rich enough.)

Give these people a lube change or a repaving job. And, as they're opening the envelope containing the voucher, tell them that you bought it because you love this country more than you love Mr Price's prices.

Some or other family member of mine is getting a set of six African animal skin print placemats for Christmas.

Now that I look at them properly, they're not that well printed and, frankly, they're off-the-scale kitsch but whoever the lucky recipient is, their kids will love them. And by buying them I'm supporting their merchant, a chap called Terence whose wife sews them in Manicaland. At the end of the day, it really is the thought that counts.