Humour

Ah thieving, the South African way of life for 368 years

We live in a country where leaving your own mobile phone on the seat of your own car is just plain irresponsible on your part

02 August 2020 - 00:02 By

Image: Aardwolf

My mom and I are driving in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, on the way home from a shopping trip in Hillcrest. We're following one of those water tankers that are ubiquitous in townships, villages, informal settlements and places where the darker-hued among us live. She muses out loud, to no-one in particular, Yaze yankulu indaba yalamaloli amanzi, ntombi! (I wonder what's the real story behind these water trucks).

I ask her to explain. Apparently, there's a section of KwaNyuswa, in the Valley, where people haven't had water for about two years. Water is daily delivered via these water tankers, despite the area being fully serviced, with taps, piping and a connection.

I remember following the story of a community in Hammanskraal that struggled with water supply for years, inexplicably. This was until it came to light that there was a turf war over contracts and tender processes. Ultimately, it turns out that there was a hectic level of infrastructure sabotage in order for the tender machinery to keep churning. I presented this to my mom as a possible scenario.

Her response: Kodwa lobusela nithi buyoke buphele nje? (Is there an end in sight for this thievery?')

My response was to chuckle quietly and invoke a post I'd recently seen on Facebook that read, "Don't worry about the mooted return of the death penalty. Comrades will steal the hanging rope."

She giggled, squirting her mango juice through her nose, as one does. Since the old man passed on to the land of the ancestors her giggles have been few and far in-between, so I decided to give her a few more laughs.

"Question: why should you never leave your tea unattended during a meeting of comrades? You don't know? The answer is that they'll steal your milk out of it! Hahaha!"

By this point, tears are rolling down her face.

"Comrades are so skilled at pilfering, they'll steal your vest from underneath your shirt and jacket without you noticing."

I'm happy to report that I managed to give her the best laugh she's had all of 2020. I am obviously the best son any mother could ever have.

South Africans are in the grip of unprecedented outrage over the raiding of the public purse. I find these levels of anger quite baffling, seeing as the looting is not at all unprecedented. And perhaps we're too harsh on the cadre. Maybe they're just an accurate reflection of who we are, as a collective. If Mfaniza from my Unit 1 North neighbourhood in Mpumalanga Township, circa 1980, is anything to go by, then I'm not wrong.

South Africans are in the grip of unprecedented outrage over the raiding of the public purse. I find these levels of anger quite baffling, seeing as the looting is not at all unprecedented

Jirre, that boy was a natural-born thief. And he was only about nine or 10 at the time. It got to the point where my mother banned him from entering our yard because his thieving impulse was so strong he'd end up stealing peach tree branches sans peaches if he couldn't find anything more valuable to steal.

This one time we're walking from the KwaSishisi shopping centre bus stop and Gogo Ngubane asks us to carry her OK Bazaars shopping bags for her. We dutifully comply and after we deliver her groceries, she hands us an apple each and off we go.

On our way back, Mfaniza fishes out a can of Lucky Star pilchards from his crotch and asks, "Where are we going to get a knife to open this?"

If I ever run into him, I'm not going to ask him which branch he belongs to. That would be unfair.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that thieving is the South African way of life. This is all this country has been about, from inception, when a bunch of fellows in ballet tights and twirled 'taches docked in Table Bay and, like my friend did with the can of pilchards, asked the all-important question: "Did we bring enough muskets to own this piece of the garden of Eden?"

If you fast-forward 368 years, we live in a country where leaving your own mobile phone on the seat of your own car is just plain irresponsible on your part. You left the front door open in your own house and someone broke in? You were asking for it and your insurance won't pay out.

And in the middle of the most severe health and financial crisis in a century, eight-figure "performance" bonuses are still the norm.

So, please allow the comrades to be South African. The investigation into the allegedly "missing Covid funds" is nothing more than an opportunity to steal the investigation funds.


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