No-one is safe anymore

Andrew Donaldson says if they can come for Carl Niehaus they can come for anybody


THE first snows have fallen and the Troll of Trondheim has the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) in its icy grip. Fearful of his energy bill, the landlord has turned off the heat altogether and it’s colder in here than the home secretary’s heart. Were it not for the threat of incarceration for carbon footprint excesses, we’d use the barstools for fuel and be huddled around the hearth in the expats’ lounge. Instead, we must warm ourselves in the time-honoured manner: pints of Old Roarer with belters of sporran sap on the side… ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

And why not? Anything to keep the spirits up as there is little in the way of festive in these parts. Christmas plans are in chaos and half the country’s on strike: railway staffers, nurses, airport baggage handlers, ambulance drivers, firefighters, postal workers, midwives, physiotherapists, border control personnel … all have taken to the streets to demand a living wage. Talk among the Tories is that, in doing so, the ingrates are helping Vladimir Putin divide the West. 

Downing Street, meanwhile, has announced stiff measures to deal with that other great existential threat to the island, the “illegal” immigrants. At the same time, it is considering “rural” visas, a scheme whereby able-bodied foreigners can apply to pick strawberries and other produce provided they don’t wander off the farms and come into town. Albanians, however, need not apply. There’s no room at the inn for these guys. According to Rishi Sunak, they have no business here. Their country, often derided as the Haiti of Europe, is safe and prosperous, he says. And it probably is, compared to the Haiti of Haiti, that is.

But enough of these people and their trifling problems. This is the last Grouse of 2022 and I am relieved to have survived another year without being cancelled. Quite why the axe has not yet fallen I cannot say. But, being of irredeemably colonial composition and one who by sheer dint of his race, class, education, culture, gender and sexuality must surely be of extreme offence to a growing number of citizens, I would not at all be surprised to find an “X” painted on my door in the near future along with a list of such transgressions as laughing at the less fortunate and having a different opinion.

This is no joke. If they can come for my unhappy friend, Carl Niehaus, they can come for anybody. No-one is safe. Poor Che Guava, Jacob Zuma’s fierce if awkward champion. Expelled from the ANC by the party’s national disciplinary committee for some rash utterance in the heat of the moment outside a court last year. How petty.

The cruelty is unspeakable. Decades devoted to the national democratic revolution. The years of service as the chief fibber for the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association. The weird camouflage. The strange dancing. The spittle in the beard. And for what? A kick in the pants and summary dismissal for being incapable of rehabilitation? Just for exercising his revolutionary right to freedom of expression? 

And what of the unwavering loyalty to Jacob Zuma, perhaps the greatest freedom fighter ever to draw breath and a man who not only walks on water but dances on fire pools? Are there no Brownie points for being Convict Number One’s most ardent brown-noser?

Carl is typically not taking this lying down. The fightiest of little fighters, he’s appealing the ruling by the disciplinary committee, which he has labelled a “kangaroo court”. I suspect, sadly, that there is very little chance of success and would suggest that rather he takes a long holiday from the frontline. (Travel agents be warned.) Common sense suggests he should pack it all in, and find something to do elsewhere. These people all hate him, anyway. 

Nevertheless, he was still at it on Tuesday, urging parliamentarians to vote to adopt the Section 89 report into the Gommagomma at Phala Phala and thus pave the way for Cyril Ramaphosa’s possible impeachment. This, as expected, did not happen and Squirrel lives on to dither another day.

But five ANC MPs did defy their party’s instruction to close ranks around their beleaguered president. Biggest fish among these turncoats is prime minister Nkosazana Virodene “The Clarice” Dlamini-Zuma. The lockdown’s Doek of Death declared she was voting to adopt the report as a “loyal member of the ANC”. She was, of course, referring to the ANC that her ex-husband had sold to the Guptas for a few bob and not the ANC sold on a vision of hi-tech cities of gleaming silver spires and flying cars.

But it’s just politics, and Carl should not take it so personally. He is not the only loyal ANC member to be banished to Siberia. Former ANC chief parliamentary whip Tony Yengeni and ANC Women’s League President Bathabile Dlamini have both been barred by the party’s national executive committee from taking part in the leadership contest at this weekend’s national conference because they criminal records. Again, this does seem unfair. Who among the looters and rent-seekers gets to cast the first stone, etc?

All in all, it does seem that Squirrel has for now neatly stitched up his enemies in the Radical Economic Transformation faction. So much so that former spy boss Arthur Fraser — he who illegally released the Butternut on medical parole and later spilled the beans on the events at the game farm — is apparently in hiding after being singled out for assassination.

Try to contain yourself, gentle reader, but this is according to a Sunday Independent “exclusive” penned by reporter and famous musician Mzilikazi wa Afrika. He claims the plot to kill Fraser was hatched after he “allegedly refused a R50 million offer from a Cape Town underworld boss” to make the case against Squirrel “go away”. The source of this startling information is Fraser’s lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane, who has said that he is also a target for assassination. 

Be that as it may, and while I am regrettably not in a position to be of much help where Sikhakhane is concerned, I can be of some assistance to hitmen with regard to Fraser: be on the lookout for an overweight and insufferably smug individual with pendulous man-breasts. You can’t miss him.

Off the rails 

Disturbing news about the trains. The Passenger Rail Service of SA’s 2021/2022 annual report reveals that matters are going heavily pear-shaped with the choo-choos. In short: Of the country’s 590 stations, only 134 are functional, 323 have been completely vandalised and there’s no word on the state of the other 133; of the 40 train lines, 21 have stopped altogether; of the country’s 2 228 kilometres of signal cables, some 1 100 kilometres have been stolen; and of the more than 4 000 coaches in its fleet, only 800 are operational and in service. 

Passenger numbers have declined dramatically. In 2011, Prasa was handling 522 million passenger trips a year; in the past financial year, it managed just 17 million — a 97 per cent drop.

There is however good news. Prasa has banned preaching, gambling and informal trading on those services that are still, miraculously, operational. (Gambling, I hear you ask? Do commuters take a flutter on when the next train will arrive? This week or next? Next month, maybe?) 

As one who over the years made use of Cape Town’s southern suburbs line, I must declare this long overdue. I can’t say what it’s like now, but ten years ago the passenger experience was unbearable. Blind beggars singing gospel songs would wave tin cups in the faces of passengers while hawkers peddled packets of stale crisps and other foodstuffs of dubious provenance.

Snotty children would be thrust at commuters by pushy mothers demanding money. Day in and day out, it was like being trapped in a medieval nightmare: something akin to a painting by Hieronymus Bosch with a touch of Brueghel peasantry thrown in for good measure. 

The worst though were the deranged fire-and-brimstone preachers. The word of God came drenched in phlegm as they screeched and bellowed on about eternal damnation. Most, if not all of them, were mentally ill. Consider, for example, their objections to the Prasa directive. 

This from one Pastor Denver Ohlson of the New Covenant Christian Church: “We are heading for disaster if we don't counter this decision … [to] many of our people this is their only hope to getting on to the train in the morning to hear of and from the Lord, via His servants.”

And Pastor Paul Phillips from the Higher Calling Church: “It has become customary for commuters when they get on the train you hear messages of preaching of the gospel because of the time those messages have been received with open arms, it's a good way to start the journey, listening to the word of God, being guided spiritually.”

What utter rot. What is, obviously, at issue here is that these botherers are now denied their customary captive audiences. If the word of God was really that fabby, then we would all naturally flock to the New Covenant Christian Church and the Higher Calling Church and heaven alone knows where else on the Sabbath to be shouted at and told we’re rubbish and hell-bound and not worthy of His everlasting love unless we dig deep into our pockets when the plate comes round.

More of God’s work

They’re hanging them again in public in Teheran using construction cranes. This barbarism, punishment for “offences against God”, was a popular form of despatch when the mullahs first dealt with the secular threat to their rule in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution. 

On Monday, a bound and hooded Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, was executed and dangled before a chanting mob of the baseej, the paramilitary police force. A trumped-up court had convicted him of offences arising from widespread protests there, including the killing of two militia. Next up, according to news reports, is Amir Nasr-Azadani, 26, an Iranian premier league footballer. He took part in a riot at the beginning of the protests that led to the death of three security officials.

Pretoria has not uttered a single word in protest about these developments. Why threaten diplomatic interests by meddling in Teheran’s domestic affairs? 

By refusing to add its voice to the international condemnation of the Iranian regime, the ANC government signals its approval of the brutal crackdown of the protests sparked by the murder in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September. Her crime, you may recall, was wearing a head scarf too loosely in public and so she was hauled off the streets by the “morality police” and beaten to death.

This, obviously, is not a South African problem. So why should the government chip with its two cents’ worth? Besides which, you know what they say about those who choose the path less travelled? Righteous, indeed.


That said, the regulars here at the Lamb wish you all the best over the holiday season and the new year. Which, it must be said, certainly won’t be dull. Until then…