Up from the depths of despair

David Bullard writes on three things that cheered him this past week


Three things dragged me up from the depths of despair after watching TV footage of what was happening in Ukraine last week. The first was the discovery of the wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, after 107 years buried deep in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic.

The second was the elevation of Raymond Zondo to the well-deserved position of Chief Justice and the third was a very good lunch I enjoyed with old and new friends in Gordon’s Bay.


Let’s start with Shackleton and his ill-fated trip to cross the Antarctic back in 1914. The ship he chose, originally named the ‘Polaris’, was bought from its original cash strapped owner for $67000. It was intended as a comfortable way to travel to the Arctic for hunting trips with commodious cabins, a dining room, a smoking room and other such luxuries.

Built in Finland, it was constructed mostly of solid oak with a keel 2.2 metres thick and the rest of the ship built to withstand harsh Arctic conditions. When the original owner (obviously not an oligarch) couldn’t afford the cost of fitting out the ‘Polaris’ he sold it to Shackleton at a huge loss because he also wanted to contribute to the conquest of the Antarctic, or so he claimed.

The story of Shackleton’s quest to the Antarctic, the many tests of fortitude that he and his crew had to endure and the fact that they all miraculously returned home alive, despite living for months in horrific conditions on melting ice floes and existing on a diet of penguin and seal meat ought to be an inspiration for us all.

The survival of twenty eight men in such harsh conditions under the leadership of a man of Shackleton’s calibre should be a beacon of hope. But I fear it is not to be so.

Notwithstanding the fact that the wonderfully named Mensun Bound, the 69 year old Falkland’s born marine archaeologist, led this search for the Endurance, and allowing for the fact it was all made possible thanks to the SA owned SA Agulhas 2 (also built in Finland), the polar icebreaker owned by the Department of Environmental Affairs (at least something the ANC owns is still working) we must I fear stand back and take a long hard look at the ‘lived reality’ we are facing here.

To start with lets look at inclusivity. This was an all-white male crew that Shackleton selected and I’m willing to wager that there were many well qualified women eager to avoid the deprivations of World War 1 for months of extreme discomfort in the frozen waste of the Antarctic. But, because of Shackleton’s ‘toxic masculinity’ this unique opportunity to die a potentially horrible death was denied to women, ___STEADY_PAYWALL___or “vagina owners’ as they are now more commonly known amongst the more progressive members of modern society.

‘Problematic’ as this may be it’s also worth pondering why Shackleton didn’t include members of the LGBTQIA+ community on this trip or, if he did, why he didn’t make more of it in his reports. And don’t even get me started on ethnicity. Obviously the beards hide a lot and the pictures of the rescue at Elephant Island can’t be expected to give an accurate depiction of the selection process that Shackleton adopted before his departure.

I know a couple of people from the northern parts of England were allowed to join the crew but the team seems embarrassingly short of the BAME component which would be an essential ingredient in these newly enlightened times in which we live.

For this reason, among so many others, I feel compelled to call out the cisgender, white supremacist Ernest Shackleton and his crew for racism, misogyny, homophobia, trans-phobia, sexism and toxic masculinity and trust that any statues to their ‘so called’ bravery will be torn down and replaced with statues of real modern day heroes such as George Floyd and Jacob Zuma.


Should we be getting excited that Raymond Zondo, the basso-profundo Barry White of the SA bar, has finally been elevated to the position of Chief Justice? Well, in a country where disappointments come not single spies but in battalions (thanks Will, your cheque is in the post) perhaps we should.

To start with, Pres Frogboiler’s choice gives a swiftly zapped middle finger to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), a long-discredited outfit that is to integrity what the late Winnie Mandela was to childcare.

It has now become perfectly clear that the JSC is a yet another captured national embarrassment and should be imploded and replaced by an institution that commands some sort of public respect, preferably without the same cast members as the current JSC comedy collective.

I’m excited by the election of Judge Raymond Zondo because he strikes me as what Bertie Wooster would have described as a “good egg”. I’ve never met the man but I know enough about him to recognise that I like the cut of his jib and believe that we may now finally see some scumbags wearing orange overalls and giving up their jet-set lifestyles.

Mind you, this is not entirely within Judge Zondo’s remit. First we have to properly fund and breathe some life into the NPA who I don’t believe (or maybe I don’t want to believe) have been sleeping on the job but have been starved of resources and under considerable political pressure.

Once we start prosecuting the thieving scumbags, attaching their ill-gotten gains and sending them away for a long stay behind bars the majority of South Africans will regain some confidence on the future direction of this country.

Let us look to the US, UK and the EU for guidance here. All imperialist powers I admit but generally quite sound on many matters. They have recently frozen the assets of corrupt Russian oligarchs connected to the Kremlin and Putin’s murderous lunacy.

This has caused a few $500mln private yachts to set sale for safe waters but the snoozers have lost and a couple have already been impounded. Accounts have been frozen, funds cut off and assets seized and there hasn’t even been a court hearing. Plus I don’t see too many of the common people objecting.

So here’s a thought Cyril. We all know who the scumbags are thanks to some very fine investigative journalism. We really don’t need endless court challenges from spent old farts like Jacob Zuma and his dodgy legal team to prolong the agony. So do what I suggested months ago in this column and watch your popularity rating soar.

Set up dedicated courts, if necessary with foreign and impartial judges, and deal with the backlog swiftly. Follow the ‘Russian model’ and freeze all assets of suspects ahead of trial and only return them on a verdict of innocent.

My educated guess is that you won’t be returning very much and may well need help to dispose of those attached assets (I’m in the market for a second hand Suzuki Jimny but that might be a bit naff for your comrades).

Don’t allow all the pettifogging and filibustering to delay the hearing…rather impose heavy fines on those that introduce such motions. Get the guilty behind bars a.s.a.p. but, should you feel like introducing the death penalty for treason, know that you will have massive public support.


The lunch was superb. There we were in Gordon’s Bay, the pig slowly turning on a spit, the view over the bay, the Trigger Fish beer flowing from the cask and absolutely no electricity as some bastard saboteurs had apparently managed to steal some copper cable.

I was an invited guest among some of the most exalted petrol-heads in the country. They also happen to be highly innovative and successful business people. They’re still here in SA, they all have plans for the future and, best of all, they don’t take any of this ‘Wokist’ bullshit seriously. Just what I needed to drag me up from the depths of despair.