Archives

Suspending Disbelief in the Age of Digital Wonders

I cast an eye over the TV in my landlady’s living room. On the screen, a handsome cop in a car radioed his partner back at HQ to let his wife know he’d be late for dinner. ‘That’s rude,’ I mumbled, ‘… text her yourself.’ The camera shot widened and, from the shape of the car, I saw the era predated the mobile phone. My landlady snorted. “OK then,” said I, leaving the rent money on an expectant table. She pointed the remote and turned the volume up as I edged out the door. A good narrative depends on the suspension of disbelief. Authors want readers immersed in their story, caring about the characters as if they were real. Plot details that jar, niggle or provoke disbelieving wisecracks are simply no good.

Exploiting Dishonour Among Thieves: Accomplice Plea Agreements

When senior managers steal they typically do it knowing their employer’s systems back to front. They know which accounts can be skimmed and which assets nicked. Seniority also provides insight into how their actions may be covered up. Managers understand what transactions trigger audits and where holes exist in record-keeping. If the company monitors email and telephones or the cameras down the back fire-escape no longer work – they are often in the loop on that. The law reports are replete with managers misappropriating monies, stealing equipment, misusing vehicles, copying sensitive data and paying inflated invoices. Kimberly recently hosted a most intricate scheme where a trusted senior manager defeated all manner of security systems – red-areas, glove-boxes, magnetic safes and click-clack jars – to sneak out high value diamonds . It is one of those cases where you half want to fire the employee and half want to promote him for sheer ingenuity.

A Review of Dup Departs: A Time To Go, by Gavin Mills

Embellishing the Jozi Underworld: A cracker of a novel. Dup Departs: A Time To Go sees a likeable, middle-aged, soft but resourceful suburbanite thrown into a maelstrom of drug warfare, police-corruption and murder. With the bank barking at his heels and depressed about the modesty of his achievements as a filmmaker, Dup is ready for a big score. It will be his family’s ticket out of South Africa. When his enigmatic stripper friend, Louanne, introduces him to a shady nightclub boss offering good money to make lame porn, Dup jumps at the chance. But he did not bargain on shady becoming sociopathic.  Dup is swept into a plot populated by seriously menacing hardmen; Ivan Bazkaowzki, a sadistic Polish Don, goons on Harleys, loathsome detectives up to their elbows in dirty money and a Nigerian crime kingpin gone straight (or maybe not). Along the way fists fly, evidence is planted, women are kidnapped and huge shipments of …

No Promises Left

No Promises Left - Heinrich Bohmke

At the bottom of my street every Monday, on the nursery school drive, a phalanx of ragged beggars rummage through green wheelie bins outside a Tudor-style housing complex.  I slow down at the stop sign and press the requisite button on the car’s console.  Bent at the hips, African men rummage for calories and chucked-out crap to add to their swag before the garbage truck arrives.  The guy with the dark-glasses is a pro.  You see him everywhere, neat and bustling.  Most of the others come from the children’s park they’ve taken over.  It’s hand to mouth for them and whoonga in between.  Like a conjurer, a young man finesses an improbably long pole from the bin.  Rationally, it’s hard to begrudge them their messy survival.  One or two, though, fail to avert their eyes.  Like the one producing the wooden pole.  He hears the locks knocking shut.  This offal is not enough.  I’m pretty …

Evaluating the Credibility of a Source: Consistency as a False Positive

In December 2014, Sean Woods received the call editors dread the most. A Rolling Stone reporter told him she no longer stood by her story of a horrible rape supposedly committed by frat boys at the University of Virginia. The feature, published a few weeks earlier, broke readership records at the iconic magazine. It caused a national uproar. It is not hard to see why. The story recounts the dramatic allegations of a young woman, lured by her date to a fraternity house, there to be gang-raped on broken glass by seven young initiates. The line the story took was that the victim’s experience was emblematic of a ‘culture’ female students faced on campuses across the US. This heinous crime was further compounded by the defensive, almost dismissive, response of University authorities.

From Red to Blue- Abahlali, Survival and Ideology

This article first appeared in Africa Report In May 2014, news broke that a radical shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, had thrown their weight behind the centre-right Democratic Alliance in Kwa Zulu Natal. This was a shock to most in the South African left. The shock reverberated in all the places this remnant finds itself; that is to say, twitter, facebook, social science faculties and on listservs anticipating revolution. At face value it is shocking. Abahlali was the poster child of total autonomy in social movements, giving their voice to no one but themselves. Scholars of the movement told us that, at the movement’s core, not only as strategy but as principle, was their celebrated slogan “No Land, No House, No Vote”.

Canal and Control

Chris Hani

This article first appeared in Africa Report   It’s 21 years to the day that the MK unit in which I dabbled assembled to discuss what to do about Chris Hani’s assassination. It was obvious that it was not a hit by the state. There was going to be groot kak raining down that did not suit the Nats. This left two options, rogue cops or the white right. The climate for Hani’s assassination was just right. With election talks stalled, the ANC needed a bad cop to whip up the spectre of insurrection again. Hani and Winnie were rumoured to have resuscitated some sort of military capacity across the border in Zim. Someone might just have believed that propaganda.

The valleys of broken thongs

Valley Church

This piece appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2014 I’ve just returned from the Eastern Cape, from dirt roads that dwindle into two spur tracks and then just impressions in the grass, around clefts in mountains that open into sublime valleys, each with a few foregone sandstone farmhouses, with stoeps and overgrown gardens and subsiding kraals. Among the dilapidation, one can still see the farmstead and the footpaths of work that took place within it. And for me, I imagine I can still see the places where lovers pressed into each other, by the leaking dam with the cool moss, in that outbuilding whose thick, warped glass slants light through the motes. And there, far by the river, where willows hang and a spinney makes a yonic circle of silver and green. On an autumn blanket. Definitely there. Just beyond the house, the windpumps of a previous generation lean and miss rusty pieces. The voice of …

Marrying for the mob: What the DA can learn from Numsa

Helen and Mamphele (Photo credit: Times Live)

This article first appeared in the Africa Report. February 2014 Politically it was an audacious attempt by the Democratic Alliance to rebrand itself ahead of elections. In each poll since 1994, the DA has essentially stood for what is good for old suburbia. But this secure constituency is also a low ceiling. South Africa’s electorate is 80% Black. To grow, the DA needs more Blacks to vote for them. Many Blacks, however, are wary of white intention and largely still appreciative of the steep moral, social and cultural elevation brought by national liberation. I suppose one could call it BSC – Black self-consciousness. Even if the economic dividends are meager and even as the ANC subsides in a fire-pool of sleaze, to switch to the “Madam” is yet a ballot too far. 

COP

Every two years or so this really nice training gig comes up. I grab two boxes of files and some branded pens, get on two planes and head to Kimberley in the Northern Cape. I’m hired to train a unit within the South African Police Service how to fire those within their ranks who contravene Regulation 20 (z) of their disciplinary code. Regulation 20 (z) is reserved for murderers, armed robbers, rapists, fraudsters and, mostly, extortionists. Owing to a useful quirk in our law of evidence, it is easier and faster to dismiss cops who commit criminal offences than it is to put them behind bars; the latter hardly ever happening. The idea behind Regulation 20 (z) is that, even if a rogue cop demanding R300 from an illegal immigrant is never convicted of this crime, he will at least lose his badge and gun. I should quickly admit that contributing to this high-minded mission …