Mhambi has been redeployed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The poets are restless

André Brink and Petter Nome
Originally uploaded by RolfSteinar.
Kevin Davie muses in the Mail and Guardian on South Africa's unhappy poets, Rian Malan and André Brink. Davie wonders - in the midst of a booming economy - what the fuss is all about?

Braaied fish as an economic indicator...

The poets are unhappy. First I read that Rian Malan saw only sad decay for our future. Then André Brink was being quoted around the globe spreading similar doom and gloom. Malan worried me no end. The last I heard, he was living in Fish Hoek or thereabouts with a person called the Princess, or something like this.

His day seemed to be little more than some light typing and a stroll down to the wharf to select a suitable fresh fish to match the white wine that was chilling in the fridge back home. Braai the fish, drink the wine.

Now, judging from the result of the light typing that appeared in The Spectator, he has concluded that “almost overnight we have come to the dismaying realisation that much around us is rotten”.

Some of Malan’s distress appears to derive from journalist Justice Malala.

Malala, judging from his columns in the Financial Mail, is a reasonably happy person, seemingly endlessly and fashionably out to lunch with his lovely wife.

But Malan is unhappy because Malala is unhappy. Says Malan: “You know you’re in trouble when an eminent black journalist like Justice Malala dismisses the Mbeki administration as an outrage characterised by a shocking lack of leadership on the part of a Cabinet riddled with incompetent, inept and arrogant buffoons.”

I know of people whose job it is to sell this country who are unhappy because Malan is un-happy. This even made me wonder whether they should not put more effort into keeping Malala happy. Someone could be deployed to call him in the morning to see if there were any irking things that they could fix.

Malan does not forecast an apocalyptic future of destruction through civil war, but rather, just sad decay. But fellow scribe, André Brink, does.

Brink, according to an article in The Scotsman, has warned that the World Cup in 2010 threatens to be a “potential massacre which could make the Munich Olympics of a few decades ago look a picnic outing”.

There will be no 2010, says the worst-case scenario. The best you can hope for is a couple of umfaans kicking a pap plastic ball around a blackened veld.

The best-case has tourists wearing body armour and employing bodyguards with Uzzis -- just to watch the tournament from their hotel room.

But Davie reflects that the performance of the South African economy says otherwise.

But the economy is having none of the collective depression of Malala, Malan and Brink. The JSE continues almost on a daily basis to trade at new record levels. South Africans have collectively added several trillion or so to their wealth since the market lows in 2002. You can buy a lot of braaied fish with this money.

Malala’s home is on my route home. I have been half-expecting to see a huge pantechnikon parked outside to take his stuff to Perth. But not so.

He is expanding his house, making his own contribution to the building boom that has seen property prices double in the past three years.

Car sales -- a bell weather of economic confidence and performance -- also continue to notch up new records on a regular basis. Even Cadillac is opening up shop.

Economic growth has been so strong that the taxman pulled in R17-billion or so above what was budgeted for. The budget, give a bob or two, is, embarrassingly for a developing country, balanced, and projected to remain that way for the next three years.

Pass the valium.

Mhambi can add to the list of the disgruntled thespians. There's J M Coetzee, he immigrated recently. Only Nadine Gordimer seems to stay positive. But then she owns a house in Houghton that must be worth a small fortune now.

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