ANYONE who regularly reads opinion columns in newspapers will know that there’s a sort of hierarchy to the genre. At the top are Uber Opinionistas; these are people whose opinions are, in fact, not really opinions at all but, instead, a sort of truth, or fact, which condescends to appear in a mere newspaper. Mostly, they will kick off a delivery of the truth (religious readers would call it a sermon) with a swipe at the media in which they are about to appear. "Sorry about this, ugh, having to appear in anything so gross as a newspaper but, here’s the thing, everything you’ve read so far about Subject X is completely wrong and I’m going to set you right."
Then there are genuinely clever people who are not journalists and who write columns but don’t require that everything that has appeared in the newspaper between now and their last column be accompanied by footnotes. They are Genuine Analysts, able to provide a brief but compelling insight into an event and leave it there.
And then there are journalists, people like me, I suppose, who not only irritate the Uber Opinionistas but may occasionally actually amuse a reader or two. We are Hacks or, as they say in French, Hacks.
I prefer reading Les Hacks any day. People such as Tim Cohen, Mondli Makhanya or, when he deigns to put pen to paper, Ray Hartley. For the point of writing in a newspaper can’t, surely, ever be to reassure folk that everything is going to be all right. It’s not going to be all right. Sorry. It has to be to try to change things, to move markets, debate, opinion, policy or behaviour.
So, in the great debate about the African National Congress (ANC) leadership contest in December, there are wars within wars. Not only are ANC factions vying to back this person or that for the top-six leadership team, not only are all the Sunday papers racing to get the juiciest pieces about who is backing who, but the various levels of column writers are out to shaft each other at every turn.
From my own low horizon, here’s what I know: Jacob Zuma will probably lose if the first round of voting is split in at least a three-way ballot. And while the higher classes of column are reminding us that changing the ANC trajectory is not just or even primarily about getting rid of Jacob Zuma, it is certainly a start, as hundreds, possibly thousands, of no-good hangers-on, thieves, liars and the generally corrupt, would go with him. To write and to ignore the obvious worsening of official behaviour under Zuma’s presidency is more than stupid. It’s propaganda.
THE Springbok rugby coach is following his heart, which I suppose is good. The defeat by Australia on Saturday hurt us all and I am sure we’ll do better next time. I don’t want to tell a distinguished coach how to pick his team because, frankly, I don’t know enough. But I do know enough to be quite certain that Patrick Lambie is the best fly-half SA has produced in my lifetime. And it is also clear that he isn’t going to be picked there by this coach. It’s the way the cookie crumbles. Nothing personal.
So change the dream, Patrick. It’s okay. Go overseas. Now. Make a fortune doing what you were born to do with a club that understands what a wonderful rugby mind you have. Forget the Springboks under this coach if you can and, one day, as you contemplate a sunset over the southern Atlantic from your huge pad high above Clifton Beach, or the morning sunlight streaming into your apartment above the wonderful food market in, if I remember correctly, Saint-Martin, in Paris, you’ll be glad you did, I promise. South African rugby is a machine carefully crafted to sink talent like yours.
NEEDLESS to say, I’m still feeling the effects of my rapid recent change in circumstance. So I went off on Saturday looking for some distraction following my demotion to Person In Charge Of Everything. I came up with one aerobatic Extra 300, a Merc CLK 350 convertible with just 40k on the clock, and a Triumph Bonneville T100. And all of this in Edenvale in Johannesburg. There’s a whole new world out there. Leave a message.