Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spit for money: Only in South Africa

By Sarah Britten

Jawellnofine. We South Africans are all too fond of thinking we’re unique, special, different. Uniquely scenic, uniquely crime-ridden, uniquely challenged, uniquely corrupt etc etc. The technical term for this is exceptionalism and it is a very bad habit, because it dupes us into thinking that we are more special than we really are. Think of it as national narcissism.

Nonetheless, there are instances where it becomes hard to imagine anyone but South Africans coming up with some of this. Such as the story of how TB patients are selling their spit for R100 a pop (as reported by the Daily Sun). Later the Mail & Guardian picked up the story. My favourite part is this one:


A 54-year-old man told a reporter that he makes an average of R500 per month from selling his saliva to people seeking to trick their way on to the benefits system. But he said business was “not good” because so many people were infected with TB in the township that he had a lot of competition.

Only in South Africa.

It’s hard to imagine another place in the world where the local government minister can come out with a request for citizens to check their “alive status”. Are we a land of zombies who don’t know that they’re zombies? This might explain the driving habits of most Capetonians and at least half the population of Gauteng.

(In South Africa, dead people can still collect their pension money. In Witbank, three women strapped a dead man to a wheelchair to claim his pension money from the Post Office. “He didn’t look so great,” a witness told Beeld. After the women said that they didn’t have money to bury the deceased, a supervisor made a print of the corpse’s thumb on a receipt slip and handed the women R960.)

Then there was the story of the cow that ran amok in an Mpumalanga shopping centre after a small dog clamped its jaws to her nose and refused to let go. “Witnesses said the dog — possibly a mix between a terrier and a corgi, or even a sausage dog — had latched onto the cow’s nose after finding? her grazing in his owner’s vegetable garden,” reported Oris Mnisi and Tshwareloeseng Mogakane. “The beast kicked and mooed — and ran, with the dog attached to her snout, through the Thulamahashe shopping complex.”

Security guards locked themselves in their office to escape the cow. “When we first saw the dog we thought it was a plastic bag, but when the cow got closer we saw it was dog hanging tight while the cow was bleeding,” said Vusi Shabangu.

The mongrel let go after it was called by a family member of the owner. Centre manager Nomsa Ngomane said damage amounted to over R2 000, but none of the tenants had laid charges of malicious damage to property. (This cow was very badly behaved, unlike the obedient, fried chicken-eating horse in Umtata who waited for two hours, untethered, while his owner visited the local magistrates’ court.)

Speaking of chicken, earlier in 2008, the Mopani News reported that two fowls in Nyanyukani village outside Tzaneen were abandoned in the bush to be killed and eaten by wild animals after they started walking upright like penguins. Their owner, Nomsa Mlangeni, was convinced they were bewitched. She finally got rid of the birds after neighbours accused her of being a witch, and vowed never to keep chickens or eat chicken again.

At least the chickens didn’t actually haunt anyone, as was the case with the unfortunate Mervin Senna of Benoni, who was tormented by a strange black bird that appeared in his kitchen after the lights went out.

“Mervin Senna and wife are living in hell,” the Daily Sun reported. “ … they are being tormented by a strange black bird … and the man needs help … FAST!”

Senna explained that the bird, identified by sangomas as a tokoloshe, had started haunted him and his wife about four months before while they watched TV. Mervin heard and saw a black bird moving around the house in the dark. It would come out to eat their food and play in the kitchen.

“This bird is violent. It recently attacked my wife and wanted to sleep with me,” he reported.

Not to mention the Afrikaans-speaking tokoloshe who attacked a woman in the Free State (apparently a world first — the Afrikaans, that is, not the attacking), the Free State rapist/prophet — the Free State evidently being a flattish brown version of Twin Peaks — who shaved his victims’ pubic hair before having his way with them, and the Ugandans in Pietermaritzburg who tricked a man into parting with R60 000 that they would magically increase by washing it in a river.

I was going to say, how could they be so stupid? But then I thought of all those very clever, rich businessmen who gave Barry Tannenbaum lots of money, money that he was going to magically transform into more money. And what he did was on a much smaller scale than people like Bernard Madoff in America.

Which makes me wonder whether, for all the zombies and tokoloshes and haunted chickens, we’re not so different after all.

1 Opinion(s):

Viking said...

Brilliant!
I love the spit story, and it also illustrates how Africans don't understand (or like) the white man's laws of supply and demand!
Surely tb-laden spit is worth next to nothing because there's so much of it about??