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Ian Martin

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Frikkie And Plug Eat Steak

“When you come to think of it,” said Frikkie, “it must have been a real pleasure living in South Africa 30 years ago. In those days the cops used to donner the hell out of the non-whites at the slightest provocation, and your average black man thought long and hard about laying a thieving hand on someone else’s property.”

“Now that the police are no longer allowed to use those brutal tactics of old, they have become ineffectual,” agreed Plug. “And because they are so open to accepting bribes, they have become little better than the criminals they are supposed to put behind bars.”

Frikkie was driving. They arrived at the Ndabeni Impound Centre and went in search of Plug’s Merc. While on their way to Franschoek for lunch Plug had received a call informing him that his vehicle had been found abandoned near Khayalitsha, and he was requested to come and positively identify it.

They followed a uniformed official bearing a clipboard, a potbelly and a fat arse down rows of parked vehicles until they reached the wrecks.

“Is this your car, Meneer?”

Plug had imagined his new Merc to be parked in the basement of his Camps Bay apartment building, and not in a government yard in Ndabeni. He felt a little weak.

“It’s the right colour, and that’s my number plate. Where are the wheels?”

“The wheels have gone for recycling,” said the official. “The residents of Khayalitsha are very good at that.”

The thieves had driven Plug’s car at an angle into a concrete barrier wall and bounced off, the way a drunk crashes into a solid object, lurches sideways, hits the ground and rolls into a ditch. A drunk would have been badly bruised. Plug’s car was a write-off.

“Your car’s a write-off,” said Frikkie.

After signing a form, Plug phoned his insurance broker, and then they got back into the traffic.

“We were supposed to be enjoying some larney cuisine in Franschoek,” complained Frikkie. “I’m fucking hungry. I feel like a steak. Cattle Baron?”

They drove to the Cattle Baron at Century City and Plug ordered a 200g sirloin, and Frikkie attacked a 400g slab of rump that was still bleeding, the way he liked it.

“You know,” he said, wiping around his mouth and chin before dropping the paper napkin onto a plate deserted but for some gravy and half-chewed pieces of gristle, “when I eat a good piece of meat like this, it makes me feel strong again. I feel like I can cope with this shit. Like my place being burgled and your car being taken out. And this fucking load shedding bullshit.” The lights had just gone out. “I feel like this is all just a minor irritation, and I can handle it without feeling anything, and if anyone gets in my way, I’ll just drill the bastard with my Glock and not give a god den fuck. Only problem is, a big steak like this makes me constipated.”

He called to the waitress and told her to bring him a Pink Lady.

“The top brass apartheid cops soon saw the way things would go, and they bailed out in the first three years of democracy,” said Plug, picking up the conversation where it had been left off before they went to look at his car. “They were mostly Afrikaners, the ones intelligent enough to suppress their racism and make rational assessments and realistic predictions about where things were going. They understood that with the lifting of the heavy white hand hordes of black trash would be let loose, and stealing other people’s property would become the preferred method of making a living. These cops saw that there was no future for them in the new SAPS, and that law and order was an endangered species, and that the way to go was private security.”

“Yah,” said Frikkie, “just like …Eina!”

Frikkie had been poking about with a toothpick, and had inadvertently punctured his gum.

“You were saying?”

“Yah,” said Frikkie again, “just like private security, private education, private health care. Private every-bloody-thing. If you want anything to work, you have to go private. Now it’s going to be private power, with your own private generator, if you don’t want to live like a powerless third world moegoe. Next it will be private water.”

“The positive thing about living in a dystopia like South Africa is that the rich get greedier as the poor get poorer,” said Plug. “This is what those top brass cops understood. They saw that the rich and the powerful wouldn’t be prepared to make any sacrifices in order to bring about systemic change, and would choose to beef up security and build the wall higher. And those cops were right.”

“So, are you thinking of us getting into something to do with protecting rich scumbags and their possessions?”

“I was toying with the idea,” said Plug. “But it’s kind of grimy and doesn’t really appeal to me. Something more imaginative, something intellectually more kinky is knocking at the door.”

“Let it in, let it in.”

“It would be something aimed at the mega wealthy,” said Plug. “Have you noticed how, at a certain stage, the very rich cease to be troubled by self doubt and their social conscience departs for good? Instead, their arrogance takes over and they become utterly contemptuous of the rest of humanity.”

“You’ve always been contemptuous of humanity,” said Frikkie. “Aren’t you just like them?”

“No, I am different to them in that I don’t share their delusion of superiority. I acknowledge that I am just as contemptible as those I despise. In a way, it makes me more culpable than them when I behave badly. But let’s get back to devising ways of making money out of persuading this odious elite to squander their ill-gained wealth on a hyper real display of extravagant consumption.”

“What have you got in mind?”

“It’s actually based on a South American concept,” said Plug.

“Not surprising,” said Frikkie. “When I went to Rio last year, there were all these super cars and bullet proof limos parading up and down, and just over the way was a massive, stinking falafel teeming with dirt poor no-hopes on the lookout to rob and murder someone, just like in South Africa.”

“Favela. Not falafel.”

“Yah, Favela. You know what I mean.”

“Yes, Brazilian society is almost as unequal as ours,” said Plug. “I was looking at some pictures of Sao Paolo the other day, and I noticed this apartment block that had gone up right next to a Favela. A gleaming white, ultra modern high-rise stepped like a wedding cake, with a private pool on every level.”

“Weird,” said Frikkie. “And right there next to a slum? That’s kind of cool, hey? I mean, it takes balls to come up with an idea like that.”

“It got me thinking about doing something along similar lines right here in Jozi or Cape Town.”

“Alex would be good,” said Frikkie. “Nice and close to Sandton.”

“Right. We could put up a 15 or 20-storey tower block of luxury apartments right in the middle of the poorest part of Alexandra. Major security features, of course. A 3 metre high wall, armed guards, an electrified steel collar on the outside of the building, cameras, motion sensors – that kind of thing.”

“Yah, and each apartment would have a big balcony with some garden and a pool and a gas braai. What else?”

“The basement and ground floor would be for parking,” said Plug. “The first floor, above the electrified steel collar, would be bullet proof glass, floor to ceiling on all sides, with a gym, a bar lounge and a superette.”

“Awesome!” Frikkie enthused. “The shack dwellers would be able to view the larnies working out in their fancy gym kit, or knocking back shots at the bar. Fantastic at night. The place would have its own power supply, I take it?”

“Of course. And water, too. People this rich would never dream of living at the mercy of Eskom and Rand Water.”

“You know,” said Frikkie, “at first this seems like a crazy idea, but the more you think about how decadent it is, the more it grabs you. To live like this is to demonstrate your power and your wealth, and to show just how free you are from all that morality bullshit you were brought up with.”

“Yes, that’s what is so appealing,” said Plug. “Your money liberates you and you are able to despise the poor for their weakness and dismiss their misery as self inflicted. In fact, their poverty and the hardships they have to endure confirm their worthlessness and attest to the innate superiority of the wealthy.”

“How about access?” asked Frikkie. “Access could be a problem. The super rich aren’t going to want to drive their Aston Martins down a potholed lane flanked with shacks in order to get to their mansions in the sky.”

“Certainly not,” said Plug. “No we would have a fenced in private road cutting through the township straight from the highway. It might cause resentment, but what the hell.”

“You know, something has just occurred to me,” said Frikkie. “Maybe we could start a new craze. You know the way a rich housewife takes her daughter to ballet lessons in a V8 Discovery? Well, maybe we could sell them custom-made armoured vehicles. Something like a modified Marauder or Ratel fitted with luxury features.”

“Frikkie, I think you’ve just struck gold! The new status symbol. It would make such a powerful statement, defining the grotesque face of today’s South Africa and reflecting the psychotic nature of her citizens. Also perfect for resisting hijackers and driving through service delivery protests. And for going through red robots and sorting out taxis. Yes, that really is an inspired brainwave.”

Frikkie looked pleased with himself, then got to his feet in a hurry.

“I had better get to the Gents,” he said. “I think that Pink Lady is about to do the trick.”

 

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