Sorry, I am still unapologetically unapologetic for having a white skin
FOLLOWING my comments about Theresa Oakley-Smith's cutesy little idea about a national apology day, I eagerly watched World Watch on SABC 3 which featured La Oakley-Smith talking about her plan. She was shown busying herself with preparations, clutching enlarged photographs of black faces on lollipop sticks which we are presumably expected to hold in front of our own shameful white faces on the great day of national wailing and gnashing of teeth. Another unidentified woman looked on incredulously, wondering, no doubt, why she had ever got involved with this scatterbrained scheme.
I was invited to participate in the programme and was cast in the role of the "baddie" who thought it all a huge waste of time.
The SABC film crew who had turned up earlier in the week made valiant attempts to get me to admit that I had benefited in some way from apartheid, but all in vain. When I pointed out that I had the good fortune to have won first prize in life's lottery, having been born and brought up in England and only emigrating in my late twenties, they loosened their grip a little. I added that, like many of the disenfranchised in the eighties, I too was simply a humble migrant worker who was forced to pay huge taxes without being given any say in the running of the country.
The World Watch team had also gone "onto the streets", as we media folk like to say, to get the views of the public. One of the "ordinary" people they interviewed was an articulate young man called Lucien Oakley-Smith, who thought it would be a good idea to have an apology day as a starting point for reconciliation. It would be quite improper to suggest that he was in any way related to the saintly Theresa, because that would imply the SABC is guilty of slack journalism. Perhaps Oakley-Smith is just a very common surname.
Sadly, time constraints meant that the real issues of personal integrity were not addressed and it was conveniently assumed that the unfortunate possession of a white skin is reason enough to apologise, irrespective of whether or not you feel you have anything to apologise for. Round one to the trendies, I fear.
I have nothing but praise for the much maligned SABC's programming department, which has improved the quality of television enormously in the past four years. One of the most intelligent television dramas is Kavanagh QC.
Unfortunately, last Saturday's episode was punctuated every 10 minutes with unctuous messages of congratulation to Nelson Mandela on his marriage to Graša Machel and an invitation from Jeff Radebe to celebrate the president's 80th birthday on SABC in a live broadcast from Gallagher Estate, where a sumptuous banquet would be served to invited guests and anybody else who stumped up at least R70 000 for a table.
Being invited by President Mandela to celebrate his birthday is one thing, but paying a vast amount of money to pretend you have been invited is quite another. There is nothing calculated to dull the appetite more than the sight of obsequious businessmen vigorously brown-nosing politicians in the hopes that a government contract may come their way. One marvels that they can actually taste their food after.
Fortunately, I managed to escape this "major social event", although I believe some of my colleagues were less fortunate. The late Peter Cook, when invited to a similar glittering occasion, noisily thumbed through the pages of his diary and replied: "Oh dear, I'm afraid I can't make it. I find I'm watching television that evening."
By the time you read this, I will be sunning myself by the pool of a sixteenth century villa just outside Florence. Even with the rand's demise, this little excursion costs less a night for accommodation than a three-star Cape Town hotel. The only problem is the cost of food and drink. As I am travelling via Vienna where I am on a three-day fact-finding tour to study "modern European begging techniques", I imagine that by the time I reach Italy most of my feeble foreign exchange will have been spent on sachertort, schnitzel and beer.
The thing about visiting Italy is that at least one has the temporary illusion of wealth. Everything costs at least 20 000 lire and one wanders around with a money belt crammed with high denomination notes. Out to Lunch will be back in two weeks. Ciao!