Here’s a story that still causes me to wake up in the early hours of dark and stormy nights, asking: ‘Why?’
It took place during my time working for an MEC in the Western Cape, writing speeches, opinion pieces and media releases for him.
It was a job I would normally have described as a ‘piece of piss’.
But it wasn’t quite that….
There was also an element of ‘getting pissed-off’ about it, especially when it came to the speech-writing part of the job.
This was my problem: I guess I’m quite an arrogant type of speech writer, like most of the speech writers I’ve met.
I thought I was good.
So, I was horrified that the MEC insisted on adding – liberally – throughout any speech for him, these immortal words: ‘At this point of time.’
‘Bloody hell,’ I complained to my friend, Al-Ameen, one day, ‘How can I get him to stop with this shit?’
‘You can’t,’ he replied, ‘he’s the MEC. We are but humble servants.’
Later, the MEC began to farm out some of his speeches to his political advisor. In this respect, I was a long-way-off second fiddle, for the MEC and his advisor shared a love of Cuban poets.
When I saw a speech by the advisor beginning with a quote by Jose Marti or Nicholás Guillén, I took off to Mountain Café in Long Street and fed my boep with three or four samoosas and two chilli-bites.
Anyway, here’s the part of working for the MEC that I alluded to earlier, the part that gave me early-hours dreams….
Nothing is ever static in politics. A political favourite today can be the equivalent of doggy-poo tomorrow. And so, it happened with this guy.
He was caught up in a political dogfight in the local ANC – and was shifted to another, less sexy provincial department.
Oh, what fun the move proved to be.
I was ‘tasked’ (as politicians love to say) with shredding what needed to be shredded. My goodness, the MEC must have had some dark secrets hidden all over in various offices on A4 printing paper, which he didn’t want a new MEC, even one belonging to his own party, to see.
I wish I’d read some of the shredded material.
We ended up with – and I’m not exaggerating – a roomful of shredded documents, right up to the ceiling, all neatly packed in light-blue bags. There was so much, in fact, that I had a real fear that I would not be able to retrieve my notebook and Parker pen on my desk.