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Sven Eick

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

You’ll cry when you find out how this one weird task force saved this velociraptor

History was made on Monday when South Africa’s new Verbal Offences Special Victims Task Force was deployed to a crime scene for the first time in the country’s history.

The unit was called to the scene of Smiley Acres Kindergarten, where one Janice Groenewald (5) was detained after referring to her victim, Jonathan Albright (4), as a ‘stinkypants’ and a ‘dirty’ ‘boy’.

Jonathan, who self-identifies as a velociraptor with built-in machine gun turrets, survived the brutal attack and immediately reported it to his teacher who called in the Verbal Offences Special Victims Task Force.

A SWAT team, accompanied by two crack forensic linguists, was on the scene within minutes. Ms. Groenewald was taken into custody while Jonathan was airlifted to an ER unit where he underwent an emergency self-esteem transplant and a tear transfusion.

As doctors battled against time to save Jonathan’s life, investigators in specially constructed soundproof EMO-HAZMAT suits with 99% tint visors combed the kindergarten crime scene for evidence. A cache of nano-aggressions was discovered in Ms. Groenewald’s personal effects, as well as a volume of linguistic contraband, marked as the property of one ‘Roald Dahl’.

The following day doctors reported that Jonathan’s surgery had been a success and that he’d since responded positively to an experimental treatment involving a large chocolate medal wrapped in gold foil and a small plastic stegosaurus.

Speaking to reporters from the Intensive Care ward, an exhausted Jonathan explained what had happened.

“I was in the sandpit putting my spade in the sand and then Janice said can I have that and I said no and she said yes and I said no and then she said YES and tooksed it from my claws and I told her STOPIT Janice and then she attacked me and then the sky went black and then I told Teacher Viljoen.”

The ‘stinkypants’ slur is believed to refer directly to a traumatic incident involving a tablespoon of prune juice and a broken diaper that had occurred in Jonathan’s home three years earlier.

Ms. Groenewald’s parents have been taken into custody until a clearer picture emerges of how Janice, who first made contact with her victim in 2015, came into possession of this sensitive information.

The attack on Mr. Albright immediately made national headlines, drawing condemnation from the South African Incontinence Foundation, Plastic Trousers. Shortly thereafter pressure from the media and the National Association of Plum Growers resulted in the firing of four celebrities, a sous chef and a statue of Queen Victoria for making reference to prunes in public.

Meanwhile, Fuckup & Usurious, the country’s largest divestment bank, pre-emptively fired half its staff and burned its headquarters to the ground to avoid becoming embroiled in the scandal.

Kalashnikov R. Komrad, president of the South African Union of Marxist-Stalinist Lightworkers also weighed in on the matter, interrupting a stirring rendition of the folk ditty ‘Purge the bourgeoisie! Dead! Fucking! Kill!’ in front of an assemblage of 50,000 members to express solidarity with Mr. Albright.

“We commend and congratulate the brave members of our special unit for their fast response to this politically improper infraction of the emotional wellbeing of the affected proletarian and for bringing the offender to heel in such short order. However, we believe that prompt action involving mass deployment of mechanical presses to reactionary skulls is required to prevent a repeat of this incident.”

At the urging of pundits and various amateur political and legal experts on Twitter and Facebook, Ms. Groenewald issued a tearful public apology on her Instagram account. This was promptly accepted as an admission of guilt and will be submitted as evidence against her in her trial.

Prosecutors are now pressing for a life sentence for Ms. Groenewald, who is facing charges of possession of contraband speech and two counts of grievous emotional harm.

Important notice: The above text is satire. It does not in any way represent an endorsement or encouragement of anything nasty or defamatory that any South African, or indeed any person, living, dead, real or fictional has said or will say, or write, about any person or group of persons who have ever, or will ever, inhabit South Africa, planet Earth, and/or any other life-supporting planet in the universe, not excluding residents of other dimensions that currently do not have access to life-supporting planets and are forced to bob on quantum foam until someone pings them on an Ouija board. Neither is it meant to call into question the good character of prunes, plums, purple fruit in general, divestment banks, diaper manufacturers, laxatives, or any other fictional entities or institutions represented in the piece. All characters with the exception of Roald Dahl are fictional and any similarity to real people is entirely co-incidental.

The curious cult of Cape Town

‘But why?’

I’ve been asked this question by Capetonians at least twenty times since I made the decision to move from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Each time it’s accompanied by a look of genuine perplexity, like I’m completely insane. And while you’re reading this, I know some of you are thinking the same thing too.

The short answer, and one that’s so obvious to me that I’m not sure why I need to explain it, is that pleasant scenery aside, Cape Town sucks big hairy geographical, socio-economic and climatic balls.

But the short answer’s not good enough. It implicitly buys into the Capetonian conceit that there could only be a negative stimulus driving a move to Johannesburg, that there’s nothing about the city that could possibly provide a good enough justification to relocate there.

So with that in mind I’m going to try to offer a reasonably civil and detailed answer to the question of why someone would move from Cape Town to Johannesburg. I’m also going to ask some of the questions I’d have asked my interrogators if I’d not been too busy moving.

I’ll actually start with one of those.

Taking into account that you’re dealing with a city located on a highland plateau, what exactly is it that you find so unpalatable when you gaze across a city that doubles as the world’s largest urban forest?*

I suspect the answer to that question will probably be ‘the world’s largest what?’

And I suspect this because during the years I lived in Cape Town it became apparent to me that Johannesburg is typically imagined by Capetonians as a seething concrete metropolis surrounded by a desolate, dry dustbowl littered with the sun-bleached skeletons of crime victims.

The reality is that Johannesburg is a massive man-made forest. Apparently someone tried to count the trees and there were 6 million or so of them. And many of these trees are pretty cool. When a tree is left to follow its natural urges without being molested by gale force winds, bergie urine and overcast weather it can do some impressive things, like grow ten stories high.

And this forest attracts a surprisingly diverse suburban birdlife. Everything from fat Loeries to cheeky Indian Mynahs will visit your yard. The first time I turned my sprinkler on at my new home I came out 15 minutes later to find the members of five different species of bird taking a free shower out in the sun. This morning I enjoyed my coffee on the patio while being serenaded by what appeared to be a giant yellow budgie with a red bib and a black Mohawk.

To be fair to most Capetonians who reflexively despise Joburg, theirs is probably an error born of ignorance rather than malice. They know the place from what other Capetonians tell them rather than personal experience. Of those Capetonians who have actually been to Johannesburg, some might conceivably have visited only the old CBD, Boksburg or Alberton. Which would be like rating Cape Town based on a visit to Maitland, but one can understand how they might depart with a less than favourable impression of the place.

As for those who have actually seen the city in its entirety, my next question is: what did you think when you gazed out over the green blanket that covers the city, with the odd skyscraper sticking out in the distance?

Did you sit there thinking ‘damn, if only that greenery was two feet high, anything that wasn’t grew diagonally, and the lot flowered once a year for two weeks before being burnt to cinders then I’d consider calling it beautiful. It also needs more rocks.’

Did you even actually look with an open heart and mind?

So that’s a few of my questions out of the way.

Now let’s talk about Cape Town.

I moved to Cape Town at the age of 18 to study at UCT. During my time there I lived all over the peninsula – Kalk Bay, Plattekloof, Sea Point, Observatory, Rondebosch, Mowbray, Fish Hoek, Kloof Nek, Oranjezicht, Parklands, Sunningdale, Noordhoek and Clovelly.

I did every touristy thing that someone can do in Cape Town numerous times. I surfed for five years, I hiked Table Mountain, Cape Point, Silvermine, Newlands Forest, the Hottentot Hollands. I hung out in pretentious dives filled with proto-hipsters in Kloof Road. I became a regular at an eco-retreat in the Koo. I visited all the little coastal towns along both the east and west coast. I walked every beach, dined at all the cool beachside cafés.

I did many of these things during a period of my life when I decided to make a sincere effort to come to terms with Cape Town and make it my home. And at times it was great, but really, most of the time it wasn’t.

For a start there’s this little thing called the wind. How someone can ignore the fact that a ‘moderate breeze’ (I found it quite radical) blows on 95% of the days of the year, while a ‘fresh breeze’ (that’s two notches below a gale force wind) blows every fifth day of the year escapes me. You should know something is wrong when you have to lodge stuff between your door and the doorframe to stop your doors rattling, or when you can get a free skin peel just by attempting to take a walk on a beach.

I’m prepared to grudgingly accept that some people might enjoy the wind while it’s still a fresh breeze – summer temperatures can clock an idyllic 41 degrees after all. But my credulity is strained when Capetonians start saying how much they enjoy the southeaster, which usually blows at gale force. I lost count of the times that I stood on the green belt near my Sunningdale house trying to walk my dog in the southeaster, and found myself dismally surveying the land between myself and the mountain and seeing airborne garbage dancing above a wind-scoured wasteland, wondering what the precise fuck it was that people were getting so gushy about.

Maybe I’m not sufficiently impressed by big blocks of granite, even of the dramatic variety. Maybe I don’t like feeling like I am being assaulted by the climate. I don’t know, either way the former could never make up for the latter and it sucked.

Surfing made up for it right up until the point that the aforementioned wind destroyed the surf on both sides of the peninsula for weeks a time, turning the water in False Bay brown and sewagey, and coaxing the water on the Atlantic side into putting on a reasonable impression of liquid nitrogen. I soon learned that to surf regularly in Cape Town you either need to quit your day job or live next to a break, because the wave conditions can change within minutes if the wind direction shifts five degrees or decides to venture into fresh breeze territory, which happens constantly.

And about that cold water. Having a beach with water that can induce cardiac arrest almost negates the point in having a beach at all. It’s like being married to a frigid underwear model. Again, I’m prepared to accept that some people like it. After all, some people in Russia like taking ice baths in the middle of winter. But don’t try to pretend we’re dealing with some sort of balmy seaside resort here just because the place has sand, water and some wind-molested palm trees. Go to Mauritius or the Natal south coast if you want to experience what balmy seaside resorts are like.

And the thing is, it’s not actually the constant wind, the cold water and the featureless scrub that are the real problem. Nor the poor tortured trees and the other things I could moan about at length if I had time and you had patience (okay, in brief: the N1, N2 and M5 highways, the summer fires, the Koeberg refinery, the locals who never outgrow their high school cliques, the bergies shitting on your doorstep while singing drunken songs at 3am before attempting to murder each other, the fashionably liberal whites hiding away in the least diverse and most Europeanized part of South Africa and then lecturing everyone else about their failure to embrace multiculturalism and diversity, the pretentiousness, the gloomy, long, dank winters that induce pale skin, SAD and vitamin D deficiency, the drug culture, the overpriced shitty seaside restaurants, the V&A Waterfront in its entirety).

It’s none of those things that made Cape Town unbearable for me. Every place has its good and bad. It wasn’t even that people in Cape Town tended to focus more heavily on the good then the bad – that’s completely understandable, and a pragmatic accommodation to make with the place where you’re going to live your life.

What eventually made Cape Town unbearable was the insistence of so many residents on pretending that not only are these bad things minor inconveniences (to the extent that they are acknowledged at all), but that the city is actually, in all seriousness, the best place in the world to live. Their determination to up-vote their city as the best this or that in the world on online polls, to join multiple Facebook groups to agree with each other how awesome the city is. One prize idiot even told me that Cape Town is one of the planet’s chakras (I can only assume it’s the muladhara chakra, less formally known as the asshole chakra).

Accompanying this fervent denial of easily observable reality was the urge to insist that others do the same, to marginalize non-believers, and to find a good, solid enemy to frame as the all-bad thing against which true believers can juxtapose their impeccable goodness (smile and wave, Emmanuel Goldstein Johannesburg). In other words, the whole thing started looking less and less like an annoying and barely comprehensible form of geographical narcissism and more and more like a cult.

A couple of days before I left Cape Town I had drinks at a Parklands bar with some friends from America. The owner of the establishment heard the American accents and asked my friends why they were here and where they were going. When they told him they were heading to Joburg next, he told them that there’s no reason to go there, that South Africa ends at the Orange River, and that the people ‘up there’ aren’t ‘like us’.

My answer to him: fuck you china.

The reason we go up here is because there’s a mix of cultures, there’s a sense of growth and opportunity. There are easily accessible mind-blowingly good restaurants all over the show, if you go to a bar you have never been to and sit down to have a drink, someone you never met before will probably start a conversation with you. There are awesome, crockery rattling thunderstorms almost every afternoon in summer which prevent the day from overheating. There’s the fragrance of summer rain on warm, red African soil. There are crisp winter mornings that make you feel more alive, sunny afternoons that allow you to strip off your jerseys and jackets. There are light breezes instead of gales. There’s the feeling that the sky is bigger and horizon further away. There are the towering cumulus clouds, the trees, the outdoor café culture, the lush gardens, the koppies, the cosmos blossoms on the roadside verges, the song of crickets at night. Five provinces are within a five hour drive of the city. Drive just 30 minutes north of Joburg and you find this:


Is it perfect? Of course not. Everyone knows what’s wrong with it. Those faults that are not the product of horizonally challenged Capetonians’ imaginations are as much the stuff of cliché as the orthodox canon of Cape Town’s endlessly repeated virtues. And when it comes down to it, that’s one of Johannesburg’s greatest virtues: that its faults are known and openly acknowledged while its virtues are typically understated and left to be discovered and appreciated in peace, rather than constantly hammered over your head by the city’s residents.

So, does that answer the question?

*before someone says smog, yes Johannesburg wears an unfortunate mantle of smog in winter. As does Cape Town. The only difference is strict adherence to the cult apparently forbids photographing the Capetonian version and posting the results on the Internet. Nevertheless, the occasional unpalatable picture leaks along with the odd article on the city’s pollution levels. The fact that Cape Town’s lung cancer rate is almost double that of Joburg’s has mysteriously evaded popular consideration.

A Makulon’s pocket guide to hunting humans

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The arguments put forward in the story are exaggerated versions of actual arguments made on a variety of threads by a variety of people relating to the topic of canned lion hunts. Morality isn’t what it used to be, as one startled human being is about to find out…

The Makulon slowed down his breathing, raising a tentacle to wipe a dollop of sticky, silvery sweat away from a mandible.

The slightest tremor and his prey might bolt, losing him the entirety of the seven minutes it had taken him to pocket his hunting license, fly down from the Makulon mothership, land his craft in the garden beside the apartment block, engage his cloaking device and fix his prey in the sights of his Plasmagasmic Neon-Blaster Phantom Mark III rifle through its apartment window.

As he began to draw on the trigger an unwelcome thought intruded on his mind. For a fleeting moment he wondered whether he should be feeling some compassion or remorse, rather than buzzing with excitement and anticipation.

He pushed the thought from his heads. It wasn’t like this was a Makulon he was dealing with. He wouldn’t dream of doing something like this to a Makulon. It would be frowned upon, and was also illegal. No. This was an inferior animal, just one of the countless human creatures who scuttled meaninglessly across this blue and green planet on its paltry four appendages, spending hours sitting stationary in front of flashing screens or putting things into its mouth only for them to emerge from its rear end a bit later in a pointless progression of meaningless cycles. Humans were hardly even sentient, having emerged from the trees only a couple of thousand years after the Makulon’s grandmother was born. The witless creatures hadn’t even evolved the capacity for telepathy.

The whacktivists back home said that humans could suffer, but the whacktivists were all emotion and no reason. Even if humans were sentient enough to feel pain, the death of the little creature in his sights would be quick and relatively painless – and of great benefit to its species and the planet it dwelled upon.

The 50,000 Squallors he’d paid the Human Defence League for the privilege of this hunt would be funnelled straight back into protecting the planet from intrusion by non-conservation minded Makulons and would fund continued efforts to prevent this species from over-running its habitat and destroying it entirely.

The fact of the matter was that without paid hunts, nobody would take an interest in protecting the planet or preserving this species, and unscrupulous Makulons, or some other alien race, would doubtless arrive and either enslave or murder the lot of them. The universe was a messy and complex place and sometimes you just had to make the best of it.

Buoyed by these thoughts, the Makulon focused on his target again, gluing his eye up against the sight of his weapon. Gently, gently he squeezed on the trigger, breathing out slowly as his instructor had taught him to. Relax, draw the trigger slowly, exhale.

It was crucial that his shot not hit the head. These creatures didn’t have a proper exoskeleton, and apparently if you struck the head it all went out of shape and squishy and you’d need to go hunt another one, and nobody had that sort of money. He’d already made space for the head on the wall of his cabin – had even bought an expensive magnatite plaque to stick it on. He wasn’t going to mess this up.


In his apartment, blissfully unaware of what was transpiring outside his window or the inscrutable synchronicity of the moment, Rationalist Rob, thread commenter extraordinaire, and quadruple recipient of the Rationalist Rob Medal for Intellectual Enterprise, allowed himself a smile.

He’d just tapped the last keystroke on his comment on a thread that had mushroomed up around a Weekly Bait article discussing the burgeoning popularity of the canned dolphin hunting industry. The hapless masses were in a state of fussed hysteria once again, and there were few – so very few – people who could step forward and demonstrate to the masses the errors of their moral presumptions and the significant benefits such industries bequeathed upon all parties.

People had such an odd tendency to get excited about things like this without focusing on the essentials.

How did they think dolphins would survive if they weren’t sold for canned hunts? Every cured, grinning dolphin snout on a hunter’s bar wall meant another thousand dolphins were bred in fish pens around the world, ensuring the survival of the species. In fact, dolphin numbers were booming.

There were now so many of them that the forward thinking industry was looking into offering hunters the opportunity to lob hand grenades into the dolphin breeding pens – the hunters would be charged at premium rates, the dolphin conservation coffers would be filled, the dolphins themselves would be guaranteed a humane instant death and there’d be an all-you-could-eat dolphin sashimi platter to enjoy afterwards. And it would all be done efficiently, and efficiency was good.

But the mindless masses were a hindrance to such progressive and enlightened strategies. Instead of embracing the possibilities, they continued to make ridiculous assumptions about the creatures deserving rights and moral consideration, spouting their irrational, hypocritical and rather profane cries of disgust.

Rationalist Rob had no such problems. Dolphins weren’t human. Anyone who couldn’t see that and didn’t understand the plain and self-evident moral implications of this, and instead harped on about the supposed plain and self-evident moral implications of killing for fun, was simply too stupid and too caught up in subjective moral prescriptions, arbitrary boundary setting and emotion to even waste his time on. Yet, being of a philanthropic mindset, he felt obliged to explain the errors of their ways to them on Internet threads. It was the least he could do, really.

“Be patient, old chap,” he thought to himself. “Be patient.”

As misfortune would have it, no sooner had this thought passed through Rationalist Rob’s mind when it was followed by a fifty billion watt round of plasma charged nano-particulate fired from a Plasmagasmic Neon-Blaster Phantom Mark III rifle from a distance of thirty yards at seventy five times the speed of light.

An expression of bemusement crossed Rob’s face as he observed a crimson spray envelop his newly shattered computer screen. He was accustomed to having a red mist envelop him when he came across a particularly persistent opponent on a comment thread, but he hadn’t been rebutting an opponent just then. Also, he was almost certain that his left eyeball belonged in his skull and not on his desk, from which it was currently fixing him with a reproachful, bloodshot glare.


Back in the yard the Makulon cursed. He’d somehow botched his shot and managed to send the round directly into the creature’s head. For a moment he bravely resisted the urge to break his rifle over one of his pereiopods, then decided to wait until he got back to the mothership where he could break it over the heads of the Plasmagasmic Neon-Blaster salesmakulon who’d sold the rifle to him instead.

To make matters worse, his prey appeared to have survived the impact to its head and seemed more bewildered than anything else. This sort of thing got peoples’ carapaces up back home and could get him some bad press if word got out. There was also lot of blood, which stained horribly, and which his guests were certain to notice it if he directed their attention to his trophy at his next cocktail party. Brog only knew what he’d do to the creature’s physiology if he buggered up another shot. Would a severed foot on his wall draw the same admiration as a head? Maybe… hmm. Unlikely. Perhaps if he painted the toenails…

The Makulon pondered his options for a couple of seconds before realizing he had precisely one of these available. He’d need to make the best of this, see if he could salvage some sort of trophy and end this creature’s pathetic suffering as soon as possible. The Makulon dialed the wattage on his weapon up, raised the rifle again and took aim at his prey.


Back in his office, Rationalist Rob’s one functional eye continued to stare in bewilderment at its dislodged companion, which was slowly glazing up on the desk. While he’d survived the impact, it hadn’t been without consequence. His IQ had dropped to room temperature at the moment of impact, as a sense of profound peace descended upon him along with a throbbing headache.

“Need to clean red mist and take an Aspirin,” he announced to nobody in particular, before jerkily rising to his feet to fetch a dishtowel and a glass of water from the kitchen.

He took two stuttering steps towards the kitchen before a second blast from the Plasmagasmic Neon-Blaster Mark III blew his feet away, along with his legs, hips and torso. His detached head did a slow, theatrical somersault through the air and landed with a plop on his desk, a look of despairing puzzlement fixed onto it as death directed its attention towards the unfathomable depths of eternity.


The Makulon punched a tentacle into the air in a moment of triumph then cursed itself, realizing it shouldn’t waste any more time. You never knew who was watching, and it wouldn’t do to cause a panic amongst the naturals, who could be unpredictable, aggressive and dangerous when the mood struck them.

Without further hesitation, he ripped his hover-board from behind his seat, swung himself out of the cockpit and boosted up to the window of the apartment where his prey lay in several pieces in pools of gently congealing blood. He gave a quick glance left and right to see if any other humans had noticed proceedings, and then flipped himself into the office, pulled his hover-board in behind him and ignoring the shattered body, scuffled over to the head.

Now that he was out of view of the street he relaxed slightly.

He didn’t want to rush this part – it was what he’d been waiting for. He shuffled over to the desk, and set the head onto its neck, right way round with the furriest bit on top. He was relieved to find that it had mostly retained its shape. He picked up the detached eyeball and delicately pushed it back into its empty socket, which gave a satisfying pop as the eyeball slid into place.

However, the baffled expression on the face looked all wrong. The Makulon frowned, then tugged at the lips to expose some teeth. This proved to be an exercise in frustration, because the lips were becoming rigid and kept sliding back together. Eventually he managed to fix a somewhat fearsome grimace onto the thing’s face by stapling the bottom lip to the chin with a stapler he found in the desk drawer.

Naturally the head topped over almost immediately, and the exasperated Makulon had to start from square one. He noticed a pen lying on a paper pad on the desk. He picked it up, stabbed the sharp bit forcefully down into the desk until it was embedded halfway, then shoved the creature’s neck into the protruding bit, fixing it upright. To ensure it wouldn’t topple over again he wrapped a tentacle around the back of the neck, holding it steady.

The Makulon wriggled his maxillipeds, pouted them for the camera, held up the Plasmagasmic Neon-Blaster Mark III with another tentacle and focused his Hologramo device at himself with his remaining tentacle. There was a bright flash as his moment of triumph was captured for posterity. The Makulon took a couple more snaps to make sure he had a share-worthy one, then tossed the creature’s head into a knapsack and made for the window.

Then he paused. No. That wouldn’t be ethical. This wasn’t all fun and games. There were poor, starving Makulons back home, and while he’d spent all his savings on this hunt and didn’t have money to give them work or even some groceries, there was good eating on a human – even if they were a bit stringy. He’d do the moral thing and take the carcass home with himself. Hells the kids could play with the bones.

Hastily he gathered up body parts and piled them on the hover-board, shuffled onto it himself, and trailing rivulets of blood, shot down to his spaceship, clambered into the cockpit and blasted back off into space. He’d won. And he was going to share this achievement on Spacebook the second he got home.


Ape Town

Lars thinks he’s found a foolproof, virtually legal plan to earn money from pool clubs without having to do much work. But what starts out as a simple plan soon puts him on the wrong side of Costas, a Greek club owner whose wrong side you just don’t want to be on, and a man who happens to have a special plan of his own. Hampered by a single digit bank balance, an unpronounceable name and a habitually dysfunctional and distant family, Lars must now rely on his friends. Frankie (an ex-SADF soldier with homicidal tendencies), Croccy (a dope-addled Australian who hasn’t taken his shoes of since he was eighteen) and Marvin (an itinerant barman who rarely gets out of bed) to help him out of the mess.