JUST ACROSS THE MIND: A Fantacised Conversation With Ferial Haffajee

October 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Zama Khumalo
(9 June 2013)

To tell you the truth this life that I’m living now is really boring. I don’t like it. For example, I should be somewhere at this age. I shouldn’t be begging for food from relatives. I should actually be the one who provides. This other time they wanted me to clean the yard so that they would buy me clothes. You see, I hate that. I want a job. I want to be employed. I need a salary every month. I need to start my own family. I can’t keep living like this.

The thing is, when I used to freelance stories for the Daily Sun newspaper I used to make a living. I used to make money, little though and now I quit the job and unemployed. I regret why I quit being a freelance journalist for the Daily Sun but other things I couldn’t stand. For example, I think that, first of all, the death of Deon du Plessis, the paper’s master-mind, made journalism boring completely at the paper and left the newspaper machines into the hands of less enthusiastic journalists. Du Plessis possessed genuine journalistic writing abilities and you learned a lot from his style of writing, various topics and genres.

“Simple thing, a story, just a story, let a story writes itself” he used to say. “If I can produce one darkie who can write English,” he used to tell his black reporters. But most importantly, du Plessis was one of the best journalese writers Media24 had. Then he passed away in late 2011. It was painful to me.

Now I sit at home all days long, mainly reading and tying to write.
I didn’t like working for the Daily Sun anymore after the death of Deon du Plessis, but I happened to also hate the way they exploit and oppress black people at Media24. Working for them is the same as supporting the racist status quo. They are brutally racist, internally and to the public. For example if you follow well the Daily Sun you would notice that it is a newspaper about the lives of black people but ironically it doesn’t cover the cruel exploitation of blacks by the farm-owners across the country.

Now these are some of these you must just know about me and the reasons and stuff. The other thing you must know is that as I’m writing this it’s actually early in the morning, the time now is 5:47, I’m here at my grand-father’s muddy house in Magudvu, (outside Carolina in Mpumalanga) I’m thinking about a lot of things. Being unemployed is painful. I can’t go back to Daily Sun., as I told you. Besides, they will not take me back anyway. You see if they were gona take me back, I was gona ask Reggy Moalusi, the editor, to place me to write politics and courts. You see I would go everywhere in the country to attend press conferences and cover politicians and then to the courts to cover the activities of law breakers and write very good article. They will not take me.

Now I think I should phone and ask for a columnist job at The Citizen newspaper and perhaps they will allow me to write about my feelings on Zimbabwe and the racism of whites at an international level and what unfolded at Westdene Dam. No. I don’t want to do that. The Citizen is too bigoted. They will want to censor or ignore me at all.

Ok, let me phone Ferial Haffajee. The thing is I sort of like her – she’s got a career that I love. She works as an editor for the City Press newspaper, one of South Africa’s biggest Sunday newspapers and she’s the boss.

I’ll just phone and be brief and ask her for a columnist job. I’m going to tell her that I’m currently employed as an operating officer for a NGO and that I want to write for City Press because I’m also a Constitutionalist. I’ll tell her that it’s nice being a Constitutionalist because it gives you the opportunity to look at human rights violation with another eye. I will just lie and tell her that I have written a lot of books, short-stories and soapie scripts in all my life and that I got my first degree in 1987 from the University of Chicago in the U.S while I was still exiled there during Apartheid.

But above all, I will tell her over the phone that I’m more like a kangaroo when I write and that I don’t like digressing issues shem. Perhaps she will ask, “So what do you mean now?”

Then maybe I’ll say, “I mean I won’t be prepared to write nothing shem. I want to write something. For example, if you look at the columns some City Press columnists write, it’s an opinion I agree, but there is no difference between the time when they wrote and when they didn’t.”

“I don’t understand whatchu mean.”

“I mean I want to work for City Pre – .”

“So what does that have to do with our columnists?”

“I’m not saying it in a bad way – ok sorry.”

Maybe she’ll say: “Sorry for what? For insulting our staff? Just sorry.”

“Not that.”

“What? All your degrees and previous job descriptions and undermining our writers? What?”

“Not that.”


“You see I want to write an article, neh?”

Perhaps now she will sort of listen the things I want to say, maybe says to me: “I’m listening.”

“And I want to call it ‘The Other Side of the Mandela Revolution”, neh? Then I want to make the body and its conclusion look more like a testimony, neh?”


“Then both the intro and the body must be classical shem. I will speak about Tutu as a strong black man but then I will begin to argue that he abused his powers given to him by the black God and used it to play with the emotions of blacks. Here I will argue that all the books that Tutu wrote post-1994 were real hard books to write because in any circumstance it is always not easy to compile a book of a web of lies. Then all of the other privileges that followed I will argue that not all blacks receive similar treatment. Are you still there?”


“Okay, then I want to insert all of the neo-colonial mental disorders in the body and all of the post- 1994 ANC dramas in the conclusion, particularly post-Polokwane dramatic events because post-Polokwane dramatic events are actually the source of juice for our story as it is one interesting era that showed us that the factions within the Mandela camp were lively. It showed us that they were back and they were more active and full of life and had brought the other camp within the Mandela house to its downfall. But I will argue that the downfall of this other camp signified the mid-term of the end of the ANC. But above all I will tell the reader that before white invasion our life was better.”

“Interesting. Can you make 750 words or so of that?”

“Ja. Then I’m going to argue that your government – Ok, then I’m saying your government have chosen to jump ship and left us in the sinking.”

“Interesting. But please just make it 750, unless you are writing a book – ”

“But that’s the thing. I don’t want that.”


“To be shortened”.

“To be shortened what?”

“When I write”

“Ja but you see – ”

Then maybe I’ll interrupt her while she explains and say quickly, “Ja but you see the accounts of our pains should be detailed. We can’t shorten them. Institutions of oppression do not shorten itself, why do we have to summarise ourselves?”

“I’m not saying – .”

“I know. But 750 words? Think about it. Atleast 1 200 words. Or let’s double the number to 1 500, or we make it 1 890. How about that?”

“Cool. Just write and we see whatchu write.”

Then I write for City Press, dress like a real columnist and then in all my life I argue like a true Marxist that “in any capitalist world, poverty is permanent” and get people to read my work and make up their own mind. The thing when I must write for the mainstream media I’d actually let the reader decides which is which and I will not force him to think the way I think abouyt things.

But before I let her put down the phones perhaps I’ll say something like this, “Ekse, tell me, do those guys live in the office?”

“Which guys?”

“The editors and editors in chiefs?”

“I dont understand.”
“I’m asking if they live in the office or what?”

“Still I don’t understand”

“I mean if those guys will edit my piece. The thing is, I don’t want to be brief when I talk about those issues.”

“Which issues?

“Post-Polokwane dramatic events. And I dont want those guys to edit me. Those guys were – .”

“You see, listen to me, you keep saying things and honestly I don’t understand where is this whole thing going. Can I go back to work please?”

“Ok – I’m sorry. Where was I?” Maybe I’ll say: “Eer… eer. Ok, then I will send other things to you to confirm my qualifications. Neh?”

“Just send them through. Have you got my e-mail address?”

“Ja. But the things that I will send to you will be the kind of stuff where I write to wake up the dead. I can awake Hani. I can awake Garvey. I’m writing to be heard.”

“Well, that’s the art of writing; writing to be heard.”

“And then those guys cannot edit anything I send to the paper.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those guys in the office.”

“Listen sir, you said what’s your name?”



“Zimthubile Ernest Nkola.”

“Listen Ernest, I’m glad talking to you. I have to end this – I’m sorry. I’m… I’m busy. I’m busy. I have to do other stuff, I’m sorry. Just e-mail your stuff to me and we will communicate the rest via e-mail. I’m sorry. I have to be busy.”

“Okay. Bye”


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