Please don’t think me mawkish, but as I approach my late sixties I have become belatedly concerned about my health.

As a custodian, I haven’t been particularly kind to my body over the years and am now quite prepared to admit to a questioning doctor that I drink more than the pathetically low recommended units of alcohol permitted per week.

I used to lie and say that I only ‘drank socially’ but my GP at that time was on the same wine society committee and told me that I if I wasn’t drinking at least a bottle of wine a day I had no business being on the committee.

One of the problems of being part owner of, and living on, an award-winning (yes, it’s true) Stellenbosch wine estate is that one is obliged to drink as much of this year’s output simply to make way in the cellar for next year’s vintage. It’s tough work but somebody has to do it.

I have always been involved in booze-friendly industries like financial markets and journalism and, even prior to that, I like to think I gave my liver the necessary preparatory training while a university student. But now, after 50 years of ‘burning the candle at both ends and finding that it gives off a lovely light’ (to quote the immortal genius Christopher Hitchens) I was pulled up sharply by the results of a couple of Discovery Health blood tests, and decided to take further tests to find out if I needed to consider, heaven forbid, a drastic change in lifestyle. The prospect of a future life of steamed fish, vitamin supplements and mineral water isn’t tempting, I’m afraid.

I mention all this because my own wellbeing came to mind last Friday when I heard the sad news of the death at age 44 of radio journalist Xolani Gwala. I never met and didn’t know Gwala, but I had listened to him many times and what moved me most was the loss of such a thoroughly decent and accomplished South African and at such a young age after a long battle with colon cancer. What incensed me, though, was News24 putting the story under ‘Entertainment’ on their website.

I think instant outrage and knee-jerk over-reaction should usually be reserved for the appalling ‘woke’ lefties who infest our daily lives but maybe it’s not a bad idea to lob the ball back over the net at them occasionally. So here goes.

How a young man’s death could possibly be ‘filed’ under ‘Entertainment’ beggars belief. If I was a true woke lefty, I would be demanding the sacking of somebody in charge and a full apology, but that will, I fear, both be ignored and achieve nothing. So I shall just say this. If news sources like News24 have become so desperate for clickbait that they are prepared to sacrifice a family’s grief for hits on their website then we have descended to a place of great darkness. Surely, somebody in some senior position (i.e. somebody older than 25 in the newsroom without a nose ring and blue-dyed hair) would have seen that and recognised it as a gaff of note. Or are we to assume that anything goes now at News24 and that a family’s grieving for a loved one must take second place to some algorithmic quest for advertising hits?

But since that seems to be the new orthodoxy at News24 I’ll let you know of any negative results of the forthcoming blood tests and maybe we can come to a deal and split any advertising revenue. The money might come in useful for treatment and then you can also put me up under ‘Entertainment’ should I eventually lose the battle. Ugh! Oh brave new world….

*                                  *                                  *

Less informed commentators in the mainstream media are hailing Moody’s failure to downgrade SA to junk as good news. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Our rating has moved from stable to negative, which effectively puts us on death row pending the next decision in February.

That Moody’s has been the only ratings agency to give us the benefit of the doubt has been of some comfort to policy makers. The other two agencies rated SA as junk status two years ago and one would need to have a great insight into the methodology of ratings agencies to understand why Moody’s didn’t follow suit. However, they decided to give SA a chance and, as is to be expected, we’ve squandered that opportunity.

Even with the famed Ramaphosa ‘new dawn’ and the end of the Zuma kleptocracy, our economy is in appalling shape and worsening by the day. The stay of execution until February gives us one last opportunity to convince at least one well-disposed ratings agency that we are serious about tackling our problems.

All we have to do is to persuade the unions that jobs have to be sacrificed at Eskom if it is to have any chance of financial survival, that labour law must be less draconian if we really want to encourage new business and that BBBEE (or whatever they’re called these days) arrangements must be scrapped immediately.

No sensible business owner wants the burden of a business partner who does nothing for the bottom line (apart from introducing some sleazy contacts) and yet expects to take a chunk of the profits every year. Will we manage this? Well, on the basis of what has happened to the economy in the last eighteen months, we have no chance. The crooks are still walking free and thumbing their noses at the rest of us, despite overwhelming evidence heard at the Zondo commission and unearthed by top-rate investigative journalists.

Use the k-word in a rant and you’ll be in front of a judge before you can say Ku Klux Klan. Loot a bank and buy yourself a Range Rover Sport with the proceeds and you can sleep easy at night.

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David Bullard
After 27 years in financial markets in London and Johannesburg David Bullard had a mid life career change and started writing for the Sunday Times. His "Out to Lunch" column ran for 14 years and was generally acknowledged to be one of the best read columns in SA with a readership of 1.7mln every week. Bullard was sacked by the ST for writing a "racist" column in 2008 and carried on writing for a variety of online publications and magazines. He currently writes for dailyfriend.co.za and politicsweb.co.za.

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