It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.
Thabo Mbeki, January 2009
A letter – which initially appears similar to Alan Knott-Craig’s brilliant first and not so great second – has been doing the rounds here in SA. It purports to be penned by the hand of one Trevor Mallach, “a Shoprite Group executive” and comes with his request to “please pass on to just five friends with the request that they do the same”. Do I hear the faint sound of alarm bells?
The letter is a plea for South Africans to vote in the upcoming elections. Good idea. No problem with that: Want democracy? Use democracy.
In fact, I almost agree with the sentiment:
I swear on my grandma’s grave… if I hear someone (who didn’t vote or couldn’t vote because they were too lazy or hungover to register) complaining at a braai about the government, I will come in from the side with a flying head-butt which will leave you so brain-damaged you’ll join the ANC youth league and vote for Julius Malema in 2013.
But sadly, the rest of it is utter tosh: standard disingenuous “facts”, thinly-veiled comparisons of Jacob Zuma to Adolf Hitler and Robert Mugabe, promises that SA will become another Zimbabwe, that Zuma will commit murder during his tenure without fear of prosecution and will be President “forever”.
And then, when the election comes, vote for anyone except the ANC. You can vote for Vernon Koekemoer or Skippy Peanut Butter for all I care, just as long as no one gets a two-thirds majority!
Is that official Shoprite policy, then?
So, it’s fake – but how fake is “fake”? Well, Trevor Mallach does exist and he does work for Shoprite. I know this, because I spoke to him this morning. It’s not difficult to do this, but it’s no use googling his name – all you get is daft blogs worshipping “his” letter and using cut-and-paste because they have nothing more interesting to share. Instead, I went to the Shoprite website, rang the number on the page and asked to speak to him. Tough.
And that’s where the sad side of this sordid tale comes in. Because Trevor Mallach does exist and he didn’t write this letter. But it’s his reputation and his name which is getting dragged through the mud each time this rubbish is forwarded (and it’s being forwarded a lot!). As soon as I mentioned the letter, there was both resignation and anger in his voice – I’d describe it as a kind of angry, resigned tone. He asked me not to forward the email, asked me to delete it, said he was fed up of hearing about it and that it was all a lot of nonsense. Of course, it’s a futile effort, this thing is whizzing around South African cyberspace like a SAA crew on coke. Just wait til it hits the ex-pats – they’ll have a field day with its rampant misinformation and scaremongering.
Dude, it must be true, Trevor Mallach said it and he’s a Shoprite group executive!!!!!!!
So – if you get this letter – don’t forward it.
Rather forward this explanation and remind people that behind a fake letter is a real person.