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You can’t blame a rat for being good at rat

Feb 11 2018 06:28
Muzi Kuzwayo

Muzi Kuzwayo

MAN! There is a rat in my kitchen! It must be the warrior’s warrior in rat world. As a pest controller once warned me, allow them to live in the garden and catch them only if they’re in your house, where they’re likely to chew your cables.

It is as if this damned rat overheard the telephonic conversation. It lives outside, but comes in through the pipes to do its damage and then, in typical rat fashion, it leaves a big dropping – bigger than a grain of rice – which is the equivalent of graffiti, saying: “I was here, sucker. Catch me if you can.”

And I am going to catch it.

You see, this rat doesn’t know that "ek is ’n tsotsi van Payneville", where the girls and the boys were men, and the rats were superclever. Our rats knew how to work the mousetrap, so always took the bait without triggering the trap.

When we moved to KwaThema, I was surprised to see rats that didn’t fear humans, some of which fought back.

One used to come into my bedroom. One night, I turned on the light and looked at it go all the way up the curtain. It didn’t damage anything. I took photos of it. I wanted to test my new telephoto lens and to see how it performed under low light.

The hairy fiend seemed to enjoy the whole event and posed like a model.

I don’t take sides in the cat versus rat war. I don’t like cats. When I was a child, my friends told me stories that prove that cats are the executors of bad witchcraft.

I have first-hand experience of the cruel way in which we kill rats. Years ago I handled rat poison, very carelessly, I must admit. The package had a clear warning: “Handle with gloves.” I didn’t, and badly underestimated my carelessness. I had forgotten that I had a fresh cut on my finger.

The following day, during a very important pitch, I started getting hot. I knew it was coming. I got up very quietly and walked to the bathroom, where I threw up like a dying rat.

I applied some of the KwaThema first aid knowledge that I’d picked up over the years. I knew a man who tried to commit suicide at the end of every month, particularly after drinking his wages away. Rattex was his favourite poison.

There were no paramedics, so the community members invariably always gave him lukewarm salt water so he would throw up and get it out of his system.

I knew that if I gave it enough time, the poison would work itself out of my system. I’ve lived to tell you the tale.

I must say, I admire this rat. It is bold. It is brave. It has the hallmarks of a go-getter. It doesn’t feed off the scraps of life. It chooses Tastic.

To paraphrase Francis Bacon, you can’t blame a rat for being good at being rat.

In my career, I’ve met very successful businessmen who do a lot for society and spend their hard-earned dividends on charitable causes, but they’re shrewd when they do business.

As Bacon wrote: “And certainly men that are great lovers of themselves waste the public. Divide with reason between self-love and society; and be so true to thyself, as thou be not false to others; specially to thy king and country.”

I also know people who try to be nice and tolerate incompetence.

They lie to themselves, their subordinates and to their companies, and then feel betrayed when they are thrown out for lack of performance.

* Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.

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muzi kuzwayo  |  opinion
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