The Herald - Perhaps it's time for editor to have tea with Talbot Cox

In his letter “Time for Steenhuisen and Ramaphosa to have tea”, Talbot Cox succinctly and skillfully expresses how some readers feel about our beloved country and the scourge of corruption.

All, if not most of us, have anecdotal recollections of some instance when we faced the ethical dilemma of compromising our principles and values.

I recall an occasion in negotiating land in the old Ciskei near Bisho to build a Congregational Church for members living in the region.

My application had reached the desk of the then president, Lennox Sebe.

A meeting followed and as I was about to be escorted down the long corridor to the president’s office, by four armed soldiers, his deputy, vice-president Rev Willie Xaba, asked if I had brought a


To my embarrassment, I had not come prepared. The audience with Sebe was delayed until I could produce a “gift”.

What could I do, given the circumstances, what gift would be considered appropriate?

Did he expect a monetary gift?

Would it be perceived as a sweetener or bribe?

I expressed these concerns to Mr Xaba, who informed me that it was customary and protocol to present a gift when meeting a chief or authority figure.


IT ’S A THING: Former president Jacob Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema drink tea at Nkandla recently. But can a cup of tea be perceived as a bribe, asks letter writer Bruce Woolard.


The appointment was rescheduled for later in the day, allowing me time to go to King William’s Town and purchase a suitable gift.

I had motored from Port Elizabeth early that morning for the auspicious appointment.

A well-stocked bookshop in the town had a very expensive isiXhosa Bible on display with gilded paper edges fit for a monarch or chief.

I wrote a message of goodwill on the inside cover of the Bible and wrapped it in African design paper.

The president was overjoyed and made me pose for a photograph for a Ciskei publication.

After tea with Sebe, he signed off on the land and today in Zwelitsha stands a Congregational Church.

Was I coerced unwittingly into a bribe or was I merely honouring a standard traditional practice?

Cox is right, corruption is corruption, no matter how we may try to ameliorate it.

When a salesman hopes to clinch a sale and invites his client to lunch or a pub for a drink, is this not a subtle manipulating bribe, or perhaps if he pays for a round of golf with prospective buyers?

There is a fine line between a monetary bribe and a favour or courtesy.

Talbot Cox may have opened a Pandora’s Box of debate on how to define corruption and how to avoid the blight that plagues our nation.

I suggest that the editor considers having Talbot Cox around for tea.

Maybe he can be persuaded to write a regular column in The Herald, which he is well qualified to do.

With an extra spoon of sugar and a stir you might sweeten the deal, unless, of course, a cup of tea is now also perceived as a bribe.

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