Old things

August 22, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 5:28 am

radioIn the 1980s and even the early 1990s, the music record business was a goldmine. Turnover was sky-high and despite excess at all levels, many (even small) labels made an absolute fortune. Every artist who was a major global success relied on the sale of records for the majority of their income and the publishing, marketing and merchandising opportunities that came with it made many people very, very wealthy. There are tales told of how a certain record company in New York ordered $4000 of fresh flowers delivered to their offices every week and that a fleet of black limousines were kept outside the doors just in case an executive, star or producer needed to go anywhere. It was sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. They thought the goose would never stop laying golden eggs.

Then came Napster. Peer-to-peer music file sharing on the internet pulled the rug out from under the record companies and almost overnight the intellectual property, technology, ownership of product and publishing of music became forever different. The whole business model started falling apart. Of course the industry reacted like they all do when they feel a deathly threat approach – they called in the lawyers. The lawyers shut down Napster, and like a hydra, out of every severed neck, three new heads sprung forth. With ever-diminishing profits and mounting legal fees, the recording business slowly (much too slowly) started realising their days were numbered. Piracy became the word they used for what people called sharing. They were cut out of the deal and fans went straight to each other or the source for what they wanted. Today, most people in the music business make the lion’s share of their income from performances and merchandising – and many either have their own small record companies, or work independently. Some even release content online for free.

The dinosaurs that presided over the collapse of the music business either retired with whatever fortune they had amassed before the collapse, or fought on and lost out. Men you couldn’t get an appointment with if you were Michael Jackson are now not much relied upon much for advice about anything anymore.

Radio is over 100 years old. Guglielmo Marconi is supposed to have patented radio in 1909, and got the Nobel Prize for it. The media at the time, and thus popular opinion, held this to be true. Actually he had stolen the idea from Nicola Tesla. In 1943 the US Supreme Court confirmed – after 34 years – that Tesla, and not Marconi was responsible for “conceiving of, and patent the principles of radio.” Marconi’s claim was struck down. Theft is not a great way for any medium to be born, I think you’ll agree. Since then, its chequered history has run the gamut of being both chief propaganda vehicle for fascist regimes and as a tool for freedom and information in the developing world. Radio engages, connects and entertains millions all over the world. Well, the content does.

Increasingly, technology invented in 1909 seems out of step with things that were invented only ten years ago and exponentially improve almost bi-annually. Mobile technology, the internet, integrated systems all get better faster and the the cost of producing quality content gets cheaper every day. A big media company used to be the only place that could afford to make great content and pay for the license they needed to broadcast. Now radio stations have lots of staff, expensive programming, onerous licence conditions, interfering regulation, gerontology of the talent, atrophying of the production processes and a host of parasitic satellite businesses that fight over commission: The above-the-line, below-the-line, digital, social-media, PR, strategic and marketing agencies they need to employ to get their hands on the advertising budgets of large companies. It’s perverse. The link between the audience and the product or service is so complicated that viral videos of cats spread with greater ease and less expense. Do you know that Clear Channel, the biggest broadcasting business in the US with over 850 radio stations has not made a profit since 2008?

According to publicly released figures, gross advertising revenue for South Africa’s broadcasting industry is estimated to have increased in value from just over R2-billion to close to R8.5-billion between 1994 and 2006. It is hard to know just how much is being made now – but between the major media owners, it’s a lot. Much of it is the result of years of brand-building, research, hard work in programming and selling opportunities to advertisers. All that money is made by connecting audiences with products or services. Audiences tune in to hear or see or read things they are interested in, and clients get to sponsor, advertise or outright interrupt that connection in order to get the consumer’s attention. Now that the internet is here, a renaissance is so overdue that the baby may well walk out of the womb, fully developed and speaking.

Where we’re going, I do not know, but I am absolutely sure that the old ways are not going to work forever. Like the music, movie and publishing business, broadcasting has to change. We know that quality content and talent – inspiring, intelligent, entertaining and empowering – will always attract an audience; and we know that audiences change their minds overnight. When the migration to new platforms and the gear-shift to new habits takes place, it will do so without warning and those who didn’t act fast enough or played it safe will be left with gigantic corporate carcasses and egg on their faces. Just because things have worked one way for a hundred years doesn’t mean they always will. If you don’t believe me ask London cabbies what they thought of Uber in 2009; or Kodak what they thought of digital cameras in the 90s. I’m backing Tesla, not Marconi.

Ten weeks in….

July 15, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 3:07 pm

CliffCentral - WeChat Stickers imageA lot of people know we’ve started something new. Not everyone has  figured out exactly what it is, where it is, or how it’s going. Here’s the low-down on this 10 week old baby – CliffCentral.com
It feels like a long time, but I did my last FM radio show only three months ago. After enjoying some fifteen years on radio – from Tuks to 702 to 5FM – and loved every minute of it, it was time for me to do something new …to have my own business…online radio or as we call it….“unradio”.

Many people have questioned the logic of giving up a large listenership on national radio for a medium which attracts relatively tiny audiences by comparison, with online radio being such a new concept in South Africa.  Having been an early adopter of both Facebook and Twitter and witnessing the change in the way people communicate, being part of creating the next generation of broadcasting, or rather “net casting”, was a natural evolution for me.

In the beginning it was just going to be my show, for three hours a day – and now we have a whole online talk radio station -12 hours of live programming every weekday.  It’s a combination of some of the most well-known personalities in South Africa as well as a launch pad for aspiring new talent.  In our first month we auditioned, live on air, over 1000 of the most interesting people I have ever heard on radio. The chance of any of them ever getting on the air on a traditional radio station were absolutely zero. Creating opportunities for talented young people is what is giving me the most personal satisfaction at this time.

As with all pioneering ventures, we are prepared to experiment to try things that haven’t been done before. One of those experiments was Comedy Central simulcasting an hour and a quarter of my show every morning.   The first month we started at 7.35 and then moved it to 6am the next month.  After a couple of weeks we agreed with Comedy Central to discontinue the simulcast.   It takes time for habits to change and focusing on our core business allows us to now concentrate on building, rather than fragmenting,  the CliffCentral platforms – website, WeChat and social media.

WeChat has proved to be an outstanding partnership.   In just ten weeks we have over 111 000 subscribers and seeing a daily increase in the messaging facility direct to the studio.   It has also allowed us to interact with our audience not only with the live streaming but also, broadcast messages, audio notes, chat rooms and direct messaging for advertisers.   We’re working closely with the WeChat team on an ongoing basis to explore new ways of maximizing interactive engagement with our community.

Everyone wants to know who’s listening. It’s hard to know what to measure – because we’re sailing into uncharted territory. We’ve consulted “experts’ in the technical field with regard the correct metrics.   We don’t want to compare ourselves with free-to-air FM radio, mostly because what we’re doing is so different.   The actual live “listening” forms a small part of a holistic approach which aims to integrate the multiple ways people are engaging on the various online platforms.

After ten weeks, CliffCentral.com is already a thriving community of engaged, interactive conversations that connect people across online radio, social media, WeChat, our website and face-to-face. We have 111 000 WeChat subscribers; 44 000 Facebook friends and 26 500 Twitter followers. The podcasts downloads are gaining momentum with 38 000 downloads of my show alone during June. With regard actual listening, it’s no longer “listeners” but  “unique IPs”, “streams”, “users”, “clicks” and “page views”.   While we’re figuring out these metrics, many people are still figuring out how to even listen (just like with all new things).

For those who are interested, here is a snapshot of a week, one month after launch from 1-7 June 2014:  20 681 unique IPs listening to our stream, via WeChat and Cliffcentral.com. On the website we had 15 966 users, 32 660 sessions and 78 792 pageviews logged. For the whole month of June we had 65003 unique IPs listening to our stream; and on Cliffcentral.com for the whole month we had 47 209 users, 11 6021 sessions and 282 242 pageviews logged. Only streams longer than 1 minute could be counted and the statistics were compiled using Sawmill and Google Analytics.   You see what I mean!   If you happen to be listening with friends or colleagues from one computer or phone – sorry you won’t be counted!

Our aim is to start small and build a solid foundation, accompanied by like-minded contributors, advertisiers and “un”listeners” who share our entrepreneurial spirit.  I’m more convinced than ever that this will be the medium of the tomorrow.  All ideas and suggestions are always welcome.


End of Month 2: An update.

June 24, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 1:13 pm
ccCliffcentral.com continues to evolve, growing and adding new and exciting things to the future of broadcast and online media.
July brings with it a few changes:
1. Our morning team has a new member in Ben Karpinski – award-winning sports blogger and enthusiast. Ben is fanatical about sport and has a wry sense of humour – and a very big head. I don’t mean he’s full of himself, I mean his head is much too big. He can’t find a hat to fit it.
2. We’ve finished our first two months with Comedy Central. Simulcasting an hour and a quarter of my radio show was a great experiment but I’m delighted to reclaim my studio from all the cameras, cables and lights that inevitably come with TV. The vast majority of my audience are thrilled they won’t have to look at me and can keep listening instead.
3. We’ve got some great new contributors, people who have never been on air before – like some of the 1000 auditions we had in month one. Many of them will feature in the CliffCentral Conversations show from 3-6pm with Arye Kellman, but some have landed their own shows. Auditions will continue to feature and give new talent a chance to shine.
4. We have a terrific line-up of well-known, talented broadcast legends in the stable: People like Trevor Gumbi, Tony Ndoro, Casper De Vries, Stan Katz, Penny Lebyane and Tumisho Masha will all delight and thrill you with their brains, laughs and personalities. There will be intelligent debates and discussions with the Daily Maverick, great legal advice with award-winning Garry Hertzberg, medical and motoring shows and plenty of sport. You can’t afford to miss anything – but if you do, there are podcasts.
5. You can win. In the next few weeks we want to reward you for coming with us and being part of the future. Keep listening and we’ll make you a winner.
Don’t forget to listen to CliffCentral.com or get the WeChat App on your smartphone, add CliffCentral as a contact and start listening wherever you are. Glad you’re on board 😉

Zwelinzima Vavi

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 4:01 am

image001Adriaan Groenewald is interested in leadership in a way that we all should be. While I was his guest on Cliffcentral.com today, he told me about the article he had just finished on Zwelinzima Vavi, who was his guest the week before. Read it, it may give you a glimpse of the man we missed out on in government. Also, tune in to Cliffcentral.com every Monday at 12h00 for The Leadership Platform, where Adriaan and his team keep getting the heavy hitters on to talk about things that really matter:

Zwelinzima Vavi, CliffCentral – 16 June 2014


CLIFFCENTRAL.COM – First Month Round-Up

June 2, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 8:46 am

ccCliffCentral.com – launched on 1st May 2014 – celebrates one month of “netcasting” with almost a million page views.  Having taken the leap from traditional terrestrial radio to the future of internet and mobile, Gareth Cliff and team plan to create the pre-eminent “infotainment” online content hub.   It’s about sharing in real conversations – everything that happens in our world – everything we all experience every day – makes us think…makes us laugh…makes us cry…..makes us angry….inspires us… what makes us human. CliffCentral.com broadcasts from 6am – 6pm and the programming is repeated so you can always catch up later.  Alternatively, podcasts are available to listen on demand.

CliffCentral.com starts the day every weekday morning with “The Gareth Cliff Show” and his trusted team – Mabale Moloi. Leigh-Ann Mol, Damon Kalvari and Siya Sangweni-Fynn – uncensored, real conversation about everything in the news, everything that happens in your life and everything we all experience every day, along with first-class guests, edgy material and a healthy dose of humour, intelligence and inspiration….and lots of phone calls!  “The Gareth Cliff Show is simulcast on Comedy Central (DSTV Channel 122), will be moving to the earlier timeslot from 06.00 – 07.15 on Wednesday 4th June.

Between 09.00 and 15.00 every weekday – hourly shows hosted by well-known personalities and experts covering a wide range of topics and issues news with the Daily Maverick journalists; “Candid Business” with Business Report Editor Ellis Myandu; Leadership with Adriaan Groenewald; “The CasperRadio Show” with Casper de Vries and his team; “TG Squared” with Trevor Gumbi and Gabi Mbele; “The Buzz” with Jen Su and Jason von Berg; “Blaque Issues” with Tumisho Masha and Monwabisi Thethe; “Rockstars and Rookies” with Hlubi Mboya and Jade Reinerstsen; “Womandla” with Phumi Mashigo; Sex Talk with Jonti Searle and Black Spider; Law with Garry Hertzberg; Health with Dr. Jonathan Witt; “Heavy Petting” with Leigh-Ann Mol and even “Keeping Up With The Kalvaris” with Damon and Bernice….just to name a few.

While having some of the most well-known broadcasters, personalities and experts in the CliffCentral.com stable, the aim was to also encompass ordinary people who may never have had an opportunity before to showcase their talents or even just share their areas of interest. To this end, some 1000 live auditions were held during May yielding amazing results.  Every afternoon between 15.00 and 18.00 “CliffCentral Conversations”, hosted by young up-and-coming broadcaster Arye Kellman will include guests (and successful auditionees) bringing  their particular flavour and engaging with the wider audience with live phonecalls, social media and WeChat messaging.

The range of conversations include sport, finance, legal, beauty, fashion, “The Stars” – astrology…as well as “The Stars” – celebrity gossip, technology, gaming, youth panels, education, entrepreneurship, health and fitness, love and relationships, social media, inspirational stories, television, movies, lifestyle related topics…everything that is relevant to our audience.   There will also be a slot for ongoing auditions so the door remains open to join in.       Some of the applicants who are potential talk show hosts will be developed by co-hosting some of the shows in preparation for weekend programming on CliffCentral.com

Listen live on www.CliffCentral.comwww.dstv.com; Wechat CliffCentral Account

In case you were in a coma…

May 19, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 5:23 am

If you haven’t yet figured out that we’re live and doing our show between 6 and 9am, don’t beat yourself up, lots of people don’t know stuff. Some o these people died because they didn’t know fire was hot, or they thought wireless internet was a phone trapped in a gauze maze. I’m here to help. so for the people who are slow to catch on, don’t be ashamed, just pretend you knew right from the start and catch up on the podcasts (number 4, below). here’s how to listen to the Gareth Cliff Show:

1. Go to CliffCentral.com on your web browser. The stream will start immediately. If you’re on uncapped wireless at home or work, you can listen freely

2. Go to WeChat on your phone, no matter where you are. On WeChat, go to ADD CONTACTS. Then go to OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS. Type in CliffCentral and add us. Now we’ll appear as a contact. On the message screen you’ll see LISTEN. Press that, and you’ll hear us. If you’re on Edge, 3G, 4G or LTE you’ll pay normal data costs. If you’re on a wireless connection, no extra cost. We’re working on ways to get those data costs down.

3. Watch COMEDY CENTRAL Channel 122 on DSTV between 7h35 and 9h00 every weekday morning. The show is broadcast live on TV.

4. Download the podcast of whatever show you want to hear by going to CliffCentral.com. Every show should be available an hour after it has gone out live. Go to PODCASTS. Downloading the show won’t take long and then you can listen whenever, wherever you are for free.

5. Listen live on DSTV.com and check out your favourite TV shows at the same time.

Remember if you have a smart phone you can connect it to most modern cars which will put the stream on your car radio. On very smart phones you can also use Bluetooth

Have fun, and tell us what you think. Remember you can call in on 0861-555-189 any time.

Freedom Day Thoughts

April 27, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 5:40 pm

BlbhrugCYAAbF8NHappy Freedom Day to my favourite country on Earth. But with some sombre thoughts…..This possum ate it’s way into a box of pastries, overdosed on sugar and got too fat to fit through the hole it used to get in. So it just waited to be found, jam-smeared for rescue. Thanks to Tom Eaton on Twitter for this. I suspect you know a few examples of people just like this, well-known people, who are so greedy they can’t help but help themselves.

The ANC (government)(include the latter term if you choose, because there is such a blurring of lines) is overwhelmed with corruption – and on the grandest scale. Just the other day I heard about a man who gets tenders from a government department and in return lets the minister in question have his way with the man’s wife, regularly. Many hundreds of thousands of rands change hands in this transaction, not to mention the dignity of the man’s wife. Part of the deal is that the cream the man takes off the top gets returned in sizeable portion to the minister in question. I’m not sure the story isn’t just gossip, but then I’m not sure it isn’t. Who knows how much more nefarious the deals get, especially lower down the pyramid of influence where the amounts are smaller and the recipients more desperate and depraved.

Part of the rotten, depressing problem we’re faced with is that most deployed cadres wouldn’t be employable in the lowliest of jobs. They know the gravy train is their only hope at wealth and the material rewards of success, and they’re determined to get what they can out of the deal before the tap is closed. This isn’t some casual observation tainted with racism (because I’m already assuming that will be the first counter-argument) – the Auditor-General agrees with me. We have dysfunctional, uneducated, dishonest, immoral people in government office, starting right at the top. Because they don’t know better, they can’t tell the difference between a few thousand and a few million, but they know they want some. Like that possum, they gorge themselves on public money and perks like a fat child eats cake until they can’t anymore – and they always get caught – because they’re too fat to fit back through the hole.

Gwede Mantashe can call those of us who criticise this disgraceful stealing whatever he likes, but we’re not in North Korea, and his propaganda hasn’t got the power it might have had in years gone by, when he trained as an apparatchik. In fact people are so furious that they openly boo the President, laugh at him more than with him and are deeply suspicious of every single thing the ANC does and says – including their (it deserves to be said) very positive, powerful election campaign. It’s time we pull all the pigs away from the trough and force them to earn their office, earn their reward and deserve our respect. If they won’t, we’ll ridicule, insult and cajole them into humiliation and resignation – even the thick-skinned ones who refuse to budge. There are good people in politics, even a skeptic like me can admit that, but they’re becoming few and far-between as they end up tarred with the same brush as their less salubrious associates.

I don’t want fat possums making important decisions and helping themselves. I demand public service – from people who want to serve our great country, not pillage from it. Is anyone listening? Turning 20 means we can’t behave like teenagers anymore.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth…..

April 19, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 8:11 am

Liars 1The reason Jacob Zuma, Oscar Pistorius and Shrien Dewani make us all so cross is because we know they’re lying and we know we wouldn’t get away with those kinds of lies if we tried them. Imagine someone builds you a R240-million house, all you have to do is lie that you didn’t ask for all the extravagances, and they’ll shut up and pay – and because people are scared of you, you’ll get away with it. Imagine you kill your girlfriend, lie that you thought it was a burglar, hire some lawyers and cry a lot – because you’re a celebrity and people are stupid, some of them will believe you. Imagine you hire killers on the Cape Flats to murder your wife and then tell everyone you have mental illness and suicidal tendencies in order to delay your extradition to a trial – and waste two years before you’re eventually made to explain yourself. These people annoy us because common sense tells us they’re bullshitting and yet, in civilised societies we’re not allowed to point fingers. We want to point fingers. We need to point fingers.

People (especially pious people) keep telling me not to judge. Judging is what got us to this point in our evolution. You judge the distance between the sabre-tooth tiger and the tree, and you make a dash for it. You judge that the ledge is too high to jump off of, and you survive. You judge another person’s trustworthiness and you either do business with them or you don’t. When people tell you not to judge, they usually mean you shouldn’t criticise them or their decisions – or a situation where they have the opposite opinion to yours.

The onus also seems to have shifted in cases where someone is caught in a web of lies. There seems to be either a lack of authority about the truth or a lack of accountability for it everywhere. Either way, if you accuse someone of talking nonsense, somehow you’re the bad guy. It should be the other way round, don’t you think?

Imagine you’re at a lunch and some guy can’t shut up about how he just bought a McLaren or owns a house in Italy. You know this is patently untrue. Something we’re taught from childhood seems to make us want to shut up and tolerate this kind of pea-cocking. What really should happen is that you should get up and tell the guy in question to stop talking rubbish. Nobody does that. If they do, people round the table might actually think he’s the rude one. Unless you come like Gerrie Nel, armed with files and photos and bloodstained duvets that prove someone is being dishonest, you should humble yourself and let them keep mouthing off. The difference between truth, fiction and opinion is so blurred.

I think much of this comes from a general dislike of confrontation. That’s why Zuma, Pistorius and Dewani can keep up their lies. People don’t want to cause a scene, disrupt the peace or make anyone uncomfortable. Being quiet and allowing them to continue corrupting the truth will only delay the inevitable and make the truth, when it eventually comes out (and it always does) that much more painful to hear and bear. If we all had more regard for the truth than for being popular with our fellow citizens, associates, friends and family; we’d be willing to stand up and ridicule these lies in open, public ways. I’m going to ask you to imagine again, but this time instead of making you frown, I’ll make you smile:

Imagine the ANC NEC calling an emergency meeting and telling Jacob Zuma to either repay the full cost of Nkandla and resign immediately or face prosecution. Imagine Oscar Pistorius breaking down in the dock and admitting that he’s an incendiary, complex man with a lot of psychological problems and that he might have been responsible for the murder of a girl who engaged him in a furious argument. Imagine Shrien Dewani manning up and saying “I’m willing to face trial, to present my case and to stop putting every obstacle to justice in the way of prosecutors.”

Now go back to that lunch I told you about, stand up and look the boastful guy in the eyes and tell him he’s a bullshitter. Do it, you might upset the party, but you’ll gain bucketloads of respect in the long run.

Into the future

March 31, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 4:22 am

GC TEAMToday, 31st March 2014, I did my last show on 5FM after a decade at the SABC.   It’s time for a change. My team and my audience are like my dysfunctional radio family and we want to offer something new and exciting. After two suspensions and several close-shaves, dozens of BCCSA complaints and almost as many management changes at the SABC, it’s time to get unhinged!

What about the team?

Leigh-Ann Mol, News Anchor alongside Gareth since he hosted the Afternoon Drive in 2003 and moved with him to the Breakfast Show in 2006, has also left 5FM.   Leigh-Ann confirmed that this was not an April Fool’s stunt and that she, in fact, would be joining Gareth – “I could always stay at 5FM, drink more and continue farming cats or I could do something really brave.  I’ve chosen the latter. I must be drunk!”

Executive Producer Thabo Modisane and Thabo’s Assistant Damon Kalvari crossed the floor from 702 in 2003 to join Gareth on Afternoon Drive and also moved with him to 5FM Mornings in 2006.   Both Thabo and Damon will be crossing the floor once again to join Gareth.  “The timing is now perfect to embark on a new journey with Gareth” says Damon Kalvari , “As 5fm also prepare for their own voyage into the future, we part ways, like an amicable divorce. In this case, of course, Gareth gets custody of the children.  I only hope the catering will be good wherever we’re going”.  Thabo Modisane added “It’s been nightmare keeping Gareth within the rules. Hopefully I won’t have to do that where we’re going”.

Mabale Moloi, the “baby” of the team, joined Gareth with the launch of his breakfast show when he introduced traffic reports for the first time on 5FM.  Mabale, then an honours student at KZN University, called into the show one afternoon and before she knew it, she became what Gareth called “the listener in the studio”.  Mabale commented,  “My family thought I was crazy to defy convention and ditch microbiology for this crazy white boy.  It was the best move I’ve ever made and I’m again excited about following Gareth into the future”.

The Ginger Ninja Sports Coach Sias du Plessis was the last member to join to the team and that comes with a penalty!   Sias still has time to serve.

5FM Mornings comes to end but we’re just getting started.   April is the month of Idols Theatre week at Sun City and holidays.   1st May will usher is a whole new era and I look forward to you joining me. Stay tuned!


Close to home

March 16, 2014

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 5:58 pm

Oscar-Pistorius-20910935-1-402The trial we are all talking about, and how close to home it is.

I knew Reeva. I haven’t really spoken about this before, but she came to two of my birthday parties and showed my mother how to use a new dishwasher once. She was a friend of one of my ex-girlfriends and she and my brother were briefly interested in each other (I think, but don’t want to speculate). That girl was happy, beautiful, balanced, self-assured and very congenial. I’m not one for speaking too well of the dead (You may remember less kind comments about Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Eugene Terre’Blanche) – so take it from me – all those nice things people are saying in those terrible, soft-focus documentaries about her were true.

I also knew Oscar. Well, I interviewed him once or twice and ran into him occasionally in public, at parties and events. I didn’t like or dislike him. We never swapped numbers or invited each other to anything, so I’d be lying if I said we were anything but shallow acquaintances. I admired that he had a sense of humour about the things I’d say during interviews about him getting legless on boats and standing up for himself. They were cheap shots and he knew I was making them for purely entertainment value… I hope. I try not to be mean, but I try even harder to be funny.

This trial is an ugly business. Like any other moron, at times I’m prone to jumping to the finish line and proclaiming him guilty or not guilty without going through the process the court has to, but I’m trying to keep level-headed and objective about what happened that fateful night. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t have to be meticulous about my arguments, and I’m not a fool, so I don’t have to boisterously and ignorantly claim that I know he’s either guilty or ‘innocent’. I’m sure you find yourself vacillating between arguments too. If you’re even an amateur behavioural observer you will have picked up a few things about Oscar, some of which are common in athletes, some of which you’ll recognise in celebrities and some of which are typical of a man or woman with a physical disability:

Athletes have to be dogged and determined. They need to win. They don’t like to lose and they have brittle egos. Athletes are used to being judged on performance and if they deliver results, aren’t used to having to comply with any other conditions. Check all of these for Oscar. Celebrities get away with a lot. They think they’re better than the common folk and usually can get past ordinary obstacles with either fame, money or connections. They have other celebrity friends and live in a rarified environment which exposes them to less and less of the day to day problems that confound people with normal jobs. They’re also often rich, and feel the rules don’t apply to them. I know these things because in my less guarded moments, I have been guilty of just that kind of bad behaviour. Some celebrities have relationships with models, actors and other well-known people because they’re cynically hoping to stay in the tabloids. The higher the celebrity climbs, the less people will tell him or her the truth , or risk offending or upsetting them, and that can include their families. Oscar’s desire to be considered ‘normal’ and compete against anyone in the Olympics must have been fuelled by some narcissism and egomania, as much as what might be regarded as healthy self-confidence. I’m in no position to comment on the psychological trauma of being born without legs, or having an amputation early in life, or losing a parent at 15. They must be devastating for a child to cope with, and I’m sure there is emotional detritus that stays with even the strongest people for most of their lives. I won’t guess at any more than that. I’m pretty sure Oscar’s drive to win came from a dark, sad place as much as it might have from a desire to overcome his adversities.

The manifestation of some of his less salubrious behaviour is coming to light too – firing off guns and being in perpetual fear of attack; smashing doors and chasing girls out of his house; mouthing off about a competitor’s blades in unsporting terms; threatening people like Mark Batchelor and Quinton van der Burgh with violence; the fact that ex-girlfriends were positively terrified of him; the lowly and frankly dodgy company he would keep; the outward displays of devil-may-care irresponsible public behaviour and ultimately shooting to kill a person – these must be seen in context. The context is a psychology doctorate waiting to be written.

I don’t claim to know any more than this, and I’m not saying Oscar is a murderer, but he’s an emotionally precarious chap. Ordinarily this would be more than enough to make me avoid someone like the plague. I only wish poor Reeva could have done the same.

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