Letter to: John Scott (Cape Times), Don Pinnock (ex editor Getaway), Donwald Pressly (Business Report).


The reason why I’m writing to you gentlemen is because I asked all three of you to give me a hand to get my paper ‘Fish For Africa’ published in a national newspaper. I did not ask that to get my name in a newspaper but because if such a plan is not established, South Africa’s commercial fish will be wiped out like it has happened in the rest of the oceans. The Spanish and the Asiatics will see to that.

As for unknown reasons to me SA papers refuse to print anything I might send them, I had good hopes with you three fellows but, once more, I had to deplore my naïveté.

With John I had exchanged a few e-mails because he talked once in his column about Tromp van Diggelen and not many people are left in this country that knew that amazing fellow. Tromp asked me in 1958 to find the wreck of the ‘Birkenhead’ and many years later I wrote and published a book about that adventure. I even sent you a copy, John, that, I’m almost sure, you never read. When I wrote to you about ‘Fish For Africa’ I even sent you a copy of a small film that Tromp had produced in the forties and fifties showing the almost outrageous quantities of fish that were caught in False Bay. Did you look at it, John?

Next I contacted Don Pinnock because I had read one of his books in which he praised Robert Ardrey, who I admire, for making the archaeology of the search for Man come to life. I had hopes that he might find a newspaper to give ‘Fish For Africa’ a show. Another ‘hayekona’.

Then I saw an article in Business Report by Donwald Pressly about hake fishing research adorned by an idiotic photo that showed a miserable little pile of 4-5 inch fishes and not a hake to be seen. I wrote to BR but Donwald replied to me explaining he was not responsible for that ridiculous picture. Of course, I also plied Donwald to get my FFA into print. No more communication.


So now I’ve something to reflect upon. How come three professional writing people, whose writings I appreciate most of the time won’t or can’t be bothered to get my fishing ideas into print. My reflections were soon sorted out when I scrutinized my ideas; ‘professional writing people’ was the explanation. I had never written a word except in a ship’s logbook until 10 years ago. I had too many things to do but when I learned that the great Xhosa Chief Maqoma had managed to have the troopship HMS ‘Birkenhead’ sunk I knew that I had to learn how to write a story. Because no one in this country knows about Maqoma’s courage and that he is the only African Chief in the whole of Africa to hold the British at bay for more than two years and I wanted his story known.

However, you folks started to write to make a living. You were taught to write about any old thing, as long as the prose was more or less correct you were all right to blacken newspaper. You were learning to write about things you knew bugger all about. You’re not the only ones in this country; Tony Weaver is also a good one, not to forget Max du Preez, both champions of ‘THE STRUGGLE’. I’ll come back to that later.

Examples of not knowing what you bloody well write about: You, Donwald, after your lamentable bit on hake fishing, the next day you knew all about fracking for oil or gas in the Karoo. Why didn’t you tell the people that fracking can be done without water, sand and crappy chemicals. Because you didn’t know that for the last 2-3 years it has been done with liquid petroleum and it has been more effective without environmental spoliation. Never mind; the next day you prattle about good old Trevor Manuel and that Zuma has managed to neuter him. Is that news? When his finance ministry was taken away from him, a ministry in which he was good for SA, it was plain for all to see that his political end was nigh for the time being. But you, Donwald, do you tell the people that that fat Indian chap has increased the country’s debt fourfold since Trevor’s departure and that we’re on a Debt Slide, à la Europe?  Because of an illiterate bunch of communist inspired complicitians!

Par contre, I can talk about these things, I worked in the gold mines, mining, diamond drilling, surveying; I can talk about fishing as a trawler man, diver, marine biologist and merchant navy captain; I can talk about this famous struggle because I was part of one when I was a kid when Germany took over Holland. I was part of the underground because I was still small and could get into buildings to let the others in. I soon recognised that the brave underground chappies were mainly of the criminal kind; they loved to shoot and couldn’t care a damn about the Germans’ reprisals on innocent folk. Years later I learned that in France it had been the same, famous maquis criminals managed to get De Gaulle out of the way until 1958. In this country it was the same, the strugglers’ eyes shone with greed when contemplating the country’s wealth. Poor old Mandela was lucky to be kept by the Boers, De Gaulle would have had him shot within days.

I don’t know what you’ve been writing about these days, Don, maybe about gorillas although Robert showed us a while ago that they were on the path of extinction as our fish will be if nothing is done.

To get a laugh out of John’s columns these days is becoming more difficult, the chewing gum habits of Joburg girls and how to blow bubbles with such a topic is about the best.

When I first saw a ferryboat on lake Victoria in 1950 I told my pals never to set foot on them, as they were ready to capsize any time. I knew, I had been on the North Sea from the age of eight. Tony Weaver, the great African traveller who normally bores you out of your mind with his landrover stories, is fool enough to use them and was almost surprised when one of them drowns again a whole load of people. Are professional writers totally inured against learning anything else? Poor old Max du Preez has now been obliged to tell us once more how terribly bad apartheid was so that today’s bad joke of a government doesn’t show up too horribly. That bloke Peter Bruce of BD pontificates about bad little Malema and badder but shrewd ol’Zuma but does he tell south Africans anything to stop the slide into total debt and chaos? He’s probably preoccupied with cricket, far more bloody important. Do you, professional writers, who have such wonderful positions in the newspapers; do you not see that the goldmines are being wrecked during the time that gold went up from 400 to 1900 dollars? Do you blokes not know that SA now has to import food because our good Afrikaner farmers are murdered or driven away? That our fish is bartered to Asia. Have you, professional writers who did plenty of yelling against the apartheid regime, now become so bashful, timid, stupid or cowardly that 4000 ANC chappies can decide who becomes president of this ‘democratic’ country without you folks yelling like the olden days?

I think I’ve presented my point, wish I were wrong.


                                                Captain Nicholas Dekker, De Kelders, Gansbaai.

                                                website: maritimebooks.co.za

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2 Responses to Letter to professional writers

  1. Jack Dekker says:

    Thanks Nick for calling me a criminal because I was part of the underground. The silly Dutch even gave me a medal for it.

  2. Brilliant letter to the “professional writers”.

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