Opening yourself up to more hugs may be an antidote to the darkness out there

Opening yourself up to more hugs may be an antidote to the darkness out there
Illustration: Pikisuperstar / Freepik

Maybe the remedy to all the hate polluting our atmosphere might just involve showing a little kindness to yourself and others (including animals and our planet).

Dear DM168 readers,

I’m not the hugging type. I’m just not. I wrote a column to this effect in 2007 when I was at the Mail & Guardian and the editor at the time – Ferial Haffajee, who is now an associate editor at Daily Maverick – still jokingly asks me if it’s okay to hug me whenever she sees me. (Yes, Fer, it’s okay.)

In that old column, I wrote about my lifelong distaste for greetings that involved an excessive amount of physical contact, particularly in the professional realm. I wondered back then, and sometimes still do, why a pleasantly hearty handshake isn’t good enough for new acquaintances.

As was to be expected, after reading that column, certain friends took it upon themselves to hug me into submission. One particularly skinny friend with long limbs would hug me with such fervour that, whenever she embraced me, I remember thinking this is what it would feel like to be smothered to death by a giant squid.

Another friend would send what he called “hug-snipers” to me – people who didn’t know me, were new to the newsroom and would be convinced by this so-called friend to hug me out of the blue because “I loved hugs”.

And then there was the friend who looked, and often smelled, like a giant golden retriever who hugged me the way a big puppy would, with me often thinking, why is your nose in my ear?

Of course, I’ve never minded hugging people I care about, and my nephew’s tight bear-hugs over the years have resulted in us breaking a few pairs of my sunglasses, always hooked on the neck of my T-shirt.

But then Covid happened and we were not allowed to hug, and the world suddenly seemed a little darker. It feels like that darkness is lingering, growing even. The levels of fear, anger and hate seem to have skyrocketed since Covid, and bearing witness to how cruel people are has ironically made me a bit softer.

I find myself hugging loved ones more and even people I’m meeting for the first time get hugged – with a somewhat perfunctory embrace, but at least it’s a hug.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to set up a hugging booth at Daily Maverick’s upcoming The Gathering: Twenty Twenty-Four in Cape Town (have you bought your ticket?), but I am saying that the antidote to all the hate polluting our atmosphere might just involve showing a little kindness to yourself and others (including animals and our planet).

While I was giving myself a mental hug, Daily Maverick’s fearless specialist crime reporter, Caryn Dolley, snapped me out of my reverie when she sent through the first draft of this week’s lead story about South Africa being captured by narcos and how it seems to have started, or been given a significant boost, when the ANC was in exile in Zambia in the 1980s.

Dolley has pieced together additional links between known – and in many cases accused or convicted – global drug smugglers and money launderers, and the ANC, Jacob Zuma and the Guptas. One particular paragraph in the story stands out for me:

This is from a 1987 affidavit by Vuyo Ndzeku, who once smuggled drugs and later became an aviation industry businessman in South Africa. Ndzeku’s 1987 affidavit stated: “A lot of the Mandrax dealers are people working for the ANC and the money they make on these tablets is used to buy arms with. A lot of cars get stolen in South Africa, which are then taken to Zambia and swapped for tablets. These cars are used by the ANC.”

Dolley’s investigation, which is part one of a three-part series we’ll be publishing in the print edition, is filled with similarly alarming revelations that I’m not going to detail here because you can read all about them in this week’s DM168, which is available at major retailers across the country and is on shelves from Saturday to Friday.

There is also a wrap of the big political stories of the week (pages 6-10), more evidence of Swimming South Africa’s mismanagement of our athletes (page 54), a troubling story about school governing bodies and corruption (page 11), and an even more disturbing story about violent mafias waging a turf war in Richards Bay, where trucks transport coal as the sabotage of rail lines continues (pages 33-34).

To ensure you don’t cry into your cornflakes, this week’s issue also features inspirational people making a difference in our beautiful country, and Daily Maverick satirist Malibongwe Tyilo writes about his conundrum in trying to figure out which Zuma to support – check out his column “One nation, two thrusting Spears! What a time to be alive”.

Please send your thoughts about our stories to [email protected] and we may publish them on our readers’ page.

Yours in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


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