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An open letter to open letters

Dear Letters

You might not be aware of this but you are making one helluva comeback here in the Republic of South Africa. In this age of emails, SMSs and tweets our country is knuckling down getting back to basics sorting things out with good old fashioned letters. Fake, red, legal, formal – we do them all. Your open form is particularly popular.

Some weeks ago John Vlismas set off an open letter craze in these parts when he wrote a gem of a letter taking on Steve Hofmeyr. John is a comedian who also writes (you’ll have to see it to believe it) and Steve is a singer who’s really funny when he tries to be serious. John had a problem with Steve who had a problem with Bono who didn’t really have a problem with anything. It was classic stuff.

After the success of John’s letter our very own minister in the presidency, Trevor Manuel, sat down and penned an open letter to Jimmy Manyi, our government’s spokesperson. Trevor used to be our minister of finance but now devotes his time to writing open letters – a huge compliment to you. Trevor’s letter to Jimmy came after Jimmy made some unsavoury racist remarks in public. John’s letter to Steve also had the word racist in it a couple of times.

We love racism in this country, Letters. It’s one of our favourite pastimes. I’ve often wondered why we don’t just go ahead and make racism a sport — the other thing we can’t get enough of. Then we can get really stuck in and compete with other racist countries like the US and Australia. Then again, if racism was a sport we’ll get so hung up arguing the racial make-up of our national team we’ll lose focus and probably lose to Australia in the Racist World Cup final. And no one wants to see that. Best we just carry on being racist in our free time and write open letters about it. Or false ones.

That’s right Letters, in addition to your open form we also like to write and distribute fake letters to win friends and topple governments. It’s how we roll. Just last week our minister of international relations and co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, allegedly distributed a fake letter from Nicolas Sarkozy to some very important people to get them to do the right thing in the Ivory Coast. It’s not known how they found out the letter was fake but I bet they forgot to put the date and return address in the top right corner. Not that that’s really required any more. To write a letter these days, you simply start it with “Dear so and so” and sommer post it on a blog like this one.

If you have a problem with that, put it in a letter.




  • Hansie Smit is a self-employed writer. He spends a lot of time in coffee shops tapping into free wi-fi making sure he buys a bran muffin every time to ease the inevitable guilt he feels getting something for free. Hansie received a Diploma in Copywriting from the prestigious AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town. He often picks up spelling mistakes in brand communication taking time out of his day to write to said brand to point it out. He does this free of charge. He's won a Silver Pendoring and almost won a Loerie. For more of his stunning insight and weighted opinion, visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @freehance


  1. Gerry Gerry 23 March 2011

    Fricking hysterical!

    Brilliant. Lose to Aus in the racist World Cup final. That had me laughing out loud, literally, which is rare these days. Thanks!

  2. Sarah Britten Sarah Britten 23 March 2011

    Thank you for this Hansie. You are clearly far too talented for advertising (I assume you’re in advertising). Which LSM are you? I need to know so I know whether to try and sell you something.

  3. Iqhira Iqhira 23 March 2011

    You forgot a very important letter – the French one. (If you are too young to know what that is, you should ask your mother) The use of more French letters in the past could have solved many of our present problems.

  4. Themba Themba 23 March 2011

    What racist remark did Manyi make? I was out of the country when this boiled over and despite watching the said video, I cannot for the life of me find anything racist in saying that South Africa also belongs to coloured and they should go out and seek opportunities all over the country instead of limiting themselves. The other comment Manyi made is in essence a crude summary of what the law says (a law that Manuel was part of)

  5. MLH MLH 23 March 2011

    Aaah! There may be letters, but we no longer post them in the old way.
    Thank you Hansie!

  6. Blackanese Blackanese 24 March 2011

    A open letter to Hansie…

    I think, this letter perpetuate racism and discrimination against people who write open letters to open letters(if you know what I mean) complaining about open letters. Can someone please write an open letter to this guy who owns the name “Bafana Bafana” and tell him that its a racist to legaly own a Nguni(Zulu) name when you are white. We black people and the rest of the Safricans want it back….lol

  7. sasa sasa 28 March 2011


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