The Cape Aflame Project Team

The Vineyard Rhino Relief Brawl*

Les Martens
“Les pitched with all the pride of a new father, cradling his newborn baby in his arms.” Photograph: Mike McSweeney

On Friday evening, SANParks Honorary Rangers (SHR) shaved (well, the men anyway), showered and swapped their muddy boots and khaki attire for garments of a more appropriate nature and demonstrated their versatility by throwing a high-profile Rhino Relief Cocktail Party hosted by eco-warrior and extreme conservationist Braam Malherbe at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands.

All funds raised during the evening were to go to SANParks Rhino Anti-Poaching. That, at least, was the plan.

Proving SHR’s flair for ingenuity and innovation, Chairperson of SHR (Table Mountain Region) George Smith had other ideas and invited The Cape Aflame Project Team to the event.

Big mistake.

To be quite open about this – and, naturally, to my credit, I demurred. I’m prepared to walk far further than the extra mile to put an end to rhino poaching, but a Rhino Relief Cocktail Party?

I’d have thought the very idea of one of the largest of the Big Five relieving itself in a function room at the Vineyard would have dampened enthusiasm (to put it politely). Besides, I wondered, was the idea fair on the mop and shovel-wielding hotel staff that would have to clean up the steaming mess?

Understanding that rhino relief is an ambiguous term – and that Capetonians are capable of anything, The Cape Aflame Project team member, publisher and owner of SA Media Services Les Martens had no such qualms.

George’s idea was to have Braam auction a digital, prepublication copy of The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire. Hence the glowing photograph above.

Les pitched with all the pride of a new father, cradling his newborn baby in his arms.

And, despite not having a rhino to relieve itself in the presence of guests, that’s when things turned interesting. Or ugly. It depends on your point of view.

Braam Malherbe
“Wresting the book from Martens, a wild-eyed Malherbe rushed the podium …” Photograph: Mike McSweeney

Spotting Les’s beaming face in close proximity to the book, Malherbe flew into a rage, proclaiming paternity of the book. Martens begged to differ and a vicious brawl ensued, causing extensive damage to the Vineyard Hotel and shutting down several amenities for weeks to come.

It’s to Les’s great credit that he held off Malherbe for so long but, eventually, brute force prevailed. Wresting the book from Martens, Braam rushed the podium with wild eyes, waved the book aloft and bellowed: “If neither he nor I can be father to this amazing book, who will have it? And for how much?”

Guests, either stunned or cheering, were silenced. Momentarily. As in a very short time.

“R1 000,” whispered a voice from those assembled.

“Done,” stated Braam, handing over the book and offering a crestfallen Les a profane gesture.

Ultimately, it was up to SHR Chairperson George Smith to sort out the mess and he did so with style and gracious aplomb. Pandering to Malherbe and Martens’ notions of themselves as virile South African men capable of fathering several thousand such books, it was finally agreed that Les would become Mother Martens and Braam, who had won the physical battle, Father Malherbe.

Approaching Vineyard management with some trepidation – an entire wing of the hotel is currently being assessed for rebuilding – the SHR (TMR) chairperson was pleasantly surprised when management waved him off.

“No, no,” smiled the manager. “Don’t worry. Our guests behave like this all the time. We’re quite used to it. We’ll rebuild in no time at all. Besides, this is nothing – we had a demented bunch of people wanting to hold an event during which a rhinoceros would relieve itself on our carpets. We turned them down flat. So this is no problem at all.”

He then went on to offer Mother Martens and Father Malherbe a bridal suite for the night. Both swiftly turned down the kind offer and left the premises with undue haste – hand in hand.

  • The above report has been checked for accuracy. Our man on the spot, Honorary Ranger Michael McSweeney has verified the content of this report and was on hand to take the photographs reproduced above.