Not that I’m saying I ever committed any bribery, but on one occasion I wanted something so badly that I made strenuous efforts to bypass the normal channels to get what I wanted. Sounds dodgy ? Not really – let me explain the full story.

It happened at Iscor in their Vanderbijlpark works. Shortly before I got married I had moved from Becquerel Court to Greenways because the former was being refurbished. Both were flats suitable for a single person or a young couple, but when the time came when my wife was pregnant of our first child and I was making little headway in the queue for the housing department, the time came to try and pull some strings.

So one evening I visited Bernard Kloppers, at the time the divisional manager for the Technology department where I was working. I explained our situation, and how grateful we would be if we could be pushed up the waiting list so that we could move in before the baby was born. You see ? No real bribery, no promise of reward if successful, only an attempt to see if the system could be short-circuited.

In the end my pleas must have been successful, and we moved into Aalwyn Tuine with less than a week to spare before our daughter was born. I had some small etchings of my dad, which he had given as a memento of my home town of Bruges (example see below). I thought it would be a nice gesture to give one each to the head of the housing department as well as Bernard Kloppers as a thank you for being such a great help. Both accepted, somewhat surprised and – dare I say it ? – mildly pleased at the unexpected gift, small though it was.

A person with bad intent could still see this as a form of bribery, but consider thus: the assistance came prior to the thank you, at the time the help was given there was no expectation of a reward, and besides, the nature of the gift, being both personal and of small monetary value does not convey the feeling of bribery. But ah, the cynical mind might say, you have predisposed these people in your favour so that if you need any more assistance in the future, you’re more likely to get it.

Maybe so, although since no further favours were required or were called for, that’s a moot point. I don’t feel like I was involved in an act of bribery, and I doubt whether any of the other parties involved saw it that way either. It’s just that at times a sclerotic system needs some bespoke lubrication to be of benefit to those most in need of it.

One of my dad's etchings of Bruges


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