Denis Beckett was sort of famous once – largely owing to his TV series Beckett’s Trek. And perhaps also his left-wing writing caused some angst in apartheid minion minds. Now he is very famous to my mind because his Don Quixote crusade has managed to truly inspire a movement!

I met Denis in 2000 when, alongside Cyril Ramaphosa and other men (yep, sadly we were all men), I was a founding trustee of the St Stithians Foundation. I contacted Denis (thanks to a great suggestion by marketing supremo Pete Laburn) who is a Saints alumnus (with a son who went to St John’s and a far-too-rational view on the benefits -or not- of old school networks) and asked him to do a Saints Trek, with me. Not only did we both learn how much Saints had improved since we had gone there (my favourite moment is still walking in on the Death by Monkeys band rehearsing) but we became firm friends.

My friendship with Denis has involved beers on his deck, writing a piece for his 60th birthday, getting an SMS on a bus in Dublin that he’d had a heart attack, discussing SA politics, life, wealth, relationships, why Hollard must buy Arcadia and not build an ugly building, climbing Kilimanjaro (him with Christo, me arranging!) and much else besides. One constant has been Denis’ insistence that South Africa – and the world – can and must be a better place.

Now, for someone who is often accused of being optimistic/naïve, it has been a challenge to deal with Denis’ assertions (and iterations over many years and in many books) on how this improvement can happen. Denis simply refuses to accept that he is wrong. And so, I am delighted that CN&CO has played a small role (huge thanks to Rob, Neo and Lorraine especially) to build on Herculean efforts by Matt Beckett and other long-happily-suffering Beckett family and friends – to bring Demogarchy to the www!

Demogarchy?! WTF?! “You know monarchy, the rule of one; you know anarchy, the rule of none; you know oligarchy, the rule of few. Now meet demogarchy, the rule of whoever wishes to do some ruling, to the extent that they wish to do it.” I am very proud of for a few reasons:

  • The site has an archive detailing some of what Denis has written over the years. One of my most treasured moments was getting a copy of each of Beckett’s books for my 30th (and subsequently added new releases). Apart from his fiction and non-fiction, Denis edited and published magazines and works that contributed to the apartheid minions being beaten. And he has contributed to my and my country’s psyche. We’ll continue to add writing as time goes on (Denis has been spectacularly bad – not surprisingly – in keeping everything – so if you have stuff we don’t, let me know please!)
  • The site shares Denis’s views on Demogarchy. And, like many (most?!) of you, I agree with some of what he says, violently disagree with other bits and often am dumbfounded by the style, in much the same way as Denis is dumbfounded by me being dumbfounded! So, I encourage you to use social media and our hashtag #demogarchy to grow the debate. It is, after all, up to each one of us to help Denis in making the world a better place. And as my crazy brilliant, special friend of mine likes to say. Khotso!


(Image credit: IOL)