3 SA scandals from yesteryear that we just can’t forget

The secrets of people like us, kept under wraps for years and years, have always tickled our fancy. While juicy fictional dramas expose the darker side of very ordinary-seeming, suburban lives (like the ever-popular Desperate Housewives, all seasons available on Showmax), sometimes they just can’t compete with real-life delicious drama.

These old-school South African scandals might not make anyone bat an eyelid today, but they’re worth remembering … if only because they prove how far we’ve come.

  • The 12 Apostles Sex Club at Stellenbosch University (1965)

Joining the Free Love movement of the Swinging 60s, a group of 12 enterprising young women attending Stellies devised a points system to determine which of them had the greatest power over the opposite sex. Sleeping with a lowly arts student, for example, would earn the minimum score, while bedding a chaste theology student would earn maximum points. Soon enough, news of the “12 Apostles Sex Club” spread like wildfire, and Hendrik Verwoerd’s wife Betsie is rumoured to have been deeply upset by the raunchy revelations. This may seem like fairly tame stuff to you and me, but let’s remember that Women’s Lib wasn’t really A Thing here yet, and the Pill had only just been invented.

“Betsie, did you hear?”

  • “Immorality” in the small Free State town of Excelsior (1970)

In the aftermath of the scandal, one of Excelsior’s residents remarked: “If an atom bomb had been dropped on our town, it could not have had a greater impact.” (Whoever this was obviously had a dramatic streak as wide as the Orange River.) Seven of the town’s wealthiest, most influential men – white, of course – including a town councillor, were exposed as having illicit affairs with 14 black women, over a period of several years. We’re not sure of the maths in this scenario, but what we do know is that the social shame of contravening the apartheid-era Immorality Act was so severe that one of the accused took his own life before standing trial. Of course, no one remembers what happened to the women, or who they were. But, now, thankfully, we can all agree that the biggest shame and scandal of this whole story was the apartheid government and its abhorrent legislation.

  • Sports stars behaving badly, as exposed by Loui Fish (1990s to 2011)

The ex-wife of popular Bafana Bafana defender Mark Fish, and one-time lover of Springbok James Small, published her tell-all autobiography Walking in My Choos in 2012. The lingerie model’s book proved sensational, and in it she describes falling in love with Steve Hofmeyr, being chased by a revolver-brandishing Small, and never-ending infidelity and substance abuse during her 11-year marriage to Fish. Loui also writes about cocaine-fuelled Springbok sex romps. While we may believe her about Small’s repugnant behaviour (he admitted to abusing his girlfriend Christina Storm in 2011, let’s not forget), but what about the rest? The emphatic denials of her claims have come from all quarters, and Mark Fish told a Sunday weekly: “I have always known Loui as a person in need of dire attention, who never hesitates to lie unashamedly to feed this need.”

In the mood for some modern-day intrigue, twists and jaw-dropping shocks of the fictional variety? The ladies of the picturesque Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives have plenty to dish up, and they leave nothing to the imagination! Go ahead, be as nosey as you like.

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