Years ago, when I was working for a Johannesburg weekly newspaper, a colleague asked if I could edit the stories for a Nigerian businessman’s unofficial African Union magazine. I agreed – the pay was about R3,000, a lot of money for a few hours of work – but the stories were littered with multiple glorifying names whenever an important person was mentioned. And it seemed everyone in the entire newspaper was sufficiently important to be labelled “The Right Honourable, His Excellency, The Finance Minister, Doctor Jimmy Dlamini, Esquire” or something like that. Half the magazine would be taken up by these fancy titles because every time the minister said something the attribution would have to include his title (“he said” was not good enough). Often the minister’s title was longer than what he had said, so much of the magazine would be made up of long-winded VIP titles.
Well, I got the job done, if only because the money was quite good. Then came the problem of squeezing payment out of the client-publisher. At first the man couldn’t be reached, then he was out of town, then he returned and had misplaced his cheque-book (those were the days when people still issued cheques). When Uchie, the businessman, finally found his cheque-book it had no cheques left and he would need to get a new cheque-book, so could I wait a day or two. No problem, but he then couldn’t find his pen when he finally got his new cheque-book. That wasn’t the end of the story: when he eventually found his pen, it had run out of ink!
I’ve never heard so many nonsense excuses to withold payment. Eventually they did pay me, and asked me to come back for the second edition. I graciously declined.