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All articles written by David Simpson unless otherwise attributed. Ideas and items for News Analysis should be sent to David Simpson at the address given on the inside front cover.
As everyone knows, children are not at all interested in Santa Claus, aka Father Christmas; nor in helicopters, either. At least, that might be the sort of view that Rembrandt, South African heart of the Rothmans cigarette empire, would take in public. No problems for Rembrandt, anyway, with flying Santa in a helicopter named after its popular John Rolfe brand, to visit the Children’s Red Cross hospital at Mossel Bay. This is a popular tourist destination about halfway between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape province, where some 80 000 South Africans enjoyed the world’s most temperate climate (after Hawaii) over the Christmas holidays. No problems either, apparently, with the rest of the chopper’s six-day visit to the town, accompanied by all the usual brand-soaked hardware, where it gave joyrides for the bargain price ofR20.00 (US$4) per person. No doubt only adult smokers chose to fly in it, though some reports suggest the extraordinary phenomenon of children apparently eager to be taken for a ride—a metaphor, perhaps, of their potential as future John Rolfe customers. The example set by the driver of one of the three John Rolfe Cherokee Jeeps must have been confusing to the children—presumably trying to cut the coolest possible image, he was seen to be drinking beer while driving, but fortunately was then pulled over by a traffic police officer. Disappointingly, the helicopter carried out no rescues during its stay, despite being billed as the John Rolfe Surf Rescue Helicopter. If the helicopter can be kept airworthy for 25 to 30 years, perhaps it could then be converted into an ambulance to start helping with the care of the smokers who may have taken their first puff last Christmas.
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