In 16th-century France an annual ritual was performed each New Year’s Day which, oddly enough, sheds light on the politics of patronage in SA.

Groups of young men of the lower orders would go from house to house with bagpipes and other instruments. Outside each front door they would break into song and ask for gifts of food or coins. The customary gifts they received were chicken, ham, sausage and other meat. And if the neighbourly generosity was not forthcoming, the young men would curse the household, bringing it bad luck over the coming year.

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