Thursday, July 31, 2008

SANEF awards Max du Preez with Nat Nakasa Award

Apart from awarding the 2008 Nat Nakasa Award for courageous journalism to veteran journalist Max du Preez, the South African National Editor's Forum (SANEF), at its recent annual AGM in Johannesburg, restated its firm opposition to any attempt by the government to control the media, such as the ANC's proposed statutory media tribunal.

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Mpumalanga tourism title contract awarded

An empowerment consortium led by grassroots publisher HomeGrown Magazines has been awarded a three-year exclusive licence to publish Mpumalanga's official tourism magazine. HomeGrown JV will publish the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency (MTPA)'s Sunrise magazine and affiliated products launching with a Spring 2008 edition and running until July 2011 - covering the crucial period over the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The MTPA last week awarded the contract to a special purpose joint venture between HomeGrown Magazines and local empowerment company Kasi Media after a lengthy evaluation and due diligence process.

The quarterly Sunrise magazine is targeted at inbound leisure and business travellers, using worldclass writers and photographers to showcase the province's diverse tourism and cultural product. It will also be distributed to the hospitality and travel trade, including inward bound airline lounges, and will also be stocked by select news agents nationwide.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Synergy at IJW...

Harare-based Dumi Sigogo, journalist for among others, and my former Newsclip (2003) colleague Lande Cawood, are just two of this year's Investigative Journalism Workshop participants.

Lande is now a senior journalist focusing on the crime beat at the Nelspruit-based Lowvelder.

Dumi has a blog at

I am impressed by the talent surrounding me, and at the committment these journalists possess. These are fine investigative journalists in the making.
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IJW: Local government corruption...

Buks Viljoen, senior indepth reporter at Beeld (previously at Lowvelder and Citizen), is teaching us about local government corruption and how to investigate it via keeping track of council minutes, municipal budgets and tenders.

Earlier today we looked at story mapping, which entailed looking at how to identify a central hypothesis, brainstorming all possible contacts, mapping them and deciding what is vital and what not.

Today also entailed planning the sequence of interviews and evidence collection, and re-evaluation of approach if an investigation stalls or focus changes.

Nelspruit-based Buks Viljoen was disabled in a defence force accident in 1979. This weekend he is partaking in the Waterval-Boven fly fishing competition... in one of two disabled fly fishing teams.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jozi today

Pic 1: God and glass - the magnificent architectural contrasts in the heart of this city

Pic 2: Trust Me Tavern near the Queen Elizabeth bridge between the city centre and Braamfontein

Pic 3: Love & Light - an incredible, transparent loft space just before the Nelson Mandela bridge, overlooking the railway lines

Pic 4: Much more than a bridge - the Nelson Mandela bridge

Pic 5: Impressive space - inside the new Greenstone shopping centre in Edenvale
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IJW: Computer Assisted Research...

Tara Turkington and a colleague from Flow Communications is teaching our Investigative Journalism Workshop about "Googling to the max".

This is all about using search engines more effectively, also finding specific phrases, as well as excluding what you don't want.

Google's PageRank technology helps people find the most relevant information on a subject. This is good for basic fact-checking, as the most authoritative sources usually have very high PageRanks, because they are quoted and linked to by others extensively.

However, if you're looking for an obscure message posting by a government official, it's unlikely to be listed very high in the search results unless you're very specific with the keywords you use.

Juicy material that could lead to a scoop is unlikely to have a high PageRank, and if it does, is it really a scoop?

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Spring in the air..

Just out of the Investigative Journalism Workshop at Wits University and able to enjoy a magnificent Highveld sunset.

I am able to report that spring is undeniably in the air.. this early evening is warm and heavy with the pungent scent of jasmine.

After a long winter, my heart is leaping with an aeon-old primal joy... .
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IJW: Interviewing techniques...

Mail & Guardian's Adriaan Basson is in front of us again. This time we're focusing on how to plan your investigation.

This section of the workshop includes the following topics: contacts books, an investigative diary, research plans (source-mapping), data collection, management and selection, as well as the indexing of documents and core issues.

Slowly, surely all the pieces are coming together... .
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The Investigative Journalism Workshop (IJW)...

Michael Schmidt, former investigative journalist at the Saturday Star and Sunday Times, now with frayintermedia, is talking to the workshop about general interviewing techniques versus forensic interviewing techniques.

We're learning about how to scrutinize sources, how to interview witnesses, as well as how to handle interviews with hostile or traumatized people.

The IJW collaborates with a number of partners with a wealth of local and international experience in investigative journalism and training.

These, notably, are the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) in Johannesburg, the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CJI) in London, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) in the US and the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR).
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Investigative Journalism Workshop, WITS

I'm attending the second day of the Investigative Journalism Workshop (IJW) taking place in Johannesburg.

The workshop seeks to encourage journalists in South Africa and the region to dig deeper on a daily basis and thus enhance probing, in-depth reporting - something of particular importance in young democracies.

Right now renowned investigative journalist Adriaan Basson of the Mail & Guardian (previously Beeld) is talking to us about public records and archives. About how and where to access them, assessing the validity and usefulness of secret, confidential and private documents, as well as the legal limitations of their use.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Highlands News today: The oldest man-made structure on earth?

Last Thursday co-authors Johan Heine and Michael Tellinger launched their book Adam's Calendar: Discovering the Oldest Man-made Structure on Earth at Salvadors in Kaapsehoop.

It focuses on a remarkable stone structure on the edge of the escarpment near Kaapsehoop, that the authors say resembles but predates Stonehenge "by many thousands of years".

Not only is Adam's Calendar along the same longitudinal line as Great Zimbabwe and the Great Pyramid, but the author's maintain that it "takes us further back in time closer to the emergence of Homo Sapiens than any other structure ever found to date".

"It's also aligned with the rise of Orion's belt when it rose horizontally on the horizon some 75,000 years ago," says Tellinger.

Adam's Calendar could also play a key role in understanding the extensive stone walled settlements and stone circles that abound 'inland' from the escarpment, especially in the Carolina, Machadodorp, Waterval-Boven and Leydenburg districts.  

Tellinger, also the author of the controversial Slave Species of god, is already writing a follow-up to Adam's Calendar, which from what I can glean will focus more on these settlements and so-called 'stone circles'.

Tongue-in-cheek Tellinger refers to these stone circles as "very clever cattle kraals," spoofing common held opinions (even in academic circles) that these were little more than cattle pens.

Heine and Tellinger's astonishing claims are undeniably controversial and have potential to cause a stir in the scientific world.

The reaction of Amanda Esterhuysen, a Wits University academic from the geography, archaeology and environmental sciences department has already been reported in the media.

"These guys are talking nonsense. We are doing extensive research in Mpumalanga and these sites are fairly well known," Esterhuysen said.

"While we don't dispute that structures like this are man-made, there is no way it is 75 000 years old. The type of science they use to date these sites is highly questionable," she added.

But the authors aren't shy of controversy: "This discovery will force historians and archaeologists to reconsider ancient human activity and consciousness," they say.

Tellinger, originally from Johannesburg, has recently relocated to Waterval-Boven - to be in the heart of what he believes to be a region of international importance historically and archaeologically.

He is currently setting up a tourism centre in Waterval-Boven, which he expects to be operational by end August.  From here he'll be overseeing and operating tours to Kaapsehoop and other related destinations in the immediate vicinity.

The centre will operate under the auspices of the Makomati Foundation, a section 21 non-profit organisation registered in 2003 and inspired by the extensive research of Dr. Cyril Hromnik among others.

The foundation aims "to protect, maintain and promote the ancient ruins of Mpumalanga, which includes sustainable and responsible tourism to selected sites".

It also wants to see, among others, sustainable research and publication of results, fund raising, the responsible promotion of Mpumalanga's stone ruin heritage as a major tourist attraction.

It also argues for the benefiting and uplifting the rural communities - including the training of guides. And, interestingly, it wants to see an application for World Heritage status.

Whatever the controversy around Adam's Calendar, it will undoubtedly draw extensive attention to our little neck of the woods, possibly even major international media.

 "Once the world begins to hear of Adam's Calendar, SA could become the new Egypt, where archaeologists and astrologers will come to do research into a whole new period of human development," says Tellinger.

Either way we'll have many more cameras, dollars and yen appreciating the Mpumalanga Highlands. And our locals might finally stop taking for granted what's literally in many of their backyards... and might have been for thousands of years?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cape Town... misty winter mornings

Cape Town in the clouds - photos by Cape Town-based journalist Andrew October. All of the photos were taken with his Sony Ericsson C902 Cyber-Shot cellphone.


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The oldest man-made structure on earth?

It's the launch (at Salvadors in Kaapsehoop, Mpumalanga) of Johan Heine and Michael Tellinger's book Adam's Calendar: Discovering the Oldest Man-made Structure on Earth.

This second launch, after the first one in Johannesburg on Monday, is well attended. (Actually it's the busiest I've ever seen Salvadors.)

It's obvious there's going to be a lot of controversy around their claims, with the most criticism most likey to come from Wits University, in particular Prof. Peter Delius whose book on Mpumalanga's history and heritage was published last year. Delius's view on the stone circles that pervade this region, largely between Machadodorp, Waterval Boven and here, is somewhat different. But as Tellinger says, debate and differening opinions are crucial.

Back to Adam's Calendar.. Heine and Tellinger's focus in this book (and apparently there's more books to follow after this one, focusing more specifically on the stone circles around Boven) is on a remarkable stone structure they say resembles but predates Stonehenge by many thousands of years.

Adam's Calendar, they say, is along the same longitudinal line as Great Zimbabwe and the Great Pyramid. It also "takes us further back in time closer to the emergence of Homo sapiens than any other structure ever found to date".

For more info see the Makomati Foundation website: or contact Ciska for bookings and information on 082 883 4508 or

Michael Tellinger, to be at the very heart of what he believes to a be a region of international importance, has permanently relocated to Waterval Boven. As of yesterday in fact...

Tellinger expects to have a tourism office and centre established in the town within a month, operating under the auspices of the Makomati Foundation (established to protect SA's ancient ruins and heritage). He'll be overseeing tours from the centre in Waterval Boven to Kaapsehoop, among other related destinations.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chef Reza Mahammad to maybe start a training restaurant?

Hopefully where there's smoke there's fire...
Gwen Gill in her Social Scene column in the (South African) Sunday Times this past weekend says Trina Matheson of the Emakhazeni Tourism Association talked international celebrity chef Reza Mahammad into a breakfast to discuss starting a training restaurant for unemployed youngsters in Mpumalanga - read Machadodorp - like Jamie Oliver's Fifteen in London.
This would be very good news for the Mpumalanga Highlands region, which experiences major unemployment and non-existent assistance from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) to help put it on the map.
I've heard from some reliable sources that the MTPA is elusive, disorganised, can never be reached on their phones and never return their calls, that they do absolutely nothing for the Highlands region. In other words they suck. So what purpose exactly do they serve? And if they do nothing for the Highlands region, surely they shouldn't  then have the all-comprehensive "Mpumalanga" in their title?
(In the interests of 'balanced blogging', is there anyone out there in cyberspace who's got something positive to say about the MTPA? If so, I'll gladly post it HERE.) 

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Atlantic Ocean sunset

Cape Town-based journalist Andrew October shares yesterday's sunset over the Atlantic Ocean with us... it was taken on his daily drive home. It was captured with a Sony Ericsson C902 cellphone and desaturated using Photoshop Express (free online Photoshop software).

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Word of the day & BMWs...

Myself, I have always believed that BMWs achieve their presence (and their grip on the collective imagination and cupidity of the middle classes) because they combine an athletic, masculine bulk and stance with feminine details and lines.
-- Stephen Bayley, "The evolution of the curve", Independent, October 22, 1998 Word of the Day for Monday, July 14, 2008

cupidity \kyoo-PID-uh-tee\, noun:

Eager or excessive desire, especially for wealth; greed; avarice.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Michael Tellinger launches a new book - Adam's Calendar - this week

Michael Tellinger (author of Slave Species of god) is launching this week what he describes as "a truly groundbreaking South African book", namely Adam's Calendar: Discovering the Oldest Man-made Structure on Earth. The book is co-authored by explorer Johan Heine and Tellinger.


The second photo (above) provides a close-up view of what Tellinger has named the Johan Heine Stone Calendar (Adam's Calendar) in the Kaapsehoop area, Mpumalanga. The tree in the centre is where the north marker stone is located.


Tellinger says: "This remarkable stone structure was originally a large circular structure resembling but predating Stonehenge by many thousands of years. Adam's Calendar is built along the same longitudinal line as Great Zimbabwe and the Great Pyramid. It is also aligned with  the rise of Orion's belt when it rose horizontally on the horizon some 75,000 years ago. Adam's Calendar takes us further back in time closer to the emergence of Homo sapiens, than any other structure ever found to date. This discovery will force historians and archaeologist to reconsider ancient human activity and consciousness."


Michael Tellinger, who has bought property in Waterval-Boven and intends living there, plans on setting up a museum centre, tours and booking office at what was previously Sharky's, the old sports bar in the 'new town', just off the bank of the Elands River.


The Mpumalanga launch of the book is on Thursday, 17 July at 15h00 at Salvador Bistro – Kaapsehoop, Mpumalanga. For further info: Ciska on 082-883-4508 or email

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

UK culinary talent Reza Mahammad has his eye on Mpumalanga Highlands

And on Machadodorp to be exact.
Reza Mahammad is Britain's freshest culinary talent. Since his visit to SA for the Sunday Times Food Show in Gauteng earlier this month, he's been talking to the Emakhazeni Tourism Association's Trina Matheson (seen above: +27 82 892 1364) about Machadodorp in Mpumalanga's Highlands region.

Could Machadodorp about to be put on the international culinary map? But more about that later... as soon as there's something concrete to write about (apparently we need to look out for Gwen Gill's column in this weekend's Sunday Times).
Educated in India, Reza has been running his own highly successful and innovative restaurant, Star of India in Kensington, London for more than 25 years. Not many people know that Reza's father was one of the pioneering chefs that brought Indian food to the United Kingdom in the 1930s, so it is with little wonder that his son started down the same path.

Reza's first book, Rice Spice and All Things Nice, published by Simon and Schuster in 2007, is written in his own inimitable style and has been received with great delight. He is now working on a follow-up which is eagerly anticipated.
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Also through Andrew's eye... Cape Town

Andrew October:
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Andrew October: Three Rainbows guided me home ... Greatness Shines!

From my friend and journalist Andrew October in Cape Town this morning:
While thousands in Cape Town have been left destitute with the floods that have ravaged the Cape Flats and province, I have been fortunate in having been blessed with the beautiful aspects of the wet seasonal weather. Yesterday I was treated to a three-rainbow treat on my way home from the office. Kinda reminded me of the beauty that I have in recent months taken for granted. This is an appreciation and celebration of life ... and the wonder of Sony Ericsson Cyber-Shot technology ;-) (C902 five megapixel cellphone camera). This image was captured from my office window.

Greetings, much love and never forget... Greatness comes from within!


Andy October -

"And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." - Nelson Mandela

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

This is OUR heritage and we are its custodians (Highlands News: Fri, 11 June 08)

Every second Friday a Beautiful Mind posting is published as a column in The Highlands News, which is part of the Panorama News/Nuus Group (Contact: 073 681 6553 and 


Today I saw my name carved on a gravestone...


Since living in the Mpumalanga Highlands I've driven past Berg-En-Dal memorial more times than I can count on both my hands and feet. To my shame I've never stopped. Mostly I've been too focused on my destination rather than the journey.


One can't help noticing Berg-En-Dal. It's prominent on the right hand side of the road when travelling along the N4 / Maputo Corridor from Belfast to Machadodorp.


From the road the memorial has always seemed to me to be an unattractive one. But this was another lesson impressed home by the cliché 'don't judge by the cover' - because it's well worth exploring.

Perhaps I stopped there because my nerve ends are still raw, sensitive to the questions our nation has had to ask itself about xenophobia over the last eight weeks, about what it really means to be South African.


Perhaps - because from centuries our soil is soaked with blood and hatred - I possibly stopped there to unconsciously pay homage to those who had lost their lives there, no matter which side of the pitch they played on.


This stark, and sadly rather run-down Anglo Boer War memorial is dedicated to members of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Polisie who were killed (on August 27, 1900) during the bitter six-day battle of Berg-En-Dal.


It has often been described as the last set battle (before entering the guerrilla war phase) of the South African War (1899–1902). The British, having already taken Pretoria, were adamant to get the Boer thorn out of their side forever (and get their battered pride intact again) and capture the then eastern Transvaal. 


I was for most of the time the only visitor there, able to soak in the isolation and the peace, also to enjoy the magnificent winter-veldt views, for as far as I could see, over rolling 'berg' and 'dal'.


To my surprise, about 25m on the far side of the main memorial, I found a smallish and simple-in-contrast stone pyramid memorial as tall as me.


Called the Rifle Brigade Memorial, it's a replica of the original memorial which was demolished in 1970 to make way for the adjacent Berg-En-Dal one. Funded by the British War Graves Committee of the National Monuments Council and the South African Soldiers' Graves Association, I don't think that many know about it and I've never seen it mentioned.


Imagine my further surprise to find my name carved in shiny black granite among the other dead: Rifleman C. King of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (dog tab number 2928) killed on 27 August 1900....


Although I'm a South African with equal amounts (give or take a pint) of Afrikaans and English blood, I – to quote Socrates – consider myself a citizen of the world ("not of Athens or Greece").


And having been a rifleman once before in my lifetime (with "C King" embroidered in black on dirty brown) I won't easily again be brainwashed into fighting in wars that are the idiotic constructs of often even more idiotic politicians. 


The point to be made, way beyond politics (the regimes will come and go), is that our Highlands region is steeped in rich, deeply fascinating history. This is set against a magnificent 3-D geographical, geological, archaeological and botanical backdrop that is a treasure trove beyond imagination.


By taking an interest in our look-out points, in the concentration camp sites, the memorials and the early Stone Age circles, we'll resuscitate them from the neglect, the litter, even the crime opportunities that we're letting many subside into.


This is OUR heritage and we are its custodians.

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A Creative Manifesto... (& why I choose to live in Waterval-Boven)

A Creative Manifesto: Why the Place You Choose to Live is the Most Important Decision of Your Life
- By Richard Florida

Richard Florida: "Increasingly, the place you choose to live will help determine your success in business, in finding a life partner, and in living a fulfilling life. In fact, it may be the most important decision of your life. I believe that we are in the beginnings of a shift as fundamental as the industrial revolution was over a century ago—one that will have as dramatic an impact on how people live and work. Furthermore, it will have a dramatic impact on where they live and work."

Download Florida's creative manifesto PDF here:

About the author:
Richard Florida is the Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, and the founder of the Creative Class Group, a for-profit think tank that charts trends in business, communities and lifestyles.

Florida has held professorships at George Mason University and Carnegie Mellon University, has taught as a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT, and is a former senior scientist with the Gallup Organization.

His national best-seller, The Rise of the Creative Class, was awarded the Washington Monthly's Political Book Award and Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Idea Award. Florida's next book, Who's Your City?, will be released March 10th, 2008.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Jozi today...

As the winter sun sets in magnificents pastels to the west of Johannesburg, Im reminded of how beautiful it can be. This morning's Hillbrow Tower is one of my lifelong inspirations.. it has always overshadowed all that I've felt and done.