Sunday, August 31, 2008
Unlike the south-easter, we at least had a respite from the wind for most of the night. At 04h50 it started again.
I've just spoken to my freind Linda Reinstorf at the Kaapsehoop horse trails, they're busy evacuating in the face of the fire. They're also praying for a sudden stop to the wind. (All of us here live in the realm of regular miracles, so of course anything IS possible.)
Friday, August 29, 2008
Twenty years ago I was a Free State-based paratrooper doing my two year's national service. It felt like a jail sentence at the time and at that age (20)... it was on Friday afternoons and evenings like this one that I'd hitch back to Johannesburg, lured by more than just the lights of the city.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I'm in awe, and inspired - architecture is one of my passions. But regarding this discipline I plead ignorance, just an eye-wareness of what I believe works or doesn't.
My architect friend Louis Jonker (of Nelspruit) introduced me - in real-life full-colour 3-D - on a hot, impassioned December day to some of the Van der Merwe Miszewski buildings last year in Cape Town.
I believe it was their 'Tree House' and magnificent 'Bridge House' that we saw, among others, which thoroughly inspired me. Yes, it's good to be here, soaking in this couple's passion, and thank God, humour.
After the lecture there's an exhibition, drinks and dinner at the nearby Oliewenhuis art gallery.
For myself I need to put tonight into perspective, but only by looking over my shoulder at yesterday: two sides of the same coin dear Janus.
Waiting for Godot:
Yesterday was the third day of the 2nd session of the Investigative Journalism Workshop at Wits University. As part of it we visited the refugee reception centre in Johannesburg (Planet Street I think).
I wandered around outside the centre, after our group was essentially thrown out of the centre having only made it through the gate and past the aggressive, angry little hitlerite security guards - with luminous yellow reflector jackets and megaphones restraining their egos, cruelty and pseudo-power.
Hundreds of this continent's most disempowered people waiting. Waiting. Waiting in the blustery August wind laden with the grit-and-dust-and-shit of the dry winter, amongst the reek of human excrement (the public portaloos, maybe 10?, only arrived on Tuesday).
Until then, those waiting shat-and-pissed, menstruated-and-spat-out-their-phlegm on the pavements and in the open lots.
Arrogantly think what you like, but even for the poorest of the poor, time is money. People waiting there for permits and papers (only 50 people from the hundreds are processed per day) are losing what menial jobs they have.
And everyone needs money, especially if it's what might buy you a place further up the queue. (Every single person I spoke told of the bribery and corruption that's as rife as breathing.)
I know that as I sit here tonight a couple of hundred people, with children, even babies, are sleeping on the pavement in the dust, and maybe in the rain, certainly amongst the reek. (The people I'd spoken to there had got there on Tuedsay morning in the hope of making it into the reception centre on Thursday, if not Friday. And they're not waiting impatiently for the latest release of Playstation os some thing alike... .)
Many of them are Zimbabwean. Despite the xenophobic attacks in May, not one of those I spoke to on Wednesday would choose to go back to their country if given the option. They'd rather face potential violence here, also these bleak conditions and poverty, than Mugabe's poverty of spirit and mind.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Now Tara Turkington of Flow Communications, as part of the CAR segement of the workshop, is unpacking bookmarking for journalistic purposes: flickr, facebook, stumbleupon, digg, twitter and youtube among others.
Other than dropping valuable pearls about the Oilgate scandal and the Selebi case, Sole is talking to us about security and safety.
This includes information on computer back-ups, code-books, physical safety as an investigative journalist, as well as how to manage death threats.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Highway Africa (08 - 10 September 2008) is a partnership between Rhodes University (School of Journalism and Media Studies) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), with the support of several partners, development agencies and sponsors. For eleven years the Highway Africa conference has been at the centre of Africa's debates on journalism and new media. The conference has over the years become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.
Who should attend Highway Africa 2008?
Journalists interested in ICTs and African media are the key target for Highway Africa Conferences
* Included here are technology, telecoms and IT journalists and also political, business and journalists who recognise the importance of the story.
* Editors and media managers as well as website producers will also find great value in the conference.
* So too will anyone making meaning for African TV, radio, print, the internet and cellphones.
* Media academics and trainers, students, NGO-workers, community media and policy people will also gain a lot from attending.
* Vendors of relevant technologies and companies active in ICTs, telecoms and the media also stand to benefit from being at the conference.
For more information visit http://www.highwayafrica.com
Cape Town, 17 August 1992
Ten years ago today, while I was in Pollsmoor Prison, I felt shattered and terribly alone when I received the news that Ruth First had been assassinated. My grief was all the more poignant because I knew both of the men injured in the same blast.
In my mind's eye I saw Pallo Jordan as I had last seen him when, during 1948, I spent a few days in his home. Similarly, I could see Comrade Braganza talking intensely to me when we met during my stay in Morocco in 1962.
But most clearly I could see Ruth:
Ruth engaged in intense debate while we were at Wits University together; who uncompromisingly broke with the privilege of her wealthy background; who readily crossed the racial barrier that so few whites were, or still are, able to cross; a woman whose passion and compassion enabled others, including those from liberal and conservative perspectives, to play their part.
It is a small consolation that her memory lives beyond the grave, that her freedom of spirit infuses many committed to an open society, rigorous intellectual thought, courage and principled action.
Ruth spent her life in the service of the people of Southern Africa. She went to prison for her beliefs. She was murdered because of her acute political acumen combined with her resolute refusal to abandon her principles. Her life, and her death, remains a beacon to all who love liberty.
Many of you here today also knew Ruth personally, and will pay fitting tribute to her. But for us the assassination of Ruth First was not only a personal tragedy of immense proportions. It was part of a pattern of the systematic elimination of leading opponents of apartheid. Ten years later this commemoration is most appropriate, because it is only now that information is beginning to come out about the death squads and the crimes committed in defence of apartheid.
Our country cries out for peace. But this will be difficult to achieve until there is a recognition of the real causes of the violence, and the disbanding of those forces at the centre of what is in reality a low intensity war against the people.
Click here for the rest of Mandela's speech: http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/speeches/1992/sp920817.html
Beautiful Mind column for Highlands News:
Leonie Joubert, in her Scorched, a book about SA's changing climate, writes that another world exists somewhere beyond the global politicking of super-powers and petrostates.
"This is the place where a solitary bee continues to pollinate the pale, demure flower of an orchid near Darling, or where the limey coral skeleton hosts its colourful algae on a Sodwana reef."
These plants and animals – many of them unique to the region – continue to do what their ancestors have done for millions of years, she writes. Yet the world is shifting its shape around them....
My desk is at a window. Nothing much distracts me while I'm at it. That's why I choose to live here. It's also why I long for home when away, especially in the city.
My 'distractions', at most, count among the following: the cobalt blue of the sky in winter, pregnant elephant-gray storm clouds in summer and every month a surreal big-fat-Dutch-cheese of a full moon that gasps my breath away.
There's also the wind in the trees; are they bare or not, perhaps in bud or in fact are the leaves falling?
It's also mostly silent.
This very second - exactly in front of me, two metres away at most - a single sunset-orange Barberton daisy has me transfixed.
There's also two medium-sized crows crying, circling the air. I don't know crows from here, were there any last year?
I'm reading Peter Ackroyd's Shakespeare: The Biography and savouring every sentence.
Ackroyd, also born to write, maintains that no poet besides Chaucer has celebrated with such sweetness the enchantment of birds, whether it be the lark ascending or the little grebe diving, the plucky wren or the serene swan.
"He mentions some sixty species in total. He knows, for example, that the martlet builds its nest on exposed walls. Of the singing birds he notices the thrush and the ousel or blackbird. More ominous are the owl and raven, the crow and the maggot-pie."
Ackroyd writes that ol' Will "knows them all, and has observed their course across the sky. The spectacle of birds in flight entrances him".
He also writes that Shakespeare cannot bear the thought of their being trapped, or caught, or snared. He loves free energy and movement, as if they were in some instinctive sympathy with his own nature.
To lift my eyes, then my head, from the laptop screen is to notice far above in the troposphere clouds that warn of a cold front coming. It's probably of the last batch because Spring is here.
The abnormally mild winter is worrisome, also that the August winds have not yet come. Like many others, these days my thoughts automatically veer to climate change.
I know it's far away, and try as I might to stop my ears, even as I sit here I can hear the slow drop-by-slow-drop of a melting iceberg in Antarctica. It really is one mere slow drop at a time....
Irrelevant ol' Shakespeare? Hell no!
She did so as a journalist and as a scholar. As an investigative journalist she was incredibly productive, at one time producing up to 15 stories a week, many of them about the exploitation of black workers. For instance in 1947 she investigated and exposed the brutal treatment and forced confinement of labourers on the potato farms of Bethal.
Offered in partnership with the Ruth First Trust in London, this Fellowship offers an opportunity for a journalist/writer to devote time to in-depth research into an area fitting the tradition of Ruth First.
She was a radical journalist and activist who was dedicated to socially-engaged journalism and research. She was assassinated by agents of the apartheid government while in exile. Fellows produce a publishable paper and deliver the annual Ruth First Lecture.
Invitations for applications are invited annually through the media and on this website. The 2008 Ruth First Lecture took place on Monday, August 18th.
The Fellowships and Lecture are organized under the auspices of the Investigative Journalism Workshop of the University of the Witwatersrand's Journalism Programme. It is done in conjunction with the Ruth First Trust in London, the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Johannesburg and the African Studies Journal.
The Ruth First Committee consists of Jacklyn Cock, Shireen Hassim, Liza Key, Birgit Schwarz and Anton Harber.
Click here on www.journalism.co.za for more info: http://www.journalism.co.za/ruth-first-fellowships-2.html
It was a decision that resulted in a five-day shut down of South Africa's mining industry, dented investor confidence and put question marks over South Africa's economic growth prospects. Though the power crisis had been building for some time, and is indeed, still with us, that January day was the moment of crisis, the defining moment.
There is a standard explanation that is often heard from Eskom, and from government itself. That is that the government left it too late to give Eskom the go-ahead to start building the power stations South Africa needed, because of its failed venture into privatisation policy before 2004. That "mistake" led to a situation where the reserve margin - the gap between power supply and power demand - became so slim that it left the power system extremely vulnerable to anything going wrong.
This was certainly the context of the January crisis. But what I want to argue this evening is that what happened after 2004 is at least as important in explaining it as anything that happened before then.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The choice is Steers or... Steers. The Steers restaurant is closed: "You can only get takeaways," says the unfriendly woman behind the counter, not even looking me in the eye.
Why is it closed, I want to know? No answer.
Friday evening, 18h20, on the Maputo Corridor - probably one of the busiest national roads outside of the Durban/Johannesburg N3 - and undoubtedly the busiest evening of the week.
Not only has Steers colonised just about every food place open on the highway with it's unimaginative, not-value-for-money junk food (my opinion), but then they choose to herd everyone into the takeaway section after 18h00: "We can take your money faster this side with close to naught value-add to your Steers 'experience' from us... Next?"
Sitting here blogging (in their faces, it gives some pleasure, albeit slight... who's gonna give a damn anyway?) while waiting for my coffee, four families have come and asked why the restaurant's closed. Two, like me, were immensely irritated.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Brkic's move has sparked reports that the company is in financial trouble again. Investment group Mvelaphanda Holdings acquired a majority shareholding in Business Century to bail out the Yugoslav-born Brkic, who founded the company with Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) funding.
Mvela executive director Mark Willcox denies the company is in trouble, saying it's been in talks with several media groups following a decision to "inject" Business Century into a bigger company. "A publishing company is difficult to sustain with only two publications."
Last year, low-cost airline Kulula.com dumped Maverick as its in-flight magazine, cutting its circulation by half and affecting its advertising revenue. Is offloading the stable a possibility? "We would prefer not," says Willcox, though he admits it might if the price is right.
The IDC has been criticised for pouring money into a saturated publishing industry. But spokesman Basil Ford says: "We continue to believe in media as a sector [and in] supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting economic diversity and facilitating job creation."
He refused to comment on whether or not Business Century had settled its debt with the corporation. Brkic did not return our calls. — Matebello Motloung
And the comment below too:
Bronwen Kausch Aug 13th, 2008 at 1:43 pm
This is a sad day for South Africa. Love it or hate it, Maverick changed the South African publishing landscape. It was great to see journos push harder, question more and deliver their own thoughts without fear. A couple of months after its launch, we noticed a visible improvement in other publications, which I genuinely believe can be attributed to Maverick's reception in the marketplace. I really hope whomever buys it will at least try keep some of the publication's ethos in tact.
The above is courtesy of FMTech: http://www.fmtech.co.za/?p=10345
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Romenesko on Poynteronline today:
Today, a newspaper without a posse of blogs is so passé. The New York Times currently hosts more than 70 blogs, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more than 29 staff-written blogs and dozens of reader blogs. The Tri-City Herald has 12, the Everett Herald has 17, The Seattle Times has 20, and The Oregonian has more than 50 blogs.
Although from a very American perspective, this article does give an idea of the power and popularity of blogging internationally... and may I even writing the 'mainstreaming' thereof?
For the full article: http://www.crosscut.com/politics-government/16638/
Monday, August 11, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
- Charles King (For The Highlands News - published Friday, 07 August 2008)
All emotions aside, what exactly are the implications – both to the trout industry and the environment - if brown and rainbow trout were reclassified as invasive, or even listed as prohibited species?
The Sunday Times reported that draft regulations promulgated a year ago to control foreign species and prevent or minimise the harm they wreak on the environment (as part of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act) are about to be signed into law.
They report that if this were to happen, the country's multimillion-rand trout industry could collapse because it would be illegal for anyone to either farm trout or fish for the species.
The Biodiversity Act wants to see native species protected, which will mean that aquaculturists would need to acquire expensive permits, and fishermen would be required to kill any trout they caught.
According to the report Etienne Hinrichsen, chairman of the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, is calling for trout to be exempted from the regulations.
"If trout were having a major biodiversity impact, then we wouldn't really have a leg to stand on — but this is not so," he said.
But is it really not so?
Globally invasive species have been highlighted as one of the major pressures on native biodiversity.
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), one of the most widely introduced fish species in the world is a highly valued sport fish. But internationally concerns have been raised about its effect on native fish and invertebrates through predation and competition.
Brown trout (Salmo trutta) has been introduced around the world for aquaculture and stocked for sport fisheries. But it's guilty of reducing native fish populations, especially other salmonids, through predation, displacement and also food competition. It's also one of the "world's 100 worst" invaders.
Invasive species are also known to be a major driver of global changes in freshwater community structure and ecosystem function. But until recently ecologists haven't been able to forecast (even possibly prevent) the introduction, spread and impact of species likely to cause net financial or environmental harm.
Has anyone counted the cost and impact of these freshwater invasive species on our natural habitats and national biodiversity?
On the other hand, the only estimate I could find in a relatively short time as to the value of Rainbow trout alone to the economy, was that in 2002 it was the most important South African aquaculture product. A total of 1 800 tons worth R44m was produced.
That sounds like a lot of created jobs to me. (Or is it a fat cat, elitist industry where very little wealth trickles down?)
The good news is that there appears to be a middle ground. Research is being conducted around the concept of zoning rivers or sections thereof so as to be able to conserve threatened species as well as to manage established alien species that have a high socio-economic value.
All emotions aside, we need to ask questions and examine facts. Despite the size of our human egos and our illusions of grandeur, we're immensely fragile and merely custodians of 'our' land.
Poet Carl Sandburg from his astounding 1918 poem "Wilderness":
I am the keeper of zoo: I say yes and no:
I sing and kill and work...
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The great trout debate...
brown trout: Salmo trutta has been introduced around the world for aquaculture and stocked for sport fisheries.
Brown trout have been implicated in reducing native fish populations (especially other salmonids) through predation, displacement, and food competition (Taylor et al. 1984, in Fuller, 1999).
It is a popular angling fish, particularly in the Mpumalanga Highlands. But this species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders.
This guy had been around the block a few times and he knew a lot. As a result he was cynical about governments and politicians, be they First World or Third. He was quite open about the fact that he made money on various continents by "fixing".
He had asked for this meeting after being struck by something I had written, and wanted to chat about the transition.
At some point during the conversation he boasted that arms dealers were already taking ownership of ANC leaders, ahead of the installation of a democratic government.
He rattled off the names of who was in the pockets of the Brits, who was taking favours from the Germans and who was being courted by the French.
He did point out that most ANC leaders were proving hard nuts to crack as they were still focused on this liberation thing rather than the spoils of liberation.
Nonetheless, some were biting.
The ANC and the National Party may be divided at the negotiations, he told me, but the one thing they were agreed on was the need for an arms deal.
I must confess, I was a naive idealist back then and could not countenance the heroes of the revolution being lured by dirty arms dealers.
So I argued furiously with him and told him that my country would be different. You know that South African thing we were always going to be different.
But alas, like all political parties the world over, it did not take the ANC too long to be sullied by the spoils of power.
And, as the man in the restaurant had predicted, the arms deal was the beginning of this descent.
As we report in today's newspaper, the two men at the pinnacle of our politics were right at the centre of it all.
And as the years went by, the liberators transmogrified into just another bunch of self-interested politicians, no different in avarice from the Tories or Angola's MPLA.
I saw the leaders of our erstwhile liberation movement on television the other day.
Slouching on the couches of the Lanseria airport lounge, they warned of fire, brimstone, scud missiles, nuclear warheads and all manner of mayhem that would befall this nation if Jacob Zuma were tried for corruption.
There they were, people who were once good and logical, mouthing off radical gibberish.
There was Mathews Phosa, one of the ANC's foremost legal minds and one of the authors of our constitution, ominously warning the republic's highest court: "We respect their decision, but they must know that in this country there are different constituencies. We do not agree with their view."
There was Gwede Mantashe, one of the Left's brightest thinkers and someone universally hailed for moral rectitude in the trade union movement, promising to accompany Zuma to the Union Buildings regardless of his guilt.
Elsewhere in this very lovely city of Johannesburg, the Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans' Association was attacking the judicial system and stating that the Constitutional Court was now also part of the conspiracy to stop Zuma from becoming president.
The Young Communist League's Buti Manamela was frothing at the mouth, describing Chief Justice Pius Langa's comments in court as "extremely poisonous". Then, of course, there was the obligatory, verbose demagoguery from Julius Malema: "Zuma must be president whether there is a court case or not."
There are times I have to pinch myself and wonder whether this is really happening.
Has the ANC become no different from David Koresh's cult at Waco, with everyone under some mystical spell?
One has to wonder if there is really not a single person in the organisation's 86-member national executive who sees the inferno the nation is being led into just as the followers of Koresh, Jim Jones and other cult lords were misled.
Tomorrow the ANC's entire leadership will be in Pietermaritzburg to engage in cultish behaviour and echo demands that Zuma not be tried for corruption and fraud so that he can proceed to the Union Buildings and oversee the nation's finances. With them will be thousands more who will be incited to do their damnedest to prevent the law taking its course.
Pietermaritzburg will be shut down, the KwaZulu-Natal economy will be shaken and the schooling of black kids disrupted as all are enjoined to defend the cult master from the law of the land. By the sounds of things, this will be just the opening salvo in a protracted and ugly war.
I have said before that I am now very afraid of the ANC. But I believe the ANC should also be very afraid of itself.
The ratcheting up of emotions and militant rhetoric may sound sweet to Zuma's ears today and may guarantee people's political careers. But, by golly, the monster that the ANC is creating will come back to bite its own progenitors!
If there is anything the ANC should be defending, it is the constitutionality of our state not those who seek to subvert it. But maybe that is just idealistic claptrap that resides in the heads of those of us who still believe our nation can be different.
(I've posted the entire article above, as opposed to a taster with a link back to the full article on the website. It's because the The Times website is hideously slow and quite often dysfunctional.)
Monday, August 04, 2008
Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni and thousands of other fly-fishing fans will be forced to hang up their tackle if draft regulations on trout fishing become law.
The proposed legislation could result in brown and rainbow trout being reclassified as an invasive species or even placed on the list of prohibited species.
If this were to happen, the country's multimillion-rand trout industry would collapse, as it would be illegal for anyone to either farm trout or fish for the species, industry players said this week.
Although lawmakers could still decide to exempt the fish from the new government regulations, there is concern that a ban would cripple the aqua-culture sector that produces table fish, including smoked trout fillet and fresh and processed trout, for the annual R45-million local industry.
Tourism in several areas, including the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, eastern Free State, Western Cape and Mpumalanga, rely heavily on trout fishing.
Industry players agreed this week that the regulations, in their present form, would sound the death knell for the country's premier trout region , Dullstroom, as well as several other trout-fishing havens.
One of the sticking points of the draft legislation is that environmental risk assessments, costing between R10000 and R20000 each, would have to be conducted by trout farmers, who would also be required to possess permits.
One of the proposed changes is to keep trout classified as an invasive species meaning anglers would be obliged to kill the fish they caught instead of releasing them, as is common practice.
Trout industry players will meet the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on August 13, when a decision on the fish's listing is expected.
The regulations, which stem from the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, are being drawn up to control foreign species to prevent or minimise the harm they wreak on the environment.
Trout, originally brought into the country from Loch Leven in Scotland more than a century ago, are considered invasive fish species. But fly-fishing organisations insist that trout co-exist with indigenous fish and cause them no harm.
Sonja Meintjes, deputy director for biodiversity compliance in the Department of Environmental Affairs, said trout industry concerns would be accommodated "in a way that will not harm the environment".
Andre Burger, owner of a fly-fishing shop in Bethlehem, Free State, said his livelihood depended on fishing.
"I will have to close down if trout is declared a prohibited species," he said.
Etienne Hinrichsen, chairman of the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, said it was calling for trout to be exempted from the regulations
"If trout were having a major biodiversity impact, then we wouldn't really have a leg to stand on but this is not so," he said.This article was by Prega Govender in yesterday's Sunday Times: http://www.thetimes.co.za/PrintEdition/News/Article.aspx?id=814115
This has been a long time coming. It's going to be an interesting environmental story with far-reaching implications to watch unfold. Especially in this part of the world. And considering this country's water 'challenges' (some say crisis), I wonder when the spotlight will fall on golf estates?
(Is the sun setting on fly-fishing? These photos were taken in Waterval-Boven.)
Friday, August 01, 2008
These awards focus on the entire spectrum of "green" and "brown" issues. Green issues address natural or ecological matters. Brown issues focus more on cities and urban concerns such as waste in our streets, polluted air etc.
The awards will take place in Johannesburg on Wednesday 8 October. For more information about the awards and to download an entry form, go to www.sabenvironment.co.za.
Journalists in Zimbabwe are seething with anger at a blanket ban on negotiators talking to the media while talks are under way between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.
The talks, scheduled to last a fortnight, opened in Pretoria, South Africa on July 24, but the memorandum of understanding signed three days earlier made it clear the dialogue was to remain confidential.
Clause 8 of the document says specifically states that as long as the talks are going on, neither side should "directly or indirectly communicate the substance of the discussion" to the media, nor should they use the media as a negotiating platform.
South Africa has been named as one of the developing world's Ten Best Ethical Travel Destinations in the 2008 Ethical Traveler Report.
The US-based organisation, aimed at promoting the idea of travel as a positive force in the world, publishes the list biannually. The organisation's executive director Jeff Greenwald says the list is intended to "help travelers choose to use their tourism dollars to support human rights and the environment."
Ethical Traveler does not rank their ethical destinations but rather compiles a Ten Best list in alphabetical order. South Africa features alongside countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Croatia and Namibia.
"South Africa received high marks for supporting eco-friendly, community-based tourism ventures, as well as for species protection and vigilance against poaching," said the report.
The country, however received some criticism for economic disparities and crime. "The country has a huge rich/poor gap, and a high crime rate. Travellers should be mindful of the dangers, and stay informed about which areas to avoid," said the report.
Photo: Winter dusk outside Sabie