Monday, October 26, 2009

Renaissance Stadium, Cape Town

These are photos I've just received of the first lighting of the 'Renaissance' Stadium in Greenpoint. They are from my Cape Town-based friend and journalist, Andrew October. From this perspective it looks like an incredible work of architecture.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Night of a 1000 Stars

It's a magnificent evening in the Lowveld, there's not a breath of air stirring and a festive atmosphere reminiscent of the coast during the summer holidays. In support of the Cancer Association, it's the Night of a Thousand Stars where some of Nelspruit's finest restaurant's have closed off an entire street and have magnificently decked tables to cater for a 1000 people. The food, thus far...sumptuous!

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Name Changes: What the hell were we thinking, were we thinking at all?

There's been vociferous resistance to the latest of town names in Mpumalanga gazetted for immediate change. These include changes to the names of Belfast, Machadodorp and Waterval Boven.
In fact, out here, its the very first symbolic step towards the demolishing of the Apartheid laboratory-bred separation anxiety experiments that still keep our towns and townships viciously apart.
While the battle lines were originally drawn along lines of colour and so-called "separate development" (early, original policies of the Apartheid state), it also perpetrated silo-societies living shoulder to shoulder, but with deep foundations of mistrust, fear and suspicion.
All of these, especially poverty and horrendous crime, were easily pushed under the hideous old carpet chucked out of the madam's big white house over there in the normally substantially much better-off town: "Thank you for your thrown out mat madam, here outside the town and under it's threadbare luxury we'll be out of sight, certainly out of mind!" (Who the hell did they think we were kidding?)
The town and township phenomenon is downright evil and will never ever contribute even an iota towards a normalised society in our country. It's a Frankenstein experiment gone horribly wrong.
PS: Waterval Boven has, in a riling twist for many, been renamed Emgwenya after it's 'former' township. I believe I'm one of the very few to see the humour... .

The local changes:
Belfast to eMakhazeni
Waterval Boven to Emgwenya
Machadodorp to eNtokozweni
While Dullstroom's name has not changed, the proposed future name of Dullstroom-Emnothweni (meaning "place of wealth") is expected to be gazetted in the near future.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I went into the woods...

"I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There's a fire raging in my heart

I'm unable to sit at my desk for another second; both my mind and heart are elsewhere, there's an internal restlessness that stubbornly refuses to accept that the mundane tasks associated with living in 'the valley' are acceptable today. I'm craving the 'mountain top' experience of the past weekend.

Opting for great coffee, and an environment different to this one - all distractions for my busy mind - I head for Seattle Coffee at Millys.

The valley between here and there - like my heart - is moody with fire and reminiscent of a brooding storm, or winter. I'm damn grateful it's early summer and now the season of new beginnings.

I sense that now it's time to leave the cave and to enlarge my 'territory' ...adrenalin gorges my veins and arteries; my burning, pumping heart is evidence of someone certainly not the living dead.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

39 protesters refused bail

The 39, not 35, Siyaththuka service delivery protesters arrested on Tuesday have all been refused bail, even the woman with the baby. Arrangements are to be made with the police for the baby to be fetched by family. The case is postponed until next Thursday, 22 October.
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Mpumalanga Unrest: Privately owned bulldozer set alight

This Belfast businessman - Oumar Kone - is the owner of this bulldozer that was set alight last night on the R36 skirting Emthonjeni township, outside Machadodorp, at about 21h30. His company, Di Kone Transport & Plant Hire was hired by the local municipality to move waste in the adjacent rubbish dump. He says he has been ruined by this incident, that all the money he had invested in this machine was now lost.
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Mpumalanga Protests: 35 in Belfast Court

There's 35 people in court after being arrested in Siyathuthka, outside Belfast on Tuesday. I can count 6 women, one with a baby in a blanket. They are charged with arson and public violence. All of them have asked to defend themselves. The case is being postponed for 7 days until next Thurs, 22 October. All the accused are to remain in custody, except for the mother who says her baby is sickly. A few of the men limped into court. One man has a lot of dry blood on his t-shirt and shirt. Right now the defendants are one by one maintaining they should be released on bail..some of the reasons include fear of losing jobs, that some of them are scholars, that they were arrested for public violence and the public violence is over.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Best BlackBerry Apps, Features for Journalists

The BlackBerry has long been the smart phone of choice for many newsrooms, particularly for large news organizations. The most obvious use is e-mail for staying in contact with editors, colleagues and sources while out in the field or away from the office. But like the iPhone, the BlackBerry has lots of other apps and features that can help journalists do their jobs. Here's a look at some of the best apps for journalists as well as some examples of how journalists use the device on the job. Like the iPhone, the BlackBerry has an app store, called "BlackBerry App World" (you have to download if it didn't come on your phone), but not all apps are available there. Others can be downloaded directly by visiting the developer's Web site on your lackBerry browser.

For the rest of the Poynter Online article, click here or on the title of this article.

Calm Western Front & Blackberry Challenges

All calm here today, I'm grateful. I've wondered around the courts, it seems they might have decided to have the various protest-related court cases next week, with the intention of keeping the situation calm.

Yesterday my new Blackberry Bold, not even a week old, was put to the test on the journalistic 'battlefield'. I chose this handset specifically as a work tool, over the iphone (not an easy decision). Where Blackberry has failed me is in terms of battery life. It's a brand new phone and its battery only lasts a day on average...probably because of all the applications running simultaneously. It means I'm going to have to purchase a spare battery, also a car charger, and to keep the spare battery charged, particularly for days like yesterday, where I've no access to electricity but need to remain constantly in communication with radio stations, other journalists, and sources 'on the ground' who are feeding me info via sms. And obviously so that I can constantly keep on blogging.

More, later, about the many, many pros of the Blackberry as a journalistic tool.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mpumalanga Unrest: Shoeless in Siyathuthuka

This was the pile of shoes that was left behind after alleged service delivery protesters in Siyathuthuka township (outside Belfast) were dispersed this afternoon by police firing rubber bullets.
I've just received a message from a friend in Siyathuthuka; she says that protesters are allegedly planning to burn down the clinic tomorrow, also the homes of friends and family of councillors of the Emakhazeni Local Council.

Mpumalanga Unrest: Siyathuthuka township, Belfast (some more photos)

Mpumalanga Unrest: "Ons is fokken moeg!" (We are fucking tired!)

Emthonjeni township, Machadodorp: "We are fucking tired of poor service delivery," is what the few hundred community members protesting outside Emthonjeni were chanting in my face as I barely stood my ground - despite, quite honestly, my insides turning to water.
This was on the barricaded and burning R36 (between Machadodorp and Carolina) earlier today.
I had driven slowly around barricades as the police quickly retreated back to Machadodorp for reinforcements; I had to know what - in the community's eyes - this was all about.
But what I experienced right then was pent up anger, literally spat into my face (I felt the spittle on my cheeks); I was, suddenly, the enemy. (My thoughts included - 'Just how many journalists have died in identical situations...and is it worth it?')
A pen, a spiral-bound notebook, my camera, and an earnest face prepared to listen might have helped me this time.
Also my back was against the wall, this time an impenetrable and writhing circle of chanting human beings.
Then, thank God, one woman in the crowd screeched out my name - "Charleseee...!" - and ran me into her arms. This was always-smiling Gloria from Seattle Coffee at Millys on the N4, who had served me great Cafe Mocha's on countless occasions.
"He's a journalist, he's a friend," she screamed back at the crowd.
That was the turning point... in my favour.

Mpumalanga Unrest: Library books saved from flames

Despite the Siyathuthuka municipal building still burning after being set alight this morning, librarians and fire department personnel are - right now - carrying out mostly unscathed library books; they have already filled two 'bakkie' loads with books.

While this is happening in Zakheni Street, a police helicopter is overhead and police armoured vehicles bristling with shotguns are up and down the streets; this is reminiscent of the state of emergency in 1985 when I was growing up.

There are also police, some in plain clothes, behind walls and in-between buildings taking pot shots at protesters as they raise their heads; most of these protesters seem to be on the run and retreating into the depths of the township.

A podgy white police inspector with a shotgun over his shoulder and what looks like a 'knopkierie' hanging on his belt turns around suddenly, as I click my camera at him. "Don't you dare publish those photos," he roars at me pointing his finger into my face. "Don't threaten me," I yell back with more resentment than he anticipated. Like all bullies he imediately backs down and talks nicely to me. "Those days where middle aged white men with inferiority complexes talked down to me are long over," I think to myself with glee. Respect is earned, not demanded.

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Mpumalanga Unrest: Bird's eye view

An unusual sight, a police helicopter armed with tear gas and shot guns outside the Engen Belfast on the N4: As I was interviewing the two police pilots from the Provincial Air Wing (based in Nelspruit), and a local policeman from Belfast - all three refused to give me their names or to take their photos - they were alerted to trouble in Siyathuthuka, the township outside Belfast. They then started preparing to take off. I had noticed two shotguns and asked them what the grey canisters were. "Tear-gas, but maybe we shouldn't be telling you that," they said before clamming up. I'm now on my way to Siyathuthuka after a harrowing morning in Emthonjeni, Machadodorp.

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Mpumalanga Unrest: Service delivery protests

There is a sense that the immediate area is going up in smoke as pockets of protesters suddenly emerge where they wre least expected. These photos were taken just after 7am this morning at the Waterval Boven tunnel after protesters from Emgwenya township were dispersed with rubber bullets. TRAC was quickly on the scene to clean debris and rocks, to reopen the N4 highway. A lone man and his mangy dog did much more than his fair share to see the road cleaned up. I'm now on my way to Machadodorp and Emthonjeni to find out about the sporadic gunshots and worker intimidation I've had people sms me about. There is a sense of being caught up in a runaway fire that's being fuelled by a strong but invisible wind.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Berry thumbs

Despite two Nokia Communicators down-the-line (and at least four other Nokia devices prior to those), tonight I cross the divide to Blackberry (Bold). The Finnish mobile device company has lost me for the foreseeable future. Apalling software challenges in what was, at the time, supposed to be their flagship business phone has alienated me. They've also left me isolated in a technological backwater with no promise of a replacement in the near future. That water-hosed away what was left of my loyalty. This is most likely my last blog entry from my Communicator. See you on the other side of 'berry thumbs'....

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

An owl called my name

It's way past my bedtime, I can't sleep; but it's not in a hectic or frenetic way that I'm being kept awake. I keep having to pinch myself at the sound of crickets and frogs, that it's no longer the dead, frozen silence of winter nights. Just this last weekend I was gobsmacked by Christmas decorations in the mall, a sure sign that summer's here. Tonight, unusually, there's a soft, repeated hoot of an owl in the distance as it calls my name. It's the very first, and perfect, summer's night here on the escarpment's edge.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


On Thursday night Waterval Boven got it's first summer rain. It was a storm that raged for hours, beginning at about midnight. After a long harsh and dry summer, the sound of rain on the roof and the slap, slap of blinds in the wind were welcome sounds. At 5h30 Imemeza, the mountain behind the town, was shrouded in cloud. Waking, gulping in deep breaths of rain-wet-earth-summer-early-morning air, it was a thank you-get-down-on-my-knees moment. The makeshift altar was right before my bedroom window. The day before my team had completed planting new grass. Blessings all round.


Sitting in a coffee shop waiting for breakfast and my cappuccino. The afternoon summer sun is just catching the side of my face, piercing my right eye. Although it's now officially summer in the southern hemisphere, inside me it feels like winter and that I'm desperately in need of a hibernation period. Like a snake I want to curl up under a rock and wake up another time. That's how I feel today. My batteries are flat.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Beautiful Minds

To write here that between my last blog entry and this one I have barely kept my head above water would not be an exaggeration. In fact, on at least two occasions, I sank so deep and went without air for so long, that I thought I was tickets. Only now do I fully understand that in the twlight of no sleep and exceptionally high stress levels it's easy for one's mind to begin bending, then to unhinge. However, this is not to complain - I'm exactly where I should be, where I want to be in my life; I made all my choices consciously - but to apologise to the followers of this blog for my silence. From the correspondence I've thus far experienced, I at least know they are caring, patient human beings...all with beautiful minds. Thank you for your patience.