Thursday, May 27, 2010

I went to the hills

I'm in Johannesburg waiting for peak hour traffic to subside, to become bearable.
I've just had dinner by myself (actually one of my most favourite past times) and a glass of relatively insipid chardonnay.
This 'drama' unfolded in a suburban mall on the east of the city. I hope I never have to spend time here again. Ever.
I was about to head home but have just decided to spontaneously order dessert and to go watch Robin Hood, then to spend the night at Steffen.
I was in Jhb to collect the newspapers. But I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the Berlin Forest, at Linda's, getting the paper wrapped up. The pics are of Monday's dusk.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010


Zapiro's M&G cartoon, May 21 2010

"My view is no cartoon is as insulting to Islam as the assumption Muslims will react with violence."

When [
M&G editor-in-chief Nic] Dawes first saw the cartoon he said he thought it "a gentle and irreverent poke" at the hysteria that had greeted the Facebook page. This week Pakistan ordered all internet service providers to block Facebook, as well as YouTube for carrying "un-Islamic content".
Dawes recounted how he received a call from an attorney from the council at about 8.30pm on Thursday night -- after the distribution process of the Friday paper had begun. "He asked for an undertaking that we would stop distribution of the paper and remove the cartoon."
Dawes pointed out that this was impossible, and that in any event the M&G would not do so. 
By 11.30pm the newspaper's advocate had been pulled out of a dinner party and Dawes, along with the paper's investigation unit, found himself in the South Gauteng High Court ready to defend the M&G's right to freedom of speech. 
However, the council, or Jamiatul Ulama as it is also known, failed to provide the necessary papers for the M&G to answer. It presented verbal evidence, but the judge ruled the interdict failed in terms of urgency, as the newspaper was already available in some outlets and the cartoon had already been published on the M&G Online.
It was a case of trying to close the stable doors long after the horse had bolted, the newspaper's counsel pointed out. 
Furthermore, the judge found that the newspaper's rights had been compromised by not being provided with founding papers advising what the case against it was. 
While the council pleaded with the judge not to throw the case out on technical grounds, she answered that "as a judge and as a Muslim I am bound by our constitution and the rules of our courts".
Earlier, the judge made a decision to not recuse herself, saying her own religious background wouldn't influence her.

Violent backlash
The Council of Muslim Theologians is the same organisation that succeeded in preventing the Sunday Times in 2006 from republishing the controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet. 
During Thursday's application the council repeatedly raised the spectre of a violent backlash, saying that the timing of the cartoon was bad because of a possible threat to the Soccer World Cup. 
It added that while it wouldn't advocate violence, it couldn't necessarily guarantee that there wouldn't be any. 
"We very much saw that as a threat, and our counsel vigorously objected," said Dawes. The judge upheld the objection. 
While the council was unhappy with the court's decision, it agreed to meet Dawes to take the discussion forward. 
"The M&G is a platform for debate," Dawes emphasised, adding that everyone was welcome to engage in debate and discussion with the paper. "My view is no cartoon is as insulting to Islam as the assumption Muslims will react with violence."
However, he also noted that had the cartoon been in any way Islamophobic, or crossed the line in terms of hate speech and racism, he would not have published it. 
But Zapiro's cartoons, he said, offend many people. Many noted that the award-winning South African political cartoonist, whose pen has repeatedly and poignantly exposed corrupt politicians and various hypocrisies in the public sphere, could have been far harsher if he wished. 
As Dawes said: "If we had to pull every Zapiro cartoon that offended someone we wouldn't have any Zapiro cartoons in the newspaper."

Source: Mail & Guardian Online:

Already one bomb scare... and counting

Uproar over M&G Prophet Muhammad cartoon


It was a late night in court for the Mail & Guardian as the Council of Muslim Theologians on Thursday evening tried to stop the newspaper from publishing a Zapiro cartoon featuring the Prophet Muhammad.

An interdict was not granted, but on Friday morning M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes and other staff were fielding a flood of angry callers, and even death threats hit the newspaper's office.

"You've got to watch your back" and "This will cost him his life" were some of the remarks made.

The cartoon followed the furore surrounding the Facebook page, "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day", which was sparked by threats by a radical Muslim group against the creators of US TV series South Park for depicting the prophet in a bear suit. 

But Zapiro's cartoon, published in Friday's M&G, was far gentler in its satire, depicting the prophet reclining on a psychiatrist's couch and bemoaning his followers' lack of humour. 

(View the article -


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe in Nelspruit

The SA press ombudsman, Joe Thloloe, is addressing media professionals at the launch of the Mpumalanga Media Club. He applauded the establishment of the Professional Journalists' Association that was formed earlier this year.
But he's mainly focussing on self regulation, self censorship.
In terms of the SA Press Code, he says, "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, whether the beggar on the corner, or the premier of this province."

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Prof. Anton Harber on Julius Malema, tonight

Professor Anton Harber, the head of Wits University's Journalism faculty, is addressing the launch of the Mpumalanga Media Club right now in Nelspruit.
He started by referring to the Julius Malema debacle, when he threw BBC journalist Jonah Fisher out of the ANC Youth League's press conference last month.
The theme of his speech is that journalist's should stick together, that collectively they have power (that South African journalists even refused to be walked over by FIFA), that they should have walked out of the press conference when the BBC journalist was booted by Malema.
"We need to safeguard our integrity," he said.
"Brown paper journalism, journalism driven by that envelope that drives coverage of that politician or that company" is what Herber warned against.
"Don't let that poison in the door... We must drive from our profession those that don't hold to the highest standard of our profession. We can't hold others accountable, if we don't hold ourselves accountable".
He also said that some of the newspapers and broadcasters who got the Eugene Terblanche story so wrong have not done the right thing by apologising for their very wrong stories, that they have also not asked how they actually got it so wrong.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010


Verlorenkloof on the Machadodorp - Mashishing (Leydenburg) road. I've not been here before. Heading off on a Sunday road trip, just a baby one though; down the Long Tom Pass, through Sabie and then maybe onto Graskop. Happiness...

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Where there's smoke...

...there's a home.
1989. It was the early hours of a freezing cold December morning. Huddled on an icy bench in Stockholm Station I was waiting, rather than wasting money on a night's accommodation, for an early morning train to the far north, to cross the Arctic Circle and then into Finland.
Nudging into my backpack for imaginary warmth, I watched two homeless men aimlessly taking it out on each other in a slurred brawl.
I remember, as clear as distilled arctic water, thinking that I would be happy to travel anywhere in the world, and for long periods, as long as I knew that somewhere on earth was a place that was mine, that I could call home.
This was the place I'd leave all my books, and it would have a fireplace.
I've just stocked the stove in the kitchen with wood, it's roaring, and I'm watching - through the kitchen window - as the sun sets, filtered through the wood stove's smoke.

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Wood stove in the forest in Narnia

Last night I lit the wood stove in the kitchen, poured myself a tumbler of Fat Bastard chardonnay (right now one of my favourites), and got into bed with a pile of books while the fire crackled, snapped and popped.
I read until my eyelids slid closed.
I turned off the bedside lamp, pulled the cat and the duvet up closer, curled around them, went to sleep.
I needed some alone time; the luxury of knowing it was Friday night - and that my own company was the best company - was delicious.
When I was dumber, and younger, I would climb the walls into a frenzy on a weekend night so tempted, to death, was I by the flesh pots.
Before then, when I was even younger, but innocent, not yet dumb, I remember - on nights like last night - that I would slip away (under the covers, even with a torch if need be) down paths into the likes of Narnia's forests following (among many others) C.S. Lewis or the other Inkling, Tolkien, not even knowing that they loved the Lion of the East as I now do.
Enthralled I left small, dizzy footsteps in the snow, or crackled spring twigs under my sandals, caught autumnal leaves in my blonde, shiny hair.
Today, back in bed, I'm devouring 'Yours, Jack - The Inspirational Letters of C.S. Lewis':
"And I quite agree about Johnson. If one had not experienced it, it would be hard to understand how a dead man out of a book can be almost a member of one's family circle -- still harder to realise, even now, that you and I have a chance of someday really meeting him."
Steffen is on his way from the West. I'm booking a winter flight for later in the year to the North, via, slightly, to the East. While tonight it's good food, wine and laughter under Waterval Boven's magnificent diamond-speckled black velvet sky at Werner and Celeste's.
I'm drunk with anticipation...

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Kenyan whistle blower reviewed

It's our turn to eat: the story of A Kenyan Whistle Blower by Michela Wrong (Fourth Estate, Harper Collins):

Michela Wrong tells the story of John Githongo, a journalist and civil rights campaigner who, in 2003, was co-opted by the Kenya government to be its corruption buster. Three years later Githongo was on the run from the Kenyan government. He pitched up on Wrong's doorstep in London looking for a bolt hole, bringing with him a dossier of evidence implicating several government ministers in arms-deal corruption.

On one level this book reads like a political thriller. Among several gut-churningly audacious intelligence-gathering techniques, which Wrong relates, Githongo secretly recorded his conversations with key players in the scandal.

Although Wrong's narrative storytelling technique may raise ethical questions -- for example, she dramatises the scenes in which Githongo either confronts, or is confronted by, his corrupt colleagues -- she is faced with the challenge of narrating the slow, cancerous spread of corruption in a fast-paced, readable way.

To read the full Mail & Guardian review click here:
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It's our turn to eat

I've been devouring Michela Wrong's brilliantly written 'It's 0ur Turn to Eat'. Her book, in the investigative journalism genre, is all about the most in/famous Kenyan whistle-blower in that country's history - John Githongo, all of it recent 'history'.
The book also brilliantly underlines the donor funding dilemmas and debacles, highlighting how they 'encourage' self-looting by rotten African governments and encourage our continent's bread basket/beggar mentality.
What is most awful for me are the gob smacking similarities to the South African status quo, which does nothing but prick my skin and churn my gut. Especially the fact that they get away with it...
Most of all my gut is revolted by the bloated bull frog arrogance of these nation rapists, also by the extreme materialism now gorging the veins and arteries of this country... Which I'm gathering from my reading is in fact an Africa-wide plague.
South Africa's pigs are undoubtedly gathered at the trough, because they believe it's their turn to grovel, slavishly slurp, and grunt while they eat.
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