I’m no politician. And I’m no lawyer. I’m a humble country blogger who simply wants the best for my country.
And any attempt by the South African government to constrain the media in their duty to inform us of what is happening doesn’t cut it for me. It stinks. It reeks of more bad smells than the ablution area used by a herd of elephants after a big night on a particularly virulent vindaloo curry. The Protection Of Information Bill wouldn’t smell any better if you had just emerged from a vrot fortnight spent down in the main sewer under the Johannesburg CBD.
A herd of elephants would be hard-pressed to push out an aroma as foul as the one around the Protection Of Information Bill. Even if they lived solely on a diet of Vivek's most volatile vindaloo. Pic: Daryl Balfour / www.darylbalfour.com
Whether you think that the South African media are doing a good job or not of reporting to us the facts of whether our country is being properly governed or not, a government that doesn’t hold itself properly accountable wanting to hold what should be an independent press accountable is just rotten.
And, in my book, unconstitutional. Take this bit of South Africa’s constitution, much-lauded as the “most democratic and progressive” prototype of its kind anywhere on the planet. “Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state. And any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.”
Now any government which purports to govern by these principles has no business wanting to control in any way what our media tells us about what is going down in our country. It’s just not right. It speaks of a government operating from a place of fear. Why? Good question. The Protection Of Information Bill must be resisted with every ounce of strength that all right-thinking South Africans can muster.
I came across this commentary by Jonny Steinberg, author and member of the Institute for Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town in a Times Live column yesterday. As I said, I’m no politician. But the angle which Steinberg takes in his analysis is one which talks to me. Very loudly.
In fact, it’s screaming at me. It screams of lies, deception and much smoke and mirrors. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of the people must know that the lies need to be stop. Or be stopped. And only a completely free and independent media fully committed to total transparency can do that.
Johannesburg. Jo’burg. Joeys. Jozi. Egoli. It’s all the same place.
South Africa’s biggest city. The city built on gold. The city that South Africans – well, those who don’t live in it – love to hate.
We generally don’t have a kind word for the concrete jungle that appears to be a shrine to money, crime, traffic jams, Gareth Cliff and a piss-poor rugby team. Confession. I was born there. At Mary Mount Hospital. While my parents lived at 55 Mars St. Truly alien. But, after just 18 months of life, I managed to persuade Mom and Dad to get the hell out and move to Pietermaritzburg. I’ve tried really hard to avoid going back ever since.
Check? You almost can't see the grossly ostentatious flaunting of wealth for the trees
The concrete jungle we call many names is actually, wait for it, the biggest man-made forest in the entire world. Yes. Hang on. No. I reckon birds had a big hand in helping to create the 10 million trees that green up Jo’burg today. But still, very surprising, hey?
And, just for good measure, the Awesome SA book also tells us that Jozi is the biggest city in the world not to be located beside a lake, a river or the ocean. Who knew that?
I’m an utter sports nut. Well, a football, rugby and cricket man. Liverpool FC, Lamontville Golden Arrows, The Sharks, The KZN Dolphins and, on the international front, Bafana Bafana, the Springboks and the Proteas. Non-negotiable. Arguing with me about my choice of teams is like arguing with the ref after he’s made his decision. And like Grand Prix racing, the Tour de France and that WWF malarkey – totally pointless.
So, we’re talking sport this morning. Especially some not altogether widely-known trivia to do with South African sport. Fascinating stuff…
“When Vincent Tshabalala won the French Open in 1976, he became the first black golfer to win a major tournament on the European Circuit.”
“Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan won 57 career doubles titles, including three Wimbledon crowns. After teaming up, they played 45 matches before being beaten.”
How cool is Frew's cap? Pic: Getty Images
“Grant Khomo captained the National Soccer XI, won the SA singles and doubles tennis titles, represented Transvaal at cricket and rugby and captained the SA Bantu Rugby Board first team.”
“Ernie Els was the first non-US golfer in 90 years to win the US Open twice, a feat repeated two years later by another South African, Retief Goosen.”
“More than 50% of the world’s paragliding records have been set in South Africa.”
“Football (soccer) is South Africa’s most popular sport and is followed by 78% of South African adults, according to an SABC Markinor survey in 2004. Rugby is next most popular at 47%, followed by cricket (39%).” Er, followed by wrestling (25%). Eish.
* If you scroll up to your right on this page, you’ll see a big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog. I wouldn’t be at all offended if you clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any of these categories (be sure to type in your e-mail address on the blog awards site for your nomination to be registered). In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!
In really boring and over-regulated countries, such as Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain which ceased to exist decades ago), Germany and many others (but not including those where they drink a lot of really strong coffee like Greece, Italy and Turkey), people drive very well. As in responsibly.
We don’t have that problem here in South Africa.
It is an indisputable fact that, in Durban, everybody drives very slowly and badly, except for those spiky-haired boys who wear Ferrari jackets over their Manchester United jerseys and drive black VW Golfs. With tinted windows. They drive really fast. and very, very badly.
In Cape Town, everybody stares zennishly at The Mountain while they drive, even when they are pointed away from The Mountain. Enough said.
In Jo’burg, people take South African driving to another level altogether.
1. Indicators will give away your next move. A real Jozi motorist never uses them.
2. On average, at least three cars can still get through an intersection after the robot (traffic light) has turned red. It’s the people who don’t adhere to this basic principle who cause traffic jams.
3. Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign. No one expects it and you’ll get bashed into from behind.
4. Under no circumstances should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front. That space will be filled by two Golfs (driven by spiky-haired boys from Durban), a BMW and a minibus taxi, putting you in an even more dangerous situation.
5. The faster you drive through a red light, the less chance you have of getting hit.
PS: When a new, and as yet untrashed, car is bought in South Africa, the owner automatically assumes the right to be king of the road and is justified in expecting that every other driver will be so impressed that they will hang back and admire the shiny, new vehicle, thereby giving the proud new owner absolute right of way…
Beautiful. Follow those basic rules and you’ll be just fine. And nobody can accuse you of being as boring as the Brits.
The Swinging Sixties might have swung like an army of chimps on speed elsewhere in the world but, here in South Africa, life under apartheid was about as titillating as being stuck in a lift (elevator) with Margaret Thatcher.
“In the 1960s it was ILLEGAL for sunbathers of the opposite sex at municipal swimming baths to be closer than a specified distance from each other. To ensure that this legislation was enforced, an official on duty carried a ruler to assist him with his inspection. Any two persons not adhering to the specified distance were charged accordingly.”
I defy any of the boys down at the pool to keep 11 feet 6 inches away from Genevieve Morton on a hot day
I always wondered why, after asking my Dad if I could get a Schweppes Creme Soda from the pool tuckshop, I then had to walk 11 feet 6 inches over to my Mom to grab the money from her.
Now it all makes perfect sense. Doesn’t it?
* A red hat tip to the boys over at the Socialyz blog for lending me that lekker pic of Gen. Which I think they nicked from Seth.
* Dear Hatpeople, if you look up to your right on this page, you’ll see a great big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve only been around for a year so it may be a tad cheeky of me but I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog (well, I think I’ve been parping the vuvuzela big-time for people to travel to our Beloved Country!). I wouldn’t be at all offended if those of you who quite dig reading my stuff clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any one of those three categories. In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!
A lot of South Africans have a close relationship with beer. In fact, I’ve just enjoyed a dirty weekend with Ms Birkenhead, the pride of Stanford. But I’ll spare you the sordid details.
Rather focus, if you can, on these nutty-flavoured facts…
* The SAB World of Beer was officially judged South Africa’s top tourist attraction in 2009.
* Black women in South Africa outdrink the entire white beer-drinking market. Who would have thought?!
The not entirely shabby view from our Birkenhead Brewery in Stanford Pic: Kevin Sutherland / Times Live
* “Shebeens” are where people habitually drink their quarts (double-sized bottles of beer) in the former township areas. The word “shebeen” comes from the Anglo-Irish word sibin, meaning “bad ale”.
* Umquombothi is traditional beer made from maize, sorghum and yeast.
* An old Zulu saying, “Utshwala buqinisa umzimba”, means “beer strengthens the body”.
* Beer was a part of everyday life in southern Africa long before the influence of European settlers was felt. Beer was then brewed from grain, corn or fruit.
* South African Breweries is ranked as the world’s second biggest brewery and supplies China with roughly half of its beer-drinking requirements. Which may or may not help to explain why the Dalai Lama was denied a visa to enter South Africa last year. Burp!
South African stories. What a lot we got. Folklore, fables, strange phenomena, myths, old wives’ tales, tall tales, we’ve heard them all. Or so we think. These make South Africa an intriguing, even mystical, place in which to live.
I heard about “the Tokoloshe” when I was very small. Yes, deep under apartheid. The 60s, babies. Mary was a very large, round woman who lived in what was then called a “khaya” (home) in my family’s backyard. A tiny room with a bed, chair, shower and toilet. Behind the garage where my Dad kept his gleaming white Ford Cortina. With red leather seats. And those kiff tail fins.
Artistic impression of "the Tokoloshe"... fortunately not invisible and, even more fortunately, without its "exceptionally long penis".
I loved Mary. What I’m about to say may seem patronising but it isn’t. She was one of two mothers that I was blessed to have. My Mom worked all day so Mary looked after me once I got home from school. Fed me lunch, checked on me while I played on the foofie-slide down at the river with George from next-door and worried that I might have my leg taken off by one of the legavaans (large monitor lizardy-type reptiles) that lived there. And wouldn’t allow me to bring tadpoles and silkworms into the house.
When I was very small, she would wrap me in a blanket, tie it to her back and take me with her to the tea-room to buy milk and bread, having countless very long conversations with other “maids” on the way. When I was about 12, Mary “got sick” and moved back to her family who lived in a “location” somewhere near Edendale, outside Pietermaritzburg. Soon after that, she died. I cried as if I had lost a mother. Because I had.
While she was living in that “khaya”, Mary had her bed put up on bricks. I remember she had two bricks placed under each leg of the bed, making it so high that it was difficult for me to clamber up and chat to her.
“Many urban and rural women use bricks as a protection against the Tokoloshe. That is, they raise their bed on bricks. This is so that the Tokoloshe can’t reach them while they are sleeping. The Tokoloshe is the evil creation of a man who murdered nine women in his quest to be come a witchdoctor. He is hairy, has the face of a monkey, can make himself invisible and, other than attacking unsuspecting women, is responsible for all sorts of mischief. The Tokoloshe has an exceptionally long penis (which it hitches over its shoulder as it walks) and is, fortunately, a dwarf.”
Musical footnote: There is a very cool South African band named “Bed On Bricks”.
We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? Not on this blog, silly! I’m talking South Africa. And, this morning, I’m talking specifically about the old censorship laws under the apartheid regime.
Remember Scope magazine? Well, you won’t if you’re any younger than me. OK. quite a bit younger than me. Scope was like a combo of Mad Magazine, Playboy, Private Eye and Beano all mashed together. And it liked to publish slightly racy pictures of scantily-clad women. Far too scanty for the old Publications & Censorship verkramptes (ultra-conservatives) charged with keeping our morals upstanding. Although I scheme they took all the really nasty stuff home.
A Scope model (after the boys had got to work with the Pro Nutro/Handy Andy star remover, obviously)
Old Dave Mullany, with whom I later worked at The Mercury in Durbs, was editor of Scope and resorted to sticking those infamous black strips over nipples to stop schoolboys from breaking out in a red-faced rash of testosterone at the back of class. It was a hard time to be pubescent in South Africa. And I heard about boys who had found a way to rub off the black strips or stars with some special solution. A 60:40 mixture of Pro Nutro and Handy Andy or something.
I was reminded of this by a feature in Awesome SA\’s fascinating Awesome South Africa book, in which they detail the things banned by old Vorster and his maatjies. Bliksem, it is scary to be taken back there. But here we go anyway… “A beer mug with a naked man’s figure and the inscription ‘Hers’ “; “Olivia Newton’s song ‘Let’s Get Physical’ “; A book on playing chess entitled ‘Black Queen, White King’ “; and, oh yes, “A bumper sticker which read, ‘And on the seventh day, God went surfing’.”
Livvy Newton John sings Let's Get Physical... Yowzers, I think Vorster's boys were right to ban that!
Heavens to Betsy, was our beloved country as backward as that?! We all know the answer to that question. But, somebody please tell me, how the hell did Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) survive?
I’m always blown away by the many, many clever things South Africans have invented. I’ll let you in on most of them as we go along but, this morning, here are two for the price of one: the Disa push-button telephone… no, not the template for the ubiquitous cellphone but still the first push-button telephone in the world; and, very handy given our track record in surveillance, the “Colindictor”, the first machine in the world to allow recording of a telephone conversation. Trust a bloke named Colin to invent this… wait, I’m putting you on hold while I Google this…
Nah, no luck. You know when you Google something and you get a gazillion pages all saying the same thing (and some flashing that you are the “millionth visitor” and you’ll win a prize – yeah right!) but omitting to tell you the important stuff, like who actually invented the Colindictor? I can’t be doing with that… so that’s it for this first instalment of Know The Beloved Country, Hatpeople!
* Original material sourced from the awesome Derryn Campbell’s very awesome Awesome SA website and, yes, that phenomenally awesome book she produced, which looks like this…