DAVID BROKENSHA ~ FISH HOEK NOTES APRIL, 2009

THE POLITICAL SCENE.

The governing African National Congress, ANC.

Our national elections were held on April 22, with Jacob Zuma (JZ) now set to be the new President, I summarise our uncertain and worrying political landscape. ANC is allied with COSATU, the Trade Union body, and with SACP, the South African Communist Party : they are uneasy partners, with often differing aims. The party has become increasingly authoritarian, a trend which started under President Mbeki. For example, the ANC would like to have complete control over both provincial governments and municipalities (admittedly, some of these are so corrupt and/or ineffective, that a take-over might be in order).
Our prime satirist, Pieter-Dirk Uys, wrote :”After 15 years in power, the ruling party is rude, arrogant, lazy, overweight, under par, passionless, boring and old-fashioned.” And Stanley Uys described the ANC leadership as “hotchpotch” ( a nice old-fashioned word), with “power and greed providing the momentum”.

Other political parties include:
*Democratic Alliance (DA) led by Helen Zille, who is also mayor of Cape Town. Supporters are mainly white , coloured and Indian, few Africans
*Congress of the People (COPE) a breakaway party from the ANC, muddled aims and leadership.
*Independent Democrats (ID) will get my vote. Patricia de Lille, leader, is a feisty (coloured) lady.


Smaller parties include:
*Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party , strong Zulu support; *Freedom Front, rightwing Afrikaners; *United Democratic Movement, led by Bantu Holomisa; *African Christian Democratic Party, very conservative – and, predictably, virulently homophobic - as is JZ. There are another eighteen tiny parties.
Our elections are based on proportional representation (using the "Party List System"), so votes for the opposition parties are important, with Israeli-style coalitions possible.
No party offers realistic solutions for the major problems of unemployment . poverty, violent crime and HIV/AIDS (which has reduced life expectancy to 42 for males, 52 for females).

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CORRUPTION.

One columnist wrote of the “morally flexible” nature of ANC politicians, and Helen Zille wrote of “the closed crony politics…where the corrupt feel invincible” . Two ongoing sagas underline her concerns. First, the Directorate of Special Operations, popularly known as the Scorpions, modeled loosely on the FBI, has been successful in the arrest of several high profile criminals, a few of whom have even been charged and sentenced. But the ANC disliked not being in control, and they have disbanded the Scorpions. Second, the ANC fired Vusi Pikoli, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, who was too zealous in his pursuit of justice. He was replaced by the more malleable Moketedi Mpshe, who, earlier this month, determined that there was no case against JZ because of taped conversations ( of dubious provenance) which allegedly showed that there had been political interference in the case. Leading jurists (both black and white) rejected this argument.


The murky Arms Deal has cast a shadow over SA politics for eight years. It cost Rand 50 billion ($5 billion) and it raises many questions : was it necessary? How much, and to whom, was paid in bribes? So far only one person, Schabir Shaik, JZ’s “financial consultant “ has been charged – and imprisoned. Shaik was recently, in a controversial move, released from prison because he was said to be at death’s door. There was no transparency in procurement, and, despite repeated calls for one, no independent inquiry. Both Mbeki and JZ are thought to be implicated, but the ANC seems to have succeeded in pushing this massive corruption saga off the agenda.


Race, according to the writer Antje Krog, “has become an obsession”. Criticism from white journalists is dismissed as “racist”; fortunately some black observers – e.g. Xolela Mangcu, columnist at Business Day Mondli Makhanya , and Moshoeshoe Monare (editor and columnist, respectively, of the Sunday Times) - are now stern critics of the ANC.
The Constitution would have been threatened if ANC gained a two thirds majority in parliament, giving it the power to change our great constitution. ANC leaders have indicated that they would like to alter the powers of the courts, particularly the Constitutional Court, and to control the judiciary.


Jacob Zuma. Most South Africans (even, notably, most ANC members) do not believe that JZ is innocent of the corruption charges. Stanley Uys compared JZ to President Kruger, noting that both were underestimated. Simon Jenkins wrote a balanced article in the Guardian saying “Zuma’s style of government” (will be) “morally contaminated, administratively chaotic and corrupt”. JZ is now suing the Guardian and Simon Jenkins for defamation: that should be an interesting court case. JZ also has a case against the popular cartoonist, Zapiro, who always portrays JZ with a shower above his head; this refers to his statement in court, charged with rape; knowing that the woman was HIV positive, he took a shower, as a precaution after what he claimed was consensual sex.

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TITBITS ON THE ANC

**The Dalai Lama was refused a visa for a Peace conference, because he would “disrupt preparations for 2010” ( the World Soccer Cup) – READ “ because China did not want the Dalai Lama to come”;

** Barbara Hogan, the popular and effective newly appointed Minister of Health (replacing the discredited Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, - beetroot and garlic as a cure for AIDS) made the error of publicly regretting the refusal of a visa for the Dalai Lama: she had to apologise for breaching cabinet policy;

**An ID election poster reads "Sit skelms in tronk, nie in die regiering nie" ( “put criminals in jail, not in the government”);

** most commentators agree that there is no real leadership in the ANC, which has been responsible for a “cascade of blunders” (A.Sparks). In this vacuum steps Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth League, who has a talent for making outrageous statements, and annoying nearly everyone, including ANC senior persons. He is a radical version of Rush Limbaugh , “America’s top talker”.

So far I have been considering the political scene, but the wider picture includes the constraints of the global economic crisis. Up to now, SA has not been as severely affected by the crisis as the US , or Europe. Clem Sunter (see below) pointed out that SA was recently ranked #37 in the World Competitive Survey (which ranks the top 55 nations) but slipped to #53. Sunter feared that SA may well disappear from this Survey. And our infrastructure, health, education, transport, needs urgent attention.

Then there are the uncertainties arising from climate change and global warming : Like so many other countries, SA faces dire problems with water supply. Given the short time span of the ANC, and of most of our politicians, it is difficult to be too optimistic about the future of SA . Having written that, I console myself by reminding myself that (a) we are not alone: the whole world is facing an uncertain future; (b) South Africans have been noted for “making a plan “, perhaps we will come up with an effective plan. Despite JZ’s shortcomings as president, I join the many commentators who say, like Simon Jenkins, “don’t write it ( SA) off”. JZ may still surprise us.

I may well have already provided you with more detail than you wish, but IF you would like more on the SA political scene, do check out Stanley Uys’ useful website : http://www.politicsweb.co.za.

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Here are selected vignettes from my ( admittedly self-indulgent ) recent days.

 

SHAKESPEARE, etc.

Sunday February 1. After 9 a.m. Mass, I drove (1/2 hour) to Linkoping House, the UCT residence of Martin and Val West, who took me to the Artscape (10 minutes) to see (at 5 p.m.) a very jolly production of Rossini’s one act opera, The Silken Ladder (of which I had not heard). Six singers, all of them very good both at singing and acting, accompanied by a fine small orchestra, made a memorable show. There were only two performances of this opera, and at each the Artscape Theatre was full. I am glad that Cape Town still supports a large range of cultural activities. I stayed the night at Linkoping House, getting up early for a walk around campus, a change from my usual beach walk. (The Wests have since moved to Fish Hoek, Martin having retired. I will see them often, and accompany them to shows in Cape Town).


Monday Feb 2
Back in Fish Hoek for an appointment with Karyn, my effective physio-therapist, who is putting my back into shape very skillfully using traction, laser, acupuncture and exercises.
Went, with Enid Bates, Chris (Bernard’s niece) and her son James (21) to the UCT Baxter theatre for a production – co-sponsored by the Royal Shakespeare Company – of The Tempest with Sir Anthony Sher, originally from Cape Town, and John Kani, the best-known African actor in SA, playing Prospero and Caliban, respectively. This was billed as “an African production”, and the colourful spirits and the music drew , dramatically and successfully, from several African traditions. As long as the director does not mess around with the text –and I re-read the plays beforehand, to make sure – I am fairly tolerant of innovations


Tuesday Feb 3. Up early to take my Audi ( AMANI-WP) for a 120,000 kms service, which would take two days – major defects were noted, so I did not get the car back until Friday.


Friday Feb 6 To Cape Town to collect my car. This involved first the train from Sunny Cove ( 100 m from my front door) to Claremont station. When we first arrived here, ten years ago, there was a nasty spate of muggings on trains, but the journeys seem to be safe these days, though I always keep my eyes wide open, and I make sure that there are other passengers in my coach. I had hoped to find a Combi taxi to take me the 2 kms from the station to the Audi garage, but the Combi driver told me I would have to wait ½ hour for the taxi to fill up with passengers. I might have walked – it is a safe walk, along busy streets, but it was a day of (for Cape town) unusual (32C) heat, so I extravagantly hired a taxi for my sole use – Rand 60.
Driving home, I chose Boyes Drive, a scenic hillside route whose beginning is marked by a sign Caution: Porcupines. All the postcard stands prominently figure the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino - although none of these animals is found anywhere near Cape Town. I have seen very few cards of two of our commonest mammals – the porcupine (seldom seen, it is nocturnal) and the baboon, neither of which is “cute”. There are still a few troops of Chagas baboons in the South Peninsula, and occasionally a few are reported in Fish Hoek.
Other communities near me are regularly visited by baboons, which wreak havoc if they gain entrance to a home.


A group of us went to the open air production of As You Like It at Maynardville Park, where an annual Shakespeare play has been performed for over fifty years. Our group consisted of my niece Chris and her husband David, their daughter Caitlin (18), and Kate Emmons’ family – Kate’s husband, Tony, (from Cape Town) their boys Alex (13) and Jordan (11) and Kate’s parents, Larry and Ruth, who were visiting from Wyoming. I met Kate just over 20 years ago, when she, as a graduate student, helped Bernard and me in our joint course, Environmental Problems of the Third World. (On Sunday April 18, I lunched with Kate & Tony at Scarborough, on the Atlantic coast, and three times we had to chase baboons away, after they had succeeded in opening the supposedly baboon-proof rubbish bin.) I - and Bernard, when he was with me - attended every Shakespeare production in this Park, and each one has been enjoyable and innovative. We followed our familiar procedures , arriving at 6.30 p.m. to stake out a location on the grass overlooking the lake, with folding chairs for the oldies, and blankets for the others to sit on the ground. Chris had prepared a picnic supper worthy of Ratty (Wind in the Willows), with cold meats, snoek pate, cheeses, little sausages, hummus, grapes – and I contributed Flagstone Fish Hoek wines. The park is a perfect setting for the Forest of Arden, and the lively production, once again, was faithful to the text.

 

FAMILY

My brother Paul died in 1986, leaving four children (then in their 30s). The eldest, Robin, emigrated with her husband Nigel to Florida, where their youngest son Chace (aka Choogs) was born in 1983. At age 19 Choogs joined the US Air Force and married Maria (Cia), also a 19 year old in USAF. Cia is still in the Air Force, as a flight attendant ( “flying generals and ambassadors”) while Choogs is taking college courses and working as a civilian on base in Germany. Cia enthralled us with her account of a grueling three week survival course in the woods of Washington State, which included preparation for being captured. I had stayed with them in England and in Germany ; my niece Judy and I invited them to come to South Africa, partly as a roots trip for Choogs, to see Durban, where Paul and I had grown up. Choogs reminds me of A A Milne’s Tigger, with his exuberant love of everybody, and Cia combines beauty, intelligence and great resourcefulness : they both bubbled over with a youthful (26) enthusiasm and joy of life, I felt rejuvenated after ten days in their stimulating – and most considerate – company.


March 21, Saturday.Their arrival was planned to coincide with the period when Judy and her husband Roger come to Cape Town for their annual time share, and when nephew Garry and Gail were also here. We met Choogs & Cia at the airport at 7 a.m., whisking them to the Cable car to take us to the top of Table Mountain for breakfast and a walk. On the drive back to Fish Hoek, we stopped at the Brass Bell, a popular restaurant at Kalk Bay, for beers (Hansa draft) and rugby, South Africa vs Australia, which Garry had to watch .


March 22. David and Elspeth Jack have been so hospitable not only to me, but also to my visitors, so I was able to take C & C first to meet the Jacks at the eco-lodge Grootbos, near Stanford, for lunch, then to Appelsdrift, my “magical farm” – where they charmed everyone. David gave us a farm tour in the Buggy, making me think again of what a gifted teacher he is : like Bernard, he knows so much about so many topics, and he explains everything articulately and clearly. It was a relief to see that Elspeth was coping brilliantly , despite the continuing chemo-therapy


March 23. C & C joined me for an early two hour walk to the next farm, Fairfield, to have breakfast with “the princess” (of Lichtenstein), Lottie van der Byl, who encourages me to make this lovely walk along the foothills. On the walk, we saw a pair of Secretary birds ( my first sighting in this location) as well as Blue Cranes. C & C are both keen and knowledgeable birders, which makes walking or driving in the bundu so much more interesting. Drove home, after lunch at the Lady Phillips restaurant at Vergelegen ( my favourite winelands venue).


March 24 - 28 C & C and I flew to Durban, to be met by Judy, who drove us around my boyhood haunts. From the Bluff, we looked down on Salisbury Island, but it was so over built that I could not make out where our holiday home had been. We saw 37 11th Avenue, the house of which I have the most vivid childhood memories, also Durban High School, the South Beach where we surfed and Point Yacht Club from where we sailed on the Bay. After an evening – and another braai – with Garry and Gail, we drove to Fugitives Drift, the site of battlefields from the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879. This elegant and welcoming lodge was started by David Rattray, who was tragically murdered in 2006, soon after my first visit , with Choogs’ dad and eldest brother. David’s widow, Nicky, continues to operate the lodge, and to support a school and clinic in the area. We were fortunate in having Rob Caskie as our guide to Rorke’s Drift : after spending a few hours listening to him describing the dramatic events, it was as though I had seen the movie, he created such graphic images in our minds.


After two rewarding days at the Hilltop camp in Hluhluwe Game Park, we drove to Umhlanga, stopping to call in at the coastal village , Shongweni, where I had last been 75 years ago – when Paul and I stayed at Darnall (nearby) with my Uncle Percy and Auntie May. To my relief, Shongweni had not suffered the fate of most KwaZulu/ Natal coastal resorts : there were no high rise buildings, I could easily spot the beach where we used to swim, with Auntie May cautioning us, "Do be careful boys, there is a strong backwash".


C & C stayed with Judy, I at a quiet B & B, for a few days, which included:

**Attending a rugby game (the local Sharks vs the New Zealand Brumbies, part of the Super 14 series).Watching live rugby is not my usual pastime but I thoroughly enjoyed this because it was an exciting game, and the Sharks won convincingly, putting Garry into a happy mood. I could not resist the excitement, being part of the 40,000 crowd, participating in the Mexican Wave; hearing thousands of voices shouting, approvingly, BEAST, whenever the Zimbabwe born player, Tendai Mtawarira, got the ball ( I do not know how he acquired his nickname). It also helped that Roger, through his casino, had got us tickets for a box, which had “a bar inexhaustible”. After the match, at sunset, Garry organized yet another braai in the car park.


**Sunday lunch (best curried prawns in Durban) at the Sea Belle, an unprepossessing Indian restaurant at La Mercy ; whenever I visit Durban, Garry always takes me here - delicious.


** to Mount Moreland, near Umhloti, 20 kms from Umlanga, to see one of the great spectacles of the birding world. From November to April, an estimated three million barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) roost in the 27 acre reed beds. They gather ½ hour before sunset, then the sky is dark as they drop to their roosts. These tiny birds (average weight 18 grams) migrate each year between Mt Moreland and Europe, a round trip of 12,000kms . We sat on a hillside overlooking the site, comfortable in our folding chairs, complete with our sundowners.


**meetings with Garry and Gail’s sons, Wayne and Kyle, both in their 20s., who had met Choogs last in 1993. It was moving to see how these three cousins “bonded” immediately, forever joking and hugging each other.

 


EASTER


Good Friday, April 10.
Elke Geising, who lives near me, drove me to Bishops School, in Rondebosch, for an excellent performance of Bach’s St.Matthew Passion.
This is a long production, starting at 5 p.m. with a 1 & ½ supper break at 6.30 p.m. We joined my friends David & Bill, who provided a simple supper. Barry Smith, retired organist at St.George’s Cathedral (Archbishop Tutu’s seat) conducted,with the choir, soloists and orchestra all doing very well.


Easter Saturday. Drove, (two hours) when the roads were open after the Two Oceans Marathon Race, to Appelsdrift, where I was (unusually) the only guest.


Easter Sunday
With David and Elspeth to All Saints church in Bredasdorp. We celebrated a high Anglican service, very similar to what I am used to in Catholic churches. The church was packed, 95% coloured, (unusually, most were under 40 years of age) all very welcoming; the (coloured) priest, Rev Noble Tobias, spoke in English and Afrikaans, a happy atmosphere. Having time before lunch, David drove us around blue highways (cf William Least Heat Moon’s engaging 1982 book of that title) passing new vineyards – Oyster Catcher, First Sighting, The Berrio - stopping at Elim, a picturesque village run by the Moravian Church. We saw the imposing old church, and the monument (the only one of its kind) to the abolition of slavery in 1834, ten years after Elim was founded.


Time for lunch (prolonged and jolly) with Davina and Ron Kirby – and about 25 others, including the children - at Arniston. I knew most of the guests ( from my visits to Applesdrift) who live in the vicinity, and who gave me a great welcome : Hannes and Marie, Julian and Charlotte, Corinne, Gys and Louise, Fabio….. Back at the farm, time for what Elspeth calls “toes-up”, then a simple supper, accompanied by a truly remarkable wine, which Bruce (their winemaker son) had given them, a Chalk Hill 2004 Reserve Shiraz, from the McLaren Vale in South Australia.


Easter Monday. More exploring of the blue highways with David and Elspeth, stopping at Mosaic, an outstanding eco-lodge near Stanford, east of the Hermanus Lagoon. We had a picnic lunch, beautifully presented, under giant milkwood trees., with no-one else in sight. We wondered how the owner, an American radiologist, keeps going. On the way back to the farm, we called (more exploring for me) at Thys de Villiers ( a neighbouring farmer and an acknowledged expert on ericas) to collect books which the photographer Stephan Wolfart had left for me.


April 14. Drove home to be in time to go, with Wade Pendleton, to UCT for the annual Monica Wilson Lecture, in which I have a special interest : MW was my inspiring mentor at Rhodes University, 60 years ago, and I gave one of the first of these lectures. This occasion was most disappointing, the speaker, a woman from Edinburgh University, was almost inaudible ( no, it was not simply my impaired hearing, Wade confirmed this) and she was a champion Um-er. Wade and I independently reckoned her rate of ums at ten per minute. Ugh! She should have done what Bernard and I did at UCSB – have her lecture video-ed, then hear criticism by experts , embarrassing but salutary.


April 15.
To Muizenberg for a double bill, first an impassioned and informative presentation by Lesley Rochat, of the SOSSC (Save our Seas Shark Centre). Then Clem Sunter, a scenario planner ( Mind of the Fox) and a compelling speaker. I normally restrict my “activities” to one major event per day, recognising that I am slowing down, but I had to make an exception, joining David and Bill for lunch at Willoughby’s fish restaurant at the Waterfront, followed by the movie (Live at the Met) of Madama Butterfly, superbly sung in the late Anthony Minghella‘s imaginative production .


Please do not think that I lead a giddy social whirl : what I have described are the highlights, in my otherwise rather humdrum life. A day may pass without my hearing another live human voice; I say that not out of self-pity, I have learnt not to feel lonely, but to busy myself in reading writing, emails, and pottering, reminding myself that I truly am “a lucky old thing.”

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BITS AND PIECES

Farai

Gift Chikonodanga, is the resourceful and reliable Zimbabwean who works – as house-cleaner, handyman, gardener - for Lorraine and Rob, my neighbours/landlords; Gift “does for me”, two hours each Tuesday morning. I am sponsoring Gift’s eldest son, Tendai, at the University of Cape Town, (UCT) where he is doing well in his final year of B.Sc, geology and chemistry. Tendai brought his younger brother, Farai (“be happy”) to meet me. A bright, well-spoken, polite 17 year old, Farai left Harare when his school – along with many other schools - was closed. How did he enter South Africa? The driver of a combi put a badge on him and Farai pretended, successfully, to be a conductor, collecting fares, when they crossed the border at Beit Bridge. The cost? Rand 1,000 ( $100) to the driver. There are an estimated 5 million Zimbabweans already in S.A., most of them illegals, and more pour in every day.

The next step for Farai was to get accepted as an asylum seeker, which involved a journey to the Home Affairs office in Nyanga , which is still - as it was in the apartheid era - a poor African township in Cape Town. Apparently Home Affairs only accepted 30 applicants that day. The security guards and some independent entrepreneurs controlled the queue, selecting the lucky thirty , of whom Farai was one. Again, I asked how much Farai had to pay, and I was told that “you bargain, and you pay what you can.”
Having overcome these two major obstacles, Farai was now anxious to continue his schooling. He was in Form Four in Zimbabwe, which corresponds to Standard Nine in S.A.: next year Farai should write his Matric – the matriculation examination (which I took in 1939) which determines entrance to university. Gift is determined to do all he can to ensure that his children get a good education, and Fish Hoek High School – a good Government school, within walking distance of where the family stays – accepted Farai. Unfortunately, reduced fees are not available for non-South Africans, but we managed to come up with the Rand 10,000 annual school fees. As long as Farai is in school, he can retain his asylum seeker status. I will keep you informed of how Tendai and Farai are doing; Farai should do well – despite all that President Mugabe has done to wreck Zimbabwe, the schools there, at least until very recently, were still streets ahead of most of South Africa’s government schools.

Farai came (April 18) to show me his first term report, which shows that he has settled down well, and is maintaining passing grades; he hopes to do better this term, I think he will. For his English class, Farai is reading – and, he says, enjoying - Great Gatsby and Macbeth.

 

Zimbabwe.

I have a personal interest in Zim, having several family members living there : sister-in-law Lizzie is in Bulawayo; niece Lindsay and her PH (Professional Hunter) husband Nevin are managing a lodge in the Sabe Conservancy, in the south; one of their sons, Brent, is also a PH, operating all over Zim; their second son lives with his family in Harare. Then, in a much poorer world, are Gift’s family members. For those who have access to Forex, (and this includes my relatives) life is a challenge, but tolerable. For most Africans, life is still harsh and extremely difficult. If Zim does begin to turn the corner, that will certainly be to SA’s benefit. I hope to visit Lindsay and Nevin in June.


Cape Town and Africans Some Africans have complained - in a spirited correspondence in the Cape Times - that CT is unfriendly, even hostile to Africans. Part of these perceptions arise from the demographics: CT ‘s population is 25 % coloured (who are long established in the Cape), 20% white, and 55% African, most of whom are recent migrants, many of them poor and unemployed. On the (admittedly not too many) occasions when I have been to shows or restaurants with black friends, I have never noticed any thing untoward, but that is hardly solid evidence : I move in probably privileged circles.

 


Deconstructing compliments


Here are three recent compliments I received :
-You are an amazing man (great-nephew Choogs);
-You are an example to us all (Rob Caskie at Fugitives Drift)
-You could be a millionaire if you sold your recipe for good health (George Allen, my black-British pal).


Now, while it is gratifying to hear such pretty words, I have to be honest and recognize that they are all based on one factor : my advanced age. As the late Audrey Richards (distinguished social anthropologist) said, At my age, whatever I do is wonderful – if I make a pot of tea, walk to the village shop, do a crossword, all these are wonderful. The point is that if one is in reasonable physical and mental condition at age 86 (next month) then one is “wonderful”.

 


Round the World


I am planning a RTW trip starting in July, visiting UK, USA , New Zealand and Australia. I will be based in London (Kennington) from August 8 to September 3. Even though I will be away for three months, I will not be able, alas, to see all my friends.

 

 

Postscript: Election Result

 

 
 
Party
NATIONAL
WESTERN CAPE
   
%vote
#seats
%vote
ANC
66%
264
33%
DA
16.75%
67
52%
COPE
7.5%
30
7%
IFP
4.5%
18
0%
ID
1%
4
5%
 
Voter turnout was a satisfactory 77.3%, and the elections were certainly “free and fair”, despite a few minor glitches.

 

DWB. APRIL, 2009

 

NB. The previous Fish Hoek Notes dated August 2008 are available by clicking here.

Read Brokie's Way online

*Brokie's Way* Round the World

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to access the personal writings of David Brokensha please click on one of the above links. DWBrokensha 2005-8