DAVID BROKENSHA ~ FISH HOEK NOTES APRIL, 2009
THE POLITICAL SCENE.
The governing African National Congress, ANC.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
are selected vignettes from my ( admittedly self-indulgent ) recent
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
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.
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
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,
**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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.