DAVID BROKENSHA ~ FISH HOEK NOTES, October 2012

 

I would like to tell you that Fish Hoek Notes is “back by popular demand”. While that is not true, one enthusiastic reader(MG) did urge me to continue with these occasional notes. My apologies to those of you for whom some sections will be familiar.

PERSONAL  AND  SOCIAL

I am sometimes asked whether I miss Bernard, who died more than eight years ago. Well, of course I do, but I am helped because I constantly feel his presence in our home - the last of the seven homes, in three continents, that weshared, from 1956 to 2004. If I succumb to loneliness or self-pity, I can hear Bernard chiding me:  Oh, come on, Brokie, get on with your life. Don’t mope. I am also much helped by a wide network of dear friends both here  in Fish Hoek and  in other parts of South Africa and all over the world. I want to tell you about a few of these friends who live in Fish Hoek.

FRIENDS

Enid, whose late husband was also a POW, turned 90 this July; she lives alone and still tends her beautiful garden; right now the pansies, strelitzias and hibiscus provide a blaze of colour. When Enid visits me, she usually brings stewed rhubarb or guavas from her garden. Enid does not drive and is always ready to accompany me on an outing. We go about once a month to a Saturday matinee at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg (15 minutes’ drive): the lastplay was Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. These amateur dramatic productions are usually good, occasionally outstanding, particularly when the producer is my friend Brenda Gray. Enid and I also go to movies; our next one will be Woody Allen's
To Rome with Love
.

Martin and Valerie West are old friends, we having met in Santa Barbara in the 1970s. Martin, who is also a social anthropologist, recently retired as the senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town. Val, a lawyer, is also retired. Because I do not drive at night, I frequently drive with them to concerts or plays.

I have a “new best friend”, Christopher, who is young (27), bright, lively and good company. We are, I suppose, an “odd couple”, but each of us values our relationship. Chris enjoys the company of my friends, who are mostly older, and he holds his own with them. Reciprocally, Chris has introduced me to a group of young (20s and 30s) men and women who are lively, stimulating and cheerful, with whom I get on well. Chris works for Nitric, an IT company, and his two bosses, Nicholas and Edward , own, below their offices in  downtown Cape Town, Alexander Bar, which has no TV.The typical South African bar contains a huge TV screen around which fat middle-aged men angrily tell the young rugby players on the screen what they should be doing, all very boring. By contrast Alexander Barhas been described as” a sophisticated and funky space filled with old-world charm and serving good wine, classic martinis, whiskies and café fare….Upstairs hosts music, theatre, stand-up, cabaret and play-readings”. What I particularly like about this bar is the diversity, young and old, black and white, male and female, and gay and straight. Another attractive (well, to me) feature of this bar is that the staff are nearly all people of colour. The evening manager is Evelyn, a confident young lady from  Uganda; the main waitress is Rebecca from Zimbabwe, and the cheerful night-watchman is Kidza, from DRC(Democratic Republic of the Congo), with whom I chat in Swahili; the rest of the staff are all black.Nicholas Spagnoletti has written two plays, one of which, London Road, has been very successful. I will be going to the opening of his second play next month. I sometimes travel to Cape Town by train, in the late afternoon, meet Chris and his friends at Alexander, and go on to a show, or dinner; then Chris, who lives in Fish Hoek, drives me back home. I avoid night driving, and also driving long distances, and Chris often helps out.In daylight I do drive - a 2007 Audi Diesel A4, manual, which serves me very well.

Although I am wary of using the term, I have been told that I act as a mentor to Chris; at any rate I did persuade him to enrol at UNISA ( which is like the British Open University), and start a degree in PPE – Politics, Economics and Philosophy. Chris often looks in on his way home - he lives near me -  and we sip wine on my terrace, with good conversation. Although Chris has not been outside South Africa, he is fascinated by, and very well-informed on, American politics, which is a staple for our talks.

One of the new friends I met at Alexander Bar is Phumlani Malinga, an intelligent, articulate, critical woman lawyer, who recently came, by train (she does not drive) to have a jolly lunch with me on the terrace. In the twelve years that I have lived in the Cape, I have made few African friends, which distresses me after my heart-warming experiences in countries such as Ghana (especially), Tanzania and Kenya.

I am lucky in having two nieces who keep an unobtrusive eye on me: Christine Moir (originally Bernard’s niece, now mine too) lives in Constantia, half an hour's drive from me. Chris and I meet regularly; we saw recently (together with Christopher, as his introduction to opera) the Cape Town Opera successful production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Christine and I also go to book launches at the innovative Kalk Bay Bookshop, which is very near me. My other niece, Judy, lives in Umhlanga, near Durban, and we keep in regular touch by phone.

DWB with Judy

Then there is Donald, my computer advisor and a wise friend. With thirty years of social work experience, he has both understanding and compassion. Donald has rescued some coloured street children, all damaged by their harsh (often alcoholic families) early environment. He is very familiar with Ocean View, the coloured township near Fish Hoek, which really is “another part of the forest”. I experience vicariously, and with shocked horror, many tragic and wasted lives.

Elke, who had a most successful professional business career, is a German friend whom I met (through an old school friend) in London,  fifteen  years ago; she moved to Fish Hoek about the same time (1999) as Bernard and I did.  She is always good company and socially very committed, having done much work encouraging African women entrepreneurs.Through Elke I met her friend, Pumla Gobodo-MadIzikela, an internationally renowned professor of psychology, who is now at the University of the Free State. When I was a boy, this University was among the most conservative of the Afrikaans universities, but today, under the inspiring leadership of its Vice-Chancellor, Jonathan Janzen (a coloured man) it is one of the most progressive universities. Pumla has done a lot of work on reconciliation and forgiveness, in the Hannah Arendt tradition. I value her friendship and I'm glad to have met her mother and other members of her family.

Biddy, who edited my memoir, Brokie's Way, remains a good friend; we meet about once a month at the morning concerts of the Lindbergh Foundation, which usually feature young singers and musicians. Recitals are held at Casa Labia, an elegant mansion in Muizenberg.

Another new friend is my GP, Dr. Madeleine Acton. As we get older we depend more on our physicians, and I was concerned when Geoff Duncan, who had looked after Bernard (and me)  so well, told me that he was retiring. He assured me that he would find an appropriate replacement and Madeleine is a gem. She is the right age, late 30s, which gives her enough experience to be confident, and young enough to know all the latest medical developments. I have supreme confidence in her. My health is good (I should add “for my age”). As I get older, little things go wrong, but they are all under control, thanks to Madeleine Action, and to Karyn Hodgkinson, my physio-therapist. My hearing is imperfect, but good hearing aids enable me to cope. However, when I go to a restaurant, the acoustics are the most important criterion, far more so than cuisine, wines, ambience, service, location or view. I often askthat loud relentless music be turned off, or at least down .

Another question that I am frequently asked is: What do you do with your days? I admit that I lead a  fairly self-indulgent  life these days, beginning with my hour-long beach walk at dawn. Twenty minutes is usually enough to scan the Cape Times over breakfast. (I can always look at other sources online, such as BBC News, and The New York Times, for more detailed information). Then it is time for a long session on the Internet, catching up with my heavy e-mail traffic.

 There is no set pattern, but once or twice a week I go out for lunch, or invite friends here; about once a month I meet David and Bill, who  drive in from Stellenbosch to see the movie of an opera -- part of the successful Live at the Met series. Each July, I usually spend a few days in July with David and Bill at their Stellenbosch home, for the Stellenbosch University Chamber Music Festival, an outstanding event which enrols 200 young students, as well as some well-knownmusicians to conduct the master classes. The new Fugard Theatre also has a programme showing movies of opera, ballet and plays. Fortunately, both have daytime screenings, which makes it easier for me.I try to have a braai (BBQ) on my terrace once a month, an easy,relaxed way of entertaining; my reliable butcher, a coloured man, ensures that I always get prime meat.

BOOKS

I have a regular roster of ethnic detective stories, particularly when they are set in South Africa: this genre is revealing on post-Apartheid SA. South African crime writers whom I like include Mike Nichol, Deon Meyer, Margie Orford and Malla Nunn. And I read popular histories and biographies, and novels. I have enjoyed all five novels by Michiel Heyns, whom I met at Arniston, and who is one of the best of contemporary SA writers.

During the last few months I have ordered several “serious books” including, remarkably, four by former colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Brian Fagan an archaeologist, wrote Beyond the Blue Horizon: how Earliest Mariners unlocked theSecrets of the Oceans. Fagan is an extraordinarily prolific writer, having written nearly thirty books, all well written and interesting.

Dan Botkin, a renowned ecologist, who was my predecessor as chairman of the Environmental Studies Program at UCSB, has a new book, The Moon in a Nautilus Shell: Discordant Harmonies Reconsidered.

Alexander (Sandy) Robertson and his wife Francesca Bray have spent some time each year in the Catalonian village of Mieres. Sandy recently wrote a social history and ethnography of the village: Mieres Reborn: the Reinvention of a Catalan Community, which hasa special resonance for me, having   spent some happy and fascinating days in that community.

This fourth book is by Will Allen, who, then using the name of Bill Allen, was my nemesis at UCSB in 1969. The War on Bugs is “an historical, anthropological review of synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use in the US.” (see below).

There is also a book by a former student, Randall Luce, Motherless Children: a Mississippi DeltaMystery.Randy did his Ph.D. fieldwork among an African-American community in that area.

 I subscribe to these journals: New Yorker, Guardian Weekly, Newsweek, The Tablet (the English Catholic weekly), Literary Review, Granta and The  New York Review of Books. I do not watch TV, so I have plenty of time for reading.

ACADEMIA

   I have practically ceased all professional activity although I did co-edit, with former student Peter Castro and Dan Taylor, Climate change and Threatened Communities, which was published by Practical Action earlier this year. My younger colleagues did most of the heavy work, such as writing the introduction and conclusion; I was content to act as go-between to our 15 contributors, which led to a rewarding epistolary friendship with Yancey Orr.  Yancey is a Native American with a Yale PhD, presently teaching at the University of Alberta and transferring to the University of Queensland next year. I enjoy my e-mail pals, several of whom I shall probably never meet, but we have become good friends.

The Bill Allen Affair

(seepp 317 – 320 in Brokie’s Way). Bill Allen was a junior faculty member in UCSB’s Department of Anthropology, of which I was Chairman, in 1969, a period when universities were wracked by protests and demonstrations arising from the Vietnam War. Allen became so involved in student protests that he neglected his academic duties and he was dismissed. He was the darling of the students, half of whom (7000) signed a petition demanding his reinstatement. I, as Chairman, was the villain. It was an acutely trying time for all, particularly for Allen, who served a year in prison, (for allegedly inciting students to riot, and who saw his career destroyed.) Recently, a colleague drew my attention to a blog, in which Allen (now “Will Allen”, because “Bill Allen” had gained national notoriety) responded to a chapter in a book describing these incidents. I sent a message to Allen, resulting in a rewarding, intense week-long exchange of e-mails. While I do not regret what I did, I now, forty years later, see that period in a different light, as does Allen, and we, to my great relief, have reached a harmonious relationship; Will, who now co-directs a 120 acre organic farm in Vermont, and his wife may even come to South Africa and visit me.  As I grow older, I hugely value harmony in my personal life 

The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town made me an honorary professor for the first seven years here. These days I go to very few of the weekly seminars, because the topics no longer attract me.

 

SPORT

Although I am not very knowledgeable about sport, I will includea few notes, because of its importance inSA. South African sportsmen have been doing well in rugby, and in the Paralympics, with Oscar Pistorius’s remarkable successes. For the 2010 (Football) World Cup, the  grand Orlando Stadium was built in Soweto, the huge sprawling African township in Johannesburg,which used to be off bounds for white South Africans. The Stadium is used primarily for football, but some major rugby games are played there. In apartheid days few whites ventured to Soweto, but nowadays a rugby game attracts hundreds of enthusiastic white rugby supporters. Some of my friends went to Sowetolast Saturday, to watch South Africa play New Zealand. They go early to have a few beers at the local shebeens -- the informal bars - where they are boisterously welcomed. What a nice change. I was pleased that the hero of this game was one of the black players, Brian Habana, who scored three tries.Habana likes to do a dramatic flying dive when he scores,as graceful as a ballet dancer.

 

 

CATHOLIC CHURCH

I belong to a small group, WAACSA (We are all Church South Africa), consisting mainly of middle-aged and elderly men and women, but one of our most active members is “Mags” (Margaret Blackie) a youngwoman who is a chemistry lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch and also a trained theologian. We seek to persuade the church to follow the resolutions of Vatican 2, which was held 50 years ago. We are neither aggressive nor demanding; we are asking, politely, for discussion on such topics as: married priests, women priests, divorced and remarried Catholics, more participation by the laity in such matters as the appointment of bishops, gay Catholics.Our Archbishop forbade us to meet in any Catholic premises, so we meet once a month in a Methodist hall. We are not alone: all over the world priests, nuns and laypeople are increasingly critical of the way the church is managed.We do not expect dramatic and immediate changes but we have made a little headway, our coordinator having met with some of the hierarchy,who encouraged further discussions.(See Appendix for our Mission Statement).

One of our speakers was a Tanzanian priest, a noted theologian –and a polite but firm critic of many of the Vatican’s policies. Talking to him, he asked me where I had learnt  Swahili and I told him about the Colonial Service and my  working with Shabaan Robert (see BWay, p 201) who insisted that I speak kiSwahilikisafisana – correct Swahili. Shabaan Robert became Tanzania’s best known poet, and the priest was amazed: it was as though I had told him that I knew one of the apostles. He turned to the others and said, in a surprised voice  ”This man knew Shabaan Robert”: but, alas, no-one had heard of this great man.

 

 

BROKIE’S WAY

Although I still have about 400 copies out of my original 1000, of my memoir, I am pleased that many people seem to have enjoyed reading it. Donald Gill kindly put this online for me with gratifying results. Donald tells me that this site gets about 1000 hits each month, from all over the world, and that most of the searchers read large chunks.

The following people have contacted me through Brokie’s Way:

Former students, some going back forty years; old colleagues; Jenesio, who was a schoolboy field assistant for Bernard and me in Kenya in the early 1970s, and is now Professor of Botany (through Bernard’s encouragement) at the University of Nairobi;

An Australian lady, wishing to contact her husband’s great-uncle, J M MacDonald (BWay p229). I put her in touch with Lizzie, who was due to play bridge that day with JM’s grand-daughter; post-graduate students working on theses about colonial Tanganyika, or modern Ghana; the nephew of Stanley Simmonds, one of whose paintings I have(see www.brokiesway.co.za/art/);

Jonathan Peter, a long–lost god-son, whom I’d last seen at Cambridge in 1949, when he was one year old; distant relatives; young anthropologists with a query in one of my fields, such as Development Anthropology, or Indigenous Knowledge.

 

Jenesio on far right

 

 

 

APPELSDRIFT

You may remember “my magical farm”, run by Elspeth and David Jack, which I used to visit at least once a month. Since Elspeth's death two years ago, the farm is not permanently inhabited. However, I do meet some of my Appelsdrift friends at The Inn in Arniston, which is run by the incomparable Davina Kirby. It is a three-hour drive, so Christopher drives me occasionally for a merry weekend. To celebrate my last birthday, May 2012, I had lunch for some of these friends at Melanie Albertyn’s lovely Country Restaurant, NachtWacht which is between Bredasdorp and Arniston.

Christopher bottom left

 

 

TRAVELS

I  made two overseas trips this year, the first in April, when I flew Emirates Airlines, via Dubai, where I spent three fascinating days with South African friends, not visiting one shopping mall. In London I had been lent the charming and most convenient Lincoln’s Inn flat of my second cousins, Irene and Hermann Boeddinghaus. Unfortunately, I had to cut short this trip after developing a persistent chest infection. In August I returned to complete my planned itinerary following my usual pattern, visiting friends and family, staying a few days with each host (hostess) in Britain and on “the continent”. This last time I flew KLM to Amsterdam, then flew to Edinburgh; train  to Thurso in the north-east of Scotland; Oxford ; Manchester; London; Kaiserslauten, in Germany; Paris; Amsterdam; Cape Town. Here are a few highlights of this second trip:

Edinburgh - Sandy Robertson and Francesca Bray, anthropology colleagues from UCSB.On all my frequent visits, we have walked in the hills south-west of Edinburgh and this time, despite the gathering clouds, we set off after lunch –and the rainpoured down. I had borrowed a weather proof outfit, and I found it exhilarating, walking (at times uphill, which is increasingly a challenge for me) in a real downpour among the glorious scenery.

 

 

 

The view of River Thurso from my bedroom

Thurso, my niece Deirdre Blackwood, my sister-in-law Margaret Thurso, and their families. I spent a rewarding Sunday afternoon with Margaret, going through my eldest brother Guy’s letters and documents about his flights over Norway in 1940. When Guy left SA In 1937, I was 14 years old, and Guy was my hero. All this time later, I was very moved by my glimpses of the early years of World War 2, and of Guy’s exploits

 

DWB with Margaret Thurso

Deirdre spends much of her weekends in the company of three of her grandchildren, whose mother recently died.  The youngest, Liam is seven years old; he corrected me, “I am seven years andeleven months old”. A bright boy, he gave me useful instruction in using my digital camera, and also in my newly acquired Kindle e-book reader. He acted as though he were the wise old man patiently helping his rather dim great-grand-son.

 


Liam with his little nephew Aaron

 

Oxford -  Kim Lake and her sons, Martin, Adam and Ralph. Kim is the widow and M, A & R, the sons of Julius Lister, my great friend from my Cambridge days. Kim and her second husband, Graham, are both showing their ages, and the “boys” had come – from Hong Kong, Sydney and Michigan, to make some decisions. We had last been together at Julius’ funeral, nearly twenty years ago; despite the worry of looking after ageing parents, we had some very happy moments.


Ralph, Kim, Martin and Adam Lister and (below) DWB with godson Adam in Oxford

 

Bramhall, Stockport, near Manchester,  Paul and Pat Baxter, also going back to 1948, in Cambridge.Paul was my advisor for my doctoral dissertation, and became a model, for me and for many others, of what a university teacher should be.

London. I had only four nights in London,where my Santa Barbara friends, Seymour and Claire Bachmuth, kindly letme use their comfortable Kennington flat. This time I invited friends to come to my borrowed flat (rather than my travelling to see them) and to dine with me at one of the excellent restaurants in this area, Kennington having been greatly gentrified since we first lived here in 1984. My favourite is Amici, an Italian restaurant, run by charming Iranians.

I spent happy evenings with:

Anne-Marie Shawe (we worked together on the UC student exchange programme, 1984-1986);

My great-nephew (really my brother, Paul’s g-n) Richard Brady. Richard’s partner is Gary Matthewman, a pianist who was accompanying baritone Roderick Williams in a Lieder recital  at Wigmore Hall, the prime venue for Chamber music in London. This was a wonderful evening, Richard having obtained second row seats. Not only was the recital superb, but afterwards, feeling like a groupie, I joined the principals and a few friends for supper at an Italian restaurant in the neighbourhood.

Supper guests at the Italian Restaurant: Sue, DWB, Gary, Richard

 

John and Carol Nellis (Kenya, 1970) and Kevin Leeman and Graham Hayter ( we first met in 1984) got on well, all having great interest in, and knowledge of, classical music. 

Kaiserslautern ( the large US Army and Air Force base in Northwest Germany) my American great-nephew Chace (aka Choogs) and his wife Cia, who is a flight attendant in the USAF,and their nearly two year old boy, Noah. I invited C & C to Cape Town a few years ago, and we had a fantastic time travelling about. Choogs and I are particularly close, and he introduced me to “Gentleman Jack”(the best bourbon) which is our tipple when we meet. On the Saturday of my visit, there was a party at C & C’s home,which is off-base, in a little German village. Nearly half the guests (all USAF) were African-American, including some “mixed” couples; I was impressed by the easy familiarity, the true friendships, with none of the tension and suspicion which I have seen in the US.

 

Noah and Cia

 

Paris, Mary Dyson and her husband Jean Bouton. I met Mary in 1980, when she as working at the World Bank, stationed in Nairobi, and I was a consultant looking at resettlement resulting froma dam on the River Tana, in the Mbeere area where Bernard and I had done fieldwork.  Mary accompanied me to the field (unusual for a World Bank official). Mary took me, at my request, to Monet’s home and garden at Giverny, what a magnificent experience – as was my visit to L’Orangerie to see Monet’s great panels.

Mary with DWB at Giverny ~ magical day…

Jean took me to the opening of the new gallery of Islamic Art at the Louvre. Jean and I both felt overwhelmed: there was simply too much to see. I suspect that the curators could not resist the temptation to include all their treasures. However, before we became exhausted, we did see some memorable art-and the walks, from the 2ndarrondissement, in the late afternoon and earlyevening, were enchanting

 

 

Amsterdam - Beata and Milocz. I met this charming, bright, young Polish couple at Davina Kirby’s TheInn at Arnsiton, earlier this year. They teach – she architectural design at Delft, he physics at Amsterdam University. Milocz spent the day with me, going to the well laid out Tropen Museum and walking around the city, later meeting Beata at an elegant Victorian style restaurant at the main railway station. I had a 7&1/2% Belgian beer, before taking the train to my hotel at Schiphol, ready for an early morning start for my daylight flight back to CapeTown.

 

PRISONERS OF WAR

Karen Horn, who is a University of Stellenbosch historian, wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on South African Prisoner of Wars in World War 2, which I read with much interest.  Karen interviewed, very professionally, me and eleven other t POWs; she had also consulted all the literature, very diligently. Reading her dissertation transported me back to those far-off days. If the topic came up (seldom introduced by me) I realised that my experiences in the South African army in WW2, and as a POW, were favourablyregarded. Until I read Karen’s thesis, I had not realised that South African POWs who remained in SA (the majority) were not highly regarded; in fact, the apartheid government, which included many pro-German elements, held generally negative feelings about ex-servicemen, and granted them neither privileges nor recognition. No wonder that most of Karen’s interviewees were bitter. Through Karen, I made contact with two of my former POW pals, for the first time since “the war”. 

In her proposal, Karen wrote that one of her aims was to find out what effects being a POW had had on us. I had never given this matter careful thought, but now I have done so, concluding that over all there were some positive effects. First, I spent my testosterone-filled years, 17 – 22,in the army, three of these years as a POW. During this time I was with my big brother Paul, and Iwas always in a disciplined environment, often too disciplined for my taste. These years gave me a chance to “find myself”. I have a clear memory of being rudely woken one winter morning, in our Dresden camp, by a German guard shouting   Raus! Raus! AllesRaus!and my resolving that after the war, I would ,as far as possible, be my own man, and not subject to being told what I should, and should not do. I do believe that this resolve enabled me to agree with Bernard, when in 1954 he told (not asked) me that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together- that was not an easy decision, then. One final benefit was that when I applied, and got, an Elsie Ballot Scholarship to Cambridge, in 1947, I am convinced that the interviewing trustees took my war years into account- not that I brought them up.

Karen has really helped me to sort out, and sharpen, my impressions, views, feelings, biases, memories of those POW years; finally, after nearly 70 years, I have conquered all my demons.  All very cathartic, because for years I have had occasional feelings of shame and guilt about it all.

 

NATIONAL

Politics

Marikana is the mine where 34 striking miners were killed by the police on August 16, stirring international comment, some calling ita “tipping point”. Lonmin mine , the third largest platinum mine in the world, includes some wealthy Africans among its shareholders. Part of the problem is that a radical breakaway union from the large National Union of Mine Workers demanded huge pay rises and instigated a violent strike in which one policeman was hacked to death. The rock drill operators, who come mostly from poor areas such as Lesotho and the Eastern Cape, are uneducated and tough. After Marikana they received substantial pay increases, which led to strikes and protests at other mines (which face increasing costs and declining prices) and in other industries, especially transport; these were accompanied by alarming looting and violence, causing anxiety amongour essential foreign investors. As I write, the violence has escalated, with several deaths and the rand has plunged against the dollar. Moody’s, the ratingagency, down-graded South Arica because of “policy uncertainty”. President  Jacob Zuma( JZ) has appointed a commission, headed by a respected, retired judge, who happens to be white, a reassuring sign given the sensitivities about race. The commission has started hearings in an attempt to determine the various responsibilitiesofthe mine workers, the two rival unions,  the mine owners, the government and  the police.There is obviously a pressing need for more effective communication, and I wish that my former student, now colleague, Peter Castro, could be invited to advise the commission. Peter has worked extensively and effectively in conflict resolution in Somalia, Ethiopia and, most recently, in Darfur in the Sudan.

Inevitably the demagogue Julius Malema wasted no time in becoming involved, calling for the nationalisation of the mines – and much else.  Malema is facing charges of non-payment of taxes (millions of Rand) and corruption. Malema’s star is, I hope, in decline: his natural allies the SACP (South African Communist Party) and COSATU (trade unions) have disowned him, accusing him of being a crypto-Nazi in his tactics.


Kgalema Motlanthe speaking at Masiphumelele Township nr Fish Hoek

This tragedy will probably encourage the radicals at the crucial annual ANC conference at Mangaung (Bloemfontein)  this  December, when a leader of the ANC – and hence the President  of South Africa - will be selected. Right now, it seems, sadly, that Zuma will be elected for a second term although the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, is a possible candidate. I heard Motlanthe speak last year, in Masiphumelele, our African Township, and I was impressed, he came across as modest, thoughtful and articulate.  Surely he’d be better than JZ, who recently spent R200 million - $25 m - on improvements and security (including a helipad, and a bunker!) at Nkandla, one of his personal homes – in clear conflict with the Constitution, which JZ and his buddies hold in low regard. When this expenditure was reported in the City Press, the ANC spokesman made no attempt to deny it, but angrily sought “the traitor” who had leaked this information to the press. “Blame the messenger” is common practice here.

Allister Sparks, one of our most respected commentators, wrote recently about JZ’s having “ a flawed personality and being an inept leader….he has presided over a widening wealth gap, a dysfunctional educational system, a potentially explosive level of unemployment, a  disintegrating public health system, across the board-service delivery failures, a confused foreign policy and declining national economy crippled by a negative attitude toward the private sector.. worst of all he has an alarming misconception of democracy and an inadequate understanding, even respect for, the constitution which he is sworn to uphold.” Sparks would welcome the formation of a new opposition party, as broached by HelenZille, leader of the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition.

I welcomed, in an earlier issue, the emergence of angry, articulate, well-informed African commentators and journalists, whose writings are taken more seriously by the ANC.  In a recent (September 30) issue of the Sunday Independent,the following topics were examined by African writers:

Corruption in Limpopo Province, with the premier accused of being involved in a Rand 314 million ( $ 38 million)  tender; Trying to cure the cancer in our society; How do we get out of all of this begging bowl quandary?; Is South Africa's dream disappearing?; Time to heed the voices of the poor; Human dignity must be at the nation’s core; Strikers’ violence gives the lie to Zuma’s talk of lawfulness.

 The writers include prominent people like Mamphele Ramphela, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and founder of the Citizens Movement, and Moshoeshoe  Monare, editor of the Sunday Independent.

One journalist blamed “rising anger about corrupt counsellors, higher food and energy prices, poorly maintained infra-structure and internecine struggles for power for poor South Africans increasingly starting street protests, which are often violent, at times accompanied by looting and vandalism.” PUI (Poverty, Unemployment, Inequality) are major factors in this increase. Residents in the “informal settlements” (aka Squatter camps) complain, and protest, about lack of housing and  sanitation, poor roads,and generally being neglected. Schools are in crisis; one depressing statistic isthat in KwaZulu/Natal alone, over 6,000 school girls become pregnant each year, often by their school teachers, some of whom rape them, others persuade the girls with money or improved grades. (When we were in Kenya in the early 1970s, this was becoming a common occurrence.)

DWB with township children at the address in Masi of Kgalema Motlanthe

 

SKA (Square Kilometre Array)

This is a gigantic radio telescope, which, when completed (at a cost of $2.5 billion)  in 2024, “will boost our knowledge of originsand future as never before”.Inan international competition, 2/3rds of the SKA will beinSouthAfrica, with out-stations in eight African countries, and 1/3rd in Australia and New Zealand.It is a huge scientific development, both in South Africaand globally. I was proud to see that Rhodes University, my firstalma mater, contributed significantly to this project. ( I will be attending a lecture on SKA at UCT’s Summer School in January 2013).

Environment

Fracking(hydraulic fracturing).Shell and another company applied for permission to prospect for shale gas in the Karoo, inanarea of 250,000 sq.km. After frantic appeals from many environmental and other bodies, the government placed a moratorium on prospecting, but this is due to be lifted. Opponents claim that fracking will be disastrous for the Karoo, an environmentally sensitive area, which is important for  agriculture. Proponents allege that the risks are small, and point to the supposed benefits in terms of energy supplies and job creation.

Rhinosarebeing killed, in both private and in national game reserves,at an alarmingrate, more than 400 in this year.

Trek fishing  When we moved here in 1999, and for some years afterwards, it was a common sight to see one or two fishing boats go out in Fish Hoek Bay, and often return with loaded nets. Now, I rarely see a fishing boat in the bay: it is not worth their going out, because, supposedly, the big foreign trawlers have almost fished out these waters.

Water. Both Cape Town and Durban (EThekwini**) municipalities have installed Water Treatment systems, because of (a) rising demand for water, and (b) forecast of  decreasing supply.

**These two names seem to co-exist. When I was a boy in the  1930s, our Zulu servant Fanyan and his pals  referred to Durban by its Zulu name, EThekwini

Misc

Tik, crystal methamphetamine, is rapidly becoming a scourge in the Cape, particularly in the coloured areas, but also in high income suburbs. It is often associated with the numerous gangs which recruit boys as young as early teens.

Gift Chikonodanga, a Zimbabwean, who is employed by my neighbours/landlords,  does the basic cleaning, twohours a week, Tuesdays 08:00 to 10:00, and has been completely reliable and efficient. Unusually, in the eight years he has been working here, he has hardly ever asked for anything. I am helping his three sons with their education :Tendai graduated, Geology Honours, at UCT two years ago, and is working in a mine in Zimbabwe - he could not get a job in SA because he is not South African. His present job is far from ideal, but after one year’s experience he has the prospect of work in Australia, joining the diaspora of so many young South Africans. Farai, the middle brother, is completing his second year in Electrical Engineering, doing well, and hoping to get an ESKOM  (our national electricity provider) bursary, and in-service training.The youngest brother, Tonderai, is still in High School.

Deaths   I am feeling a little lonely, as each year more old friends die. This year saw the exit of my last Durban High School pal, Michael Turner, as well as two UCSB colleagues, Chuck Erasmus and Tom Harding.

On the Horizon

I have much to look forward to, apart from seeing my friends, whom I think of as“ my oxygen” -

Several movies of opera, including :whatever Live at the Met offers this season; Les Troyens (Royal Opera House); Carmen (TeatroallaScala);

There will also be some exciting productions at our main theatre,Artscape :

Cape Town Opera will do Tales of Hoffmann ;

Special Thanks to Guests from Afar, a new play by my friend Nicholas Spagnoletti;

Torchbearers,“an epic piece of musical theatre” , involving a Welsh boy and a Zulu girl, in the apartheid days;

 Hugh Masekela’sSongs of Migration.

UCT holds a Summer School each January. I have been browsing the brochure, and I am considering attending some (or all) of these lectures, which consist of one, three or five lectures:

Provence; Great Zimbabwe;Great White Sharks;

Writers reading: favouritebooks (five writers, including MichielHeyns  talkabout books they are reading);

Kirstenbosch(National Botanic Gardens);Xhosa in 45minutes (!!).

I had to rule out some inviting lectures because they would have entailed driving home at night: Post-apartheid South Africa; Renaissance in Rome;   The Dying Sahara;   Views of London.

I may have a problem with the Summer School, because I am a demanding and fussy listener, I expect high standards. In the past, the best lecturers have generally been free-lancers, while some of the distinguished academics lose their audiences, forgetting that they are to talking not to  sophisticated post-graduate students, but to intelligent, but not specialised, adults (80% women), who need a different approach.

Christine and I have entered the Big Walk, on November 11. This is an annual event, with 35.000 walkers, covering distances from 5 km to 80 km. Martin and Val West and I have twice done the 10 km walk, but this year I opted for the 5 km. The Big Walk raises much money for charity, and it is enjoyable for once to be part of Archbishop Tutu’s “Rainbow Nation”.

In December I will go to the annual WAACSA one-day retreat, led by Mags.

Elke and I will go to Bloemfontein (I was last there many years ago) for Pumla Gobodo-Madizikela’s Inaugural Lecture. Pumla’s inaugural at UCT was splendid, most moving.

Sumer is Icumen In, together with the dreaded South-easter, which has been blowing strongand chilly.

If all goes well, I will spend a month in London in the Spring of 2013.

On the far horizon is my 90th birthday, May 23, 2013, which – D.V.- will be celebrated (with help from Christine and Judy) both in Cape Town and in KwaZulu/Natal. I find it difficult to believe that I am approaching my tenth decade.

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Appendix

WE ARE ALL CHURCH” (SOUTH AFRICA) MISSION STATEMENT

WE ARE ALL CHURCH is a movement of Catholics in Southern Africa who are committed to the renewal of our Church envisaged by the Second Vatican Council.

We recognise that renewal starts from our own journey in living out our faith.

We believe that renewal requires freedom for responsible inquiry and debate about matters of faith and morals, and the structures and practices of our Church.

Our vision is of a Church of love and justice in which the voices of all its members are heard and valued, and which is fully engaged with a changing world.

OUR MISSION is to strive for a Church that

  • Upholds primacy of conscience, and the need for questioning and dialogue
  • Openly addresses contemporary concerns such as priestly celibacy and women in ministry
  • Engages all members in its deliberations
  • Embraces all of its members without judging or excluding

 

 

 

 

DWB. Otober 2012

 

 

NB. Previous Fish Hoek Notes are available by clicking on the relevant date below:-

June 2011

December 2010

May 2010

December 2009

August 2008

April 2009.

Read Brokie's Way online


*Brokie's Way

* Dave and Bernard's Art Collection (NEW)

* Round the World 2006

* European Safari 2008

* Round the World 2009

* Africa trips 2010

* Bernard Riley memoir

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to access the personal writings of David Brokensha please click on one of the above links.
DWBrokensha 2005-12