Its time to accept the truth South Africa . . .

I haven’t written here for so long that I shudder to think what traction this will get, never the less I guess I write this more to get it out of me than anything else.

I’ve been reading so many articles and ‘open letters’ and comments on social media to presidents to countrymen and to each other lately that I feel my metaphorical dam has burst. The amount of times I hear, it’s not about skin colour or the president is destroying our country or fucking Nkandla is terrible makes me want to puke South African flag colours all over the place. Human beings have such a funny way of avoiding what’s realistically in front of them. They use emotions. They use hope and they use fictional parallel realities.

I’m not saying it’s wrong but it’s just not realistic.

The issues Jacob Zuma has caused and are part of are real, they are destroying the fabric of the country and they have spawned, I’m inclined to say thankfully, extremist parties like JuJus EFF and great orators (we have no proof of anything else but we hope still – see I’m doing it too??!!) like Mmusi Maimane. Yes he is destroying South Africa and no there is not a single fucking thing you can do about it. You can write open letters, you can whine on Facebook, you can tell your friends how terrible it is but the truth is he’s untouchable and it’s time to accept that. It’s time to accept that you, ladies and gentlemen, are insignificant in the process and no matter how important your mommy told you you were she lied! Get used to it!

So there are a few things you can do.

You can sell your shares. If you do not agree with how a company that you are invested in is being run, you sell. You take your money and you put it somewhere else. You don’t write open letters claiming you are here to fight and to stay and to make this a better place because no one gives a fuck and nor can they do anything. The same applies to a country. I’m so sick of people saying I want to be part of the change and the solution and rah rah South Africa. You are eluding yourself and delaying the inevitable, I wish I could tell you differently but with radical intervention we are all screwed. Now, I know I’m going to get a lovely flood of things like’ “that’s the attitude of people who don’t want to make it work!” and “why don’t you leave then” and “we don’t need people like you!”. Well the truth is you do actually, you need people who are going to get angry, who are going to be dramatic and drastic in their response because that’s the only way you bring about change. Just ask a 45 year old Nelson Mandela.

keep-calm-and-sell-your-shares-2

So you can leave, but that’s also not always realistic, its expensive, it may not be possible and for some of us (notice I say us not you) we just won’t accept some fat uneducated bastard destroying something we believe could be a sensational business (I use business because country is so emotionally useless as a term – we need to be practical, pragmatic if we want things to get back on track). So what can we do? You can march together hand in hand, black and white together to parliament and smile in your hearts about how we are united against corruption and your President will wipe his ass with the declaration you hand over after he has relieved himself on the, what I’m sure is, a gold plated Nkandla toilet seat. Or you can burn it down! I don’t mean literally, it’s possible it may come to that, of course, but you can shut this place down. You can take 5000 are your most pissed off friends and like in Hong Kong you can go sit across every major network of highway and say we are shutting this place down. No niceties, no violence (although I believe Marikana shows what our government is capable of) and no negotiation. We are going to shut this place down until Jacob gets put in jail, parliament is dissolved and we clean all the dirt that stains our society. Until that happens we will sit here, we will camp here and we will live here until you give in because we have no alternative. There is no other possible solution practically to what is going on. It will take time, it will take resolve and it will take guts. People will fight and I’m sure people will be hurt and people will die but with the greatest respect South African people, no big change happened without some sacrifice. No big change happened by marching in the morning with a snack basket and a lunch at Tashas afterwards. Change happens through disruption, through Arab spring, through Sharpeville riots, through the civil rights movement.

HONG-KONG-1-master675

It’s time to get used to reality. I’m not saying I’m brave enough to be on the front line, I have thankfully options, options to leave options to wait and see but I’m not sure I want to give up just yet either. One thing I do believe is the faster we as South Africans whether at home or abroad stop whining, stop blaming and stop avoiding reality the faster we will realize we need to fight or give up to get to a solution.

 

What Madiba really wanted for us all . . .

I’ve been reading as many articles, eulogies, letters of praise and the like about Madiba, his life and peoples relationships with him. I guess it’s my way of feeling more connected to him, understanding him better and perhaps feeling a little more a part of the legacy he wanted.

mandela_banner

Most of the things I’ve read I knew or are general knowledge but every now and again there are some of the things that I wanted to learn and understand. The piece written in TIME, Called Mandela. Protestor. Prisoner, Peacemaker (you really should read it) by Richard Stengel, who wrote the Long Walk To Freedom, is incredibly interesting. I keep thinking of Shakespeare’s quote ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them’ over and over while reading this, because this essentially is one of the greatest examples of it.

It seems in a different time and space Madiba would have been a small time rural lawyer unconcerned with anything like the global icon he became. It appears that as he progressed through life the simple basic human feeling of being treated fairly, or rather the lack thereof in his life pushed him to become the political activist that blossomed into the statesman we all loved so dearly.

It’s an interesting lesson and I think summed up so well by Samuel Dash who was an American lawyer and one of the first to visit Madiba in prison. He said ‘I felt that I was in the presence not of a guerilla fighter or radical ideologue, but a head of state.’ This was in the early 80s before anyone could have really imagined what he would become. It shows us that so often we think categorical change needs to come from radicals, extremists, militants or die-hards. The truth has been proven that great, mature, measured and the most impactful progressive change comes from men who believe in something simple like freedom or fairness.

Perhaps the reason I grow so angry so quickly about South Africa’s current state is that like Madiba, and I in no way intend to compare myself to this demi god but rather to identify with one of his feelings, the simple act of unfairness drives me mad. My whole life, the only thing that in life, sport, relationships etc has ever made me mad, raging mad is fundamental unfairness. The rest I guess is part of life but when people can behave in a fair manner and choose not to, that I understand as a reason to fight!

I realize given South Africa’s past there needs to be a period of adjustment but what we are seeing now is so far from that. The blatant stealing, corruption and greed of our president and his family and friends is enough to make one want to bury their head in their hands and weep for what would seem a wasted war waged by the freedom fighters of the 80s and 90s. They didn’t give their freedom to have the smallest few stealing from the masses driving them ever further into poverty.

The reason I fill with rage every time I see a case of corruption dropped or swept under the carpet is that most of us work, build, grind and sweat to make money and yet the political elite seem to just steal it, that’s not fair. The reason I rage is that poverty is on the rise and education on the decline and the elite are simply stealing the future from our children and our country and pissing it away on booze and fast cars. What a nation we have become.

AS I read I feel my hands shaking with anger that this man gave so much, restrained so much and created so much for a nation that has just spat in his face and continued gorging at the buffet of corruption. You disgust me, all of you.

He didn’t want praise, he didn’t want fireworks, he didn’t want fame and he certainly didn’t want riches. He wanted a nation that was fair and free. I shudder to think how he would feel about what we have become as a nation and it makes me furious, I guess I just can’t believe it doesn’t make everyone else.

 

 

Why I mourn Madiba so deeply . . .

 wpid-NelsonMandela

If you don’t know I live in Shanghai. I was a million miles away from South Africa on the tragic day of Madiba’s passing and in fact I was on conference with our Chinese partners, almost none of whom even acknowledged the existence of the man.

It was hard to be alone during this time.

Fuck! Here’s me complaining about how hard life is on a post about the man who defined perseverance against hardship. Pathetic!

I guess why I’m hurting so much is that it feels like this is the last ray of sunshine, this is the piece of social good that we have all been clinging to in the hope that some part of the ‘Madiba Magic’ that kept us together all this time would manage to find a way to get us back on the right path. Now I just feel like its gone forever and the Hyenas have taken over the pride land allowing everything to waste away slowly while they lie full and fat.

I’m not going to talk about the greatness that was and will always be Nelson Mandela. There are far more important men and women who have and will do that. History will record him correctly as one of this earths most influential, positive and triumphant heroes of good. He was the greatest obstacle to an evil that found its roots in nazi Germany and as a Jew I know all too well what may have happened had a man like Mandela and his followers not fought with the sacrifice that they did. Ahmed Kathrada was so right in his brilliant eulogy when he said Madiba was going to rejoin the A-team of the ANC.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hR6cmRaywc

How sad they would be to see just how tainted their dream has become!

I sometimes wish I could sit with Madiba in a kind of after life nirvana and ask him what he thinks of the state of South Africa today, if he believes his life was a fair sacrifice for those few gorging themselves on new found riches at the expense of the uneducated starving masses. I suspect he would be as heart sore as I am that his passing has come at South Africa’s darkest time since his ruling era.

A time when the sitting president is booed and Winnie Madikizela Mandela is cheered. A time when a rogue youth leader fraught with greed and corruption of his own, using the uneducated masses as a mouth piece for his lies, racial hatred and fake promises. A glimmer of hope provided by at least one freedom fighter of old whose morals and integrity not yet currupted. A time when the divide between rich and poor is growing ever wider and those so desperately in need of education are being swept under the rug along with failing healthcare and infrastructure. A time when the government borrows billions from off shore companies to erect tolls that the public so vehemently protests it brings the country to a stand still. It only etolls were the biggest problem we face.

Why is my sorrow for Madiba’s passing so deep. Its because when he was a strong young man faced with injustice, he took to the streets, he demanded change, he demanded something be done and he was not afraid to fight and die for his belief of what was right, not even, what was fair! What do we do? Sit fat in our brunch places and lunch places drinking Rose, Johnny Walker and whatever else will give us enough buzz to ignore the beggars on the way home. Saunter from boutique to coffee shop chatting about trivial expenses and then angrily quibble when we have to pay a car guard or parking fee. I don’t mean to preach nor do I mean to point fingers, I include my own self loathing in this ramble, but at what point do we give up, at what point do we say the evil that has been growing within is too strong to defeat? At what point do we ask ourselves where we want to raise our children and allow them an education where they can compete with the best in the world? At what point to we say the acceptance of greed, the approval of corruption, the spiraling statistic of rape and violent crime and the ever escalating cost of services along with a depreciating rand are no longer worth breathing that one full clean perfect breath of South African air on the highveld after a rain storm?

I don’t know the answer, although I do fear it. All I do know if that in a country filled with ever closing darkness, the man who always carried the brightest torch and who gave his life to fight any kind of inequality has now sadly left us and his torch has extinguished. Worst of all I see no one rushing to light their own but rather more and more hide in the shadows and enjoy the cover of ill-doings that darkness so often provides.

I mourn for Madiba, the man he was, the icon he always will be and the guiding beacon of morality South Africa is so desperate for once again! Rest in peace Madiba, the comfort of your voice, the uplifting nature of your laugh, the power of your words and the immortal authority of your spirit will be in our hearts forever. We were all fortunate to breath the same air as you, to walk the same earth that you did and to live at a time when we could learn from you.

You will be missed like no other!

RIP-Nelson-Mandela-500x300

What is to become of South Africa . . .

I’ve been thinking a lot about what will happen to South Africa, I guess when you move away from home for a while you start wondering if it’s the right place to go back to. For as long as I’ve been alive SA has been on ‘a knife edge’ according to most people. It could have gone off a cliff so many times now based on the tongues of the northern suburbs elite that I myself continue to be paranoid that one day it will all come crashing down, even though I know how untrue that is. As if one morning I won’t be able to get to work because we will have turned into Syria overnight and I’ll have to defend myself with a sawed off shotgun like a post apocalyptic waste land of some sort?!

DSC04056

DSC04077The truth is it doesn’t ever happen like that, the rot doesn’t come over night, it comes slowly, creeping and infesting. The corruption and lying and stealing start to erode away money that is destined for schools, roads, hospitals, police stations and the like, and before you know it you are living in a place that resembles a geriatric invalid that cant wipe its own drool.

DSC04047

DSC02779

It dawned on me during my most recent trip to India. The slow rot sets in and the politicians steal as fast as they can before there’s nothing left, the rich build bigger walls, hire more servants and develop services to protect their perfect bubbles, and the poor, well the poor get poorer, more desperate, more pathetic and more disillusioned. The shacks and shanty towns spread from minor locations to spots all over the city like mildew behind a most old cupboard, and the streets fill with rubbish, feces and sleeping homeless bodies.

DSC02592

It seems like a frightening picture but when you see Mumbai you realize just how possible it all is. In a place where the trusted leaders are more focused on lining their pockets than living up to a responsibility that they have been given to look after a nation, that’s when infrastructure starts to break and nations descend into darkness.

DSC02550

DSC02570

The very real future for SA I believe is the same as India. There will continue to be rich, mega rich, middle class and poor. There will be fantastic hotels, holiday spots, massive vacation mansions, world class restaurants, magical scenery and exclusive places for the rich to play BUT there will be decay on the streets, squalor in too many places to pretend it’s a small problem and beggars with children they’ve crippled, standing in groups at the traffic lights begging for anything to survive.

DSC02612

It won’t happen overnight but when you blink Johannesburg will be a very different city one that we will look at with disbelief as to how rotten and filthy it has gotten. Sadly I think this will be the future of SA unless something is done to stop the absolute disregard for the country’s long term health. I know it sounds defeatist and pathetically sad but with all that has gone on recently and what continues to transpire with no responsibility what so ever, you try and deny its possible!

 

 

 

Don’t blame Kleinfontein!

For those of you who don’t know, or cannot pronounce Kleinfontein (CLAIN-FON-TEEN) it is a small agricultural gated community outside of Pretoria South Africa that has hit the news recently for being a ‘white only / Afrikaaner only’ colony branded as racists.

I wouldn’t get involved in this story in any way or for any reason normally but I had to have a chuckle on my way to work this morning reading this because for some reason it seems that gated communities based on wealth are totally accepted yet gated communities based on the community itself’s rules are not.

Gated_Community

My chuckle started to turn to a fist clenched fist when I started to think that the people with enough money to justify a community are not frowned upon  not even for their blatant mockery of the poor merely by their existence yet a community who says it follows a set of moral codes guided by heritage is now deemed to be evil, just for the record I don’t agree with the latter either!

Don’t get me wrong, as a Jew I understand very clearly what the effects of keeping people in or out based on ‘cultural beliefs’ can be and therefor I’m not saying that these Kleinfonteiners are right but what I am saying is why are the CEOs that live in more luxurious, less sustainable and less socially aware circumstances not being punished by public opinion.

resources_we_want_white_tenants

Sure the people of Kleinfontein can hide behind some twisted logic of being part of the Afrikaaner heritage but really they are just trying to keep out certain races – lets not bullshit here but at least they accept poor people who are allocated resource, allowed to live and given work. They buy their services in bulk and allocate them honestly and fairly. They contribute to their own sustainability and they control their consumption and waste – they in effect are a functioning local municipality.

As I started thinking through this my fist clench grew into teeth clench as I started to realize once again the real problem was neither of these two communities. Both should be allowed to close their gates and operate independently because for the sole reason that they exist in a system that doesn’t work. We all do (well before I moved to Shanghai I did).

tumblr_m7u2rt8FcG1qg4knb

I wont bore you with everything that is wrong with local and national government but the simple summary is it does not work! It cannot balance the gap  between rich and poor, it cannot provide services efficiently, it cannot control crime and it certainly cannot maintain resources. So, you would think the government would welcome gated communities, a bunch less people to have to look after?

The bottom line is you cannot finger the ‘citizens’ of Kleinfontein because they have tried to opt out of society, you can frown upon them for the reasons they do so but surely you have to understand why they have done it? You have to agree, as someone whose power no doubt goes out, garbage sometimes doesn’t get collected, potholes don’t get fixed, electricity price increases, has to be wary of getting hijacked etc that this actually is a viable option. If you can get a bunch of friends together and form a community that is self-sustaining, whatever your reason is maybe its because you are all left handed for &*$# sake, one that is crime free and fully functioning, you tell me that doesn’t sound like a neighborhood you want to live in?

562419_10151882587226110_950713630_n

Sounds like a no brainer to me!

 

Blackberry just love to lose . . . AT EVERYTHING!

There is a simple reason that literally not one of the 1.3 billion Chinese people in China has a Blackberry, because they are really shit. Plain and simple.

Blackberry are another example of a company that took its prominent market position for granted, assuming its market and consumers would never change and so before it new where it was it was the least favorite device of younger users just like Nokia and Sony Eriksson.

Only in Africa do these above brands still hold some piece of market share unworthy of a snigger, I am far too tempted to say because Africa is a little slow.

Blackberry have committed every corporate sin of a sinking ship, I use the cliché on purpouse, that is possible! They did not innovate fast or well enough. Their service slipped as did their devise and OS quality and finally when they realized they needed a game changing device to bring them back, it was leaked, late and nothing to change the game.

I didn’t think however they would stoop to petty pathetic cry baby politics against companies that don’t even get sold in the same stores.

Cell C engagement ad

You see blackberry took massive offense to Liqui Fruits adverts about their new flavor. Blackberry claimed they were infringing on their brand, because if you have R1000 you are certainly going to choose between juice and a phone.

Blackberry have decided to take Liqui Fruit to the ASA because that seems to be  their biggest problem right now, not that people are getting rid of their Bberry handsets faster than Nike are losing endorsement deals. It would seem once again they have taken their eye so far off the ball you’d swear they were trying to sabotage themselves!

MTN engagement ad

Once again instead of understanding their market – appreciating its ever changing landscape and using its historical presence to engage on a new generations level it as decided to go cry to the advertising police. Personally I think this just shows how pathetically embarrassing Blackberry has become not only in SA but globally that it is wasting its time by whining about something fairly irrelevant to its existence!

Cell C

You would think SOMEONE in the marketing dept of BBerry would see this as an opportunity to partner with a very successful and youthful brand in South Africa like Liqui Fruit and create something young, sexy and ultimately convince a few more people to pledge allegiance to Bberry for a few more years rather than pushing them further out the door!

Vodacom engagement ad

Alas they still believe they are superior when in fact they are not even relevant! Everyone look quickly now, keep your Bberry phones and enjoy the last few years of a dying global giant that was something special once.

Why Oscar’s story is sad for every South African . . .

I wrote previously about this story and my views on it but since returning to China this tragedy has disturbed and irritated me beyond expectation.

From stepping back into China the first question people ask me about my trip home is, firstly, if I survived and secondly ‘what is the story with this pitos, pistorus, pistris (and any other mispronunciation)’. I read various takes on the story and on my country in every major news publication from Time to fortune to the economist and had to endure the abuse from various angles such as crime against woman, crimes against people and the legacy of both apartheid and Nelson Mandela. Everyone is putting their two cents in and i cannot say unfairly so!!

south africa

Its been more like the death of Achilles when, after his death, every soldier of the Greek army stabbed his corpse repeatedly with spears. This is what it feels like the media is doing to South Africas dying reputation.

Oscar Pistorius’s catastrophic action of shooting his girlfriend through a door and claiming it was due to his paranoia about South African daily life has finally convinced even the most ardent of defenders that SA is a war zone. This incident has made every news channel possible around the world highlighting the fictitious way South Africans live every day – in gated communities with gun collections under their beds and opening fire on anything moving in the darkness of night.

The truth is quite the opposite in fact, not that there is no crime but rather that he is a pathetic example of the real crime struggle most SAns, in disadvantaged situations, face every night of their lives. Most SAns cannot afford the luxury of guarded gated communities and fancy alarms with high walls like our dear Oscar. Please don’t kid yourselves most South Africans live a frightened life of potential rape, murder, crime and theft but most don’t have the status to make even a page in the newspaper or the lawyers to protect them when they blatantly murder someone out of personal pathetic reasons.

SAcrime_scene

I dare not comment on Oscars mental state nor the formation of his character through a life time of adversity, i cannot begin to understand what he has over come but what is certain is he had the world at his feet (blades at least). He had reached a level of inspiration for all SAns that transcended the issues people face every day, the racial legacy from our history and the frightening corrupt and inadequate state of our government and our country.

He gave hope to people, all people. This is something reserved for those SAns who achieve superstardom and perhaps there are only a handful who give the real SAns fighting their own personal wars every day, in one way or another, hope of a better existance.

His actions have not only shattered this dream for so many around the country but around the world while simultaneously completely destroying South Africas image, well what was left of it at least.  Seldom before since the end of apartheid has someone managed to destroy so much goodwill so quickly.

The story of Oscar Pistorius is sad for every South African at home and abroad, every South African who tries desperately to hang on to hope of a better future, a brighter crime and corruption free future for our beleaguered nation. Oscar has, in the eyes of the world, set us back a decade in perception and will continue to do so, no doubt, through a trial that will blame South Africa and its condition for the end crime of Reeva’s tragic death.

ads-because

The more I think about his reckless actions the angrier I get and the more I think they should hang the guy to send a message that our response to crime is as brutal as the crime itself. Then I think of the police officers who handcuffed a man to the back of a police car and drove him around until at some point he died or Oscars brother who has also been charged for killing someone while driving drunk or the head investigator who also drunk and opened fire on a mini bus full of people.

I start to wonder if Oscar is maybe just a product of the sick society we seem to be becoming. Either way what has happened and the events that have been told and those still to be spun are a tragedy for every South African and they will no doubt affect our view of ourselves as well as the perception of those around the world.

And the Oscar goes tooooooo . . . JAIL!

I haven’t written in two weeks, mainly because I’ve have been home and have pretty much gone from breakfasts to lunches to dinners for two weeks solid – in and out of drunk and sober with as little sleep as possible trying to fit in as much time with the people I love!

I suppose I also wanted to give a bit of time for this Oscar Story to resonate with me before I added my views on the matter.

Let’s be clear on a few things. One, no one other than Oscar Pistorius knows what happened that night. Two, there will be questions that will be answered, there will be lies told and there will be a decision (albeit, based on the bail hearing, it will take a seriously long time) and finally three, Oscar Pistorius walked down the passage and opened fire four times on a closed door with a human being inside. BANG,BANG, BANG, BANG. Whether it was his girlfriend or not is besides the point, he knew there was a person in there and he shot them, dead!

oscar pistorius 3

I’m not sure what the truth is, I mean there are a bunch of things I really don’t understand from someone being so paranoid they have a gun under their bed but sleeps with the sliding doors open. Why there was a fan standing outside on his balcony. Why he went outside and then came back in hearing someone in the bathroom and didn’t care to glance across to see if his ‘love’ was there to why she seemed to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom but locked the door.

For me there are too many questions that have constructed answers for this to be a case of a mistaken burglary.

oscar pistorius cryng

What irritates me though is the way everyone on the Pistorius team is blabbing on about how much he loved her and how sad he is that he could have made a mistake like this. I can categorically say that if you hear a noise in your house and get up to investigate, the first focus you have before the intruder is making sure your loved one or ones are safe, so either he was merely having hot model sex or he murdered that poor girl – simple as that for me.

oscar pistorius

The second thing that is killing me is that the defense is going to use the argument that he is so paranoid and terrified (in his guarded compound estate), painting the picture of him wide eyed every night shivering in fear, shooting anything that moved around him because of the debilitating home invasions. Now don’t get me wong, since moving I’m one of the first to point out that South Africa is not a safe place but do we really want to be offering this up to global media on a daily basis just because this guy needs an excuse to get out of murder?

oscar pistorius arrested

There are no winners in this case, not the victim’s family, not Pistorius, not the sponsors of his, not his or her family, not the country and not the legal system (whichever way this goes). It is just going to be a long drawn out smearing of shit over everything in its path, however the voyeur in me is a little upset I will miss the tabloid frenzy that this is going to create – at least there is always Twitter!

OscarNike_1677511a

Planes, movies, red wine . . .

So I finally watched Searching for Sugar Man.

Right now its Chinese New year or spring festival whatever you prefer and so the entire country is on holiday pretty much, which means I get to go home for the first time in 8 months.

This means an hour taxi to the airport, two hour wait in the emirates lounge, 10 hour flight to Dubai, another 3 hours in the Emirates lounge, another 8 hour flight and then another hour drive, all a tiny price to pay to see my friends and family again.

The truth is I get to drink champagne and decent wine for 24 hours while watching movies on a bed drifting in and out of sleep – it’s truly fantastic compared to what I would be doing any other day of the working year!

So after the first 10 hours of watching meaningless crap movies which I can barely remember or maybe I’m just trying to forget Richard Gear clinging to his acting career, Ben Affleck playing some glorified American, Steve Carrell dying in an earth ending asteroid with Kristen Stewart, I mean Kiera Knightly, and Jennifer Garner barren again (albeit this time far more annoyingly than the first with Juno) I saw ‘Searching for Sugar Man’

I had seen so much noise about it on twitter but for some reason I thought that it was another battle of drugs and hard knocked life story of some overrated over privileged musical superstar that I’ve grown numb to and the fact that it’s not exactly freely available behind the iron dumpling curtain made it impossible to see until now.

The truth is I was being stubborn – I’m a Taurean so not exactly out of character. So between the 5th and 8th glass of decent burgundy I watched Rodriguez’s story.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d seen that Cold Fact album cover a hundred times in various CD collections of my much older brothers, I had just assumed he had lived a life of music royalty. When you are a kid the world is much simpler, especially a kid in third world apartheid, or newly liberated South Africa. If you made a CD, let alone a CD of that quality, you were famous, you were rich and that was the end of it.

How naïve.

I guess so many of us believe we are destined for something great, I thought I was the only one until I read that 85% of all people think that, I didn’t feel so great after that. I suppose all of us fantasize that in some place half way around the world they understand our genius and praise us not for anything other than our ability to connect with them on some level.

This man’s music has been one of the default songs when my brain thinks about music for so long I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t one of music’s golden children, one that was adored in every city on every stage in every country. I truly believed that by the way his music had become such a household standard that he was given the credit that he deserved for as long as I was alive and so really didn’t give it another thought!

When I saw the clips of him returning to South Africa in 1998 to an audience that had believed they had lost an icon, and that base started to play, the base that instinctively started a generation singing the same song much like the Beatles or the Stones, I started to cry. I’m not sure why it impacted me so heavily, maybe it’s because I think that I was so happy that he finally got the recognition that he deserved, maybe because the people got to connect in that moment with an artist who defined their first love, first intimate relationship, first joint, first whatever but a man who completed moments for so many South Africans. Maybe I was just happy that these two great forces got to connect with each other finally after so many years.

To see this man that had lived a life of relative poverty for most of his life to at least get a glimpse of the power his music had on a generation of people he probably didn’t even know existed, took my breath away. It made me believe in the magic of great music all over again. The magic of people, the hope of stories with happy endings and the ability to be great regardless of who you think is lestening.

If you haven’t seen it, you are allowing a part of South African and global music history that will make your heart smile, cry, break and come together all at the same time disappear all over again. This man is a genius, a true genius, a genius in the way great musicians used to be before they we created just to be jammed down our throats for a quick buck and a catchy tune!  Sadly the world doesn’t always understand genius at the time it appears. I can only hope the rest of the world will be able to experience this magic before it’s too late.

Searching for Sugar Man . . .

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKXewWDh1og

Praise for a national HERO!

I find it amazing how much time we spend circulating meaningless (albeit very enjoyable) Nando’s adverts, talking about the Presidents  palace upgrades, the weekends sporting happenings and or general internet nonsense YET when a true, real life hero who has dedicated his time and efforts to giving people a better life, comes along we seem to let it slip right by – MYSELF INCLUDED!

On Saturday night I went to the Shosholoza ball in Shanghai. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Kliptown Youth Program would be performing (I had no idea who they were really, to be honest). This group of kids ran into the room with more energy than I have ever seen. Ranging from 9 years old to 26 and coming out of one of JHBs most impoverished areas, they lifted the room instantly.

They made me cry instantly. They made me cry for an hour!

They are a small part of the Kliptown Youth Program. They are the product of much hard work by many people and it would be a shame to discount the rest of those invovled  but what you can do is VOTE FOR ONE OF THEM.

Thulani Madondo has been nominated as one of 45 000 CNN heroes around the world. He has made it into the top 10 IN THE WORLD. The first South African ever to do so!

You would think this would be more important than the chicken Proteas blocking out to the Aussies or the Springboks eeking out a weekend win over a horrible English side – BUT NO. Sometimes I wonder why people like Thulani do the amazing work that they do when the world seems to be focussed only on what it can buy next or whats on TV later – AGAIN, embarrassingly, I include myself!

You CAN do something, if you click on THIS LINK it will take you to CNN HEROES page and you can vote. You can vote from each email address 10 times per day BUT the catch is the voting closes in two days!

SO YOU HAVE TO DO IT NOW!

I cannot tell you personally the amazing things these people achieve because it wouldn’t be my place but what I can tell you is that when we as South Africans have an opportunity to get behind someone like this, we should be shouting it from the rooftops! We should be forcing those around us to get involved and we should be cheering men like this as they deserve to be cheered, as national icons.

Just watch . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24ktuc5_HLE

This is one of the lights in our world and he deserves our support. His work deserves our support and if all you have to do click a few extra times today to potentially win this man and his teams project a massive amount of money and coverage, tell me thats too hard a thing to do!

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, CLICK HERE and VOTE! You have 48 hours to actually do something good!

The scrawny school kid who grew up to be Bryan Habana . . .

I had the privilege of captaining Bryan Habana at school for a while back in the days when I thought I had a career in rugby and he was then about the size of his left thigh today, so he didn’t!

I remember watching him from year to year and at some point he started putting in some serious work, bulked up over the off seasons, grew stronger, faster and really started to develop from a sneaky tiny scrumhalf to a talented, smart and agile member of the backline!

He started to make provincial youth teams and around about the same time people started saying it was because of his race, because of his father’s influence, because of a million different things other than his talent. As if he had been training for his future stardom he took this all very much in his stride, put his head down and carried on developing.

I followed his career with keen interest for obvious reasons but it never really hit me what a global superstar he had become until the 2007 World Cup. While stumbling blind drunk back to my hotel I got lost and managed to find someone to ask for directions. Once I had shown him the hotel’s name and he had pointed in the general direction he asked “Afrique du Sud?”, in my very limited French vocab I responded positively to which he burst into the boradest smile and screamed “HABANA! WOW!” that was the sum total of his English vocab. Through a haze of red wine it made me vicariously proud to have in some capacity known this kid from KES who had made such a positive impact on so many people around the world!

Today he is a household name, he is a magician on the field, he is the leading Springbok try scorer of all time, he is the highest capped Springbok of all time and he has just won his third SA Rugby Player of the year. There is certainly a case for him to be one of the all time Springbok greats.

A far cry from the young man who was accused of getting ahead because of his race.

I could not think of a more worthy representative for South African rugby. He is humble, joyful and thankful for what he has achieved and what he has got. He comes from a good close family who has and continues to support him and he without doubt deserves everything he has achieved!

Congratulations on yet another accolade Habs! You continue to make us all proud!

 

The Real Africa, My Africa . . .

Following on from my previous article I stumbled across this brilliant piece of writing. I’m not sure the source of its origin and I’m not sure of its author unfortunately – what I am sure of is how perfectly it describes our continent and how brilliant it illustrates why we are drawn to it so deeply, so passionately and why we long for its survival.

What I do know is sitting in a Shanghai office half a world away this is the first real time my heart aches that I cannot be there to withstand the pain and celebrate the victories.

I miss my home as the lump in my throat grows and my eyes fill with tears and this is without doubt the most perfect expression of why . . .

The real Africa is the one they never show you

The real Africa is hidden beneath veneer of poverty and hunger and death; a cancerous mass on the face of the earth that the rest of the world term homogenous “Africa.”

The real Africa is submerged underneath corruption and greed, underneath tyranny and an ostentatious elite, underneath the faces of the people they cannot feed.

The real Africa is buried beneath shanty towns rife with dirt and disease, where children are forced to grow up much too quickly to survive.

The real Africa is concealed under a no-man’s land of desert, bare and dry and unable to sustain green and healthy life. No, that’s not the real Africa.

The Africa I know.

The Africa that is reflected in the warm sunshine that you can feel burning inside you.

The Africa that shines from a warm, spontaneous smile.

The Africa that is at the heart of sky-high mountains and tropical jungle, of golden sand dunes and lush green grassland.

The Africa that is at the heart of different peoples, different languages, different cultures, different identities who all call this land their home.

The land where moyo multi unomera pauno; where roots take hold and don’t let go, solid as the baobab tree that has always been and will always be there, standing steady and solid against the menaces of time.

My Africa is where my heart resides even when I am long gone and far away, where my mind drifts to across the distance of a never-ending ocean.

The real Africa can be smelt the minute you step off a plane onto African soil and feel the air calling you, beckoning you home.

The real Africa is the chaos and the calm that exist side by side as honking cars zoom past on streets that run parallel to cows grazing peacefully in a field.

This is the real Africa, the one they never show. This is the place I call home.

If you a really brave, listen to this an read it again! I cant because I have a good few Chinese people coming into my office and asking if everything is ok? They wont get it even after much explanation!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g48_fqX7KJc&feature=related

The soul of a country is what gives me hope for South Africa . . .

I wrote a piece a while ago about how when you buy something it should be evaluated based on how it makes you feel rather than any other superficial reason.

I had the privilege of heading to Bali as the summer slowly slips away in my part of the world!  Firstly it is simply one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to, it sort of reminds me of Mozambique in a way, ‘frenzied picturesque magic’ is probably the way I would describe it. There is the combination of complete third world little towns in the interior and then just the most sensational spots as you get closer to the water.

I suppose being in a decent hotel helps but let’s move on.

Whenever I visit somewhere I get a feeling from it, I can be in the best hotel or the crappiest little motel (thankfully not in a while), doesn’t matter who I with or who not with and it doesn’t matter what we are doing, there is something about a place that speaks, it’s the soul of the place.

I can only imagine the hardships that go on in Bali, people are by generalization VERY poor and spend all their energy getting and keeping a job that is serving fat foreigners sunning themselves by the beach or pool (tourism accounts for a massive chunk of Balinese employment hence the dedicated tourism University). Because of this kind of situation in many places I’ve been to, this has somewhat stunted the emotion of these people and they sort of live in an existent state of perpetual emotionless-ness, but not the Balinese, through whatever adversity they somehow manage to exude only warmth, tranquility and peacefulness. I’m not one to get in the religion debate but somehow the two places I’ve felt this feeling most are India and Bali so far (both share deep ancient roots in Hinduism).

Whether it’s that or the weather, because I don’t think it’s possible to be sad in a place that looks like this day after day, I’m not exactly sure but to be in a place where from the moment you step off the plane you know that things won’t work so well, you know that customs will take a few hours to get through and you know that you will wait in traffic a lot because there’s only one crumbling road from A to B, but you don’t care. The place somehow seems to grab hold of your insides and soothes them.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about South Africa lately. As someone who left recently (most likely not forever) I have some new views on it, perhaps slightly more critical views than ever before. I’m certainly not one of those ‘completely changed my loyalty, negative ex-SAns’ but when you are far away you see things differently. When you have moved out and realize the whole world is an opportunity and you can live anywhere you start to wonder why you should live in place that is in a perpetually-semi-functional-chaos?

The truth is it’s because of the soul of South Africa. Sure a lot of the time things don’t work, the governments steals, rapes and pillages, sure we have an extremist trying to brainwash the youth, sure the president is spending tax money to refurbish his palace in rural no where and the list goes on and on but somehow if you connect with a place, like I did in Bali, it grabs hold of your soul and makes you believe anything can be possible here. If you don’t believe me ask any foreigner who is standing at ORT airport ready to board their flight back to whatever country they came from, ask them what they thought and if they will come back. There is no doubt they will tell you two things every time, ‘Warm people’ and ‘Amazingly beautiful’. They wont tell you great food, nice hotels or stupid artificial things like that because this country goes deeper than the superficial, it reaches down your throat and grabs your heart and makes it beat a little faster! It breaths air into your lungs and inflates your soul because its messy, dirty, happy, magical Africa and its f$#@ing hard at times but we all slog along to make it work!

That may be why I have ever lasting hope for South Africa, I believe in its people and I believe at some point the magic of SA will help us to change it into a truly great nation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no magical cure for the very real problems South Africa has. In fact it certainly could fail (it has been and continues to be on a knife edge)  if left to its own devices but if we continue to believe and continue to WORK for its future I truly believe we can create a country to be proud of once again!

 

bi•zarre / bi?zär/ (Adj) Very strange or unusual.

I’ve been using the word BIZARRE a lot lately, I suppose when you live in a place like Shanghai you get to use it a lot (there is some seriously amusing shit that happens here). But, In light of recent events I fear I’m not justified in using it here – in fact the stuff that happens here (no matter how strange) has nothing on whats happening at home!

You see I’ve been watching the US elections closely, I love the soap opera of it all, I think it’s the best reality show on TV. Anyway the point is, I love the way that every comment, every step, every dollar and every single decision each candidate has ever made or not made is put under a microscope and abused by the media, the public and the opposition.

It’s a brilliant system to test each potential American president (sure it’s not perfect – GW Bush got in twice) but at least it gives the people a fair indication of what they are voting for! It forces any mistake each candidate has made into the spotlight and generally the cheating lying bastards get whittled down (again I confess it’s not perfect)

So when I read an article that says our President JZ is planning to spend R200m upgrade to his compoung (not house – COMPUND!), the word bizarre immediately enters my head. Not only that but another R300 – R600m is going to spent on roads around his home. Even more bizarre. In fact so fucking bizarre that I’m almost inclined to join JuJu to insight some violence among the striking miners!!

The most bizarre of all is the way the Pres defended this by saying the area should not be punished because it is his homestead?!

Here is what the compound looked like when JZ was merely the premier of KZN in 2009 (and the fucking biggest joke is that it was a ‘gift’ from an Indian business man at the time – how the fuck did we not see this all coming!)

Here’s what it looks like today (see any small improvements?) based on ‘gifts’, ‘donations’ and some ‘government spending’. How this dude has managed to escape fraud charges makes me think that JuJu is not only going to dodge his tax problems but probably end up with the tax man owing him!!

(Do yourself a little favour and compare the hill vs village ratio in the first pic and then the second! For the full size pics GO HERE)

Just for a moment imagine you are one of the people (and by one of the people I mean the 80%+ who live in poverty) surrounding King Zuma’s compound. Imagine everyday seeing your brothers, sisters and children starving, homeless and hopeless. All the while JZ keeps building bigger and fancier pieces of his presidential compound. I cannot believe they haven’t torched the place yet!

When I talk about bizarre there could not be a better example of the word than a president, using tax money to build himself, not a small house extension but a clinic, heli pad, boarding houses and palaces for fuck knows how many concubines, and yet the public does nothing! The public strikes about low wages and miners treated unfairly and yet we all allow the finger to be pointed somewhere else (mostly at apartheid still) every time. I would really like to do a calculation on how much we could increase the miners wages if we took the R800m that JZ is planning to spend in his backyard and give it to them?

What’s bizarre is not that our President is raping us blind while chuckling at us (PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND GO WATCH THE ZA NEWS VIDEOS ON THIS! THEY ARE BRILLIANTLY HYSTERICAL!) but that we just seem to sit back and take what’s given to us.

It seems once again Zapiro has managed to capture one of South Africa’s biggest problems in one simple cartoon!

 

Them Mines . . .

What a mess we find ourselves in a month or so after the biggest police massacre since the dark days.

We have miners still striking, threatening and killing people who get in there way. We have police scared to protect whichever side they are supposed to be protecting. We have a government who as usual is doing nothing to resolve the issue but rather taking wild stabs at solutions like charging the miners with murder (so far so good guys!), we have the unions who actually are not sure how to press forward for resolution and we have a resurgent JuJu Malema who has found his new soapbox to spew pollution from (and here I was thinking we had dodged this bullet!)

This situation is like trying to disarm a nuclear weapon with a sledgehammer, by ten people, all at once!

My view is actually quite simple. Miners, past, present and future are critical not only to companies but to countries, to our country and its economy, of that there is no doubt. They have been unsung heroes for decades and on their sweating, bleeding broken backs we built a nation. Never forget that. We treat them like dirt, we make them live in squalor and we pay them scraps. You can see why JuJu and his new political party, disregarded morons from the ANCYL, are licking their lips. They have the best reason to promote violence and chaos and to be fair I don’t blame them. Fortunately we know JuJus intentions and his selfish aspirations (as well as his love of bribery and corruption) so we know upfront that he is using this situation to gain a voice and assume power again.

I shudder to think how many more people would be supporting him if his poisoned nature hadn’t come out already! The simple answer is he must be stopped, silenced and withdrawn from this equation immediately. He will spew lies and filth until he has brought this country to its knees and he will do so not for the good of those he pretends to serve but to further his own agenda. His must be removed and it must be now!

The question I still have unanswered in my mind is why has the government been so pathetically scared to get involved? Why are they not mediating and brokering peace in this bloody battle, and why on top of it all are they not regulating the salaries and the living conditions of these underground thousands? The government has the power to make sure that these people have basic living conditions, a salary that they can live on as well as education and healthcare of basic enough standards to uplift their families and children so maybe the next generation will escape this sub ground prison!

The government once again has stammered around so much that we have a madman dictator inciting violence at every turn so the ‘boers’ will come to the table, we have miners killing and being killed and we have no real way forward, not to get mines back on line nor to get the miners the extra money they need.

The real problem or danger here is that people all around the country are watching how this plays out. Workers from factories to stores to plants will watch and see if they can join on this bandwagon of wanting more and if this happens the domino effect may be one that could cripple the nation for a period of time.

What a mess we find ourselves in and sadly a government with an absent leader means we are a long way from solving this problem, especially with someone like JuJu leading the call for and ongoing mining revolution (as I’ve always maintained id still like to see him spell that)