Thursday, November 22, 2007

South Africa seen through the gun barrel!

All things are relative. Coming from Norway I thought it was scary and quite extreme to see the money transfer guards with bullet proof wests and automatic guns. Right after we moved to South Africa there was a period with lots of heists against money transport vehicles. I used to shy away from those vans, thinking the whole scene could explode in flying bullets any second.

The police in Norway are not carrying guns even. Only once a decade or so, when some unstable person has screwed things up, a special armed unit is called in. In the 1970’s or 80’s some time, still during the cold war, a Russian fighter plane “accidentally” like their submarines, crossed the border to Norway. A sharp alarm went off – no exercise! Many of the officers at the nearby military camp escaped across the border into neutral Sweden. Left was the youngsters still in training on how to fire a gun. This story was told by my superior officer, and whilst he was battling to sculpt soldiers, we dug down our blanks. We rather shouted; “Bang, you’re dead” than having to clean that gun once again. If invaded Norway is supposed to “hold the fort” for a few minutes before allied support kicks in. But hey, that was 15 years ago… it’s probably down to a few seconds now. They have to be realistic right? It’s a nation of pacifists! The Viking age is far gone. Only when Sweden sent us back into the arms of Hitler, did the anger and fighting spirit arise… or when you are robbed in your own house at broad daylight!!

So you can imagine what a difference it was coming to South Africa from Norway. My wife used to point out beautiful properties, whilst all I could see was high walls with barbed wires. Over time I have learned to see what she sees, but after robbery and theft those walls are fading back into focus again!

My brother in law had some trips to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) lately. He was shocked with all the people on the streets carrying guns. “Big deal”, I’m thinking. Like you don’t see that here in South Africa? Apparently young kids were carrying guns and getting drunk on the streets. We spoke to him on the phone, coz he was isolated because of some riots… and a few guys were killed. I guess that’s relatively a “huge deal” after all, even compared with South Africa!

Where is South Africa going?” What is my opinion on this… when I’ve chosen to bring my family here? You gotta have an answer to your own family for putting them through this terror!! If Thabo Mbeki manages to trump through a third period I foresee Zimbabwe #2 and he will probably die in power! Madiba (Nelson Mandela) is old, and without him as an icon… where does hope go?! You can alternatively bring a rapist and tax evader to power… and any other prospects are not likely any better. It is such a sad and fucked up picture of South Africa! I have dark thoughts about a pest eradicating all the weed and shit from this society. AIDS serves very well in that respect! With an “untouchable” kleptomaniac AIDS-minister prescribing beetroot and garlic, this is working out remarkably fine according to “MY little black book”! I must be a new Nostradamus, because this is happening right now! I can down a bottle of whiskey (mampoer or whatever) and see South Africa’s future clearly down the barrel of a gun (crystal balls are for cheats!). This is RELATIVELY BAD compared to everything I know!!

I need help to get some positive input here to see through this thick overshadowing cloud of shit! Please convince me otherwise! Otherwise I’ll cancel my father’s vacation and book my own family’s ticket back to Norway! I believe we will contribute nicely to the brain drain without thinking too highly of ourselves!!


Hell, my life is so fucking exciting these days I can make 3 full sasons of high quality TV entertainment! It would be a mix between Prison Break, CSI and Days of our lives. It would KO anything else on TV! The fact is that half the excitement could kill you due to alarmingly high blood pressure.

I am so fucking worked up and angry right now! Somebody got into our property this morning and stole 3 laptops and a cellphone. Somehow they have managed to open the gate and get in. Next step was to choose one of the 3 units, which happened to be ours in the back. This happened at 06.45 in the morning whilst we are walking around inside the house getting ready for school and work.

My wife is sitting outside on the patio having a smoke, then goes to the bathroom to get ready. At the same time my 10 year old daughter notices a black man looking in through the window, obviously scouting and looking for an opportunity. Next door he has already passed the office window and seen our laptops. My daughter calls the maid; “Somebody is looking for you Martha”, alternatively thinking it could be a new garden boy. She then runs upstairs to change into her school uniform. Meanwhile the thief takes the opportunity to walk in through the patio, the kitchen, the lounge and into the study for the loot. On the way out he meets the maid in the kitchen, greets her nicely “hello”, and walks out. Martha was shocked, and before any of us knew it, he was gone. A brand new red Golf GTI was seen parked outside the gate 30-45min earlier.

Money and material goods are replacable. What else could have happened is more alarming. The guy was brave enough to go inside in daylight when people are walking around inside the house. What if somebody surprised him properly and blocked his escape route? How far would he have gone to get away?! Very far I’m afraid judging from the stories I hear in this country! When you take such a risk, you must be prepared for all possibilities. I am quite convinced he had a gun or knife, in case! I am happy we did not loose any family members today. I’d say we were fortunate despite the incident! A thief like that, I would not mind killing 10 times if inside my house!

3 times now during a year in South Africa I’ve been robbed. The 2 last months has been a bloody wild west! I actually miss my “civilized” home country where a burglary is national news in all the media. People are generally nice there! You don’t have to watch your back every second of the day and barricade yourself inside your own house. I am SO bloody sick and tired, frustrated and angry.

The complete and utter hatred and anger is hard to handle right now! I don’t know where to direct it. I miss this thief’s face as a punching bag. I have shouted, screamed and yelled at everybody around me, family and police included for petty little things. I feel sorry for my family having to deal with me right now, but the police properly deserved it all!! They arrived 1 hour 15 minutes after the incident… which is late enough… then after 3 hours the police arrives again not knowing somebody had already been there to open a docket. Worse still is that upset as we were the police lady started shouting at me because she had to wait at the gate… The intercom didn’t work, but it didn’t strike her that it could have been tampered with by the thief. Besides we did not expect any more police by that time, and they had our phone number to get in. Second time she went on about the intercom I exploded right in her face, shouted and swore at her and threw them out – kicked out the police!

I am ready to kill the next unfamiliar face I see inside my house in a gruesome manner unless they’ve made an appointment with me for a very good reason. Better safe than sorry and no questions asked! The policeman that came later in the day for fingerprints gave me advice… off the record I assume it must have been. “You can kill the thief inside your own house. But make sure he is dead, because otherwise he will come for you. You must do it properly!” I’m taking one step back and thinking, this guy is a policeman… I level with the guy though! So far, I’ve been concerned with prevention and keeping the tsotsi’s away. When that’s useless, then you better think of ways to annihilate efficiently any threat to your family!

At some point it gets serious, and you gotta stop joking about Crossbows and harpoon guns and get down to business like your intruder. I am happy nobody was killed today. Next time we’ll flip in around and make sure only a miracle can save the intruders life! A permit and whatever it takes is an insignificant hurdle!

I wish the whole world could be advised to stay away and not fuck with my family! Unfortunately the whole world is not reading this blog, and it’s not especially targeted at the rogue segment of the population either! Maybe I must make an example of the next uninvited guest. I’m reading about the early Africa explorers facing tribes who put their enemies’ heads on poles outside the village! Moulay Ismail, a self proclaimed sultan in Morocco, was given hundreds of sets of ears as a trophy from his son. Because of the extreme heat and stink, only the ears were kept as trophy. The Sultan was very content! His intention was to send them as grim reminders to chieftains suspected of rebellion. However, the trophies pleased him so much he decided to keep them for himself. Eventually the ears were strung on cords and hung up along the city walls. That’s a clear message!

In India, the British colonial power placed gibbets on the roadside to display bodies of executed thugs. This happened as late as the 1860’s to stop the infamous system of Thuggee. I’m in a former colony too… the wild west lawless feeling is striking, and how civilized are we here in the darkest African continent really? Beating around the bush is a sign of weakness. Maybe I just have to be raw, beyond any intruder’s imagination and expectation and use some proven methods!

Can anybody recommend a good weapon for me please? Not a pussy thing, but one that can do the job and preferably finish it with one bullet?! I’ve been in the army, and among the 4 best shooters in my platoon, so I’m confident that the quality of the job is purely up to the weapon of choice. Dirty Harry had a very good point; “As I am holding a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and can easily clean your head off the body, you gotta ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?!” I am thinking an automatic would be better and enabling me to shoot short series of 3-5 bullets at the time. Given these specifications I am listening to advice and suggestions.

We have just recovered after our “friend” looted our account of 11 grand. Now, we are down again with an estimated 45 grand! Equally important was the contents on the laptops, and now I’m chiseling blogposts into rocks in lack of my dearest laptop. Who knows how soon we’ll be online again? By the time I get this typed and ready for publishing I will read it again and probably think the tone is too harsh or extreme and start altering. I know myself that well. A good trick for me has always been to hold back e-mails until I cool down. After a few hours or next day the e-mail is revised and kosher for the right person to read. This time I won’t let that happen though. I want it left authentic like it was written in the heat of everything!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Small red and black books

Living in South Africa I had to know some basics about BEE. Financial Mail was a good source amongst others. Now I’ve reached that point where I’m chaffed with knowledge on that area… I understand, but yet still not… and that’s the end of that.

I’ve been busy reading famous quotes by famous people lately… wise words… and for some reason dropped by Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book. Funny how things attract... whether it's the communism thing that haunts me, or tiny little... yet significant books. Whilst reading the newspaper today I stumbled over an ad by Financial Mail: “The Little Black Book – The ultimate network of black decision makers”! I burst out laughing before I realized it’s actually for real… not a joke! Shouldn’t it rather be The Little Rainbow Book in South African true spirit?! No wonder business is restricted to a small group of people… you probably find all of them in this little book… accounting for 80% of business.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Falling down

Did you ever see that movie “Falling down” with Michael Douglas? It's one of my favorite movies. He is stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in burning heat, very much ala Joburg, with a packed up aircon. He freaks out and leaves the car in the middle of traffic… and on his way he turns all his anger and frustrations against annoying stubborn people, narcotic dealers, a serial killer and his soon to be ex wife to mention a few. Things are basically going down down down…

I could always relate to this movie, although Norway seldom get blistering hot like that. Christmas shopping though comes very close. December is a cold month where you need to dress up with thick warm clothes. Shops are not in malls like here in South Africa… you walk on the streets and go in and out of the shops. The shops are of course packed with people who are desperate to find that last minute gift, like me. Out on the street you are dressed to cope with the 20 degrees below zero (Celsius), and then you enter the warm and overcrowded shop that easily holds 30 degrees. Often times I’ve thought about that movie in such situation when the sweat is running, and the panic attack is lurking seconds away. Then you get a sharp elbow from another desperate guy, and that’s when you wish that you had that gun (like Douglas in that fast food joint) to fire up in the air to get some attention and advance in the queue. Christmas shopping in Norway is risky!!

Except from the regular Christmas shopping experiences, I have only experienced such a rise (or drop) in temperature except for one year that we went to South Africa on vacation. From a nail biting dry 30 degrees below in Norway we arrived in Durban with 35 degrees and humidity that can be bottled. 65 degrees difference! We collapsed and stayed horizontal for two whole days before we could start our relaxing and soothing holiday.

Our mindset was of course set on holiday and relaxation, whilst Christmas shopping makes you determined and desperate to get that gift come hell or high water! You are focused on one thing only. Your increased blood pressure, irritation and any energy building up inside, caused by the sudden heat, will be directed at your fellow shoppers around and towards your goal. A sharp elbow to the ribs on the left and some foul words to the guy on your right… it will of course make your advance quicker so that you can get that damn gift! You are rewarded with a happy ending/merry Christmas… and you’re not falling down! It teaches you that next year; you can even put in a rugby tackle to plow your way through the crowd, and still make merry toasts in eggnog and cognac!

I did however have a close to falling down experience lately. I had taken the whole day off to clean out of our old apartment, and my father in law was helping. Two guys cleaning… or two cocks in the henhouse. Martha, our maid, had cleaned everything. Even the kitchen cupboards on regular occasions, but that’s blog material for later. Indians use a lot of oil in their cooking… and with my critical eye upon moving out I found where the evaporated oil ends up… under the kitchen cupboards!! Eventually I had to go to builder’s warehouse and buy one of these scrapes that you put poly filler with. Amount wise I scraped off enough oil for a few curries… but thoroughly vaccinated against curry for months! Bloody tripe and trotters&beans or whatnot!! Bent backwards on the kitchen bench, scraping and scrubbing and cleaning, I was working up a good sweat!

By the time we had finished I was tired, stinking of sweat… my back was aching, hungry and starting to get short tempered. Then my wife calls to tell me that I have to go and pick up my brother in law at the airport. It’s about 5 o’clock and the worst Joburg traffic has already set in. Bumper to bumper we are hardly moving… and my tummy is growling. In normal speed I can do that stretch blindfolded… but now we are barely moving forward and not paying much attention to my navigational landmarks and signs. Suddenly the off ramp is there, so we change lane in a hurry. We force our way through only to realize that this is unfamiliar territory. It was one off ramp too early, and this is when my father in law takes charge.
He knew Joburg inside out at one time… but a lot has happened since those days. For some reason if one of us wants to go in one direction, it’s a constitution of nature that the other one wants to go opposite or somewhere else. We simply cannot agree on the shortest or the best way to Rome. If I’m taking one way, then it must be a better way to get there. Although questioning some of his orders, I obey… Some times he is in familiar territory and spot on, whilst other times I should have followed my own instincts. I have yet to figure out when to trust his or my own instincts as he is always equally certain and convincing. All of this is subject to some friction, but not a huge deal since it is short trips for most of the time. In the rush traffic though, it is apparent that a wrong turnoff now can cause hours of detour. I am really not in the mood for this!

Driving and arguing now, we miss a couple of opportunities to get back on track… and lost. I am boiling inside now and ignoring a stop sign. It’s at a bend, not a junction even, so it’s a stupid f**king sign. Then the cops pull me over… &#%@! I harness my temper enough to smile and talk politely to the policeman. “License and registration please”; he demands, just like in the movies. “Oh… you’re a foreigner?”; he says. “Big problem!”. I’m laughing inside myself now… problems can “go away” in Africa I’ve been told, but restrain myself from making any suggestions.

It is procedure that foreigners have to be brought in to the station… The “problem” grows even bigger in my mind, as the police station is not the right place for my planned bribe. The fine is R500. Well and good, just write me the ticket I’m thinking… then I’ll pay the damn thing… one of the days and at my convenience. “On the spot, right now”; he demands! I’m taking out my Visa card ready to swipe... “Cash only”! “How the bloody hell can you expect me to have cash in my pocket”; I’m thinking for myself! What if I started swearing at him there earlier and accumulated a few more fines whilst I was at it? R2.000 cash on the spot also, how likely is it that you got that in your pocket?! My face is answer enough for the guy. “I have to lock you up then. It’s procedure!”. I’m sick and tired of general procedures by now… Although in a more civilized African country, prison does not tempt me very much! I bet they pack up that Stop-sign when they’ve collected enough money for the day anyway… This is the moment when Michael Douglas would fire that shotgun and demand a bit of flexibility! I’m unarmed though, thank god! Mom taught me to count to 10 as a toddler when my lego building f**ked up, then try again with a fresh mind. 1, 2, 3… then another cop joins in a very authoritative manner, like a reinforcement it appears. "Are they mind readers or what?"

Out of desperation I manage to reason with the guys though… and they allow me to send the credit card with my father in law so that he can draw cash to bail me out! As I’m waiting for him to return with my bail, I’m wondering whether I should be happy to have him there now… or angry about the initial detour?! The first detour was honestly my own fault… and besides, I would be behind bars now if it wasn’t for him. I love my father in law! Sanity is coming back to me in a brief moment of forced meditation.

It’s very quiet in the car on the last leg to the airport, and no more detours. A 40 minutes trip took us 2,5 hours. As we enter the arrivals terminal, my brother in law comes walking out casually. His plane was delayed, and just landed, but he was luxuriously pampered in the executive lounge in DRC. No need to worry! 1, 2, 3…. 41, 42, 43! Christmas is just around the corner now...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Useful South African words & phrases

Amanzi (Zulu) - Water
Biltong - Dried meat of various game
Boet - (Afrikaans) Friend
Braai (General SA) – Barbeque
Braaivleis -
Bunny Chow – Curry in a dugout loaf
Chaffed (Indian SA) – Satisfied, happy

Charou - Indian South African people
China (General SA) - Friend (affectionate) "Howzit my China?"
Chow (Indian SA) – Eat "Let's chow/let's have a chow" (food)
Doose - (Afrikaans) Derogatory! Box/Cunt/pussy (also used for "idiot" by some...)
Dop – A drink (originally a hottentot term)
Fokken aap - (Afrikaans) F***ing monkey
Game - Wild animals
Goeie More (Afrikaans) - Good morning
Guji/Banja People (Indian SA) - Gujerati People
Hamba Kahle (Zulu) - Go well (Bye) "Let's hamba - let's go"
Hawker - Road salesman
Howzit - SA greeting
Hoe gaan dit (Afrikaans) - Howzit (How is it going?)

Inkosi (Zulu) - Chief (respectful term)
Kaffir - Derogatory for black people (or anything but white)
Kak (General SA) – Shit
Kwerekwere 1 (In Zimbabwe) - Shona People
Kwerekwere 2 (Used by South African tribes) - Foreigner
Larney/lani - Snob, upper class
Lekker - Expressing approval! Nice

Lobola (African) - Sheep/money from the groom to the bride's family
Moffie - (Afrikaans) derogatory for gay
Moor - Hit/kill, "I'll fokken moor you"
Muti - Magical medicine (made from human and animal organs/body parts)
Muti kill - Killing to get organs for muti
Muti thief - Tsotsi "blessed" by a Sangoma and given strong muti (for bravery)
Ngiyaphila (Zulu) - I am well/ok (I am alive)
Ngisaphila (Zulu) - I am still well/ok (I am still alive)
Nyama (African ?)- Animal/meat
Pap/Puto – Mielie meal mash (staple food for a lot of blacks in Southern Africa)
Potji - Traditional pot or Boer dish
Robot - Traffic light
Roti People (Indian SA) - Hindi People
Sala Kahle (Zulu) - Stay well (Bye)
Sangoma - Doctor (Which doctor)
Sawubona (Zulu) - Welcome
Sharp Sharp! - Good/OK/under control
Sulla People (Indian SA) - Muslim Indians

Tagati (Zulu) - Bewitched
Tokoloshe (African superstition) - Small creature called upon by a Sangoma to haunt you
Tsotsi - Thief
Umlungu 1 (Zulu++) - Foam on the beach made by the sea!
Umlungu 2 (Zulu++) - White Man (derogatory ?/!)
Unjani (Zulu) - How are you?
Yebo (Zulu) – Yes

Books of interest

From Armageddon to the fall of Rome; Erik Durschmied
The Book - A Wife Manual; Caveman Neanderthalis McManus
The Dangerous Book for Boys; Conn Iggulden
Diamonds, Gold and War. The Making of South Africa; Martin Meredith
Screw it, let's do it; Richard Branson
Burton and Speke; William Harrison
Into Africa; Martin Dugard
Latitude Zero; Gianni Guadalupi & Antony Shugaar
Measuring Eternity; Martin Gorst
White Gold; Giles Milton
Am I a Hindu? The Hinduism Primer; Ed. Viswanathan
As they say in Zanzibar; David Crystal
Curry. A tale of cooks and conquerors; Lizzie Collingham
Dark Star Safari; Paul Theroux
Discovery. Journeys into the unknown
Empire of Blue Water; Stephan Talty
God-101; Allan W. Janssen
Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure; Sarah MacDonald
In the words of Nelson Mandela
King Leopolds Ghost; Adam Hochschild
Kublai Khan; John Man
Natal and Zululand; Duminy and Guest
Nathaniel's Nutmeg; Giles Milton
Samurai William; Giles Milton
South Africa: The First Man, the Last Nation; R.W. Johnson
The Great Transformation; Karen Armstrong
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857; William Dalrymple
The shadow of the sun
The Shark God
The Trader. The Owner. The Slave; James Walvin
The Trouble with Africa; Vic Guhrs
Three Empires on the Nile: The Victorian Jihad, 1869-1899; Dominic Green
Thug. The true story of India's murderous cult; Mike Dash
Tip & Run. The untold tragedy of the Great War in Africa; Edward Pace
Zanzibar Chest; Aidan Hartley

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crime, Sun Tzu and Green Mambas

People constantly ask me how on earth we could move from Norway to South Africa… and looking at me like I’m cuckoo, in delusion and not 100%. To which I can mention countless arguments… but of course there are pros… and cons! One of the cons is of course security and the crime issues here… and I assume the reason that people think we’re mad.

For seven years I’ve come here on vacation, and of course seen the high walls, the barking dogs and the “armed response” signs on the gates. I’ve seen the headlines in the newspapers. Still we have not been scared off, at least not enough to not settle down here. Once you are here though, the same stories and headlines have more effect on you. Always in the back of your mind…

Relatively, we have spent more money on housing and finding the right area with security than we would have bothered with in Norway. I’m comparing apples and pears, I know, but still! Then we’ve carried on living and felt safe and comfortable. All the stories have been about “other people”, living in less secure areas or something to that effect. I’ve been in denial - denying for myself the fact that this happens right under my own nose… but to “others”, not me!

Right before we moved from Johannesburg, Fourways (Lonehill Village Estate), there was a woman in the complex that was traumatized after thieves had broken in, threatened her and locked her up and who knows what else. The day I delivered the keys, a security guard was held at gunpoint and needed psychological treatment… Maybe “Fort Knox” wasn’t that safe after all?

Now we’ve moved to a micro-complex here in Pretoria… and security wise left more to ourselves. Considering the area and the high walls with electric fencing, we’ve felt pretty safe and comfortable. The first few days the alarm went off 3-4 times, but we knew that it was just a tree that caused it and needed a trim. For 3 months now it’s been no problem. Suddenly, Friday night at 2 o’clock in the morning, the alarm goes off! The whole family is alarmed and we are scouting out of the windows. Eventually, the father in the house, has to go out and check… and turn off the alarm. Before switching off the alarm though, I walk down to the gate armed with my diving knife that looks like a Rambo knife. Can’t see anything in the dark, so eventually I turn the alarm off and we all go back to bed.

After a thorough check on Monday morning though, we find that the electric fence was actually cut right next to the gate. Clean cut with a tool! This is in a corner towards the neighbor’s property, and I was standing right there that night… The neighbor’s wall was just for show in ancient times, and not meant to keep anybody out. With no particular effort, you can climb up that wall and face only a 40-50cm electric hurdle over to our property.

I’m talking to the armed security guards who are patrolling our area, and telling them what’s happened. “This wall is useless”; he is saying about the neighbor’s wall. Actually, it is very “useful” I’m telling them, but for the thieves! “Stairs, a ladder… or a wall like this makes no difference”! The guards are laughing at me. Are these guys to be trusted? Maybe they are bringing in some extra cash during the nights, and now finding the perfect loopholes with my aid?! How stupid can I be!! I should learn to trust nobody here I think…

“Why the hell did they cut the wire, when they could just jump over the fence?!” I’m thinking. They were either non confrontational, or stupid! Non confrontational thieves have no business in South Africa, which could only confirm once again Pablo’s second ape theory in my mind! They were just too bloody stupid to understand how easy it was… but blew it with their lack of IQ, thank god! Or were they just checking out the security measures, the alarm system and the guy with the Rambo knife… only to come back when we are comfortable and naively ignorant again?! Hmmm, which is it??? Brainers or not???

I’ve been pondering again lately… what if it happens again, brainers or not?! You can always have 911 on a speed dial… but with all the stories I’ve heard I shouldn’t count too much on the police. Now I’ve got those patrolling security guards on a speed dial… but thinking maybe we should sign up with one of these security companies also… for us privately! I still don’t feel satisfied…

Maybe I should get a weapon for self defense?! Not a gun… that would be too much of hassle with permits and stuff. As a diver I’ve wanted to get a harpoon gun. A diver with a passion for spear fishing should of course have a decent harpoon gun. If not a harpoon gun, then a cross bow! It would be silent and painful... and give the thieves a valuable lesson…hehe! As a kid I was playing with bow and arrow and dipping the arrows in adder venom like the pygmies in my Phantom magazines. I caught the adders in the woods… played with them and kept them as pets… and combined my two hobbies you might say. Nothing “of significance” fell prey to my lethal arrows back then, but maybe I should look for some mambas and pick it up again?! I know a place around the corner where mambas grow on treesThis is war, and I know my art of war! Sun Tzu says; “Know your enemy”. The thief comes to me, not the other way around, and there are millions of thieves around so it’s hard to provide sufficient intelligence for little me. I could at least make sure I see them before they see me in the dark of the night! I will get some night vision binoculars like the ones that Hannibal Lecter used in Silence of the Lambs… Hannibal Lecter, Navy Seals and Jonny!

Sun Tzu further says; “Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance”! I will let him over the wall… let him come closer and watch his arrogance grow. Peace of cake he’ll think… just before my mamba arrow hits his bum. Quickly I will change position and fire from another angle and aim for buttock number two. He’ll think there is an army on his tail. The mamba arrows will burn worse than yesterday's extra hot peri peri chicken from Nandos, and he will beg me to let him go! Reluctantly I will release him and let him pass the word around… and sleep like a baby!

Harpoon gun or cross bow? Eenie meenie miney moe…

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Black Economic Empowerment or blue elephants?

I am not heaven sent from Norway! Beaverboosh grounded me (and Norway) nicely yesterday. I do have some issues with the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) in South Africa though. That does not mean that I don’t understand… coz I do know the history, and this should not label me as a racist either I believe.

First of all, how can you use racial distinction to create a non-racial society? That’s what BEE is all about, isn’t it… racial distinction? It sounds like a huge paradox that the leaders of this country have chosen. The leadership of a country should be smart guys, so you must trust them to make a good choice. They chose evolution over revolution, and it was pretty admirable to avoid a civil war in my view. BEE is a way to level out the differences in the society! The South African rugbyteam (Springboks, who won the world cup short time ago) is bringing in racial quotas now… and people are worried that this will tackle “Bokke”. It’s a parallel approach the way I see it. I understand and agree with the reasons, but wonder if they haven't made a hurried shortcut?

I see members of the BEE club stuffing each others pockets. People in the informal settlements around, Thembisa and Diepsloot, does not benefit much. They have no ways/ability to capture any governmental BEE funding. It’s the same guys all the time… Bring forward the masses rather than the few already stinking rich guys.Companies hiring ask for AA (Affirmative Action) candidates which means pretty much anything but white. Actually darker the better… in recruitment they call it “pigment premium”! No kidding – it is very real! Darker skin gets better pay. No wonder I’m working on my tan… I should actually skip all that sunscreen nonsense! No pain, no gain, right?! My objection is that it is not always the best qualified candidate that gets the job (at least that is my impression)!

I know the previously disadvantaged did not have the same access to education… so that should be a very important approach. Just do it right! Stories about students getting better grades because of skin color flourish. The other day I overheard a teacher/lecturer talking on the phone; “I have some other AA students that I have to re-evaluate. This is an AA student, right? What mark did he get? Ok, send it over and I will look into it!” It was reminding me of a story from a university in Norway:

An overambitious student had taken an extra subject one semester, but realized that he did not have the capacity to study enough. However, he went to do the exams. He didn’t have the foggiest idea about what they asked for… but had to sit for 2 hours before he could leave, as that’s the rules. This time he spent drawing a big blue elephant, then left! The teacher was quite amused, could not pass him but gave him a 4.1 (1 best – 6 poorest and 4.0 is the last passing grade). It was the best mark he could give without passing the student. Due to a low average result on this exam, they moved all the students up to get a “normal curve”. Thus, the student passed with his blue elephant!My point is that by racial distinction and no other qualitative measure; you might end up with many “blue elephants” passing!

On a trip to Mocambique earlier this year we stopped at the Jozini Dam. Some boys where selling amethyst rocks in the middle of school hours. He was embarrassed when I asked if he didn’t go to school. Whether it was his own choice or the parents’ choice, I don’t know, but money was preferred.

I believe that school should be mandatory, like it probably is also, but forced through to a greater extent. The quality of the schools should probably also be emphasized. Provide a social structure that can allow this and make it economically viable for families. It will take time, but at least the results will come with better quality.

Do whatever it takes to force those kids to school. My father told me he “forced” me to start playing organized football. I can’t recall being forced in any negative way, but actually enjoyed playing… and thankful for it today! If the parents can’t see the benefit… then go to Mandela, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini or/and get the local Sangomas on board so that they can preach the necessity even in the rural areas! Sangomas have been used to fight AIDS – so why not for the sake of BEE?! It would probably enlighten people enough to end the Sangoma traditions… let’s just hope that the Sangomas are not bright and foresighted enough to understand!

In turn, hopefully (and I truly believe) you would get a system where candidates get chosen based on their merits and nothing else. What if only the best qualified students was funneled up into higher education… and you couldn’t just buy your degree?! Provide some scholarships in this transitional period… but give the best students a chance! Take myself as an example: I was nowhere near good enough to go into Medical School. I studied economy/marketing because that was my interest among the studies that I was qualified for. I sharpened up, matured and came out fine I believe. One year later, and I wouldn’t have qualified for the same school either, so I was lucky! Tough, but that’s life!

Beware of the blue elephants and put more focus on education… I guess that’s all I wanted to say!!

Friday, November 2, 2007

TIA – This Is Africa

I was up unusually early this morning (yesterday), because I was too agitated and pissed off to sleep! I took a walk/jog to try and rid myself of some built up excess energy. As I walk under some trees that are hanging out over the street, something drops from the tree. From the side of my vision I could see this “something” dropping, but not really what it was. Whether it was a cone, a branch or a coconut… I was incredibly alert this morning and jumped aside in pure reflex. The curious George in me wanted to know what it was though. It blended into the grass and moved… long after it should have stopped rolling or bouncing. A snake! It was a tiny little green snake. Who knows what kind and how poisonous it could be, but it was a small footstep away from landing on my shoulder.
In Norway we have a poisonous adder. It’s the only poisonous snake around, and for some people it could be no worse than a bee sting. I know though, that juvenile snakes of the kind give everything in one bite… whilst the adult snakes learn to portion out their venom. Thus, it can be worse to meet an unruly youngster than a more impressive one size wise. Size is truly not everything… and this dropping, jumping, flying marine/ amphibian snake could hardly be more than 20-30cm long… and thin and puny. Was it a tiny unruly one, old and slow, dangerous or harmless kind??? I think I will retreat from the bush into a safe and secure library to find out one of these days…
My father in law once told me that they used to climb up in the trees to pluck mangos. High up there, they used to see small green snakes all the time… really poisonous ones I remember him saying. Was it to spice up the story or were they really that dangerous I wonder now? I was impressed though, enough to remember the story now at least. I’ve been on the farm and seen those huge mango trees... and can easily imagine myself up there with jumping snakes… I’m sure my snake was the same kind!

In my more than one year now in South Africa, and several vacations before, I have seen one dead snake on the road before this. That was in a bush area close to the Mozambiquan border and far away from civilization. I knew they where hiding somewhere, but never expected one to attack me from a tree like that… It would have been more likely in the deep African jungle, but not on the streets in Pretoria?! Last week I found a tiny little scorpion on our patio. Then you know that mom and dad must be somewhere around too. I imagined the kids stepping on one on the lawn, and threw it into the braai (barbeque) coals…

TIA I’m thinking – This Is Africa! But TIA has always been a way to explain stupid, bureaucratic, slow and inefficient stuff… All the time it’s been a humoristic way (for me at least!) to make an excuse for harmless but tiresome practices. Only when a snake attacks you from a tree does TIA sort of hit you right in the face. Then you realize that this is as TIA as you can get it in the developed South Africa. All the creeps and wild animals come with the package.
Did I sign up for all this when I left Norway a year ago? The Norwegian winter is bad enough, but no deadly bugs or reptiles can survive it. The cold wipes out that factor sort of and keeps it disinfected! Maybe there is something to Norway after all? Maybe my ancestors saw something that I’ve been too blind to see before today?! Maybe there was a good reason for that great trek after all?? How could my ancestors be so stupid - when I'm so smart after all?! It does not make sense of course! This must be the reason!! Imagine what other scary creatures they had in the Cradle of Humankind back then... a T-Rex Mamba or a Megaladon Bug that is yet to be discovered and excavated maybe? No wonder they jumped that pond and over to the European side!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fucked and Abused

I'm gonna rewrite that Led Zeppelin song "Dazed and confused" to "Fucked and abused"!! I’ve had some frustrations as an expat in South Africa. Some small ones and some bigger ones, but thought I’ll not use this blog as a wailing wall. Not unless I could find some cultural perspective or justify it from some other angle. This time I am generally pissed off and I have no intention whatsoever to find a justifiable angle. I need to write off these frustrations in order to not go mad - plain and simple!

I find myself in crossfire between my brother in law and his previous flatmate - let’s just call him Ari. In their dispute Ari has not payed the last 2 months rent and now moved out. He has later broken into the apartment (lock-seal) and stolen my brother in law’s TV. Ari has also found a way (???) to reverse R11.000 out of my account without my authorization. This amount was originally my brother in law’s salary, and from this amount we payed their rent and domestic helper and etc. Ari then decides that he can take this amount out of my account… which leaves me R11.000 (about $1.600) short!

In our household we balance our spending with our income. We spend what we earn. We don’t have deep enough pockets to go R11.000 short one month and smile back to our “friend” who stole it! Ari has come to our house to eat on a regular basis for almost a year and been almost like a family member. He’s been broke and taken in by our family. It’s the Indian way… and I happen to be married into one. We have made extra food to accommodate him… and there have been unexpected times where I personally have eaten less than normal so that he could stop his roaring tummy. Then he turns around and empties 11k’s out of my account?!

I have told him repeatedly to keep me and my family out of their dispute! In return I’m asked to stay away from it… Hello!! He involved ME by stealing 11 grand! This is personal to me. It’s like sneaking up on me at night and fiddle with my dick, very personal! This is the third time (second in a year) this happens to me in South Africa, but never thought that a friend would turn around and steal money from me.

The police tell us that, because of the technicalities, the banking business is a civil dispute that we have to settle between ourselves. The police won’t intervene in this matter. Ari still had a key to the door, and although he broke a lock seal, the police refuse to open a case on this. The TV all the same and there is no way that the police will assist in any way.

Ironically I was listening to Faith No More in the car this morning – The gentle art of making enemies! Although painful, the lyrics were ever so fitting:

I deserve a reward

Cuz I'm the best fuck that you ever had (11k’s worth to be exact)

And if I tighten up my hole -

You may never see the light again

I really feel FUCKED! Not in a pleasant way… but raped and abused!! I have no desire to loose 11grand because of a dispute that does not concern me. Now both I and my wife have wasted two full working days, lost night sleep and been turned away from every authority (bank & legal/police) that we thought could assist us. I’m in a dangerous state of mind right now!! All opportunities within the law have been tried in vain, and I’m fantasizing about “alternative” solutions. If you ever read my Dog Story, then you have a clue what I'm talking about. NO, you actually have to multiply it infinite times to come close!!

I like to have good equipment in the kitchen, so one of the first things I did when we moved to South Africa was to buy some good kitchen knives. Victorinox knives to be specific, that I like and consider good quality knives. Recently the vegetable knife was used to cut bones and was destroyed. Today I went to a china shop around the corner and bought one of these butcher knives made specifically to cut bones... "pork even, no problem"; the chinaman behind the counter told me with a big smile! What else than pork I wonder... I can’t seem to rid myself of that bastard Ari!!

Even if the money was returned to me this instant I would want this guy to really suffer. A very basic caveman instinct in me wants to provide for my family. When that ability is taken away from me, there is another instinct that kicks in (it seems). Let any suspect person in and around Gauteng know that I’m in the market and open to suggestions as how to sort things out!!!