Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays

This is my last entry for 2004. Like many Gautengers I'm leaving tomorrow to invade the Mother City and look forward to spending a couple of weeks in that beautiful part of the country. Enjoy the holiday season, have a fantastic new year, and a safe to journey to those who are travelling. Blogging will resume around mid January.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Land

Zimbabwe may not want their white farmers, but Nigeria obviously doesn't feel the same way. Reuters reports that 15 Zimbabwean farmers have each been given 1000 hectares of land in the central Kwara State. They have reached a deal with the government to take separate 25-year leases on fertile land, and will farm maize, rice, cassava, dairy cattle, poultry and vegetables. "Nigerian leaders have promised that their new guests will be able to make a good living and that the development that their large-scale farms will bring to rural Nigeria's peasant economy will help the population as a whole."

Nigeria is not the only African country wanting to woo Zimbabwean farmers as allafrica.com reports. Zim farmers have gone to Mozambique and Zambia where they've been offered huge tracts of land. At a meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce in November, Acting Malawian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bill Itaye, made a passionate appeal for Zimbabwean farmers to invest in his country. Itaye said there were vast opportunities for interested Zimbabwean farmers and business people. Also speaking at the meeting, Mozambican Consul-General, Americo Chicolete, made a similar appeal. Speaking in Portuguese, he said: "You mean a lot to Mozambique, we have rich soils for agriculture. There are no land problems in the country as we nationalised it soon after independence and it has remained state land. There are no fears of land invasions and there is security in the country."

While I don't think it is helpful or even relevant to compare South Africa to Zimbabwe, I do however feel that South Africa is not doing enough to address the issue of land redistribution, and in some cases when land has been given to black farmers, appropriate training and back-up support has been lacking, and this has lead to failure. The UK Telegraph reports under the sensationalist headline "Shanty town battle sparks land grab fears for S African farmers" that land ownership is almost unchanged from the apartheid era, with 85 per cent of commercial farmland in white hands. "Government aims to hand over 30 per cent to blacks, but the date for achieving this target has been put back until 2015. Only three per cent of white-owned land has been redistributed since apartheid ended in 1994."

The Telegraph article also mentions what it calls the biggest land invasion in South Africa to date. Apparently 40 000 squatters have settled on a farm in Modderklip, near Benoni, belonging to one Abraham Duvenage. Although Duvenage has been through all the legal channels he has been unable to either sell his land to government or evict the squatters. Now what makes this story really interesting and ironic, is that the squatters are not even South African, they come from neighbouring Mozambique. The informal settlement is known as Cahora, after Lake Cahora Bassa in Mozambique.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Melrose Arch, here I come

Tonight I went to Melrose Arch for the first time. I'd never bothered to go there before simply because what I'd read and heard about it just didn't interest me, but I thought it was really nice, and I'll definately go hang out there every now and again. I guess that saying "no expectations, no regrets" came into play. Aesthetically speaking - interesting contemporary architecure and design, and excellent use of space to create an urban leisure and entertainment area. Similar concept to the development on Stanley Avenue in Milpark but obviously one with a completely different vibe and feel.

Firstly I was struck by a feeling of dislocation, of being in a completely different South Africa, secondly the thought occured to me that it felt almost bizarre to be in a space that just screamed out elitism and wealth in a country that is afflicted with so much poverty, and thirdly was just a feeling of "aha" so this is where the rich come to play, this is what this space is all about. I never saw so many fancy cars in one place in South Africa in all my life, and I saw somebody who looked suspiciously like Patrice Motsepe sitting at one of the outside coffee tables. I almost felt like I had arrived in life just by dint of being there. All in all, a vibey relaxed atmosphere to while away a warm South African evening.

Traffic

Although we are still right at the beginning of the holiday season, Sapa reports today that the number of road deaths so far this December appeared about the same as last year. About 1200 people were killed on South African roads over last year's December holiday period. Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have had the highest number of accidents so far, and ninety percent of accidents were preceded by some sort of traffic offence. Wendy Watson from the Department of Transport has expressed disappointment both at the departments lack of success so far and "at the lack of seriousness with which South Africans regarded road safety. " Road accidents claim the lives of more than 12,000 people every year in South Africa, and cost the economy around 38 billion rand.

Crime is said to be one of the main reasons that keep much needed tourist dollars away from the economy, now maybe our traffic situation will also start playing a negative effect on foreign perceptions of the country. Sapa again reports that four British tourists died on the West Coast on Tuesday night when their rental car and a truck were in a collision on the R27 route at Saldanha. It's not clear exactly who was at fault, according to the report, the tourists "appeared to have misjudged their distance while entering a crossing on the R27 from Saldanha at 6.20pm in a rented Nissan Almera." Who knows if the truck was speeding or if it's lights were working - common problems in this country. Either way, it still creates a bad impression.

I don't mean to come accross as being pious or holier than thou, but it does seem to me that the majority of our population seem to almost take a measure of pride in beating the law, I don't know if this is some sort of hang up from the days of apartheid when cops were regarded as the baddies who were agents of the system, and to an extent there is also an attitude of "oh well the cops are all corrupt so why bother to keep to the traffic laws anyway?" I wonder if the same people who promote the website where people can report speed traps and moan about speed traps are the same people who complain about the abominable road death statistics? There is just no culture of wanting or feeling impelled to obey the law in South Africa. This is something the government needs to address. It's pointless coming up with Arrive Alive every December, an ongoing permanent campaign is needed. Children should be educated about road safetly from grade school level, corruption, training and manpower in the traffic department also need to be taken more seriously by the powers that be. If not, things will just carry on they are.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Warning

Well, it's that time of the year again when most of us have to take part in that most wonderful of social rituals known as the office christmas party. I for one plan to drink until I fall over, dance on the tables, and photocopy select parts of my anatomy. I don't care what the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has to say on the matter.

Friday, December 10, 2004

New uses for pipelines

Talk about being enterprising, Reuters reports that Lithuanian border guards have unearthed a three-kilometre pipeline for smuggling in moonshine liquor from neighbouring Belarus.
"The thin plastic pipeline, buried a few centimetres underground, ran under several roads, along a riverbed and ended next to the home of a Lithuanian citizen. There was no news of any arrests. It was the fourth such pipeline discovered in the last two years but by far the longest. Moonshine vodka from Belarus is sold on the black market in Lithuania, undercutting prices of legitimate alcohol that have risen sharply since the Baltic nation joined the European Union in May. "

Quote of the day

UNDERSTANDING WOMEN (A MAN'S PERSPECTIVE)

I know I'm not going to understand women. I'll never understand how
you can take boiling hot wax, pour it onto your upper thigh, rip the
hair out by the root, and still be afraid of a spider.

This and That

My apologies for the lack of blogging lately, guess I've been infected with holiday season "laidbackness." Although I'm not on holiday yet - one more week to go, can't wait.

The Head Heeb has a fascinating round-up of the last remaining outposts of settler "colonisation". Although Israel is most widely known, there are eight other occupied areas remaining, many of them in Africa, but also including West Papau and Turkish Cyprus.

"Populating conquered territory with settlers is a tactic that may be as old as warfare. All the ancient empires practiced it; one Assyrian attempt at demographic engineering led to the legend of the lost tribes, and Roman coloniae played a crucial part in the Latinizing of the Mediterranean world. Modern empires continued the practice, on a grand scale in the New World and Australasia and a lesser scale in their other colonial domains. For millennia, the logic of settlement was irrefutable: once a territory was full of your people, it was yours. Settlement fell into disrepute after the Second World War. As an international consensus developed against the acquisition of territory through conquest, the prohibition of international law was extended to measures that make conquests more difficult to redress. Settlement of occupied territory - i.e., territory under the effective control of a country but outside its recognized borders - has therefore been banned by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is defined as a war crime." (More at The Head Heeb)

Moving right along, Wayne at Commentary has a very good analysis of the financial report of Johannesburg city. He says things may not be as good as they seem on the surface.

"The R339 million net operating surplus for a muncipality is firstly not the same as a headline net profit for comparable sized companies. There it is not regarded as prudent to capitalise profits from the sale of properties (R66 million) - as those are regarded as capital profits and not part of the core operations (in this case providing municipal services). Government subsidies of R181 million, while a windfall, should also not be included if trying to assess the peformance of the council, and whether it ultimately creates or destroys value." (More)

Staying with issue of economic development in Gauteng, Mondays edition of The Sowetan ran an article about Soweto being a developers dream. I'm just wondering why it's taken so long to realise this, or perhaps developers were waiting to see how the economy would go before jumping in, but either way I think this is really good for long-term growth.

Soweto is to be the beneficiary of a multi-million rand makeover. Development is to be a public-private partnership and will include a 14 story office complex, and high income housing developments with price tags of R1 million. Also planned is the Diepkloof Neighbourhood Centre - a R60 million project which aims to transform an 8 hectare piece of land, presently occupied by informal residents into a suburban style neighbourhood with a major shopping centre and a new home for Hospice Soweto.