S.O.S. – Steve on Sunday.

 

14 -20 June 2020

A much warmer day in Kimberley today than the previous two days, but still quite nippy, but for the birds an ice free bath which I am sure delighted them no end. Me too, just watching them cavort while I contemplated the situation we in South Africa are living through at the moment.

A frustrating time indeed.

Despite numerous engagements with the government over the last 40 days nicotine products continue to be banned. No freedom of choice, it is the current law of the land. I do not smoke by the way. Used to, but not anymore.

Alcohol was finally allowed after much engagement. Further discussions are underway in regard to the current opening hours. I am currently in negotiation with a tot or two of that lovely grape juice named Stony Ford. Please translate Stony Ford to Afrikaans.

Golf South Africa, after many engagements with government, has finally confirmed that golf club courses may re-open but with some heavy restrictions. I actually consider golf to be an anti-social sport, but quite possibly one of the safest to play during the current Chinese virus pandemic. You know, with the social distancing, etc. When I used to play quite regularly in my original home town Umtali (Mutare) I would only ever see the other players in the fourball on the green and tee. I would travel the hard way the entire 18 holes, including the short ones, via the rough, and believe me the rough was tough AND rough. And there were the occasional tough and rough creatures lying around too. Never forgotten finding my ball, eventually, in the rough on the far left side of the Hillside fourth hole happily nestled among several dozen young and unhappy puff adders all writhing away quite agitated about the situation. I took a penalty shot after much engagement with my fellow golfers. They thought it hilarious.

Monday 15 June: Day 81

I hope you had a really lovely and relaxed Monday planning on what you are going to do tomorrow, a public holiday in South Africa.

Perhaps you will stay in bed, if you have one, and those of you living on the Witwatersrand may well decide to do just that and stay under your blankets as snow has been forecast.

Strange as it may seem, the snowcasters are suggesting it may snow tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday in the Johannesburg and Pretoria regions, something about a low pressure system?

Well, at the moment I have a low pressure system and I am certainly not cooling down but am heating up. Luckily I can blame it on advancing age and the hot flushes that go with it. Perhaps it is the heat generated by a glass or two of old brown sherry I had earlier.

Back to tomorrow, and what you may possibly do.

In Kimberley it will be cold – it is winter – and will be cold for the rest of the week, so perhaps remaining in bed is a very good idea until tennish. Perhaps go shopping in the morning? I suppose if you are employed by the government you may go shopping as your salary would have been in your account by sunset today. If you are in the private sector and maybe still employed, you have to wait a few more weeks, and then pray you get some money.

Many of the smaller businesses operating in Kimberley that have been allowed to operate since Level 3 was introduced are struggling to survive and may not last more than a month or two. The three shop owners I spoke to today are quite stressed out and said that they are making roughly 30% of their normal daily takings. They have already cut their staff by more than 50% and now have nowhere to run. Nor do their employees.

Newspaper stories from daily newspapers suggest that food prices have rocketed 25% since Lockdown at the end of March, and with Eskom being allowed to increase the cost of electricity the municipality is going to try and make a killing. (Note that the DFA is a weekly newspaper and has been since the end of March 2020. I have no idea if they shall revert to a daily. I have my doubts).

Suffer the little children, and Cry the beloved country.

Tuesday 16 June: Day 82

Once upon a time, in the middle 1990s, I, together with several other representatives of the tourism industry here in Kimberley, went to Soweto (Johannesburg) to see what they were doing to not only attract tourists but how to keep them occupied during their visit. Perhaps or possibly to introduce the successful ventures here in Kimberley. It was enlightening as we were at the Soweto township tourist sites before any development was done. It was still all original landscape with no changes and therefore more ‘touching the soul stuff’ than it currently is. And I may add it is indeed quite a set-up for tourists in Soweto today. (If there were any tourists at the moment that is. Like myself Soweto is pretty much doomed to only local visitors dropping in and that only when level 2 arrives. So we are told).

It was on this particular visit, I think in 1995, that I “met” my mother and father in Soweto and it was quite surreal as you can imagine. (Cannot find my diaries to confirm the date, the diaries are still in a box somewhere).

There were four of us from Kimberley in the Kombi taxi that was going to take us on the township tour of Soweto and it would last five hours. Another four people joined our group, they were all from the UK and three were elderly, in other words, older than myself.

My Mum Betty had left England to take up a teaching post in southern Rhodesia in December 1951 and arrived in Cape Town aboard the Carnarvon Castle in January 1952. That was where she was given a letter advising her that her teaching post would be at Chancellor school in Umtali. She, and others, travelled by train from Cape Town to the then Rhodesia, teachers getting off at various stops all along the railway line that for the last few teachers including my Mum, ended in Umtali.

One of the four ladies with us, upon hearing that I was originally from Umtali (now Mutare) mentioned that she had once worked in that country when it was called Rhodesia and that she knew someone who had taught in Umtali. We got talking and the goosebumps got going. It was really and truly unbelievable, which of course is what you are about to read. The entire taxi group were also quite flabbergasted to say the least.

This lady, whose name I do know and have but shall not reveal, was a teacher and had also come out in the Carnarvon Castle in December 1951 and landed in Cape Town in January 1952. She was posted to a teaching position in Marandellas, Rhodesia and travelled by train from Cape Town. For those who do not know, Marandellas (old spelling) is the largest town between Salisbury (Harare) and Umtali (Mutare).

Wait for it…

I had the heeby jeebies. I mentioned that my mother had also come out by the same ship as she herself had and that there was probably no doubt that they had travelled together on the ship and on the train.

But had they met?

She asked my Mum’s name which I gave (maiden name of course) and this woman screamed. Several times. When she had recovered she told us that although she had only seen my Mum on board the ship, she had travelled the entire four/five days with her on the train. In the same compartment! It was an extremely weird and surreal experience I can tell you.

They had lost communications with each other in the 1950s and she had returned to England after only five years in the country.

Are you ready for the second part?

I am now about to meet my dad in Soweto. Most of you are of course aware that my dad Howard was killed in the Rhodesian bush war on 8 August 1976. Note the date.

The Soweto taxi stopped at the Hector Pietersen memorial, at that time very rudimentary and with no museum. There were several railway containers acting as a sort of museum, all of them carrying blown-up front pages from various newspapers during the South African ‘struggle’.

While the others of the party listened to our driver/guide, who had been a student in Soweto in 1976, I wandered off to go read the various newspaper front pages. Some may think I was rude by leaving the group but sadly our guide, nice enough chap that he was, had gone off on a tangent and despite many queries, was not really telling the group about the 1976 uprising.

So I wandered off and entered the first container.

I stopped at the very first blown up newspaper front page and there, as a side story to the main story about the ongoing uprising in Soweto and other parts of South Africa, was the story of the attack on the camp where my dad and others had been killed. With his and their names. This was The Star newspaper of a day in August 1976, possibly on either the 11th or 12th.

I was gobsmacked and speechless for some time. Which is unusual. I also shed a tear a two. Which is also unusual. Regularly on and off for several weeks.

It was an experience I can only describe as surreal. I have no other word or words to describe my feelings on that day when I met my Mum and Dad in Soweto.

Thursday 18 June: Day 84

My fellow capitalists, socialists, extremists and others,

One hopes that you are all fit and well, Chinese virus notwithstanding? You are? Good!

And because you are well in body and spirit and soul, then your mind is also well, clear and focussed, as it should be when you try and keep up to date with the changes and tweeks to the South African lockdown rules and regulations.

I do not believe any more that we shall ever get to Level 1. Perhaps Level 2, but I cannot, at this stage, see the National Coronavirus Command Council ever wanting to give up their power and control.

We are still on Level 3 but in the last few weeks have seen Level 2 and Level 1 activities added to what can be done under Level 3. A staggered and slow slow crawl to firstly Level 2 and then to level 1 is happening without getting there. Remember that Level 1 is when power returns to parliament and when everyone can do what they like to a certain degree. Because at this stage it appears that everyone can already do what they like. Except a few things which I shall come to shortly.

No simple Level 4 to level 3 and then to Level 2.

We had Level 4, 4a, 4b and 4c, not that they were labelled that. Now already under Level 3 we have 3a and 3b. It is a highly ridiculous scenario to be honest, remembering too that this is only my opinion and is not based on scientific research. I am allowed an opinion, I think…it falls under Level 4c.

Our leader or leaders have always stated that the decisions made are based on a scientific and medical base using their data or whatever.

With tears in my eyes then, how on earth can restaurants, cinemas, salons, theatres and casinos reopen under Level 3 and the Chinese virus is only just starting to make its presence known?

Methinks that the three Stooges and their many hangers-on have reached the conclusion that you need cash flow into the tax coffers to pay for all the measures they have put in place and wish to possibly add. In other words, they need the capitalist money to pay for the socialist programme. They have needed it all along of course but presumably forgot in their sudden acquisition of power and control. Which they have learned to enjoy so much.

Someone said to me just yesterday that I should be happy that tourism related businesses can sort of begin again and that accommodation venues can open.

Happy? There is still no vehicle travel allowed without permits between provinces. There are no domestic flights and I have my doubts whether Kimberley will be on the “new” tourist routes. Museums and other tourist related places can only open under Level 1.

Okeydokey. As a tourist guide I have to ask where do we take the tourists if they eventually get to Kimberley because everything is closed and if they come on a weekend, if they were allowed, where do they get a drink with their meal? If the restaurants even bother to re-open. It may be too late for some.

I suppose we could do the various historic walks but only certain ones because of the crime rate increasing. The popular ghost tour may never start again with the rules that will have to be implemented for visits to museums and buildings. Too costly and too time consuming. The cost per person before lockdown for the tour was R230 per person. Doing some sums this fee might increase to at least R450 per person. Yes, you read right so at this stage I am not even bothering to work on it…maybe later in the year should I still be breathing.

And I am only talking domestic tourism because I cannot see any international visitors coming until next year, unless they are hunters. But now, and possibly by next year, hunters cannot get to this country except by charter flights.

The country needs capitalist money whether they like it or not, but the way the wise men and women are controlling matters is a funny way of not only doing business but of thinking too.

Friday 19 June: Day 85

These fibre laying fellows are really messing up Kimberley, or perhaps I should rather say the Sol Plaatje Municipal region. Since restrictions have been eased considerably with Level 3 (d), or is it (e) they are digging all over the place. Apart from being seen closing off sections of pavements, their trench digging has also affected the power supply to residents and businesses.

Reading all the regular complaints by citizens about “power outages” these last few weeks, the reply from the municipality is to blame the fibre laying fellows. I am sure they are quite correct.

Where I stay in the old age home, oops, retirement village, there was a “power outage” just a few hours ago. I do know the power came back on at 23h30 as the bedroom suddenly lit up in celebration.

The death of Sol Plaatje himself on 19 June 1932, today some 88 years earlier had nothing to do with the loss of light? It would be great to think that someone with a sense of history had switched the lights off for an hour or so to remember Sol Plaatje.

Nice thought but nah, cannot be, merely a coincidence.

Have a good week ahead.

I thank you.

 

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