Sunday 5 July 2020

SOS – Steve on Sunday


29 June to 4 July 2020

The great booze chase, no tourists by air to Kimberley, lions, spiders, Jack the Ripper, and what have we learnt since lockdown began.

Monday 29 June:

I know it is hard to get out of bed in summer let alone winter but sometimes you just have to whether you like it or not. Like if you need the loo at least twice at night when you are elderly, in other words, older than me. Like if your cellphone rings and you’ve left it in another room. Like if you have to get ready to go to work, if you have work that is.

Work is one matter of course, employment is another.

A housewife (and househusband these days) will tell you rather bluntly that housework is extremely hard work. I do agree that it is hard work and rather monotonous which does tend to make it harder to get you out of bed. Nothing to keep you motivated than having to wash the dishes (again), wash the clothes (again), sweep the floor (again), mop the floor (again), hang out the washing, take in the washing, vacuum the carpets, beat the carpets (ooh, that’s fun), make the bed/s, the list is endless so will stop there.

Now that is work. Real work.

Very different to employment. The work just described is generally non-paid unless you are a legally a domestic servant.

Is the word ‘servant’ still allowed these days?

The Collins dictionary defines a servant as “…someone who is employed to work at another person’s home, for example as a cleaner or a gardener.” It also states that servant can “…refer to someone or something that provides a service for people or can be used by them.”

Basically, a public servant, a public servant being a person employed by the government, council or municipality and who is paid by the various forms of taxes you from the private sector have to pay. They are employed – getting paid to be a public servant and generally ensure that the world as we know it merrily ticks along.

Reminds me of the 1987 song by R.E.M…

“It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine”

And one of the verses:

“Six o’clock, T.V. hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline”

In other words, all those people you see behind the many counters at the government or municipal or borough are employed, using your money to do a task or job allocated them. The key word is employed. It does not mean they are working. They might think they are working, they are allowed to. By the way, government ministers and high ranking officials are also public servants, and they also believe that they are working. Your servants, believe it or not. Not that you can tell them what to do and they will do it. There is a system that has been in use for decades and generations. That will not change.

They supposedly work their hours from 7.30 or 8am to 4.30/5pm, with the mandatory tea and lunch breaks, and then go home to recover. I am sure there are public servants who do in fact work and work hard, so if you are one of those please ignore this story. It is not about you.

Many of those servants employed by government who are using your taxes to pay their monthly salary appear to have a very good job. Certainly if you are a government minister, an assistant minister, a member of parliament, a policeman or woman attached to guard the said politician, a city councillor – these are good jobs with good pay and not too much work to do either or so it appears.

Go down the pecking order and one will note that generally, a municipal employee arrives at work at exactly 8am (if they start at 8am) and finally get to their work station at 8.30am after a cup of coffee and a chat, etc. They will break ‘work’ on and off for various reasons – no paper in the photocopying machine, the loo, another cup of coffee, a chat, a ‘meeting’ – but return in time for tea which is normally 15 minutes but these days is stretched to 25-30 minutes.

That gets you to your 1 hour lunch break which is these days normally an hour and a half. The higher your position the longer your lunch is allowed to be. At 3pm you start packing up, tidying your desk, cashing up if you are a cashier so that at 4.30pm, or 5pm, when you finish, you can leave for home and relax.

Except that I have noticed over these last few years that public servants first started leaving their place of employment at 4pm and these days, before lockdown, at 3pm. The traffic between 3 and 4pm then was heavier than between 4 and 5pm. Frightening stuff, the traffic and the hours ‘worked’ per day too.

Work, genuine work, is very different to employment. Some workers do not get paid at all. In fact, I work harder when I have no employment as I try to find a job that will pay me some money. Times are tough for those of us in private employment if we have a job, and even tougher if we do not.

Those of us fortunate enough to have employment are considered to be blessed. You are. And you work hard for your money too I am sure. As an employee of commerce and industry during lockdown in South Africa, you may not have received any money at all for a few months because the business was temporarily shut. You may even have lost your job. Whether you worked hard or not.

I am also quite sure that you are pleased that all public servants received their monthly pay whether their department was open or not during the lockdown period. So too all government ministers, members of parliament, councillors, as well as all government and council employees.

No financial worries for our public servants in South Africa.

Whether they ‘work’ or not, they are employed.

No financial worries yet anyway, but the taxes that pay their salaries are getting less and less. Rapidly.

The money tree is falling. Like many of the trees in Kimberley’s cemeteries have been cut down for fire wood, the massive money tree that churns out the ‘geld’ is not just being cut for fire wood, but is also nearly dead because of the various diseases that have eaten away at the very core of its existence. The bark and leaves are long gone, it is the roots that are busy decaying.

Ag, never mind, just have a brandy and coke, all will be fine. Of course it will. And to make sure that you really relax in the knowledge that all shall indeed be fine, sit back in your easy or camp chair and light up a cigarette.

You’ve worked hard so…after action, satisfaction.

Things go better with a (banned).

Have a good day.

Tuesday 30 June:

It was quite nippy earlier today which ensured I stayed under the blankets just that little bit longer. When I eventually arose from my bed I also used a heater for the first time this winter, a fan heater kindly donated to self by a keen examiner of bird life, and did it help the old arthritic joints..

Sadly I have to pay for the electricity, but in life, most things have to be paid for in one way or another.

Like the lockdown. Shutting businesses (and life as we know it) down because of the vir*s that originated in C**na has to be paid for somehow. Many businesses have not re-opened yet and many will not do so ever again. Our economy, as those resident in South Africa are well aware, was in junk mode before the shut down in March.

Can you get lower than junk mode?

Some restaurants, casinos, etc, have now re-opened, but you cannot have alcohol served with your meal. Why not?

It appears the main reason is that alcohol attracts crowds to bars, clubs, taverns, shebeens, etc which does not encourage social distancing whatsoever. Even I understand that. Most of those places just mentioned also serve a basic menu so would pass for ‘restaurants’ and therefore they would now be able to open and serve customers with food (and alcohol). Hence the ban on restaurants (as I know them) from serving alcohol.

Had to do some essential shopping today. Not as exciting under Level 3 (g) lockdown as it was under Level 4 when we had to duck and dive to miss the oh so many numerous police and military roadblocks set up to catch us criminals doing illegal break outs from our homes.

That was very exciting!

I do know of several acquaintances that actually took on the law and order chappies and chappesses by u-turning and driving away at speed. They were not caught despite many sirens being used.

(Do you remember Chappies bubble gum?)

One such acquaintance – there were two of them actually – had a large consignment of alcohol in the back of their bakkie (pick up). Illegally acquired alcohol of course despite having bought it at a registered bottle store out of hours and from the back door. It was against the law to buy or sell alcohol if one remembers. Still cannot buy alcohol on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so people just stock up and carry on as before. Human beings adjust.

Anyway, these two acquaintances, also feeling quite mellow themselves after having had a few quiet ones, were merrily rolling along in their vehicle between a certain village close to Kimberley on the Cape Town road and heading in the direction of the city of diamonds.

Remember that under Level 4 each vehicle had to have a valid reason for travelling and have a certificate for such travel unless it was a medical emergency.

Anyway, they drove over a rise and all of a sudden ahead of them saw a police road block – about a kilometre ahead. The bakkie sort of automatically did a U-turn at speed and headed back towards Cape Town. Rapidly.

They soon turned off on to a (handily placed) side road that crossed the adjacent railway line, the passenger quickly disembarking the bakkie and diving into the bushes to hide. Sirens could be heard in the distance – the goody two shoes in blue had seen the U turn and were on the hunt, except they were now some little time behind the u-turners.

The driver of the naughty bakkie continued along the gravel road next to the railway line and found a railway culvert well hidden from the tar road that was not too far away. He stopped and off loaded the alcohol under the culvert, hiding it as well he could under the circumstances. And then waited.

The chasing sirens, a mere 70 metres away as the crow flies and on the tar road, went straight past the hiding place, heading for Cape Town. First a fast car and then two slower vans a half minute behind the car. All three sirens were at the same volume.

In these days of easy communication, the passenger, hiding in thick bushes close to the tar road, was able to report to the hidden driver with bakkie, about 30 minutes later, that the vehicles had passed him and returned to their road block.

After waiting another 30 minutes or so, and washing their dust filled throats with some banned liquid substance known as ‘Kasteel’ (castle), the illegal booze was loaded once again, the passenger having walked to where the bakkie was hidden.

The twosome then returned to the village they had bought the illegal firewater, waited for night fall and then returned to Kimberley by a much longer gravel route rather than the tar road.

I never had such excitement although I did manage to miss 97.5% of road blocks set up during Levels 5 and 4.

By the way. Whatever has happened to the hundreds and hundreds of men and women dressed in blue who manned (womanned) the road blocks? They have disappeared, we don’t see them and the criminals don’t see them either.

Crime has rocketed in all Kimberley suburbs since the start of Level 3 (d) and is now rampant. But it’s fine, so I hear, as one of the major politicians says that it keeps the economy turning along. Google it if you do not believe me – it is in a story to do with illegal cigarettes.

Wednesday 1 July:

The midwinter solstice has come and gone here in the southern hemisphere and summer is on its way back. Naturally in the northern hemisphere winter is coming a little bit closer to you each day.

And in lockdown Level 3 (e) in South Africa we are on Day 97 and the peak of the plague is not yet upon us according to all the experts, a team of which I am not yet a member. And never will be looking at my medical and other qualifications. In fact, looking at said qualifications, I should be on the street and at the traffic lights shaking a noisy tin at the masked drivers. Not that the drivers are masked.

Today while doing some very careful exercising near the massive monument to the British dead of the siege of Kimberley I counted how many people in the first 50 vehicles coming past me how many were in fact wearing masks.

Eight. That’s all folks, well done. That’s a magnificent 16%, not even anywhere near the 30% matric pass rate. I also counted eleven people on their cellphone/mobiles (22%) and 23 persons not wearing their seatbelts. At least the latter got a matric pass rate of 46%. Very pleased that we are a law abiding nation, augurs well for when we peak during the current plague.

Every now and again we in Kimberley look to the skies in disbelief as a jet powered aircraft flies over. Unused to such things since the end of March when lockdown began, it is quite frightening to many children (and even adults) who have already reverted to ox-wagons and donkey driven Cape carts driven by interesting people with a length of grass clamped between their teeth and wearing dungarees.

These occasional jets can only be delivering or collecting our appointed and intrepid leaders, perhaps even from the mighty National Coronavirus Command Council! More likely the local Northern Cape Command Council to-ing and fro-ing from the hub of the nation’s junked economy in Gauteng.

Perhaps our local leaders were involved in choosing the routes for when travel by air is once more allowed – allowed from today (1 July) but not to and from Kimberley.

Why not?

Kimberley does not even get a mention about why it is not included in destinations now allowed for air travel but two other airports also not given the green light, George and East London “…will remain shut as they are not yet ready to comply with all lockdown guidelines.”

“Other airports will follow once all the mechanisms needed at those airports are in place.” Which, I think, may include Kimberley. Might.

Here comes the interesting part. Are you ready?

“All international flights are prohibited, except those authorised by the Minister of Transport working together with DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) where it relates to the flights for the repatriation of citizens.”

Okay, we can understand that. What about domestic flights?

Domestic travel by air is permitted for business purposes and essential services while “recreational” passenger travel by air has been “strongly discouraged.” Please note that recreational travel is not banned but is strongly discouraged.

Airports that have been permitted to open as from today, other than the Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town airports that never really closed, are Bram Fischer Airport in Bloemfontein, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Pietermaritzburg Airport, Port Elizabeth Airport, Skukuza Airport, Richards Bay Airport, and the Upington Airport.

Note no Kimberley.

So there is no international travel permitted while domestic travel for recreational purposes is discouraged.

So why on earth are the Kruger airport and the Skukuza airport allowed to open? I can understand the Kruger which serves both Mbombela (Nelspruit) and the Kruger game reserve but Skukuza? Skukuza only serves the Kruger game reserve. Surely there is no business or essential services at Skukuza?

Oh yes, I see the plan unfolding…they are getting ready for the return of international tourists! Yes! Cannot say “we” as I live in Kimberley and it appears we are not on the “way forward” plans for tourism in South Africa.

I must remind the six readers – note the jump from 4 to 6 – that Kimberley’s economy has always been dependent on the diamond mines. The mines are very near their shut down date, only two of the five big mines still operating. The recycling of the dump tailings will last perhaps another eight or so years. That’s it. No other industry other than government and local government, and please remember that Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape province.

But flights are now allowed to and from Upington, the Northern Cape’s second largest town/city.

The last census (in 2011) states that Kimberley has 225160 residents and Upington 74834 residents. You must add a few more thousands as we are now 9 years on…

Upington more important than Kimberley?


But why Upington and not Kimberley?

It is simple. Upington is the gateway to Namibia. It is also the gateway to the natural attractions of the Augrabies waterfall (and game park) and to the Kgalagadi transfrontier game park. Augrabies is one hour away and the Kgalagadi roughly four hours away from Upington.

All the other airports allowed to open from today are linked to tourism in one way or another.

Another probable reason why Kimberley has been left off is that the air route planners, in their infinite wisdom, have looked at the map and decided that anyone who wishes to get to Kimberley can just go to Bloemfontein and then on to Kimberley. It is only 150 or so kilometres between the two cities.

Easy peasy.

Except that travel between provinces is still sort-of banned. Perhaps if one goes by taxi it is fine. I have no idea of the rules, if any, for long distance taxis.

Tourism for Kimberley is a four day experience for tourists without including the battlefields. If you can get here.

It is sad that while the rest of the country, tourism wise, is getting ready, Kimberley has been shovelled to one side.

It is to be hoped that the tourism “authorities” in Kimberley, the Frances Baard District Council tourism section and the Sol Plaatje tourism office, react accordingly and start promotng the city and immediate region.

We cannot depend on the NC Tourism Authority to act, they have already as it certainly appears that Upington is ahead of Kimberley on their perceived list of tourist attractions.

Footnote: Upington is an international airport for cargo and not for passengers. This is to simplify the export of grapes directly to international destinations.

Thursday 2 July:

Welcome to the land where the sun always warms your back – even in winter, and where lions and rhinos are a mere half an hour away from wherever you may be. Not necessarily ‘wild’ lions and rhinos as in wandering around looking good and creating havoc, but lions and rhinos in game parks, reserves private and national, and rehabilitation centres. The re-opening of reserves and game parks has been a blessing in that we (in South Africa) can now enter said parks etc and view the animals in their natural habitat. That we are restricted in remaining in our vehicles and not getting out at picnic or braaivleis (barbeque) facilities is immaterial. It is just lovely to see the magnificent sable, roan, buffalo, eland, kudu, springbok, impala, nyala, oryx, giraffe and rhinoceros in parks and reserves near Kimberley.
There are big cats in some of the private reserves and parks, but no elephants.

Based on the drawings and engravings by the original inhabitants of this land South Africa, the Khoisan (known to the world as the ‘bushman’), elephants did once roam this hot and arid region. As did most species of southern African animals until man arrived with his weapons of mass destruction (for animals).

The Boers in the late 1800s had a saying that “…sheep drive lions away.” That is to say, it is impossible to keep sheep where there are lions, so that one or another must go; and sheep have the help of man on their side. Charles Warren, later General Sir Charles, who drew up the boundary between the Cape colony and the then Boer Republic of the Orange Free State in 1876, recorded in his diary that year that in 1873 “…there were lions prowling about here at night…but now they are never heard of.”

This at what is now the town of Warrenton, 77 kilometres northwards from Kimberley.

He also added, probably in horror, that “…there are plenty of snakes about…” Does not mention spiders at all which is good news for me and others who suffer from arachnophobia. I have read up about this fear of spiders as all should, but sadly I believe that the only good spider is a dead one. Other than the daddy long legs and the flatty that nails the mosquito. Don’t shake your head, Gavin Ford.

Incidentally, although I am sure the six readers of this blurb are aware, the same Charles Warren was the General who led the British army at the battle of Spionkop in January 1900. A bit of a shambolic battle, and I am being polite.

What even the six readers do not know about Charles Warren, although perhaps one may, is that he also led the unsuccessful search for the infamous Jack the Ripper. He was the London Metropolitan Chief Commissioner from 1886 to 1888. Then he resigned. The town of Warrenton is named in honour of Charles Warren.

Perhaps my irrational dislike of spiders goes back to when I was in my mother’s womb – you know, that nine month period before a small human exits screaming her/his lungs out?

Well, at some stage during that nine months, my mother was bitten by a spider that was lying in ambush in her one shoe. During that same nine month ‘growing up’ period for me, she also had yellow jaundice. Does that explain the yellowish tinge I have, normally at the onset of spring when the tan has long gone?

Good grief! I went through a lot before I was even born!!

Africa is not for sissies. But neither is old age and I am not going to go down that road, so do not worry about me suddenly waxing lyrical about my aches and pains of which there are many. Enough of that…

Tomorrow is Friday and time to celebrate the weekend, but how? Restaurants may be open but you cannot order a bottle of wine or anything alcoholic, so perhaps I will stay at home and have a braaivleis with a lovely log fire, a quiet and well-deserved beer, and some delish peri-peri chicken. Maybe a glass of the truly delightful Alto Rouge wine. Or a bottle.

Will not have a cigarette, do not smoke, but only mentioned it because of the Right Honourable Cyril Ramaphosa stating a day or two that “someday” you will be able to get cigarettes again.

Goodness, some day?

Also, the great leader of the men and women in blue who always wears a hat, also reiterated that if you are caught buying or selling cigarettes and are convicted you will indeed have a criminal record.

Cry the beloved country, the only country in the whole wide world that has banned tobacco and nicotine throughout the entire shutdown and created a massive illegal industry of smuggling and selling such products. Used to be two countries in the world but Botswana lifted their ban a few days ago. We are now all alone and sadly, will have to walk alone down that road too…

Friday 3 July:

What a day of nothing much happening. Just exhausted thinking about it so better lie down again shortly just to recover. And it’s Day 99 of Lockdown. Who would ever have thought we would be on the 99th day and the plague from Ch*** is only just starting to make its name known in the hinterland. Oh well, it could be Day 199 or 299 or even Day 599, and with our current Commanders in the National Command Council it may very well end up there in the high figures. Day 1000?

Two happenings today, 3 July, in Kimberley’s history that are worth mentioning: the Kimberley Golf Club was formed in 1890 so they are celebrating their 130th Birthday! Well done.

And Kimberley’s first motor car, a Panhard, also hits the streets, this very day in 1901, 119 years ago. This vehicle is on display in the Kimberley mine museum.

Thought I would take this opportunity to look back and see what I have learnt (without going into it too deeply) and what, perhaps, may still be with us in a year’s time or even for many a year to come.
The National Coronavirus Command Council. They love the power and the control so expect them not to bow out gracefully. They have already attempted to drop the “Coronavirus” from the title but were forced to bring it back in. Methinks they have no idea on what is going on. Remember a month or so back when they were patting each other on the back in lockdown succeeding in keeping the plague away?

Cigarettes. Oh boy. The President summed it up recently by saying “someday” you shall be able to buy and sell tobacco and nicotine products. The only country in the world to be wise enough to ban cigarettes since the beginning of lockdown. The ONLY country.

Alcohol. They tried to keep alcohol on a permanent banning but did not succeed. However, based on ALL the stories emanating from the council, the government, the provinces, etc, an alcohol ban may once again be in the offing.

Masks. I think this is here to stay for some time. Not that many of the citizens of this lovely land are wearing them. I watch people getting out of cars, bakkies and taxis and the lack of masks is noticeable. They then pull them out of their pockets, bags, packets and place on just before they enter a shop. Many allow their nostrils to brave the fresh air.

Social distancing. What is this? Not happening here in Kimberley or anywhere else in South Africa that I can see.

Washing of hands every 10 seconds. Or so it seems. Have always washed my hands regularly. Shocked that my fellow citizens have had to learn to do such.

Sanitising of hands. All I can say here apart from it being good for you? Is that it is not good for you! I have been forced to buy moisturisers for my hands and am using it regularly.

Law and order. I hope it is still there. Very visible on Levels 5 and 4 as they tried to catch the smokers and drinkers and curfew breakers but since Level 3 has become non-existent. As a result crime has become rampant although I think rampant may be too mild a word.

Police and army. I do not know what to say about these people except that they certainly loved the power and control of Level 5 and 4. They thought that the order to wear masks and keep their distances was only for us plebs and many of them argued about the rules when they wished to enter a shop. They were not allowed. The sudden outbreak of plague in a platoon of sollies in Johannesburg can only be a direct result of not wearing masks and no social distancing.

Politicians appear to be above the law. Other than a smack on the hand for some it is business as usual. Laws are made for the plebs like me. One well-known lady stated that people over the age of 60 years must stop working and stay at home. She is very important. A legend in her own mind. She appears on TV regularly. She is 71 years of age.

Lots of watch parties on social media. All I will say here is good luck, they must make a living. But it is not for me really, rather prefer live music or not at all.

I have enjoyed other people’s company during lockdown, nice to chat away, but I have also enjoyed being alone. I think that when the plague finally arrives in the hinterland I shall be glad I am happy to be alone.

I do what exercise is necessary based on what my two doctors recommended. One said I must do daily exercise, while the other said I must not do any at all and rather rest. Goodness. Feeling tired so better go lie down. And I pay these lovely people for this advice!

Love my cooking and have done some experimenting. Some meals came out great, others were barely edible. Not getting any thinner so it must be better than I thought.

Crime does pay I am sure. It certainly appears so based on what certain politicians have said about illegal cigarettes.

Undoubtedly there are many more plusses and minuses but this should suffice.

An entertaining week once again.

Have a great day and a good week too for that matter.

By Managing Editor

Highly respected, Writer, Blogger, Wildlife Conservationist, Hunter and Father.......