The passing of a giant

I was saddened to hear today of the passing of one of South Africa’s great Rugby players, Ruben Kruger, who died in a Pretoria hospital of brain cancer. He was only 39 years old.

Ruben Kruger - a giant of Springbok rugby

Kruger, who played flank during the 1995 Rugby World Cup which was won by South Africa was always a fighter and his tenacity helped him survive for ten years with this dreadful disease.

In my opinion it was the iconic day when Nelson Mandela walked onto the field wearing a Springbok rugby jersey that gave birth to the so called Rainbow Nation and no matter how clichéd this label has become, for a moment we all were one, united in sport and camaraderie.

As part of that world beating team Kruger should forever be remembered as a man who played a part in making South African’s, black and white believe that we could be a winning nation.

Our thoughts should go out to his young family as they struggle to come to terms with his premature passing. I wish them all long life.

Hamba Kahle big guy and thanks for all the memories.


The horror of Haiti

The current events in Haiti just go to show what a country with no real natural resources must go through to be noticed by the political community.

Haiti is, has been and hopefully will not always be a horror. However, its similarities to Sierra Leone cannot be ignored. Both were formed when repressed Black slaves were allowed to settle or achieve freedom from the hand of those who held the political and economic reins during the 17th and 18th century. Sierra Leone was settled by immigrants from Nova Scotia, the populace of Haiti by the actions and heroics of those who strived for emancipation from their colonial overlords, who had denied them their basic rights in keeping with the slave trade of the day. There the similarities end. Sierra Leone is on the West coast of Africa and Haiti is off the coast of Latin America.

However, one thing is true of both countries; they are both sad, failed states, established with the most noble of purposes but ultimately falling into ruin. The citizens of both countries are left calling to the heavens for aid when their rulers have failed them. Their lands the victim of the AK47’s and gangs of bloodthirsty thugs. At the first challenge they fall into a state of anarchy, citizens nothing more than statistics.

How could this happen? I’m no expert on the intricacies of international politics but some of the blame must surely fall at the feet of the countries that enabled the establishment of these states in the first place.

I’m also not a sociologist, but surely common sense dictates that you cannot simply ship people off to a far off land, tip them off the boat and say ‘welcome to the land of milk and honey and by the way if you find any minerals worth exporting give us a call in a couple of hundred years’.

No words, just tears

This is off course, simplistic. Both countries have seen colonists come and go, they have experienced periods of civil upheaval, but to leave them to their own devices, aside from periodic forays to change a regime into whatever form would best suite your own economic or political interests seems at best cold hearted and at worse criminal. Under these conditions, with little or no infrastructure, almost any nation will descend into barbarity.(anarchy)

Anyone who knows me will describe my political beliefs as capitalist, but there is such a thing as compassionate capitalism. You can assist the natives of a land in building up their economy so that you can start meaningful trade with them. Both parties win.

I know the argument that a country must at some time come to terms with its past and move into the future, I’m a South African. But this beggers belief. Suddenly the international community leaps from the couches of unconcern and rallies to the aid of a country hat has been a basket case for as long as the common man can remember.

Rescue teams flood the country, Americans drop water and meals ready to eat from the sky, Japanese and South Koreans set up medical tents, the Israeli’s, pariahs of the world have the only operating medical facility on the Island capable of surgery. George Clooney is on TV in the US asking for donations, Barbara Streisand is in tears at the Golden Globe awards. The UN, an organisation that couldn’t organise its way out of a paper bag at the best of times is suddenly at the forefront of the news with sad faces and declarations that patience is needed. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I’ll give a hat tip to the smaller countries which don’t even have a table stake in the recovery of Haiti, the South Korean’s, the Israeli’s, the South African’s.

As for the Americans (and I’m usually extremely pro American), what happened? This is on your doorstep. If you’d made the slightest attempt (on a governmental level, there were several brave American’s in Haiti trying to make a difference at the time of the quake, some of whom lost their lives and my condolences to their families) this situation might have been a little bit better. If the infrastructure had been improved over the past few years then maybe more people would have been alive today.

I’ll save most of my ire for the leader of the most powerful country on the planet. America, you have a president who is putting all his energy behind an increasingly unpopular health plan that will probably bankrupt your country in the year’s to come, the money could be best employed elsewhere, not only in Haiti. It seems that this crisis has supplied him with a political birthday present, deflecting a growing unhappiness with his performance. He has responded with aplomb and he has put the entire economic capacity of the US behind rescue efforts. He has my admiration, as do the hard working American military, I have nothing but respect for the job that they are doing around the world. However, with more attention to world affairs he could have had the entire populous of a small island behind him before this tragedy struck. Although the relief efforts from the United States can only be admired, this President needs to understand that the world responds not only to teleprompter speeches but to concrete actions.

To date my opinion is that the political stance of the current US administration has only served to embolden the enemies of democracy. However, this is an argument for another day, the United States has domestic problems enough that need urgent attention.

The problems in Haiti are enormously complex, my analysis is coloured by the tears that I have shed while looking at the photographs I have seen in the past few days. That my analysis is flawed is beyond doubt. I apologise for my inadequate research, please correct me where I have strayed from the historical facts.

My conclusion is just this; we have to try harder on a global political level to grow a belief in democracy and a respect of human rights. These rights can only grow when they are nurtured by a concern for the people in countries less fortunate than our own.

This post comes from the heart and many of the points I have raised would be better addressed in a face to face conversation, however my strength of feeling is real. Where we can we must do more to ensure that when a tragedy like this strikes we are able to deal with it with respect to the people affected. The only way we can do this is through an international commitment to rebuilding the lives of communities that are not able to do it for themselves. This is not a call for a new colonialism but rather a call for a new brotherhood of nations.

As an aside, don’t wait for the UN to do the job for us. That organisation is only taking up space in Turtle Bay NY. It has been both financially and morally bankrupt for decades. Take a look at the record of its Human Rights Council and the entire organisations’ record in solving conflicts around the world.

Your midnight swim – new and improved (with added nightmares)

The start of the real working year is upon us and I’m about to disappoint some of you who might be following this blog. I’m going to talk about something important, something that affects almost all of us; pool care.

Now I live in a townhouse complex where pool worries are the business of a gang of dedicated labourers who pop in every week or so and Hoover up the dead insects and detritus that make life in Africa such a pleasant experience. The pools in my complex are sparkling clean and you would not be blamed for expecting a nymph holding a bottle of mineral water to explode from their depths clutching her decidedly scant clothes to her bosom and extolling the virtues of spring fresh goodness to the world at large.

However there is a darker, more sinister side to the domestic pool.

I recently had the privilege of house sitting for a friend of mine who owns a home in suburbia and his pool is huge and has a nasty habit of turning on its owner. It can become fetid and swamp like overnight. It becomes smelly, it attracts wildlife.

To compound the problem the large date palms surrounding the pool have decided to fatten up the Kreepy Krauly by feeding it a steady diet of dates. I assume this is because one dark and stormy night when they decide that it’s chubby enough they’re going to pull up their roots, march down to poolside, ambush and eat it.

Will not eat dates at all

The problem is that the Kreepy can’t swallow dates, it’s throat is just to narrow (much the same reason that most whales don’t eat human beings, more information for your dinner conversation), so it chokes. Which means that it can’t clean up the detritus from the floor of the pool, adding the general murkiness and unsavoury nature of the water. This means that someone has to get into the pool and feel around the bottom in an effort to identify and pick any dates. This is a thankless and quite scary job as who knows what is lurking on the bottom. This process needs to be repeated every half an hour or so as the date palms continue to pelt the pool with Kreepy Krauly fodder.

Then you have to dose the pool with a shock treatment to get rid of the algae.

And then the afternoon storms come and wash everything within a fifty kilometer radius into the pool and you have to start the whole process again. It really is most dispiriting.

But, along with festive cheer, December also brings with it the opportunity to enjoy a few drinks and usually this leads to discussions of philosophy and the deeper questions everyone must find answers to in order to unlock their hidden potential. In the case of our festive season the significant other came up with the idea of pool snails.

Wait, where are you going? This is an idea whose time has come.

Think about it. With a little genetic tinkering I’m sure the good people at one of the larger biotech firms can manipulate the growth of a sea snail so that it reaches the size of a basketball. It’s then a case of changing the filter to a salt chlorinated system and Bob’s your uncle (we can sort the chemicals and sunburn and predators and yada yada yada some other time).

Like this, but bigger and with a better paint job

Now that we’re got huge snails gobbling up the muck at the bottom of the pool you just run the filter every now and again the get rid of the snail poo and your pool is sparkling clear year round.

Think of the possibilities, you could train them to come to the surface to be fed (although I assume you’d have to be a bit patient unless the biotech boffins can do something about a snails top speed), you could paint their shells different colours (your favourite sports team?) and they could nuzzle your ankles in their more affectionate moments (shudder).

Think of the names; Speedy and Zippy and Flash. Oh the fun we’d have.

Pool snails ™. You read it here first.

Predictions for the coming decade – war and giant bats

I’d like to wish the loyal readers of this blog (both of you) all the best for 2010, may your life be blessed with happiness and good health and may your loved one’s be held close and safe.

I feel fairly confident that at the Southern end of Africa we’re going to enter the new decade with a renewed sense of hope that the difficulties of the past years will be put behind us.

The situation is very different if you live in a large South American city.

A Toronto psychic known as Nikki has made headlines and raised eyebrows with her prediction that giant bats will attack a South American city sometime within the next ten years.

Now I know that there’s lot of good stuff that comes out of South America, the Carnival in Rio, Capybaras (giant rodents that are said to taste really good), great beef and the golden sands and bronzed asses of Ipanema. But I’d like to put forward the theory that there are few things that would do more for the badly dented moral of the world’s population than the sight of Rio’s police force doing battle with giant bats.

Bear with me. During the decade of the 90’s the world has been faced by terrorism, Swine Flu, Avian Influenza, global economic downturn, war in the Middle East, Michael Moore and the latest installment of Terminator.

We could all do with some light entertainment.

Imagine if you will riot policeman ducking for cover while scantily clad Brazilian beach beauty’s run jiggling into the foyers of luxury hotels and cower behind fake palms while huge leathery flying monstrosities batter themselves senseless against the panoramic windows. Taxi’s veering off the road into the Rio marina and Japanese tourists excitedly storing up images for the next round of sushi and saki holiday snap dinners with the in laws (“and there’s young Hoshi being carried off over the bay, he had to swim for shore and it must have taken him, oh ages, before the coast guard were able to get to him and pry his foot loose.”).

Real image – although the riot gear has been updated since the first sighting in the 1800’s

An excitable Brazilian Police Chief would be screaming ‘to the bat cave!’ in front of a bleached blonde, serious looking and plastic surgery enhanced CNN reporter.

Serious looking scientific types would expound on theories involving the destruction of the rain forest, nuclear contagion and global warming. While above them the leathery winged minions of the apocalypse would wheel twittering and tweeting, caught in the spotlights as they hunt down panicked bankers and insurance salesmen caught short as evening falls and they leave their favourite bar or strip club. Anti aircraft fire would light up the night and F16’s would weave across the backdrop of Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain.

We would all sit transfixed in front of our television sets, the worries of the 90’s forgotten, collapsing ice sheets and economic downturn be dammed.

Once the immediate danger was over, the environmental doom mongers could be more gainfully employed in finding new homes for Vampiras Giganticus and we could all go about our daily business knowing that for once everyone wins. The environmentalists and Western governments could stop wasting taxpayer money on trips to Copenhagen, the bunny huggers would have a new cause that didn’t involve air headed Hollywood actors (barring a real life adaptation involving Will Smith) and the average man in the street would have been provided with entertainment that didn’t involve a 20 Dollar box of popcorn and sticky cinema seats.

Environmentalist with immature giant bat – frankly, annoying the young of this species is probably where the problem will start

In Africa, during the dry season we pray for rain. My advice to the people of South America is pray for bats. There’s probably a movie deal in it somewhere.

Anyway, this decade should be full of excitement and challenges. I wish you well for the new year and to the good people South of Mexico I’d stock up on canned goods, mineral water and shotgun shells. Also keep the windows closed.

Next up…..

Pool snails. The solution to 21st century pool care coming soon to you. The holiday season has given the inhabitants of Mallach World Headquarters plenty of time for carefull, considered thought to the problems facing humanity. Or it could have been the Absinthe.