Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flu and drug mules

So swine flu is fast emerging as the next big story as it goes global. The World Health Organisation has upped the swine flu pandemic alert level to four - still well below the maximum rating of six. International travellers have been photographed wearing face masks, Mexico has dropped completely off the popular destination list and airline stocks are slipping.

Then today South Africa became part of the action when OR Tambo International Airport had thermal scanners installed - apparently to detect passengers who have an elevated temperature and therefore potential carriers of this new disease. Ah - and there's another bonus too. Apparently drug mules - those smugglers who swallow numerous little condom-wrapped packages of contraband substances hoping the stash will go undetected in their stomach - also have high temperatures. So this swanky new machine will be able to detect swine flu carriers AND swallowers. Plus, of course, every person who is coming down with plain old ordinary flu. Gosh! I am wondering, as the weather turns cold and winter sniffles set in, how many swine flu alarms will be sounded as snotty travellers take the temperature test.

And then the government put out a public warning: people must not panic, yet they must not be complacent. So now I am confused. What does this actually mean? What is the midway line between panic and complacency?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A bus strike and a broken window

This past long weekend break - a very much needed, hard-earned bit of timeout following last week's manic elections - was quickly shattered early this morning by a Metrobus strike.
I got into work early this morning, rested and ready to run. Very quickly Supergirl and I were put onto the story. For some or other reason a crippling bus striked destined to leave thousands of commuters stranded all over the city this morning had been slashed into a brief in the early edition. But a whole lot more information was needed for the afternoon edition.
We started on the phones - but as is often the case in the very early morning, people didn't answer. We left messages, we sent e-mails, we Googled up a storm. The striked story started coming together.
I managed to get hold of a call centre operator at Joburg Connect who seemed to know a little bit. She knew that Metrobus normally had over 500 buses driving all over the city every morning, but today there were none. If I wanted more info than that, I had to phone Metrobus head office which did not open until 8am. A time that, as fortune would have it, coincided with my very deadline!
Then one of my many early efforts paid out when the Metrobus spokesperson responded to one of the messages I had left. Yes, there was indeed a strike on the go he said. The courts had ruled on Friday that they could legally go ahead with a bit of strike action. All 510 bus drivers employed by the city were not working today.
"They belong to two different unions. The guys from the one union said they were happy to work as long as we could offer them protection. Obviously we couldn't do that, so nobody's driving buses today," he said. Hmmmmmm. Obviously! Last year three diligent non-strikers got killed, so I figured he had a point.
So what's happening? Is there any kind of trouble or violence anywhere?
"Erm ... ja. There are some guys who are blockading the street to my office. They aren't letting Metrobus people through. I had to do a helluva fast u-turn and now I am parked in some side street in Braamfontein talking to you while my phone battery goes flat because people haven't stopped calling me for hours," he said.
Oooookay. I took what info he could give me and offered him a desk in our newsroom to work from for the day. He chose not to take me up on it. I suspect he realised intuitively that I might possibly harass him constantly. *Sigh* At least I tried.
The story was done quickly. Supergirl had charged out to bus stops all around and spoke to commuters. Diva had paired up with a photographer and managed to get some cool stuff with the blokes at the barricades. We were THE team!
By 9am we were all done and seated in the newsroom for the day's genteel diary meeting. The peace was shattered - literally - when a missile of sorts came crashing through the window, sending glass shards hurtling down mere metres away from us. We jumped up and figured that a towering crane and busy builders on the high-rise construction site across the road were the cause of this mysterious distraction.
We peered down to the street below and saw a guy with a bakkie looking seriously perplexed by the serious dent in the roof of his vehicle. Discussions mounted as we tried to figure out what had smashed our large tinted window, leaving a hole bigger than a tennis racquet. And how had it come hurtling at such a speed, a good three storeys above ground? We failed to work it out. A chilly wind now whistles through our newsroom.
Life can indeed be strange.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Election Day!

Election 2009!
A momentous day.
A long day.
A huge turnout at the polling stations.
A long time in the queue.
Now for the long wait...
Let's all pray for the best possible result.
Yay, South Africa!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nandos, the A-Party and the election.

So the ANC Youth League has had another outburst. They have decided to take exception to a Nando's advert which, although it has been running for yonks, has suddenly come to their attention and they think it makes their sweet leader Julius look ... erm ... stupid. They weren't bothered when he called Naledi Pandour with her plummy accent a spoilt minister with a fake American accent, or when he declared that the league would kill for Zuma. But a tongue-in-cheek Nando's ad apparently calls for militant mass action against the grilled chicken outlet. Strange, yet arrogant.

So anyway, apart from that, what does one write that's worth publishing in a daily newspaper on the day of a national election?

One editor had a bright idea. We would put together a big story in which each of the 26 registered political parties can have 50-or-so words to say why people should vite for them. And if we divide the parties up, this project won't be too labour intensive. Not a bad idea!

So the dishing out process goes ahead. First party I get is the ACDP. Not too bad. I've heard of them. They have a known leader. And a spokesperson. And even a landline telephone number. No problemo.

Not so lucky the second time round. I draw The A-Party. Huh? The what? I check the replica ballot paper printed in the paper. Yip - there they are. It's a smiling white guy with a beard wearing a cowboy hat. Ooookay. So this is where Google comes in handy. Thank heavens - they have a website - I recognise the guy posing on the home page even though he is hatless. A drawing of a broeder-bond-looking bearded guy with a hat above his head is my clue. I check it out and discover that there is not a single person's name listed, nor a phone number. Their stuff is in Afrikaans and English, and their appeal for donations is in US dollars. Go figure!

Ah, they have a link to events. No can do. "Our first public event will be held soon...." it states, followed by a suggestion that you fill out an online invitation asking 'Mr A' to come and address your meeting. It appears as though no one took him up on the offer. Too late, Mr A! The election is upon us.

Then I discover to my horror that the only way to contact this clandestine organisation was via e-mail. And nowhere do they have a 50-word summing up of why you should vote for them. Crisis!!! I have a deadline and no guarantee that The A-Party checks their mail.

So I call our parliamentary bureau and am told that the politics team doesn't deal with the small-fry parties and don't have their contact details - I need to contact the IEC for assistance. This is less than cheery news following my three-day effort to get IEC accreditation - "sorry the photo your paper mailed is not suitable you have to come in so we can shoot you ourselves, sorry that you came all the way we can't print your accreditation as the toner ran out, please don't come and fetch it because we have run out of lanyards rather try tomorrow".

But hope arises as ParliamentaryBureauPerson remembers an e-mail she once got from the A-Party. She locates it and forwards it to me. Fantastic! There are contact details on the bottom.

So Mr A, I discover, is one Anthony Penderis.

"Why should people vote for you?" I ask.

Mr A: "Because our motto is 'We have plans. We deliver'."

JJ: "So what do you plan to deliver?"

Mr A: "Well, we are only six months old but already we have taken the government to the Constitutional Court on the expat issue and won."

JJ: "That's fabulous, but I seem to remember that it was the Freedom Front Plus who did that. For Willem Richter?"

Mr A: "Um, ja. There were actually six parties altogether working on that one, but it was us who actually initiated the whole story. So it proves that we can deliver."
Hurrah! I had my 50 words.

Now it's time to vote. May South Africans go out in their throngs and make their mark! Happy voting everyone, may the process be smooth and pleasant.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eina! A new threat hits Jozi...

Most Joburgers are tough people. I mean, we live on the edge. Every day we face crime that's unacceptably high - even the ANC admits this so it's pretty damn bad, lawless taxi drivers, infinite roadworks, non-functioning traffic lights and even moms with tiny babies have adapted and can survive happily without electricity for untold periods of time. And most times we are alive at the end of the day.
However, today I discovered the emergence of a new threat. The drive-by paintball shooting! I am NOT kidding you.
I swear, we go the press release today. Apparently on Friday night some dodgy characters drove slowly past two women on the side of the road. It's not clear what the women were doing - sitting, walking, waiting for a bus. Whatever, I think it's safe to assume that they were not armed with knives dripping blood, running from the scene of a crime, jumping from a taxi without paying or doing anything whatsoever to prompt an attack on their persons. And then, out of the blue and for absolutely no apparent reason, the dodgy characters started firing off pot shots at them.
One of the women was hit, and went hysterical. Someone called for an ambulance and the paramedics arrived to examine her injured left leg.
"Her small round non-penetrating injury was consistent with that of a wound caused by a paintball gun. The victim experienced moderate pain and although was shocked by the attack seemed to calm down when she realised that she had not been shot with a 'real gun' and she refused hospital transportation," the press statement explained.
The report continued: "There was not much that the medics could do to treat the bruise that may remain for some period of time."
So I am thinking this is maybe not so bad. Like nobody got maimed or burnt to death by a runaway tanker ploughed into their car in morning traffic like happened to another poor lady this morning.
But the bad news continued: this is NOT the first case. Indeed! Paramedics have been called out to a very similar drive-by attack in Pretoria. And another one in Honeydew. It seems we have a gang dangerous paintball gunmen roaming the streets, targeting innocent victims. And paramedics are getting called out to treat hysterical patients with small, round bruises that hurt like hell.
This is not good news. Although I figure that with the number of licensed and unlicensed gun owners in Jozi, it's just a matter of time til these lunatics provoke a gun-toting victim and get popped themselves. Only with a real bullet.
May the police catch these bad boys soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Breakthrough for Blairgowrie - take 4

Another manic, crazy day. Especially in Blairgowrie! Man alive - those poor people must be going nuts.
So late last night they came up with two scenarios that led up to the scrambling of radio waves in the area and therefore the jamming of all remote control buttons for gates, garage doors, alarm systems, cars and all that kind of thing. And then people's geysers stopped working and suspicions turned toward all the little smart boxes installed in Blairgowrie homes to allow Joburg council the power to turn geysers on and off to save electricity. Poor Blairgowrie residents have been the guinea pigs for this evil plan by the way, so those of you who live in Jozi and find the idea amusing or freaky - be warned. Smart boxes are not simply coming to a cinema near you - one is going to be impanted in your very house. But anyway - let's not borrow any future terrors.
So the wireless communication experts from Icasa have been patrolling the suburb in their gizmo mobiles decked with aerial box jobs that reach into the sky and pick up readings on all signals buzzing around on the airwaves. And - aha - just as was suspected, the signal jamming waves were tracked to: the not-so-smart boxes.
The Hefcom guys who manufactured these little control devices were called in and told to please just fix this problem very damn quickly. Oh no, they say. Tis not our fault. Somebody else out there is to blame. It is that dude who is putting out a signal for some or other reason, purposefully or not, which somehow scrambled the brains of the smart boxes, turning them stupid, and causing them to start "communicating". This apparently means that they started emanating their own signal/screaming silently, thereby causing masses of radio communication on the 433 MHz band (I know it sounds cool and like I really know my stuff, but I am just repeating the excuse as I understood it).
Anyway - the upshot is that Hefcom personalities are now making a mad dash around the entire Blairgowrie - only about 4000 houses, guys! - and upgrading the software on the smart boxes to make them stupid again. The upgraded software will apparently give them new powers to receive bogus signals, identify them as messages that should just be ignored and then hopefully not try and talk back.
The guys fixing the boxes reckon they can do this chop chop. Blairgowrie people who have been taking cold baths since Monday are not so optimistic. Time will tell.
But at least the mystery has been solved.
At long last.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Power outage and Blairgowrie Take 3

This morning I had to man the newsdesk as EarlyMorningNewsEd took off for a long weekend thanks to having worked on Easter Sunday and Monday. His payback time off meant time on the desk for me, and no chance to go back and squirrel about in Blairgowrie to find out if the technical whizzes had managed to work out what the heck was happening in the suburb.
But while I was unable to go out to the news - the news came to me. People started mailing me. Seems things were still berserk. More people were without hot water. Someone reported that the weather service radar wasn't working. Somebody else mentioned that Lanseria Airport - situated out Randburg way - was shut down for half an hour yesterday because of interference that interrupted communications between the control tower and planes, and pondered if this was perhaps linked to the sinister signal jamming problem in Blairgowrie.
I was ready to assign reporters to the story when all of a KLUKS! the power went out. In 40 suburbs around the city. Technicians rushed out to work out the cause and fix it, but got stuck in Joburg's legendary peak hour traffic and ongoing roadwork complications.
Apparently something caused a "substation" to trip. And this particular substation was a power feeder for a few other substations, and so a giant part of Jozi was without electricity for varying amounts of hours as the techies slowly restored order.
In the mayhem, Blairgowrie was a bit forgotten. I still don't know what's happening there. Maybe things are back to normal and everyone is comfortably celebrating in hot bubble baths. Maybe the area is now flooded with scientists in gadget mobiles armed with gizmos and weird equipment...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Controlling Blairgowrie ... take 2!

Today has been one long and interesting continuation of yesterday. The poor residents of Blairgowrie woke to yet another day of disabled remote controls as the signal jamming continued.
Thousands of homes remained without the ability to do stuff at the flick of a switch.Yes, once again those poor folks had to resort to gymnastics to get their cars started, their garages and gates opened - having been advised to hold the remote control button as close to the receiving device as possible in the hopes that it will work after the 324th click. And heaven help those who had the need to activate their security alarms with those nifty little remote panic buttons.
For yet another day the technicians roamed the suburb in their little gizmo trucks armed with oscilliscopes and whatever technology it is that you use to measure rogue transmissions and frequencies and stuff. And still everyone was in the dark.
The lady at the electrics shop continued to make a killing selling new batteries for remote devices - people apparently still saw the need to change those batteries despite being informed by the suburb's booming businesswoman of the bizarre phenomenon hitting the area.
The biggest suspicion remained the smart boxes that the council has installed in Blairgowrie homes in their efforts to take control of people's geysers. These boxes apparently give them the power to turn the geysers on and off whenever they like, for a few hours each day, with the boxes working via remote control. Aha! But the council whizz kids went to people's houses and dismantled the boxes, ripped the batteries out and did whatever they could to make sure they were dead. Then they aimed their rifle-like measuring apparatus jobs at them and discovered that nothing had changed. Dead smart box - still no unjamming of jammed remote signals.
The Icasa guys were flummoxed, the council guys completely stumped and the residents left up in the air.
By late morning more bizarre stuff was being reported all over the show. Suddenly people were complaining that they had no hot water. Others reported that their smart boxes had spontaneously died. Others claimed that a little light on the boxes was flickering and they feared it was about to expire.
So now the rogue transmission was wreaking havoc with the smart boxes! The mystery deepened....
Nigerian crime syndicates? Extraterrestrial interference? Mind control experiments gone wrong? Hmmmmm..... The possibilities were numerous. I am a tad more cynical. I reckon it's probably some radio ham with limited knowledge and unlimited creativity gone rogue, a Telkom technician who has made one colossal stuff up somewhere (is there even one South African on the planet who doubts Telkom's immense potential to unintentionally cause a bit of mayhem for a few thousand people, I ask with tears in my navy blue eyes?) or some big company has flauted some communications bylaw or legislation and set up some kind of operation as they offer free internet connection to Julius Malema supporters or whatever.
I dunno hey. This story shall continue tomorrow no doubt.
And once again, Blairgowrie people head into a night of restless, fitful sleep...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Controlling Blairgowrie remotely...

One seriously interesting story is the best way I can describe the piece I got to work on today.
It started with a call from a guy who phoned to say he was deeply annoyed because he got up yesterday morning to discover that the remote function used to open his brand spanking new Merc did not work. He then tried to leave his house in Blairgowrie and, get this, his gate remote all of a sardine also did not work.
So his wife trots off to the electrical shop at the Blairgowrie Plaza down the drag, and discovers that like just about everybody else from the whole entire suburb was there - all to change the batteries in their remotes that apparently died on the Easter weekend.
People were stuck without working electric gates, garage doors, remote panic buttons for their alarms, remote activation of the beams in their gardens (hey this is Jozi and Blairgowrie is not a dud area - Ian Von Memerty and several journalists live there and so of course there are properties with beamed gardens). A breaking bit of news was that the remote activators would work if you held them really, really close to the receiver device - so annoyed guy who called me in the beginning found that he could start his Merc if he clicked the remote while holding it against the bonnet.
Not one to be daunted - I took up the challenge to uncover what was behind the sinister goings on in Blairgowrie. I called BRAC - Blairgowrie Residents Against Crime - and they confirmed this interesting phenomenon. In fact they sent bunches of people driving around on Easter Monday night, all of them confirming that yes - their remotes were non-functioning in Blairgowrie but spectacularly okay outside the suburb.
I phoned the foreign lady who owns the electrics shop and she too confirmed - indeed she had made a killing and had sold precisely over 100 remote control batteries in one morning. And today business was again booming. Unreal!
I called Icasa - the regulatory body in charge of radio frequencies and communications networks and all that stuff. Yip, they too had heard about this mystery bedevilling the entire populace of Blairgowrie. Something like 4 000 households, dude! They had seen similar incidents on and off over the years on a comparitively miniscule scale - but this was epidemic proportions and they had no cooking clue what was causing this signal jamming.
Throughout the day I worked on the story. Nobody wanted to speculate for me. Nobody wanted to say anything, actually. Hardpressed for comment, Icasa ventured to say that the frequencies involved did not fall under any bandwidth that required licensing, it was therefore unprotected and while they were working their tails off to uncover the source of the signal jamming, they were not certain they would even be able to do anything about it.
Then someone suggested that council fitted devices - smart boxes operated by blue tooth technology enabling the council bosses to switch geysers off and on via remote control - could be the cause. Blairgowrie had been the pilot project, these boxes were everywhere and were in all likelihood the spanner in the works so to speak.
The smart box guys then said no ways - not them.
By the time I left the office the mystery remained unsolved. My night shift colleagues are no doubt beavering away, hoping to find the real answer.
In the meantime, Blairgowrie is heading for worried and restless sleep...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Step one on the road to walking...

So today my little friend Courtney got measured for her callipers. She is the plucky little 9 year old kiddie I wrote about a while back. She was left paralysed by a gun shot wound she suffered before she was born - her mom was shot in belly while 7 months pregnant.
Poor little Courtney has never learnt to walk but she can now get callipers and crutches thanks to bunches of people who donated money to her trust fund.
So this morning the guy who is going to make these miracle contraptions made plaster cast moulds of her legs and body. Step one to getting the actual ones made. Yay!
I was there as she giggled and chatted while he put stockings on her skinny legs and wrapped them in plaster. She got a bit more alarmed when he wrapped her in cling film and did the same to her body. Poor little poppet was scared because the last time she had a plaster cast on her following spine surgery somebody accidentally cut her while ripping it off.
But today was a happy day. She is on the road to eventually walking. Woo hooo!
She is a brilliant little girl who has faced down so many challenges. I stand in awe of her.
But then I come home and I grab my Little One and breathe a sigh of utter gratitude and deepest thanks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Zuma, Zuma and bad apples.

Today was yet another day of Zuma, Zuma, Zuma. We saw him go to court and have the charges dropped, we saw him address the media and smuggly claim attorney-client privilege when asked how he got his hands on the dodgy tapes that so neatly created the technicality that has got him off the hook. *Yawn*.

Later in the day a company press release landed, offering us promotional schpiel about some company - basically a corporate punt dressed up as a news story. So this company, which apparently has links with a large background screening company, has picked up on a new trend in the work place.

In their quest to "weed out the rotten apples in the work place" (definitely their wording, I am crap at gardening but know that apples are not weeded) they have discovered that criminal record percentages have steadily been rising over the past few years. They specialise in scratching around in people's pasts and checking them out thoroughly to make sure they are not ... erm ... bad apples I suppose. And now - get this for a shocker - it has spiked in the past 18 months. So they reckon that today, as we sit here in these historic times, more than 20% of all job applicants have a criminal record. One in every five apples in this giant orchard that is the SA job market is rotten.

Hmmmmm. So is this news? Is this indeed a new bit of information that will enlighten the readers of the daily paper for which I write? Is it something people don't already know or cannot figure out logically for themselves?

I pondered this press release deeply. I looked around at what is happening. Our chief of police is about to go on trial for corruption and colluding with criminals. Our traffic chief is on leave because he has been accused of being a bad guy and is now under investigation. Former Ekhuruleni Metro boss Robert McBride has just been fired for crashing his company car after leaving the office Christmas party drunk and bribing doctors to falsify medical reports to state that he suffered blood sugar issues rather than an over-indulgence in Johnny Walker. One of the Pretoria High Court judges is on trial for drunk driving. Judge Hlophe is battling the entire Constitutional Court - the highest court in the land- and is accused of inappropriate dealings. A panel of doctors is suspected of falsely recommending the early parole of Zuma's buddy, fraudster Schabir Shaik. Tony Yengeni, Alan Boesak, Carl Niehaus and Joost van der Westhuizen have all made the news for doing really bad stuff. And of course there is Zuma himself - expected to be sworn in as our next president while the R100-million 8-year investigation that can prove that he is corrupt will never see the light of day.

These are our leaders and role models. They are presumably of a calibre above the average job seeker. I think of the press release and wonder, can it really be only one in five that is bad?

Monday, April 6, 2009

An historic day...

At 11am today the entire newsroom came to a halt. We gathered around the TV and watched as Mokotedi Mpshe made the long-awaited announcement about the future prospects (or rather the scrapping) of the prosecution of one Jacob "Bring Me My Machine Gun" Zuma.
It was completely expected, momentous, historic, gut-wrenching, confusing, boring, entertaining and nauseating all at the same time. The press release arrived on e-mail just as the announcement began, so we got to read along with Mpshe and also had privy to transcripts of all the recordings that he didn't read out loud. Yes, things were indeed grim. It did look like there was evidence of political meddling in a criminal prosecution. And so he was abandoning the eight-year-long battle to put our dancing presidential hopeful behind bars. Just like that!
But it did not make sense to me. I can understand that political interference can be seen as a reason to cast doubt on the motives of the prosecutors. But surely a decision to throw the Zuma case out can itself be viewed as a political move? So why oh why then, did Mpshe not place the matter before the courts for a decision? Why did he make the call on his own, completely scuppering any future possibilities of taking the Zuma corruption case to court?
I hoped the press conference would clear this up. But no such luck. The questions went sort of like this:
Q: How much taxpayer money has been spent on this case so far?
A: Er ... ummm..... ("gosh I have been caught off guard by this totally cunning question" moment worthy of an Oscar) we don't have that figure at hand right now (of course!). But it's a lot. (Duhhhh!!)
Q: I feel so sorry for Mr Zuma. He has always claimed he is innocent. Now you have robbed him of the chance to clear his name, and he will now have to live out the rest of his life with a cloud of suspicion over his head. How do you think he feels?
A: Mr Zuma's lawyers brought the tapes (obviously obtained by highly questionable means) to us. So I think he can live happily under that cloud.
Q: When will you officially withdraw the prosecution in court?
A: Obviously you are asking if it will be before or after the election. And that is a political matter. We don't deal with politics. (nicely dodged)
Q: Why did you not let the courts decide this matter.
A: Because....
The country marked the occasion in various ways. Some people were deeply disappointed. Some were hysterically happy. Crowds marched through town prompting the closure of many streets and a massive traffic jam which clogged the entire CBD for hours.
And that was the end of that....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chatting in the car...

Video footage of a traffic cop assaulting a taxi driver, pepper spraying him in the face and kicking him around emerged today, so off I zooted to Metro Cop Headquarters. I was stoked when my mate Jeans-and-Tackies was assigned to go with me - we had done the last big metro cop announcement together so we knew the place and where we were headed. Last time she drove our car into the wall, so I decided to drive this time.
We were given one of the stone-age bottom-of-the-range cars that we generally get to use when covering riots in Alex and stuff like that - I think the guy in charge of the cars knows Jeans-and-Tackies tendency to not brake quite quick enough before smacking into solid objects. We turned down the African choral music blaring from the tape player (I was not exaggerating when I described this collection of dents on wheels as old!) and launched into good old chit chat.
Jozi Journo: So yesterday when I went out to cover the buses on the bridge drama I met a Zimbabwean taxi driver called Two Minutes.
J-a-T: Two Minutes? His real name was Two Minutes:
JJ: Serious. His name was actually Two Minutes.
J-a-T: Yo yo yo! His mother must have given birth in two minutes or something like that. Eish - some of these Zimbabweans have funny names hey! I have met a guy called Conference. And then there was this one beautiful girl. I mean really, really beautiful. And what was her name? Daylight! Can you imagine? Daylight.
J J: Ja, well a few years ago I was helping sort out entries people had mailed in to one or other competition. And there was one entry from a dude called Duplicate. Why would someone name a child Duplicate?
J-a-T: Well a few years ago I had this job at a company dealing with pensions. I used to take pictures of the old people and write their stories up for a little publication. So one day there was this really, really old grandfather who came in with his ID. So I thought there was a mistake because I could not believe his name, so I asked for his birth certificate and it was true - no mistakes. His name was Flying Squad.
JJ: No ways! How can a geriatric be called Flying Squad?
J-a-T: For sure man. So then I saw his little grandson and I asked him, what is your grandfather's name. And he says 'My grandfather? He is Flying Squad.'" Now we have this new soccer player who called his kid Cellular. But for sure, my favourite is Flying Squad. And now Two Minutes. That's also the best!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Busy, busy, busy!

Busy day! Busy day!
Early this morning a bunch of bus owners and drivers who make their living ferrying foreigners backwards and forwards to countries around the continent made a monumental stand this morning by blocking off the entire Harrison Street bridge with their buses. So off I ran to cover the action and found a bunch of them arguing with Metro cops who were trying to convince them to move.
Turned out to be a protest against the closure of the cross-border bus terminus. Quickly cleared up, but I met a guy from Zim with a fab name: Two Minutes. Serious!
Back to the office and get tasked with finding out why people are mysteriously being turned away from the zoo. Brilliant! An escaped lion? Someone forgot to lock the snake enclosure? A polar bear on the loose? No such luck I'm afraid. Just a bunch of staffers striking illegally - most of them cashiers so they couldn't open up the ticket office or rent out buggies and stuff. Bit of a let down.
On to the next story. Turned out to be a beaut. Jeremy Mansfield of the Rude Awakening on Highveld Stereo has been telling strings of jokes about illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, all starring one Lovemore Sibanda and his brothers Tupperware and Eat-Sum-More. (I actually think Two Minutes tops those names!) So Highveld has been collecting the jokes to put on a CD called The Sibanda Files.
Then on the weekend a baby girl from a Bulawayo orphanage was brought to Jozi to undergo an operation to have a tumour removed from her chest. Her name is Nobuhle Sibanda. So a Rude Awakening executive decision was made that all proceeds from the sale of The Sibanda Files will go to cover baby Sibanda's medical costs.
How sweet is that? There might be a lot of horrible stuff happening in Joburg, but there are plenty of great things too! Much to love about this city.