Monday, September 28, 2009

A fall from grace...

So the big news today was the discovery of our neighbouring country's First Lady - or, more accurately, First Shopper Grace Mugabe's dairy empire.
Apparently Grace Mugabe, who took over a bunch of previously white-owned farms a few years ago, built them up into a production house that sells up to a million litres of milk a year to Nestle'.
She was apparently lauded for this achievement and admitted that the farms had been given to her by her husband, and she had since got the whole thing operational. In an "Aw shucks, you guys!" moment, she said she had done it all for dapper Bob, her elderly husband.
Admittedly her set-up is not nearly as productive as the national dairy that got ruined during Zimbabwe's downfall, but hey - the woman has her limits. Last year it was revealed that she flunked out of the University of London where she was enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts in English. Apparently she had managed to pass only two subjects in eight years.
Not one to sit around and get depressed, she simply raided Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank coffers and took her family on holiday to the Middle East after withdrawing R890 000 to fund the excursion. Never mind the crippling food crisis at home!
Sometime after that she made headlines again when she punched a British photographer in the face when he tried to take her picture in Hong Kong.
It seems Grace Mugabe is not a harmless woman.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The style of unpublishable band names.

Friday - the day between a public holiday and a weekend - is bound to be slow in terms of breaking news because there is almost nobody around with most thinking people taking the day off and only sorry souls like myself going into work.
There was not much on the go in terms of breaking news - other than following up on yesterday's plane crash into a school field in Durban. Unbelievable luck that it happened on a public holiday.
Then our boss of newspaper style sent out a new advisory. Last week's announcement was that our newspaper group would use "lemon grass" as the standardised policy for lemongrass across all titles. This caused a storm amongst sub-editors with public discussions across the company e-mail and much complaints that most restaurants and even Woolworths refered to the plant as lemongrass rather than the split word.
This week's announcement? The proliferation of Afrikaans rock bands with unprintable rock names was continuing. Fokofpolisiekar (fuckoffpolicecar) was now joined by vanfokkingtasties (fanfuckingtastic), and apparently both band names have slipped beneath the radar and made it into print without being censored. Even 5fm has apparently taken to bleeping out fantastic's name and referring to the other simply as polisiekar.
So, as from today, our new style in print for these renegade band names will be: vanf***ingtasties and f**ofpolisiekar. Good to know.
Got my curiosity roused. So check out these bad boys! I think they do indeed look fantastic!

Happy weekend everybody!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Battling through the day...

One day before a public holiday - the day was endless.
I battled unsuccessfully to track down a story about two pitbulls that savaged a teenage girl last week. The dogs, I was told, had been removed from their owner by the police and taken to the SPCA. So I called a few branches of the SPCA and a number of policemen, but failed completely in my efforts to find out where the dogs were or what had happened to them.
Then there was an armed robbery at a small shopping centre near Fourways. Yes - yet another hit on a shopping centre in the middle of the day. The cops managed to corner the three guys - shot one dead while the second escaped. The third was either terrified of the shoot-to-kill attitude of the cops and thought he would stay ahead of the game or else he was as depressed by the latest crime stats as the rest of us and so he promptly shot himself dead.
Another day in gangster's paradise.
My colleague The Brat was also battling through the day. She sent me an e-mail entitled "Bored at KFC".
Here you go:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

US facilities closed, crime statistics released!

The day started slowly. So slowly, in fact, that we actually called the local news wire service to check that their system was in fact working as not one story, press release, weather report or anything had dropped overnight.
And then it started....
First alert: every United States government facility in this entire country was closed. So I jumped on it, got hold of the press attache and confirmed that yes, indeed, every single consulate, the embassy, mission, US library etc in South Africa was closed. Why??? Because of "information" received by "our regional security office". Groovy story, but above and beyond challenging to pin down.
CutePhotographer rushed out to get a picture of the consulate in Sandton, and nearly got arrested. I phoned numerous mechanical switchboards answered by recordings with American accents. I tried the police, the Ministry of State Security and the National Intelligence Agency. No comment from anyone. I phoned the Association of South African Travel Agents to find out what was happening to the doomed souls whose visa interviews happened to be scheduled for this here day of closure - and they had no information. These appointments are between the traveller and the consulate with no middle man other than a pin number you have to buy from Pick 'n Pay for - get this - US$10 just to contact them for a time to go in and pay a whole lot more for the visa you need to enter the land of the free should you be the holder of one of our green passports.
So ja - smoke and mirrors, bashed something together and got the story into the evening paper. I got an call from someone from the State Security Ministry whe felt sorry for me and said that, in light of the fact that not even Foreign Affairs would say anything, the ministry might just change their mind and call me with a comment. I wait in anxious anticipation....
And then after that the cops released the latest crime stats. They are baaaaad. Really shocking. We are still sitting on 50 murders a day. And house robberies - those hideous stories of gangs who break into homes, tie everyone up and terrify the kids senseless - are up by a whopping 20%.
Ah yes - we South Africans are not likely to sleep peacefully.
Let's see what surprises the stats hold next year after the police minister's enthusiastic encouraging of a shoot-to-kill policy for our men and women in blue.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Julius has a housewarming party.

Newspapers have a lot to thank Julius Malema for.
When newspaper sales are down, the latest Julius story serves as a booster. On a slow news day, a Julius event will spice things up.
Take this past weekend when the Judicial Services Commission hearings were boring and not much else was happening. Hey presto - word got out about Julius Malema's house warming party.
Apparently it was a huge party with lots of booze, lots of party animals bouncing around and lots and lots of noise. A police reservist, who declined to be identified for fear of victimisation, claimed he tried to ask Julius to tone things down a bit, and got sworn at and smacked around a bit. He claims he plans to take legal action, but this will mean him being identified, so who knows what will happen now.
This party had tongues wagging, the opinion piece columnists punching out paragraphs and radio talk shows buzzing all day long. By all accounts it was a fantastic party - pictures of the porta-loos set up outside his apparently impressive property bore testimony to the fact that the Saturday night bash was incredibly well attended. But it was just a party, and much digging by journalists uncovered that all the neighbours had been informed in advance and most were quite happy about the raucous happening in their street.
So I was not all that thrilled to be tasked with digging up the by-laws on noise pollution in Sandton. It was an enlightening exercise as I discovered that neither the Metro police spokesperson nor the City of Joburg spokesperson were aware of the specifics of the law. They did not know what the cut-off time for loud parties was, nor did they know how many decibels are permissable and what constitutes a breaking of the law.
In any case, as they rightly pointed out, even if they did know, no traffic cop in this city carries a decidel measuring device with him when he attends to angry complaints. Plus they are generally reluctant to take harsh action against alleged offenders as this is apparently an extremely popular category used by neighbours waging tit-for-tat warfare against each other - so metro cops are regularly called out to so-called complaints only to discover that the supposed offending party-thrower is quite innocent.
Only the most hard-headed deejay facing an extremely aggressive complaint will face action, and this generally amounts to a confiscation of his sound system.
So there you have it. Joburg metro cops are far from keen to bust up parties, don't really know the ins and outs of noise pollution by-laws and can't even measure the extent of the complaint.
At least this frees them up to concentrate on all the murders and hijackings, I suppose.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Russian Doll and a cash heist

So my week progressed from a painful one to just plan uncomfortable today.
It started off slowly, which was great as office logistics had me out of my own chair and manning the newsdesk. Which is nice when things are quiet because you get to do stuff like page through magazine inserts from overseas papers.
The London Independent has such a magazine called The Information - and the edition I located was dedicated to the 50 Best Bags. I am totally not a style bunny, so I check this kind of stuff out in amazement, amusement and horror as I try and get my head around who would buy such products, imagine what you would wear with it, and who can actually afford the designer ones.
Take this one for example. Number 46, a Chanel designed number.
Here is the description: "You certainly won't fade into the background carrying this kooky little Russian Doll around. Not only is it beautiful in the flesh but bound to end up a collector's item. Your grandchildren will thank you for investing!"
Here it is:

I am thinking my grandchildren, should they be anything like my Little One with her Paris Hilton-on-crack dess sense, might well appreciate this. But should dear grandchild be more like me - designer unconscious, practically minded and not prone to splashing out enormous amounts of cash - will probably try and have me committed before she or he thanks me. This "kooky little Russian Doll" comes at a price. A significant one indeed. Working on an exchange rate of R15 to a quid, we are talking R64 125 to be precise!!!! I swear!
But anyway - handbags aside, let's get back to Jozi and our reality here.
So a bunch of guys tried to pull off a cash-in-transit heist outside Randfontein sort of mid-morning time. I heard about it and figured it was a toss-up. Do I send little Go-getter all the way out to the scene of the action and take a chance that she doesn't even get there before deadline. Or do I task her to track the info down by phone. We didn't have much time, so I figured the phone option was the best call.
However, Talk Radio 702 which is where you generally want to be listening for breaking news in Jozi, sent a reporter out. Our early morning CreativeDirector was listening to the radio when their reporter started describing suspects holed up in a house surrounded by cops in one very dramatic stand-off. On our side, Go-getter was getting no such information, and was being told about armed robbers arrested in their cars before they could do anything.
So CreativeDirector instructed me to put the radio on loudly so we could hear the breaking news inserts during the morning chat show. Ah man!! Late Friday morning on 702 happens to be Redi Direko (who I love and think is great) talking to sex therapist Dr Eve.
"I urge all women to go and get themselves sex toys. They are fabulous and get you in the mood, and help you get to where you can't naturally," Dr Eve pronounces loudly across the news room.
I make like I am deaf.
A guy calls in to describe how magnificent he is in the sack, how he even uses ribbed condoms for his girlfriend's pleasure and while she seems to appreciate his prowess, he wonders if she perhaps exaggerates her enjoyment.
No breaking news interruptions, so Dr Eve continues on with her advice for women.
" Women have to masturbate in order to become orgasmic, that's just the way it is. It's just something women need to do, there's nothing to be ashamed about...."
All the women in the newsroom are pre-occupied with their computers while the guys look around for any tell-tale reactions. Not happening!
"In fact I know a couple whose highest form of sexual pleasure is to sit in front of each other and masturbate," Dr Eve states just as PixEditor arrives at the newsdesk with a query, causing him to ask what we are listening to at such volume.
I decide to put through Go-getter's story without all the alleged drama that 702 apparently has. Their reporter stopped filing news alerts at the worst time!
A woman calls in to tell Dr Eve that her husband's junk is extremely small and so she feels a little dissatisfied.
"Go and buy a penis sleeve," the good doctor advises.
"I do hope she had her husband's permission to talk about the size of his penis on radio," Redi commented.
I still don't know what really went down at the Randfontein heist.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Floyd waxes lyrical

The ANC's Youth League, who claim to represent the interests of young people in this country, have once again embroiled themselves in the ongoing Caster Semenya gender debacle.
They are lashing out, blaming, accusing and behaving in quite a vicious, racist manner. But as far as I can see, their efforts serve to reveal their own intellectual shortcomings.
Take today's press statement, issued by Julius Malema's sidekick Floyd Shivambu.
Floyd is clearly so annoyed with the questioning of Caster's gender that his words are rendered senseless. At least to me. I have not yet been able to work out what he is trying to say here, so I quote directly from his statement:
"It was not only racist or sexist attack to the South African and African citizens; but it was also a direct vilification of heavy magnitude to Caster Semenya’s parents and herself as an individual thus grossly and intensively undermining her God given talent."
and then he rants further:
"It surprises that up to now, neo-colonialist interests still gatecrash and continue to be dragged into the sporting world."
And I wonder who will want to pass these ANCYL sentiments on to Caster now that the entire world knows she has had to undergo the photographing of her girlie bits:
"Gender identification doesn’t require super-powered-technology, but gender can be determined within a mere blink of the eye. So does it need a rocket scientist to determine the gender of a human being? We wonder."
Well hey, I don't know where Floyd has been living. But I have most definitely encountered some interesting individuals who need a lot more than a blink of an eye for gender verification. In fact, I have seen people whose gender I have been unable to work out at all!!!
Where is Floyd? Or more importantly, where is Floyd's brain?
For your amusement, I quote more of Floyd's latest stuff:
"Unrepentant imperialist organizations must desist from racism and treating Africans (Black) as if they came to this earth through the back door or through an abnormal and non-existent labour process."
Where is the back door to this earth?
And does a Caesarean qualify as an abnormal and non-existent labour process, do you think? Cos that would generally be us white babies!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Insanity, sadness and a tormented mother.

And so the madness continues.
Today I attended the funeral of the two little kids who were shot dead by their dad who then killed himself. It was horrific.
Manju, the bereaved mother, was broken. She sat close beside the coffin which stood open for people to pay their last respects. Her two-year-old daughter lay on one side, her three-year-old son on the other and her murdering husband in the middle. The three bodies lay snugly in the single coffin, covered by petals with only their sleeping faces peeping out.
I have never seen a mother in such an extreme state of anguish, distress and shock. She stroked her children's cheeks, smiled and kissed them at times - seemingly in her own world where they were happily alive. Then her face would change, shadows came down behind her eyes and she would cry out in unimagineable pain, at one stage begging for help and calling out to "my precious babies".
Relatives sobbed, one woman begged little Tamesha to open her eyes and wake up. It was horrific. Manju simply took hold of her children's hands - Yaden's little one peeping out from the cuff of his denim jacket, Tamesha's tiny one with it pearly-pink nails.
Then came time to close the coffin lid.
Manju gripped the wooden sides and screamed like she was being stabbed. I imagine that is exactly what it felt like for her.
She was physically unable to make it to the graveyard.
It hurts to think about what she is going through, to imagine what it will take for her to recover.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Has the world gone mad?

Today a mother cried inconsolably because she could not hold her children. She had to leave her toddlers in the cold government mortuary. She was denied one last chance to see her two-year-old daughter and three-year-old son out of kindness. Her family had told her that her husband had killed them with an overdose of medication. When she insisted on holding their little bodies, they had to tell her the truth. The man she had been married to for six years had in fact shot them - the little girl through the ear and the little boy through the forehead. Then he fired the gun one last time through the roof of his own mouth.
It all happened in a hotel room in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Stories like this break my heart. I have no idea how someone survives such a tragedy. I have much less idea why someone would commit such an atrocity.
The world is a scrambled, messed up place.
Today the KwaZulu Natal government held a sod turning ceremony for the house they are building for the man who killed himself last week because the Department of Home Affairs failed to issue him his identity book. He said he would rather be dead than commit crime, and there was no legal way for him to earn a living with an IS.
So he killed himself.
Now government is building him a house.
I totally don't understand any of this!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Presidential Hotline launched while Julius Malema is not shot.

Today President Jacob Zuma launched his Presidential Hotline. At 9am that toll free number was opened up to anyone who wanted to call it with their complaint-of-any-kind about government. Not surprisingly the lines went berserk as soon as they were opened up - in the first hour they received 2000 calls before it increased to an average of 2 200 calls an hour for the rest of the day.
Being a good sport and all, President Zuma decided to answer a couple of calls himself. It must have been interesting being the irate taxpayer (presumably) whose call was picked up by Jacob Zuma. Can you imagine?
His first caller was a widow who had been unable to convince Home Affairs that her husband died in 2006 and had been badly treated when she went to her local court for help. Wonder how he's going to fix that one. The second caller was a guy from Boksburg who had been unable to get his local council to address a sewerage problem which has dogged his area for months on end apparently. Another challenge for JZ!
I tried over 20 times to get through to the Presidential Hotline but got an engaged signal every time. I am wondering if cross South Africans are not going to just get crosser because they now have yet another call centre offering assistance, but is impossible to get through to.
Ah well, time will tell. The spokeswoman from the Office of the Presidency who I spoke to seems upbeat and positive that the call centre will be running without a glitch or a hitch by the end of the month. We live in hope!
My colleague The Brat had an interesting day following the ongoing saga of poor Caster Semenya's gender controversy. It seems Julius Malema and his ANC Youth League have not abandoned their support for the embattled young woman, and once again taken her cause as an opportunity to spout out some imaginative statements.
"Even if a test is done, the ANC YL will never accept the categorisation of Caster Semenya as a hermaphrodite, because in South Africa and the entire world of sanity, such does not exist," was one of their charming utterances.
This was followed by: " The ANC YL is also very concerned by the fact that all the media reports about Caster Semenya are generated in Australia, which is the most lucrative destination for South Africa’s racists and fascists, who refused to live under a black democratic government."
And then the ANCYL took exception to rumours that their leader had been shot by somebody. And so their spokesman, one Floyd Shivambu, issued a clear directive that "Julius Malema is not shot and will not be shot by anyone".
These rumours had apparently upset Julius Malema, and Floyd put this neatly into perspective:
"No one likes to hear that they have been shot," he said.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Brandon Huntley has one VERY upset wife.

Today was one of those days when I felt a bit robbed. I was supposed to cover the ongoing trial of the dorm matron accused of messing with young girls at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. But alas - this was not to be. *sigh* I landed myself yet another stint on the newsdesk. Temporary news editor for a few hours, an illusion of authority to play with for a while, but nothing real or lasting.
My glum mood lifted however when my colleague The Brat arrived - totally cool black top today with boots covering her bejewelled toe nails - and told me about her midnight net surfing expedition that netted her a scoop of note. She managed to track down the Canadian woman who married Brandon Huntley. He's the white South African guy who has just been granted asylum in Canada on grounds that he had been had been attacked seven times by blacks who apparently just wanted to stab and bliksem him because of his race, and our government lacked the capacity and willingness to protect him from such savagery.
So apparently he first tried his luck at getting Canadian citizenship by marrying a Canadian woman. But then he realised it wasn't quite such a simple process as they monitor you closely for like three years, and it's all very difficult if the marriage is a sham.
I assume this is why he then opted for refugee status. So The Brat tracked down Mrs Huntley and spoke to her via facebook. It seems that this poor woman had been completely convinced that Brandon had married her for love. She was extremely upset to find out that this was simply not the case.
The oke is a schmuck!!!
Here is Mrs Huntley:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mr President, hands off!

So imagine you are the leader of the ANC Youth League (even if you are not remotely a youth!). You are the face of the organisation, and extremely keen to support the president.
Your organisation decides to print some posters with your face on them. They need to put something on it. What slogan would you write?
Hats off to our president?
Hands off our president?
Or what about mixing it up a bit and, say, how about this ....

Seriously. This is the real deal, not made up I swear. My colleague The Brat picked this poster up earlier in the week when she went to the Equality Court to cover Julius Malema's hearing. It's stuck up in our newsroom.
Schweet like a lemon, hot like the sun!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The long wait is not yet over

Holy moly - so the judge was definitely, without a doubt, drunk when he reversed his gold Jaguar through businessman Richard Baird's garden wall! I know it doesn't take a rocket scientist to surmise that a guy who reverses across an extremely wide verge (when there was a perfectly good driveway nearby and no other cars around) with enough vooma to smash a wall had probably had more than just one whisky before he pulled the stunt.
It was pure bad luck that the wall he crashed was owned by a guy whose profession involves the proper securing of digital evidence - I mean what are the chances? And then he went and annoyed him by swearing at him and saying a bunch of racist stuff that caused the guy to call his lawyer for advice - which is what sparked the whole caught-drunk-on-camera debacle.
But it's over at long last.
The whole crew was there for the event. FabulousShoes (glorious mustard pumps with twisty arty designs) got a prime spot as she is now pregnant and sporting a belly of note, QuirkyOlderWoman got the seat she has occupied for the past 30 years (nobody was going to take her on today) and the rest of us packed out what must be the smallest, most rubbish courtroom in the e-n-t-i-r-e Joburg Magistrate's Court building.
It was a sensational day. Judgement was dramatic. We had a complete summary of the past two years of regular court appearances and drama. And finally - yes, indeed, as we all suspected was the case - the magistrate ruled that Pretoria High Court Judge Nkola Motata was indeed hammered on the night he reverse parked his Jag through a garden wall.
The case is finally over. Just the sentencing to come next week. I was ready to celebrate - but then Afriforum came and announced that they were really mad because the judge had made slurred remarks about boers. Now they want him kicked off the Bench for racism.
The fat lady has yet to sing.....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dawn deaths and devil worship

At dawn this morning I found myself alongside CutePhotographer standing near two dead bodies splayed across the backyards of two units in an upmarket estate in Bloubosrand. Yet another tribute to our Safety and Security Minister's shoot to kill fever that seems to have gripped our cops.
It's a weird experience to stand next to yet another dead body and see people from the complex driving past and cheering or expressing some kind of joyful reaction at seeing the end result of the mega shootout that ripped through their home territory during the early hours.
A guy from the body corporate came sauntering through with his little girl as forensic investigators busied themselves on the scene taking fingerprints off the corpses and whatever else they do with dead guys.
"Poppet, don't go there," he chided as his off-spring toddled off into cordoned-off territory. She wandered back and to hide behind daddy's legs as a friendly detective gave her a strip of plastic crime-scene cordon to play with. She waved it happily like a flag.
A woman came outside in her pyjamas to take pictures of the crime-scene action outside her house, commented that the shootout had caused the complex to sound like Beirut overnight and she wanted to send proof to her relatives abroad. She wants to move to Australia.
A pretty young woman stopped as she tried to drive past. She started laughing when she saw the bodies, clamped her hand over her mouth in shock and quickly apologised for giggling because people had died. But their deaths made her feel safe, even though she had sold her home and would be moving out soon anyway.
It was a bizarre morning and quite something to realise how angry and crime-rattled Jozi people are. And how fed-up they are with the armed robberies and hits plaguing the suburbs.
But no time to waste - I had to move on to the Joburg High Court for the continuing pre-sentencing hearing of the schoolboy convicted of killing another boy with a ninja-sword and hacking three other people.
Today it was the turn of South Africa's Satanism expert Dr Kobus Jonker to testify about the boy's possible involvement in the dark world of devil worshippers.
Nope - it seems the kid had just been dabbling in the occult and got his satanism backwards, picked up junk off the internet and mixed it up with pagan practices.
"Donker Jonker" - as he was known when he headed the cop's Occult Related Crimes Unit before it got shut down after human rights activists pointed out that our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion - pointed out that young Morne Harmse failed the grade when it came to ... well ... good Satanic practices.
Commenting on photos of the teenager's bedroom he pointed out that there was no altar to speak of, and the blood smears on the walls that are generally evident when one makes pacts with the devil were sadly lacking. His posters were more in line with eastern religions than demonic and the home made ouija board hidden under his bed was marked with pink and white wax, which showed his ignorance as true Satanists use only black and red candles apparently - with the black summoning up the forces of darkness and the red calling on the energies of blood. Even the witch script on his diary was unrecognisable.
So ja - it seems that poor Morne failed even in his efforts to be a really evil boy.