Thursday, July 29, 2010

Macabre madness

There is something macabre about sitting in court and listening to graphic details of murder from men who, when they are done, are perfectly free and entitled to step of the stand and come and sit in the gallery. Right next to you. If that's what they feel like doing.
And that is pretty much how things have been this week with the start of the Brett Kebble murder trial. We journalists covering the saga have been sitting for hours, listening to hitmen talk about how they were contracted to take guys out in a non-gay romance kind of way.
All of them have immunity for prosecution if they simply are "frank and honest with the court". That's all. So here you have people who have literally blown other people's brains out just telling how and why they did it so that Glenn Agliotti goes down for the murder and they get to walk away scot free.
We've had some quite clear descriptions from Mikey Schultz, for example, on how he aimed his gun at Kebble (who wanted to die so badly he apparently chased them round the neighbourhood when they aborted their first murder mission because his wife's car engine was overheating), watched Kebble look at him and then stare ahead and raise his shoulder a little in a protective motion before Schultz pumped him full of bullets.
Some absolutely amazing revelations: security man Clint Nassif who ruled the roost and took payments in the millions for setting his henchmen loose actually has only a standard six education.
A few glimpses of humanity: Schultz turned down an offer to go and chat to Brett and actually meet him on grounds that it would be uncomfortable because he would have to shoot him dead later.
Some gob-smacking info on the tactical workings of hitmen: Nigel McGurk on how he disposed of Stephen Mildenhall's property after their connections shot him a bunch of time in the shoulders to keep him away from the office for a couple of months. Apparently he and his friend Kappie broke Mildenhall's credit and bank cards into pieces and then chucked them out the window while driving from Cape Town back to Joburg. At one point they stopped and made a fire on the side of the road to burn the wallet.
Ja - like some unbelievable parallel universe.
And then while that was all going down some guy in Mpumalanga lost his tiger while taking it to the vet. So for 48 hours there was a big hunt for a big cat on the go.
Too bizarre for words.
But on the plus side, I am now on leave!!!
Two more sleeps and Little One and I board a plane for Australia.
Woooo hooooooooooo!
Oh ja - they found the tiger last night.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

High noon in Germiston

Germiston Magistrate's Court was where my action was today. The R250-million drug smuggling matter involving the Paparas family.
Quite boring for the most part apart from the few exceptional showdowns between the prosecution and defence.
The prosecutor on this case was one Advocate Gerrie Nel:
He is the same guy who has just successfully prosecuted our former police chief, dirty Jackie Selebi. He might be a small guy, but put him in court and he throws his weight around and pulls some impressive punches.
Squaring up against him today was Advocate Sita Kolbe SC:

She is basically a female version of Gerrie. Put her in a courtroom and she is like a Rottweiller let loose.
So letting the two of them go head to head against each other is quite entertaining.
This morning's first witness was an undercover Scorpions agent who had raided a plot where the two-ton hashish consignment had been stashed. He had filmed it all with a hidden camera and recorded it in his investigations diary.
Once done with his evidence, Sita let Gerrie know that she took exception to his nodding and shaking his head during her cross examination, implying that he had been communicating with the witness when not to answer and how to respond.
Gerrie took huge exception, revealed her allegations to the court and placed on record that he most certainly never, ever would do such a dastardly thing.
Then Sita accused him of adding in an undisclosed witness as a stalling strategy designed to get the case postponed because he knew she would not be available next week.
Again, he furiously denied this.
And on and on.
And it continues tomorrow.
Oh joy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A bush surgeon gets a visit from the gods

The gods have appeared to Maine Thifhulufheli Nemavhulani, owner of a circumcision school in Limpopo. Actually they appeared to him in 1982 already, but he is only taking heed now.
According to a rural news agency, Nemavhulani says the gods have instructed him to go to the Eastern Cape to help stop the mess-ups made at circumcision schools in that province.
Apparently the guys in the Eastern Cape have made so many botch-ups at this past winter circumcision school that 42 young boys actually died and scores more have been left maimed in hospital.
Nemavhulani however, has a clean record. In fact he was recently invited to a party held for all Vhembe circumcision school owners to celebrate the fact that "not a single life was lost during this winter's circumcision period inVhembe district. And it was here that he revealed the gods desire for him to go and help out in the Eastern Cape.
Nemavhulani, of Tshimbupfe village near Vuwani, said the gods came to him in a dream and were apparently extremely angry with the Eastern Cape crowd - as one can imagine.
Now I understand that we have various customs and cultures in our country, and we have to respect that.
But I do feel intensely sorry for the mothers who have to send their boys out into the cold winters' nights to attend initiation schools where they could so easily end up dead. And as for the poor boys... I have no words.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Body searched for Selebi!

Another day in the Joburg High Court's courtroom 4B - for the sentencing hearing of one Jackie Dirty Cop Selebi. And, like many, many, many other occasions it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib with a fair bit of talk, no action and ending in a disappointing postponement.
And, in honour of the fact that today's proceedings were all about sentencing, security was out in full force. Oh yes indeedio. So, like usual, we all passed our bags and laptops through the x-ray machines at the front court entrance, stepped through the metal detectors and handed our phones to the strange guy who oversees it all.
Then a climb up to the fourth floor because none of the lifts work. Ever. And if they do, trust me - the experience of cramming yourself into the single occasionally operation lift in the building with umpteen other characters all thrilled at the chance to skip the stairs is horrrrrible!
At the entrance to the fourth floor court passage is yet another metal detector, security guards who search through your stuff and a register that you have to sign with all your details - ID number included. Today's extra special added delight for us visiting females was a body search. I kid you not! We had to individually enter the enclosed entrance to another court. Behind the closed door we were asked if we were prepared to be searched before the female security official then patted us down all over. Truly - even my shoes!!
Once in the court it was the usual bunfight for plug sockets and space on the gallery benches. A growing crowd of interested spectators ensured that the wooden benches of the public gallery were truly packed to capacity.
An old guard cop was called to testify. A white Afrikaans guy waxed lyrical about what a brilliant cop Jackie Selebi had been, and how much brilliance he had brought to the SAPS in his time. The fact that Selebi had gone on to take wads of cash from criminals and show them classified documents did not seem to bother him in the least.
The RadioChick arrived in court - fresh off a plane from Spain, having cut her trip short by a day to continue covering this story.
A few minutes later and it was all over. Postponed until after I am in Australia - so I shall not get to witness the final sentencing.
Can't say I'm crying about it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cheers, Jeremeeeee!

Today is a sad day.
The soccer that has thrilled and united us is over. And Jeremy Mansfield was on the Rude Awakening this morning for the last time.
Tomorrow Joburg will be different.
No more Jeremy. No more Frikkie Geyser and his "very, very, very good friend Gawie". Never again will we hear that Afrikaans accented "hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, how aaaaare we?"  greeting. No more Simphiwe the reprobate taxi driver. No more Lovemore Sibanda and his relatives Eet-Sum-More, Lovechance, Tupperware and Mistake Sibanda. No more Professor Wim Beukes with his post nasal drip and disgusting snorting.
Yes - all these characters were Jeremy himself.
The time has come to bid farewell to the big guy who is leaving for a life without alarm clocks and leave breaks planned 18-months in advance. He has been lured away by the promise of "an unstructured life" .
Considering that he had to get up every morning well before 4am, and had go through leukaemia treatment publicly, it's understandable that he now wants a quieter existence where he can dabble in all kinds of other stuff.
But Joburg's gonna miss him. Love him or hate him, Jeremy has been a huge feature on the Joburg scene for ages. He cried like a baby when he said goodbye today. As did many of his callers.
Cheers, Jem!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paul the Psychic Octopus

World cup fever reigns supreme!
Another day of writing about airport chaos, demands for hotels in Joburg ahead of the final match and all the rest.
A local communications dude sent in a pretty interesting press release in which he reated the top World Cup campaigns pulled off by creative marketers on a shoestring budget, bypassing Fifa's mafia-like iron grip and control over all things related to soccer.
Of course Bavaria breweries with their orange dresses in the ambush marketing campaign was up with with the best. But strangely enough, they were topped by the aquarium in Germany which has managed to go global with their Paul the Psychic Octopus.
Paul, it seems, has maintained a 100% correct prediction rate in picking the winning team in all Germany's matches.
Yes, this squirmy creature in a tank has managed to accurately identify which team will win simply by picking his food out of glass boxes marked with flags. Each time he has whipped his mussels or clams or whatever octopi eat out of the box with the flag of the team which then goes on to win the match of the day.
So far this has been limited to matches in which Germany plays - and since they lost to Spain last night, perhaps Paul's psychic abilities will no longer work - since he is a German octopus.
However, a Dutch colleague of mine who has been walking around in orange for weeks and is a huge participant of the Hup Holland Hup brigade, is hopeful. He bounded joyfully through the newsroom this afternoon after Oracle Paul apparently picked his food out of the Netherlands box when presented with the flags of the teams that have made it through to Sunday's historic final match.
Yes - Paul picked the Dutch team over Spain.
Methinks Paul is dicing with death and might end up as calamari after the weekend!
So strange to see the hopes of the world swayed by the whims of an octopus.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Traffic on Sunday

 As the World Cup final approaches swiftly, so South Africa is planning to ensure that the biggest sporting event on earth is a giant success.
And so today I was the lucky soul who got to write about the road closures, parking arrangements, highway blockades to protect bigshot dignitaries and visiting heads of state. It's going to be a huge day. With a bunch of chaos. Definitely - if we're writing about Sunday's traffic on Wednesday for Thursday's paper.
Ke nako. And all that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Burmese python named 2010201

A snake apparently used to control the progress of certain teams in the soccer World Cup has been seized by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the organisation said on Monday.
"The Cape of Good Hope SPCA in Grassy Park rescued a Burmese Rock Python from a sangoma in Nyanga on 30 June 2010," said SPCA regional spokeswoman Sarah Scarth.
"It is alleged that the snake was illegally transported from Natal to Cape Town specifically for the Fifa World Cup.
"The sangoma is alleged to have accepted money from soccer fans who requested that he communicates to the ancestors and appeal to them to allow their specific football team to progress in the game."
The snake -- which was found to be underweight and suffering from dehydration, mouthrot and pneumonia -- was apparently kept in a shack and car with no food or water.
It has since received medical care.
On Monday, the Daily Sun reported that the sangoma Siyabonga Mthethwa, 25, said that he was "forced" to hand over the snake, named 2010.
"2010 is my snake and I will teach them a lesson. They say a black man can't carry a snake."
Mthethwa alleged that the SPCA was not familiar with sangomas.
"Everything I said does not make sense to them."
Mthethwa said that the snake was "troublesome" when he was taken away.
"I know that he will give them many problems. I will make him disappear or kill him in their care."
He said the snake would not "last long" without him.
"I know everything about his life. I will go home and bring all my other snakes and see what they will do then."
The newspaper reported that Mthethwa owns eight other snakes, of which 2010 was the smallest.
Wildlife Unit inspector and supervisor Brett Glasby said he believed the sangoma had seven snakes in all but that the others were in KwaZulu-Natal.
Glasby said the relevant authorities had been notified about the snakes.