Thursday, September 30, 2010

PigSpotter and the Police In Gauteng.

So PigSpotter - the guy who has been causing a stir round the world with his efforts to alert Gauteng drivers to the presence of traffic cops - is hoping to get his lawyers to negotiate a sweet deal for him in the event that they intend to prosecute him.
If it is up to the Metro cops - PigSpotter will be well and truly roasted. They are really mad with him. Steaming, frothing mad. He has offended their delicate sensibilities by referring to them with all kinds of porky references.
PigSpotter has become something of a cult hero, tweeting away any sightings he has of police activity on our province's roads. Pigs, pork rashers, crackling, swine flu brewing in the bushes - you name it - he had the most delightfully creative turn of phrase.
And he got followers by the thousand - anxious drivers wanting to avoid the ever-increasing number of speed traps, road blocks and the like. Partygoers who might be over the limit, but wanting a safe route home; speed freaks looking to avoid bad surprises or whatever - they are following him madly on Twitter.
Then the cops went public with their disapproval, threatening to sue him for defamation. Their egos are bruised and they're man enough to admit it.
So PigSpotter backtracked a little and said his porky references were not meant to be hurtful. Just funny. I mean Pig is an obvious reference to Police In Gauteng!!
Too brilliant!
I am watching this unfolding saga with bated breath...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rea Vaya - not so much!

Gosh - another sudden, unannounced bus strike.
For the third time in four months the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit system failed to operate this morning.
Nobody from the transport department knew why. Nor did anyone from the City of Joburg, or the Rea Vaya Communications office. Not even the Metro Trading Company - the business set up to manage the Rea Vaya stations knew what was going on.
I called them all back just before my late morning deadline and was told the strike action was all to do with a dispute relating to station staff employment contracts set to expire at the end of October.
I dunno, but it doesn't seem to me that going on a sudden strike is the best path to job security. But then again, these BRT workers have gone on illegal, unprotected strikes twice before and got their own way, so maybe it is the thing to do. I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in reaching anyone with authority who can tell me what they plan to do about this situation.
I heard that the Rea Vaya workers were toyi-toying and causing problems at the Thokoza Park station in Soweto and headed out there to speak to them. Dozens were gathered there, most of them lounging on the grass under trees and unwilling to speak - sure that they were not going to work, not so sure about why. The few groups of emotional people talking agitatedly about what other actions to take would also not speak.
A group of us stood in the sun and watched them. A photographer translated the shouts of one of the security workers who was complaining that his salary of R2000 was not enough for him to afford a life policy and that if he got killed on duty his family would be left with nothing.
So - none of the bosses knew what was being demanded of them. None of the workers was saying what exactly they wanted.
I have had to hand this one over to the late shift reporter in the hopes that maybe by sundown or later there will be a voice of reason or some kind of explanation of what happened.
Today was day two of this illegal strike. Still the buses were not running. And still nobody was fired. I called around and discovered that the reason for the strike was now clear. Apparently all the workers' contracts expire at the end of October and they all want to be immediately given permanent employment.
The glitch in the matrix, however, is that the Joburg City Council has apparently promised 40% of these jobs to the taxi industry.
Eish. Caught between a disgruntled worker and the taxi mafia!
So we wait to see if the city's shiny new buses will run tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Geraldine and an unfortunate storm in a teacup.

While I might be non-athletic (although I do have a fairly well-used gym contract) and sports does feature extremely low on my list of passions, I once again had to jump on a sports story today.
A rival newspaper hit the streets today with a big scoop about a retired sprinter having been injected with a "banned"  substance. By her team doctor. Two years ago - but hey, it's a doping scandal, right?
The story is all very juicy. The doctor who apparently gave the vials of banned substance was a controversial character from East Germany named Ekkart Arbeit. He once trained a woman called Heidi Krieger who was doped with so many anabolic steroids and stuff that she went on to have a sex change and changed her name to Andreas.

My job this morning was to pick up the story and find out what the people involved had to say about it.
It did not take long for me to realise that Actovegin, the supposed banned drug involved, is actually not banned. It is not listed by the World Anti Doping Agency, nor do our local guys have it listed as prohibited.
So - a bit of a storm in a tea cup. Coincidentally happening on the eve of Athletics South Africa's elections in which Geraldine has been nominated to the Athletes Council.
This scandal cannot be undone. I feel for her!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big Mac Benni trims down

Gobsmackingly interesting day!
Mostly because I was assigned an interesting story that revealed to me some startling facts.
The basic story, as broken by the pommie papers, is that our top soccer start currently playing on their soggy little island - one Benni McCarthy - has lost 13kg.
It seems that he went on his personal load shedding mission after he was fined a whopping R880 000 by his football club West Ham United. This, I have to admit, I at first thought was a tad excessive. I mean, how many of us can identify with the poor lad's troubles? But then I discovered that R880 000 was equal to two week's pay.
Jeeez Louise! I had no idea that soccer players earned that much. Admittedly he is a Premier League player. But 40 000 quid? A week!! Compare that with columnist David Bullard's recent noting on his NewsTime website that some SA journalists are willing to work for as little as R35 000 a month (*ahem* that would be 3 150 quid for my international reader) - an amount he further notes is equal to what someone he knows spends on whisky alone in a month.
I am betting that Benni's mom is extremely thankful that he decided to become a soccer player rather than a journalist!
And so after being fined two week's pay, or the equivalent of a townhouse in Weltevreden Park, Benni signed himself into some clinic in Austria where he proceeded to lose 13kg and is now on course to regain his spot in the team.
My contribution to this rivetting international story was to find out what the impact of losing such a vast amount of weight is likely to be on the body of a 6 foot tall professional athlete.
It was a bit difficult considering that the timeframe detailing his weight reduction regime could be found nowhere, so the passionate experts I tracked down agreed that maybe it was good and no harm done because our portly lad had been sporting an unhealthy boep. But it could have been bad if he lost it all too fast because maybe he didn't just dump body fat, and has lost muscle strength and tone.
Who knows?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New crime stats - woo hoo!

Big excitement today when the cops released the latest crime statistics and anounced that murder is down.
Police chief General Bheki Cele reckons that they have succeeded in turning the tide against crime and that the fact that most contact crimes - the violent ones that we are all so scared of - are down, is proof of this.
And then he announced that the cops have come across a new kind of crime.
So how is this for genius? Apparently some people buy super duper luxury cars and then insure them five times over. Then, sometime before the five instalments a month drags them into bankruptcy, the car goes missing.
Then they make five insurance claims for, say, R300 000 a whack, and walk away with R1.2-million.
How do people think up stuff like this?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bad news for Emma

For two days running I have been writing about a teenage girl who broke her neck diving into her pool at home.
She was airlifted to hospital where they put steel pins in her head so she could lie in traction, with weights stretching out her injured spine. Her family believed she was waiting for surgery that could not go ahead because of our blessed public service strike.
And so her cousin called a radio station and tearfully told how this 15-year-old girl was left waiting.
Fortunately for the paralysed girl Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was listening and immediately ordered whatever military intervention was necessary to ensure that young Emma got the surgery she needed.
So a bunch of high level soldiers marched through the strike action into the hospital to find out what was going on. Hospital bosses scrambled, suddenly the family were told that Emma's surgery was actually scheduled to go ahead.
And it did. Today.
It was a success. But there is now no doubt about it, the diagnosis is final. Four days after her 15th birthday, when Emma hit her head on the bottom of her pool, she became a quadriplegic.
She is still unconscious. Her family are devastated.
I feel so priviliged to have a healthy, happy daughter. She has planned for us to have a pyjama party. After supper we will sit down with popcorn, put on cardboard glasses and watch the 3D dvd she got for her birthday - "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert". Aaaaargh.
Even so.
I feel so sad for Emma and her family. But never thought I would be so happy to watch anything to do with Miley - simply because I can do it with my perfect little poppet.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back on the treadmill

My month-long holiday has been absolutely annihilated!
Three days of work and it feels as though I've been back in the trenches for months.
Approximately 10 seconds after reporting for my first day back at work I was sent running. Week three of the public service strike was in full swing and not about to slow down for me (who had been on another continent for the past four weeks) to catch up with the action.
Never mind the fact that my password had expired and the company had updated the computer system while I was away - I had to make a plan and file on the latest events immediately. A tad stressful but apparently doable - I managed to slam out a front page piece by 7.30am.
Then - no resting on any laurels - there was a gas explosion out in Devland (huh? where? - yeah, my reaction too!). Some guy in an 80-ton digger accidentally pierced a disused gas pipe under a factory and caused a leak that had emergency services closing the air space above, the highway alongside and trundling one poor woman off to hospital.
Day two: a bunch of striking teachers surrounded a primary school and tried to break in and cause havoc.
Day three: More strike stuff to report on. And South Africans stuck in Mozambique because rioters there were causing a ruckus over food, electricity and water prices.
I managed it all.
But I feel tired already.
Perhaps another holiday? Just wishing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back from Australia!

In what feels like precisely three seconds my month-long trip to Australia is over. Finished. Done and dusted. Overs kedovers.
All that is left are some precious memories, awesome photographs and renewed respect for my five-year-old Little One who is about the best travelling buddy I could have wished for. She handled airports, jetlag and long boring flights like a trooper.
So, what lessons does one learn when travelling the globe as a single mom?
Firstly - don't try and take your brother tins of chakalaka stashed in your handluggage. You will NOT get it through the South African security check and even get on the plane with it. Trust me - I tried. But noooooooo! Got all three tins taken off me by a staunch security official.
No amount of reasoning or logic would budge him. I would perhaps have understood if he said that canned goods were regarded as lethal weapons on the basis that one could cause far more physical harm with them than you could with other banned items like, say, a deadly nail file. But this was not the case - apparently if the tins contained peas or baked beans there would be no problem. The fault with chakalaka, he told me, was that the spice content was "too high". No amount of reassuring him that I had zero intention of ripping the can open with my teeth midflight, or careful pointing out that my cans were labelled "mild" would convince the guy that allowing me to take the stuff to Australia was not a security risk.
But this was not the last of the airport security busts I fell victim too. While I had carefully packed Little One's left-handed kiddie scissors in our luggage on the way to Australia, she had unfortunately packed them in with her crayons and colouring-in book when we embarked on a flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast. And they got spotted on x-ray and the crack security guy decended on her Dora the Explorer bag like a Beagle on a bag of cocaine. Quickly he pulled the offending item and held it up, proclaiming "This is not allowed".
No amount of pleading that they were extremely difficult to find left-handed scissors garnered an ounce of sympathy. No amount of pointing out that these were small, pink plastic and girlie, not terribly sharp blades with blunt ends convinced him to relent. Rules were rules and the scissors were confiscated as lethal weapons.
But apart from that, we had an awesome time. Adventures galore.
In four short weeks we explored the Southern Highlands, checked out Sydney, walked the Gold Coast beaches and visited Surfer's Paradise, flew to Tasmania and played in snow on the top of Mount Wellington and spent a day in Canberra viewing the nation's capital.
My Little One saw snow for the first time and decided that she likes it only "when it's already fallened with a bit of sun on it, not when it is freezing cold and smashing in my face".
"I need a break from snow," she proclaimed after her first experience of white stuff that left her hands so cold they hurt, as she proceeded to fall asleep in her car seat minutes later.
All in all - totally amazing.
And then we spent 15 hours on a plane flight home. We arrived home to mile-long queues at passport control as only two officials were on duty thanks to the ongoing public service strike.
I miss Australia already.