Monday, October 25, 2010

Auction action!

Stephan Welz & Company are having an auction soon. And they believe that the stuff going under the hammer is so exclusive that it warrants a press release, complete with a photograph of a particularly precious item up for sale.
It's a ginger jar, and looks like this:

According to the description, it's 32cm high on a wooden stand. It is painted with "stylised leaves, flowers and stars against a streaked green and yellow ground, gilt detailing, the cover similarly decordated, all under a lustre glaze".
It's pretty.
Then I saw that this little piece of pottery is expected to fetch between R25 000 and R35 000.
That's pretty expensive for a little item.
And then I saw the Christmas catalogue put out by Makro's liquor outlet. And I realised that R35 000 for a pretty little display item is an absolute steal.
I mean - check this out. R150 000 for a bottle of whisky! I kid you not! Here is the brochure, as photographed with my Blackberry!
And it is not a printing error or other kind of mistake. My colleague Boulders phoned them to check it out. And indeedio - a bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich will set you back the cost of a mid-range car!
For that price I would want it to drive me to work, make me coffee and give me a neck massage. At the very least!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tension in Tembisa

Today I got to spend a whole bunch of hours in Tembisa. With a few hundred angry residents of the Madelakufa squatter camp - as they referred to themselves. Or the inhabitants of the local informal settlement, as Chief Photographer preferred to call them in the belief that this description bestows them with a little more dignity.
It was a typical protest - angry people cross about having been registered on a waiting list for a low cost house for 20 years and still find themselves in shacks. Apparently President Jacob Zuma paid them a visit in June and promised them that they would be getting houses in about November. And now in late October they have discovered that only about 450 of the 2 500 odd residents will be getting homes in a project set to be phased in.
So now the fight is on - who is going to be among the first to get a house, who gets to choose the priority order and where oh where will the other houses for phase 2 onwards be built because there is apparently no more land!
Chief Photographer climbed up and snapped pics of the raging crowd while the two intern photographers who accompanied us also shot pictures. It was a good training ground - all seething masses, armed cops, threatening chaos but nothing actually ever spinning out of control or getting ugly.
Tembisa is one of those townships with a dark edginess to it - where it's hard to feel comfortable and you feel the constant need to watch your back.
So it was with relief that we watched the crowds withdraw after they were promised a decent written response by the Ekhuruleni Housing Department. Tomorrow. Apparently.
I hope we don't have to go rushing back there in the morning to cover a riot!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Natural Born Killers

Spending time manning the newsdesk and looking more closely at the stories coming in has me convinced that Mpumalanga and Limpopo are strange places where real-life manifestations of Quentin Tarantino movie-type scenarios unfold with alarming regularity.
I read the stories with horror, knowing that they are real simply because your average sane and balanced person simply could not invent the stuff that goes down there.
Take, for example, the most recent event of this nature. A 42-year-old man from Bushbuckridge has been sent for psychiatric observation to determine whether he is fit to stand trial for the murder of his father.
It seems that 42-year-old Simon spent Friday afternoon chasing a small child around with an axe. His 60-year-old dad Wilson stepped in to stop the nonsense, only to have Simon hit him several times in the head with the axe.
The kid ran to the neighbours who called the cops and an ambulance. But Wilson died soon after they got him to the Matikwane Hospital in Mkhulu. The cops seem to agree that Simon could be a tad mental.
And then yesterday, in Limpopo, another guy found himself in a spot of bother following the deaths of three teenage girls.
Apparently he was driving along in his bakkie when he picked up six young women looking for a lift. He apparently failed to stop at the place where he had promised to drop them off, so the of course all jumped off the back. Three of them bounced in the road and got hit and killed by other cars.
As I say - one could hardly invent these stories!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ducking and diving and bullet proof vests.

This whole week, I am set to stay put in the office. A colleague has had a baby and gets this week off for paternity duties at home, and I get to sit behind the newsdesk.
It is not going to be nearly as exciting as, say, yesterday when I got to dash out to fire. The Duck 'n Dive pub and pool hall at Kya Rock shopping centre burnt down, much to the enormous distress of locals. Seriously - it has been a long, long time since I have encountered such a bleak crowd, and I cover Jozi crime! Pale and silent, they stared at their gutted old haunt. I am sure some of them were actually crying, but too embarrassed to admit it. They spoke about the pool trophies, framed t-shirts and teddy bear collection all lost in the fire. Some declared themselves homeless.
So, so sad....
Now if I had been in the newsroom this morning I would have been the one assigned to the shooting at Northgate. Five armed guys stormed into a jewellery store and shot the owner dead in front of his pregnant wife before firing shots into another three people.
Like some enthusiastic adverts are telling us - Christmas is on the way. And so come the armed attacks on malls. So best we start wearing bullet proof vests when we go shopping!