Over South Africa

You join me traversing South Africa. Bottom left to top right. I’m on a teeny tiny plane, and there’s “lots of weather all over South Africa”, according to the captain.

That’s not good, because we’re also very much all over South Africa.

It has been unpleasantly bouncy so far.

The inflight magazine contains the usual plethora of advertorials: guest houses and safari lodges dominate, but there was a beautiful juxtaposition of an industrial rock crushing equipment supplier across the page from a laser tooth whitening service.

To avoid disappointment (and possibly a lot of pain), please make sure you ring the correct number.

In the same magazine, there’s the usual puff piece about the airline you’re on, and how they’re better than the other airlines. They advertise some of those differences as being “more smiles”, which I’m fairly sure aren’t objectively quantifiable SI units, and the opportunity to “say goodbye to rigid itineraries”.


Is it just me that quite likes the idea of a rigid itinerary when booking travel tickets? I can’t imagine that it is. It’s literally one of the most important things that I’m after.

For example, I’m hopeful that my accommodation for this evening is fairly rigidly booked. It really wouldn’t be helpful for them to be flexible enough to be “just a day out”.

Could you maybe pop back tomorrow please, Sir?

We seem to have finally hit some clean air, over what I’m guessing is the southern Free State. This means that I can stop thinking about flight safety statistics and engineering tolerances as mind-over-matter means of combatting the mentally challenging effects of the turbulence.

Aaand it’s back already. That didn’t last long. Quite bad. Tumble drier on a rollercoaster stuff, if you remember that post about the Christchurch earthquake that I can’t link to right now because I’m 37,000 feet up in the air. (Updated once safely on the ground.)

Really bad now. Not nice. Gasps and exclamations from passengers. I’m being stoic. Who would be listening anyway?

We’re turning. The pilots have had enough. Not back to Cape Town, but presumably looking for a bit of a clearer way around the bumpy stuff. Thank you.

Ok. About an hour to go. Agricultural landscape giving way to mining and industry beneath me.

Time to relax with some chilled electronica (it’s M83 in case you were wondering), stop thinking about that other stuff. and plan those first few shots again.

Looks like if you’re reading this, we made it.

Or at least my phone did.

There goes the election…

Many people had thought that the ANC might sink to below 50% of the vote in the upcoming national elections. And to be honest, given their performance over the last n years, that seemed like a very reasonable suggestion.

But that was before the ANC asked… er… the ANC to pray for… er… the ANC “to renew itself”.

I can’t comment on all of the other political parties in South Africa (because there really are an awful lot of them), but I certainly haven’t heard of any of the others asking themselves to pray for themselves.

Oops. Missed opportunity right there.

God isn’t going to be looking favourably at any party – no matter how honest they are or how good their policies might be – if their members haven’t been in touch with Him and prayed for self-renewal, now is He?

That’s just not how He works.

So I guess we might as well just hand the election – and what’s left of the country – to the ANC for another 5 years. After all, we’re not just fighting the last of the pre-1994 generation, but also the Lord Almighty too now.

Oh, and the “renewed” ANC, apparently.

Yeah right.

And so I find myself…

…overlooking some local vineyards while waiting for my daughter and her friends to enjoy a last-day-of-the-school-holidays lunch. I’ve done a couple of jobs and a bit of shopping, and now I’m back where I dropped them off and I’m enjoying a sandwich while I wait and don’t cramp anyone’s style.

As regular readers will know, I’m well used to waiting in car parks while my kids do stuff, and this one really isn’t much of a chore, given the weather and the view.

At times like this, I’m reminded of a recent conversation about emigration. As a topic, it’s always lurking awkwardly somewhere in the background at parties and braais, ready to pop into the chat in any quiet moment. Honestly, I’d rather talk about other things. Probably with other people. People who want to talk about emigration are usually the ones who want to talk about other stuff I don’t.
I came for the beer and the meat and the happy times. An opportunity for some time off from real life.
Not to wallow in politics and economics and crime stats. (And remember: I’m not just talking about SA here.)

But there was no escape in this case. And this was the “we’re staying” version of the emigration chat.
And the line that has remained with me from the mountain walk that morning is:

If we were in the UK right now, what would the highlight of our weekend be? Probably visiting a garden centre.

I sometimes think that in justifying (or trying to justify?) these sorts of decisions, it’s easy to be biased towards whichever side you’ve chosen, sometimes by over exaggerating the positives of your choice, sometimes by denigrating the other option.

And I do definitely think that this is a bit of the latter.

But as I’ve said before (and fully recognising how lucky I am to be able to say this), for us, the lifestyle here far outweighs the problems of the place.

And without wanting to do the UK down, I can’t help but think that if I were there, I’d more likely be waiting in a shopping centre multi-storey car park and not overlooking the Constantia Valley and False Bay. (Well, obviously. But you know what I mean.) And it’s not like I don’t have the choice of a shopping centre multi-storey car park if that were my (or my daughter’s) scene.

But on a sunny, breezy Monday lunchtime under the oaks in Constantia, the biggest concerns are baboons and tourists. And why they didn’t bring a straw with her milkshake.

And this car park is really good.

All about “The Shutdown”

It was all a bit weird from the start. Populist, vocal, flipflopping political party, known for its publicity stunts and – let’s be honest here – “occasional” forays into violent protest, calls for a day of National Shutdown to end loadshedding and oust the President. But given that their grievances are an ongoing thing, it was odd that they gave us all six or seven weeks notice.

Until you realise that they had chosen the Monday 20th March because it falls in between a weekend and Tuesday 21st March – a public holiday. Schools were closed, many people would have taken one day of leave from work to get an extra long weekend: it would likely be quiet anyway. This did not go unnoticed by some people:

But it did meant that the organisers could easily claim that images of quiet cities and empty streets were down to support for their cause, when actually, a control for their experiment would have yielded much the same result.

And then there were the veiled threats. Shut your business or it might get looted. Shut down your airport – or else:

Hint: Don’t mess with a national keypoint, guys. Silly move.

And many of those businesses (not the airport) won’t be open today Not because they are supporting the protest, but more that that they are terrified of the potential violence that might befall them, should they open. And while the leaders of the party are publicly calling for peaceful protest, the EFF dosen’t have a great record at doing that:

I’m not saying that today’s EFF protests will be/would have been violent. I’m just saying that their history is enough to assume that there’s a fair chance that it won’t all be peaceful. And in the lead up to the protest, over 24,000 tyres (the SA protestors weapon of choice):

were found – many of them sequestered at strategically important localities like major intersections – and removed.

So when journalists report that “street vendors stayed away”, and the EFF supporters claim that shows endorsement for the protest, I’m more willing to believe that it’s just for the vendors’ safety and that of their businesses.

And then there’s the misinformation, because there always is misinformation. Old videos, old pictures, entirely normal traffic jams: the works. Thankfully, all debunked here. But not before they have had millions of impressions on social media.

Oh, and the video of Adderley Street in Cape Town, now supposedly in Pretoria.

Also, it rained in Cape Town this morning. It rained a lot. Now I’ve never been a fan of sports which are stopped by a bit of rain (tennis, padel, cricket etc…). And the rain certainly kept the protest numbers down around here. Much to the amusement of the mayor:

Cheap shot, agreed, but I reckon that he’ll be extremely glad that the weather helped his city out today. And after all the sabre-rattling, intimidation, threats and bravado from the other side, why not push back a little?

It’s 4:30pm now, and there have only been sporadic or unverified (at the time of writing) incidents across the country, thus far. It seemed like a lot of people stayed away from the protests instead of work – there have been a lot of images of tiny groups of red-shirted individuals from various places around the country.

A couple of valid(?) points have been raised though. The sudden availability of police officers to combat any trouble that may arise, when they’re usually nowhere to be found when actual crime happens to actual individuals. That said, I do know that they are working unsustainable shift patterns in many places to have extra numbers on the ground today. Even Struisbaai SAPS has 12 hour shifts going on this weekend, and the EFF only managed 20 votes there in the recent by-election.
And the sudden availability of electricity, as well. Is it really down to hard work and good luck, or can the powers that be actually positively affect loadshedding? And if so, how? Because if so, that’s quite sinister. Why aren’t they doing it all the time? The proof of the pudding here will be what happens tomorrow and the rest of the week.
And finally – why the panic by the government? Lots of police, lots of talk, lots of unnecessary drama:

“Regime change”? “Unconstitutional means”? (Let’s talk about constitutional means after the elections next year.) And the military on standby. Overkill. Sorry – poor choice of words.

All in all, an awful lot of “all mouth, no trousers” again, as it usually is in SA politics.
OK, in worldwide politics, but especially in SA politics.
Still a few hours of the day to go, though. And then the rest of the year.

Anything could happen.

And what’s happening here? Well, I’m going to have a beer, because my fridge hasn’t been shut down.