Can you write me off too, please?

Great news! (if you’re Cuban, that is.)

According to this morning’s Cape Times, the South African government has written off a 12-year-old debt owed to it by Cuba for export insurance relating to diesel engines, pesticides, Joost van der Westhuizen promotional mechandise and biltong.  
Very generous. Very, very generous in fact, when you hear that the debt totalled R926,8million. Now although the current exchange rates mean that that princely sum would only buy you a prawn mayo sandwich in London, it’s still a whole lotta Rands.

Government communications head Themba Maseko told a media briefing following Wednesday’s regular Cabinet meeting:

Given the assessment of Cuba’s debt position, government is of the view that Cuba was not in a position to meet its obligations in the foreseeable future.

I’ll bet that little gem of an announcement was slipped in right at the end of the briefing, following 4 hours waffling about exciting social grant allocation, fishing subsidies, landfill waste statistics and annual concrete price fluctuations. “Oh – and for those of you still here and still awake, we also voted to write off a billion Rands worth of debt to the Castro brothers. Thank you all very much, see you next week.”

At this point, I’d like to introduce you all to my bond. My mortgage. The money I borrowed from the bank to pay for my house. Now, to coin an official government phrase, “Given the assessment of my debt position, I am of the view that I am not in a position to meet my obligations in the forseeable future.”
This, by inference and extrapolation, together with a good dollop of subjectivity and bias, therefore means that my bank can write off all that I owe it and I can celebrate with a few mojitos and a fat cigar. Right?

Wrong. Despite the fact that I could be doing better things with my cash than throwing it into the ever-deepening pit of excessive interest payments, a pit which now dwarfs Kimberley’s Big Hole (and here I refer to the city in the Northern Cape, not the lass on Sea Point Main Road) – I still have to pay it back. Life is just so unfair.

Seriously though, what could South Africa have done with that billion Rand? Well, maybe the answers are right in front of us on the same Cape Times website:
Prevent deaths through water-borne disease in Soweto?
Fight the scourge of alcohol abuse and tik which is ruining students futures?
Reducing child mortality rates, which are still on the rise?

Look, I know Cuba has problems too. But I pay tax in SA. For SA.

Tourists not eaten by sharks

Three tourists who drowned when the shark-cage diving boat they were on capsized off Gansbaai were not eaten by sharks, much to the disappointment of the South African media. This unfortunate lack of an incident turned this potentially sensational and tourism-damaging crowd-puller into no more than a run-of-the-mill tragic accident story

Chairperson of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation, Mariette Hopley, said the shark-cage diving boat had anchored just before a freak wave capsized the boat around 10:00 on Sunday.

One of the people swept off the boat was caught underneath the boat and had to be retrieved by divers. The divers took the man to the mainland where paramedics managed to get a faint pulse, but were unable to revive him. He was certified dead.
The other two men were found drowned at sea and their bodies were retrieved.

A spokesperson for the South African Independent Press Association* stated:

This is a terrible and upsetting incident for all concerned – especially our photographers, who have really missed out on this one. Here is a story which could have boosted website hits, viewer and reader numbers across our country’s media and due to a complete lack of shark activity, we’ve just got a few drownings.
And this in the self-proclaimed “Great White Capital of The World”
How are we supposed to sell that? It’s a disaster.

It’s sad that firstly I feel so ambivalent about these 3 tourists dying; secondly, I’m more concerned about the potential damage it may do to the country’s tourism than what it means to their friends and families; and thirdly that I have so little trust in the South African press.

Maybe I’m more South African than I thought.

Too many times I have seen speculation reported as fact and actually quite dull news stories blown out of all proportion in order to sell newspapers or gain a few extra website visitors. Because of course, thanks to that wonderful thing called human nature, the gorier the story (especially when you can get pictures too), the more people want to read it. We humans are nice like that. And the press know it and they use it.

So forgive my cynicism when it comes to those reporters rushing to sleepy Gansbaai yesterday lunchtime, but I really don’t believe that they got what they were hoping for.

Ag, shame.

* An organisation which I just made up

South Africa’s Electricity Crisis – Update

My South Africa’s Electricity Crisis post has turned out to be one of the more popular ones on this site, so with there being significant developments in the ongoing saga, I thought I’d update you, the 6000 miles… reading public, with the latest news.

As from Monday, we now have pre-emptive load shedding. Which means that now we are told in advance via schedules when our electricity will be cut and we can plan around it. We can pre-empt the pre-emptive load shedding, if you will. This makes things a whole lot easier. In fact, when you know that you’ll have no power for two hours at 10am on a Tuesday, you can work through almost seamlessly.
But it’s still not enough for some people.

The recent change in tactics comes simply because people in South Africa have not saved enough electricity to avoid mandatory power cuts. We were asked as electricity consumers to save 10%, we didn’t – it’s that straightforward.
It has polarised public opinion, according to the media. As a country, we are now split into two groups (something we’re rather used to here in SA) – the Savers and the Moaners.
This is actually not strictly accurate: there is the third group – quite a large group – which never had the luxury of electricity to begin with. I hesitate to call them the Dark People for obvious reasons. Anyway, they don’t count here, apparently.

The Savers (and I count myself among this group) cut down their electricity use. We installed energy saving CFL lightbulbs, we switched our geysers (water heaters) off for several hours each day, we stopped using standby on the TV etc etc.

The Moaners (quite rightly) blamed Eskom and the Government for the crisis and refused to do anything to help. Consequently, despite the best efforts of the Savers, we are back onto not having any power at certain times of the week.  And this time, it isn’t the fault of Eskom or Government, it’s the fault of the Moaners. Because you see, they had the opportunity to avoid this situation but they chose not to.
Instead, they keep working on their time machines in an effort to go back to 1998 and pre-empt the whole thing. Which obviously won’t work, because if they had managed it, we wouldn’t be having the problems now. Although there’s always the chance that they might stop their parents from ever meeting, which would be a welcome development (if you enjoyed Back to the Future trilogy, you’ll understand where I’m coming from).

Look, it’s not an ideal situation, but at least it’s an improvement on what we had before. What irritates me is that with a little more public buy-in, it could have been even better. We could have avoided having power cuts at all, but you people thought it was better to whinge than to actually do something about it. And guess what, judging by what I’ve heard on the TV and radio, you still think it’s better to whinge than to actually do something about it. Idiots.

Finally – “just” 800 days until the start of the 2010 World Cup and every one of our stadiums is on or ahead of schedule. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Wembley. 

Equine sign

In the week that Canadian diva, Celine “Ole Horse Face” Dion arrived in Cape Town to perform two concerts at Vergelegen Wine Estate as part of her Taking Chances tour , the Western Province Horse Society chose to release the following reminder to horse owners across the province:

African Horse Sickness
Link

Coincidence? I think not.

If only Canada had enforced some sort of export ban, we’d be feeling a lot happier in Cape Town right now.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this city as I pray for hoarse of a different kind.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Going green

Incoming from the Ad Wizard: “A possible 6000 story?”

Yep – I’ll go for that.

Going green

 

Not sure where this came from originally or if it’s true.
But you know, this is South Africa and people are nothing if not resourceful.

It’s a cool story – I choose to believe.