Postcard from Cape Town

Hello there. How’s the conference going?

I must say that at first sight, five days in a 5-star hotel overlooking the Victoria Falls in Zambia didn’t seem to be the worse scenario in the world, but I’m sure you’re all working damn hard out there between the drinking sessions, although the thunderous noise of the spectacular 108m high, 1.7km long wall of falling water must be a little off-putting. As you know, I’ve never been, but I’m guessing it’s something like our back garden a couple of weeks ago. I still haven’t found our goat, by the way.
I can’t believe your phone isn’t working – curse those yellow freaks at MTN. Curse them.

Not much news from here. Of course, we miss you. Alex regularly breaks off from tearing the pages of his nursery rhyme book to go and investigate the Case of the Missing Mum by peering round the nearest corner to see where you’re hiding.
I do try to explain, but by that time he’s moved onto hugging his teddy or playing with the contents of your underwear drawer. How come he’s allowed to do that, but I’m not?

Anyway, we’re getting on just fine, despite his “dirty protest” in the bath on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t as bad as the last time he did it – I wasn’t actually in the bath with him this time. *shudder*
I’ve been using that old South African Klippies-in-the-bedtime-bottle trick your mum said she used to use on you. I can’t say for sure if he’s been sleeping through but generally I have been as I’ve been finishing the Klipdrift off once he’s passed out. I can’t allow him to drink alone, now can I?
Interestingly, he seems to handle the blinding headaches of the following morning better than I do.
I’m quite envious. </font

I hardly like to mention it, but tonight is the big England v Brazil friendly at Wembley. You must be gutted. I know you would have loved to have watched it with me, so I’ll look up when it’s repeated when you come back and we can enjoy it together then. Maybe it’ll be repeated twice if you’re lucky.
But that’s assuming I can get out of the hospital past the picket lines this evening. I tried to appear all cool by joining in their songs and toyi-toying on the way through the gate this morning, but I just ended up singing “Shongololo” instead of “Shosholoza” and proving that white men really can’t jump. I like to think they appreciated my efforts though and that they were laughing with me. Possibly anyway.

Tomorrow looks like being Saturday and so I’ll plonk the boy into his car seat and we’ll hit the beach and eat some sand together (washed down with some more Klippies). He’s expressed a wish to take up ornithology ever since he saw that “Puffin with Muffins” page in his rhyming book, so I thought that Sandy Bay would be the obvious choice, where you can see plenty of Capetonian birds in their… erm… natural plumage. We’ll probably just sit back and admire them preening or something and knock back a couple more Klippies. We’re not addicted though. Oh no.

OK – I must get to the bottle store before it closes.
We’ll see you at the airport on Sunday.
If I’m too drunk, Alex has said that he’ll drive. If he’s too drunk as well, I guess you’ll have to get a taxi.
Til then dearest,

Me.x

Sport and Racism in South Africa…

I read with interest the Ruck & Maul column by Ashfak Mohamed in today’s Cape Times. Ashfak is a rugby fan who was at the SA v England game in Bloemfontein last Saturday.


Ashfak isn’t white. (There was a photo).


He described what we’ve all seen at rugby matches across South Africa, namely an almost complete absence of black and coloured fans in the crowd; an embarrassing and hostile silence through the first verse of the national anthem (which is sung in isiXhosa), followed by a bellowing of Die Stem (the Afrikaans verse which also used to be the national anthem of the “old” South Africa) and players of colour being racially abused for their mistakes on the pitch.
His citing of previous racism at matches in Bloemfontein for this overwhelming majority of white fans got me thinking. Also on Saturday was the ABSA Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns (that’s a soccer* game, folks). One wonders how many white fans were at that game? I would wager that it was fewer than blacks and coloureds in Bloem. But is that a problem? Well, obviously, it is a problem when racial abuse stops people from watching sport** – whatever their colour. But is that really the reason that these two games were attended by such completely different crowds?
I think it is only one part of the story.

According to southafrica.info, “Sport is the national religion. Transcending race, politics or language group, sport unites the country”

I laughed when I read that. Yes, this country could have gone down the road of civil war in 1994 and it didn’t, and for that everyone should be thankful. But saying that life is settled and the country is united in any form just because there’s no civil war is like saying that England did well at the rugby because they didn’t lose by, say, 100 points. Those claiming “racial harmony” are, to coin a cockney phrase, “having a larf”. This country is amongst the most divided in the world.

Insecurity, paranoia, resentment, retribution, disillusionment and distrust are plainly evident the way many South Africans live their daily lives. Those reading this will probably snort and dismiss this. “That’s not me.” they’ll say. I beg to differ.


The population here is divided into those who won’t openly admit to there being a problem, those who see the issues but don’t have a problem with them and the other 1% who want to sort things out but can’t overcome the apathy or engrained racist attitudes of the other 99%. Of course, 99% of the South Africans reading this think that they’re in that 1% – and that’s exactly the problem.

But back to sport.

Because of the unique history of this country, the lines of division run through every aspect of life. But perhaps the most public of these is sport. Well, that and politics, but no-one reads posts about politics. Sport is neatly divided in three in this country: Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. Of course, there are other sports played here, but those are the biggies. Rugby and cricket get the most press. They are the “white” sports. What distresses many of the rugby and cricket fans is that the official national sport of South Africa is… er… the other one. And that’s because the majority of the sporting population play football. Rugby and cricket come in very much second and third. How embarrassing.


And while there is a huge push to get more coloured and black players into the national teams for rugby and cricket to make the team more representative of the racial make-up of the country (often despite the fact that the players in question aren’t actually very good), there is no reciprocal push to get white players into the soccer team.

Ashfak suggests that beacuse the ANC is in power in the Free State, there must be a lot of black people living there and they should have been at the game. Nice big tarring brush you have there, sir.
But it seems to me that the major reason for the obvious racial divisions in South African sport is that for the vast majority of whites, soccer holds no interest and for the vast majority of blacks, rugby holds no interest. And as long as those few who want to watch and play a sport from “the other side” can, I don’t see a problem.


So Ashfak, while I agree with your comments regarding the Afrikaaners and their small-minded and right-wing attitudes, I think the major reason for the nearly all-white crowd last Saturday was really because they were the only ones actually interested.

*I hate this word. Obviously, I mean football, but that would just confuse everyone.
**or indeed doing anything.

On how life is right now…

So ends another mammoth gap in the annals of 6000 miles…. It’s really been a question of time and inclination. I’ve had both, but never at the same moment. I’m not about to disappoint my readership (or what’s left of it) with disappointingly poor social commentary, tired jokes and space fillers.

Neither of you would appreciate that.

Anyway: Yes, as widely predicted on this website, South Africa were humbled by Australia in the cricket, but that’s all well behind us now. New national pride is being sought through the Super 14 rugby and the progression of two South African teams through to the semi finals of that competition. I was fortunate enough to be at Newlands for the match between the Stormers and the Sharks last Saturday and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The canap├ęs were delightful and the spring rolls a joy. Also, there was free beer. We watched some of the rugby too, which was OK.

My dear little son has turned one year old. No-one is more surprised than us that he’s made it this far with our previous parenting experience; i.e. none. I guess it just goes to show how resilient the little fellow is. I will, of course, have some birthday photos up on the 6000 miles flickr site in the very near future. I’m in trouble at home for not having uploaded them already, which I guess is fair enough.

In addition to Alex’s birthday, my wife and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary (do the anniversary/birthday maths – it’s all completely legal), which came as shock to no-one – we were always meant to be.

But while there have been some variable sporting results and impressive bar snacks, baby’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and partially-justifiable husband chastising, one thing is overshadowing my life at the moment. Sit, dear reader, for this is a biggie. This may foretell of a catastrophe of epic proportions.
My iPod has developed a rattle. This is, undeniably, a “bad thing”.
It is widely accepted that iPods should not rattle.

So far, there has been no further problem with the device, but I fear that it is only a matter of time.
And while it may be a couple of years old and well-used, I would hate to be prevented from enjoying the great sounds of Favourite Worst Nightmare by the Arctic Monkeys and Peace Breaker by the interestingly named local band, Springbok Nude Girls, (careful with the title of the page on that one if you’re at work), both of which I would highly recommend.

I showed my wife the iPod. I explained my concerns and then, with all else quiet, I shook it and demonstrated its terrifying death rattle. I explained that I would need a new, improved 60GB model with funky colour screen.
She seemed unimpressed.
“That’s easy to sort out,” she told me, lifting my forlorn hopes, “Don’t shake it.”

Readers, sometimes there is just no arguing with female logic.

Cricket and this country

The Cricket World Cup is on at the moment. Anyone reading in countries that don’t play cricket (Denmark, USA, England etc.) may have missed this fact, but here in South Africa, no-one will talk about anything but “that match” tomorrow. “That match” is the eagerly awaited semi-final between everyone’s long-standing tournament favourites, Australia and South Africa’s tournament favourites… er… South Africa.

The rivalry in this particular game has been upped somewhat by South Africa’s audacious snatching of the world number one spot from the Aussies just before the tournament started (although they have since relented and given it back by losing to… er… Australia). That and the still-fresh memories of the “greatest game ever” in Jo’burg in 2006, when Australia smashed 434 – a new world record score – only for South Africa to come out (not like that) (well, maybe Andre Nel) and score 438; beating them with one wicket and 1 ball remaining. That’s gotta hurt.

It’s difficult to desribe the hype surrounding the game here, which even the most hardened South African fans are admitting Australia should win. Think of England in the (Football) World Cup final or the USA actually winning the war in Iraq.
There are South African flags everywhere – some of them even being flown the correct way up*. The back page of the local newspaper was filled entirely with SMS’s of support for the team, which they’ll never read as they’re playing cricket over in the Caribbean. My football team is annoyed to have to be taking time out from the big game to play some poxy soccer match. Strange behaviour indeed.

This, of course is a far cry from the dark old days of South African cricket. Back then, when a stuttering South Africa side lost by 67 runs to minnows Bangladesh, things were very different. In those days, newspapers slated the team’s terrible performance, radio DJ’s declared themselves “ashamed to be South African” and the locals wanted the head of the captain, the coach and the selectors removed and publicly displayed next the the Ben Schoeman highway in Gauteng.

What a difference two weeks can make, huh?

* That’s with the blue at the bottom, in case you’re struggling.

Wanted: R180 million for an ARS

One (or more) of the posts that disappeared into the black hole which was 123-reg.co.uk’s hosting disaster was on the World Cup, which is due to make landfall here in a mere 3 years from now. Currently, there is a little confusion over whether Cape Town will actually get to see any football played here during that competition.
As usual in South Africa, the issues over building the new stadium are political, financial and race-related. And, with everyone blaming everyone else, nothing is actually being done to build our new stadium at Green Point. Can you imagine a World Cup in South Africa without Cape Town? Really? This city is the icon of SA. Have you seen our mountain? It’s bloody lovely.

First off, before we even consider why no construction has begun, let’s look at the mentality of the people in charge. The new stadium, an example of technology and cutting-edge design, a beacon of new hope for an embattled continent will be grandly named: The African Renaissance Stadium or The ARS.
Great thinking, guys.

OK – cash first. The ARS was meant to cost about R2.5 billion (GBP180m, USD350m). That’s a fair amount of money for a city where about half the residents don’t have access to basic services like water and electricity. This was the original price, which then suddenly increased by R1.2 billion for no apparent reason (as these projects do) but has now settled at a much more reasonable R2.7 billion, meaning that we’re just R180 million short of our target. It’s peanuts, really.
And here comes the politics. The City of Cape Town is contolled by the Democratic Alliance (DA). The Western Cape Province and the National Government is controlled (sometimes) by the African National Congress (ANC). These two parties don’t see eye to eye on many issues. And ooh look – here’s another.


The City refuses to pay out a cent more than they said they would, while the Provincial and National Authorities are refusing to make up the shortfall. And while negotiation would seem to be a great way out of this, it’s become a battle of wills and the parties involved refuse to budge. Anyone hear that clock ticking?

I promised you a bit of racial tension too and I’d hate to let you down. Speaking frankly, in South Africa: football (soccer) is a sport played and watched by black people and egg-chasing (rugby) is a sport played and watched by white people. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t really much of an over-simplification – it’s just how things are. And Green Point is a predominantly (almost exclusively) white suburb. And they don’t want that black sport coming into their back yard.
Of course, there’s the usual bluff over increased traffic and noise, which is fair enough I suppose, but in actual fact, it’s about racial division and prejudices.

“So where do you stand on this?”, I hear both you readers asking.


Well, I know that R2.7 billion could go a long, long way to sorting out a lot of the problems Cape Town faces. But I also recognise that when (if?) this stadium is built and the World Cup comes to Cape Town, the money generated for local businesses and therefore the added job creation and increase in money coming into the city and surrounds will far outweigh the inital costs of the build.
South Africa knew the problems it faced when it bid for the right to hold 2010. Now that it’s won that right, it must deliver. This isn’t about throwing money at problems which might help in the short term, this is an investment for the long term – it’s an opportunity which could really be a turning point for Cape Town and for South Africa.
Thabo, Ebrahim and Helen: I know you’re reading this (ja, right!) please let’s just get it sorted out.
Whatever it takes.

Thanks.