Emil is unhappy

Ask anyone anywhere in South Africa what the biggest scourge in this nation is and they will probably answer “crime” or “Jacob Zuma”. Ask them what is the biggest scourge on the roads and they will probably answer “crime”, “Jacob Zuma” or “taxis”.
Taxis are a law unto themselves in this country, breaking rules, endangering lives and making the ride to the amusement park a lot more of an adrenaline rush that the roller coaster once you actually get there.

So reviled is the minibus taxi – and so happy to disregard any rule of law – that Helen “Twee Hoede” Zille, mayor of Cape Town, has threatened to call in the Army to make them behave.
Meanwhile, civil rights group AfriForum have suggested that citizens take photos of “lawless taxis”:

AfriForum created an e-mail address, taxi@afriforum.co.za, to which the public may send the pictures, as well as details of the event, after which AfriForum’s legal team will formulate a complaint on behalf of the public for submission to the SA Police Service.

Alternatively, if you don’t want the bother of emailing a picture in, you could always just put it on your blog with a brief description of the driver.

emil
Don’t hold back: tell us what you really think, Emil!

For you non-Afrikaans speakers out there: “Easy stereotyping – The driver of this taxi is a [censored].”

Better out than in, Emil. Thanks for your honesty. Aaaaaaand relax!

2 parties drop out

It was with great sadness that I read on the news24.com election site that two of the parties which were to have fought in the upcoming elections on April 22nd had dropped out of the race to finish way behind the ANC.

Not too many tears were shed regarding the loss of the Hlanganani Sakhe Isizwe party – they didn’t pay their R180,000 and were kicked out by the IEC. Not that I have anything against the Hlanganani Sakhe Isizwe party, it’s just that when I’m at a braai discussing the election, I’ve usually had too many beers to accurately say their name.

Far more disappointing was the loss of the SA Determined Volunteers Party from the list of competing parties.

Those guys weren’t being paid for what they did. They were volunteers. And not just any volunteers – they were determined volunteers – and I know for a fact that they had a lot of prospective candidates lined up on their shortlist.
Previous to drawing up that shortlist, they had a longer list, but they rejected many of the names on there because they just weren’t determined enough.
Removing those less determined volunteers had the effect of concentrating the determination of the remaining volunteers until they were the most resolute, decisive, steadfast, unhesitating, purposeful, earnest, firm, unflinching, obstinate, persevering, resolute, resolved, single-minded, unfaltering, decided, strong-willed, stubborn,  unwavering, dogged, intent and tenacious bunch of volunteers this side of Pietermaritzburg.

Sadly, such well-meaning determination doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with any sort of organisation and the SA Determined Volunteers Party forgot to submit their registration for the elections.

Bummer.

Jo’burg Meningitis Scare – Get a grip!

“Scare” is exactly the right word. The Times newspaper is hugely critical of the Gauteng Health Department and the National Government today:

DESPITE fears that four children have died from meningitis in the past three weeks, the government says there is no need to panic.
And it does not think these deaths and seven others last year warrant a national vaccination campaign.

But shall I tell you something – the Government is absolutely right.

These cases are isolated, individual, not linked, unconnected. I know, I know – major health scares (especially in kids) sell newspapers – but there’s no meningitis outbreak in Johannesburg and so there’s really no story here.

The first death was a 15 year old from Mondeor High School. She died on 17th February from Klebsiella meningitis.
The second was an 8 year old from Soweto, who died on 23rd February after contracting viral meningitis.

At this point, I need to point out the difference in these two cases.
There is NO WAY that these deaths can be linked.
Suggesting that they may be the start of an meningitis outbreak is like suggesting a death in a car crash is linked to a case of poisoning a week later. The illnesses were caused by different agents, one a bacterium, one a virus. Both small, but different. Not the same. Not linked. At all.

Moving on, there have been two further deaths which have been “attributed” to meningitis in the last week. However, since the first case was buried quickly in accordance with her religious beliefs, there were no tests done. The other case was over this past weekend. But there are doubts as to whether that was even due to meningitis:

A second girl, aged nine, died over the weekend, sparking concerns that she had also died of meningitis.
But [Gauteng Health Official JP] Louw said initial tests had indicated the nine-year-old did not die of meningitis.
He added, however, that the health department would continue to investigate her death.

So to sum up: 4 deaths – regrettable, tragic, yes, but:
One from Klebsiella meningitis.
One from viral meningitis.
One unknown cause.
One under investigation, but not thought to be meningitis.

No wonder Mr Louw went on to say:

The department is… concerned about recent reports of meningitis suggesting that four young people, with two from Eldorado Park, passed away due to meningitis.

This in turn could lead to unwarranted panic in schools and communities.

Yes, once again, The Times is needlessly creating panic and sensationalising a story to get more readers. This is being exacerbated by their inaccurate reporting and poor understanding of the the situation. The difference is that this time, there are hundreds of kids being affected by their scare-mongering, rather than “just” the reputation of a politician.

I’m a microbiologist – I have studied and worked with these things for many years and I understand them. I recognise that the journalists writing the stories are not microbiologists – they are journalists. But why can’t they get some expert opinion in on this – it wouldn’t even have to be expert expert opinion: this is basic stuff – which would nip this unnecessary panic in the bud?
What they are doing is unhelpful, unethical and unprofessional. But like I said, they are journalists. And it is The Times.

So why am I so surprised?

EDIT: I see that COPE have got in the act and are using the deaths of these children as an election tool. Classy work, guys. But you might want to check your facts before you go diving in as well.  

EDIT 2: Times editor “fears meningitis in Johannesburg” – oh, the irony.
Stop reading your paper then, love. That should help.   

Prawn Explosion Bomb

When I’m out eating Chinese in Claremont, there’s only one dish that really satisfies:


Waiter, bring me the P.E.B.

Boom.

More on that expat vote thing

Thanks to Persona non grata, (who of course is always more than grata here on 6000 miles…) for his comment on the Trevor Mallach fake letter post, which – after some top class detective work*, I have discovered came from here.

LONDON. South African expatriates living in Britain and the US say that they are unlikely to vote in April 22’s general election as they are too busy queuing at soup kitchens and catching rats to bulk up their gruel. However some expats have demanded the right to vote, hoping to stuff their shoes with ballot papers and gather up enough pencils to burn for warmth.

The issue of whether or not expatriates should be allowed to vote in the forthcoming election has been a political hot potato in South Africa, with the ANC opposing the move as it fears a strong expatriate turnout on April 22 could see its majority slip from 76 percent to 75.9 percent.

However the Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus remain adamant that expatriates should be allowed to vote abroad, and are hoping for a major boost from this demographic.
4.4 million of South Africa’s 4.5 million whites currently live in four flats in Shepherd’s Bush in London, and both opposition parties are hoping to rouse at least a few dozen out of their traditional apathy come April 22.

But for expatriates, trapped in a crushing cycle of debt, joblessness and stale Jaffa Cakes, voting is not as easy as it sounds.

Worsie van Tonder, a 26-year-old electrical engineer currently working as a coffee-bean titillator at Costa, says he is unlikely to vote even if allowed to.
“If you’re out of the shop for more than twelve minutes a month they fire you,” he explained. “I just don’t know when I’d get the chance. And these beans need titillating.”

Elsa-Chante Smit, 23, is a classically trained pet therapist but is currently paying her heating bills by working as an exotic dancer at Little Caesar’s Skin Bar in Glasgow. She echoes Van Tonder’s sentiments, although she says she’s lucky just to have a job.
“A lot of South Africans in the UK, you see them roaming around in the streets like zombies. Slack jaws, moaning as they walk, Springbok jerseys all dirty and ragged, Springbok beanies all unraveling, Springbok scarves dragging in the slush behind them.

“The local kids throw them with rocks. Dogs rip off their jean-pants. It’s horrible.”

Brad Brad-Bradley, who decided to take a gap year in London with his friend and wrestling partner Chad Chadley-Chadford after they graduated from Michaelhouse with distinctions in suppressed masculine rage, said he would not be voting on April 22 as he would be at the South African embassy applying for economic refugee status.
“Bru, we’re so stoked about going home and that, but we sold our Bok puffer jackets and Bok jerseys so we’d totally freeze to death before we made it to Heathrow,” he explained.

He said getting on a South African Airways flight was easy as one only needed to offer the cabin crew some hard drugs.
“The problem is that me and Chad ate our drugs last night, with the last of the rat. It was so cold, and our teeth are starting to get loose in our gums, and he had this brick of skunk, so we fried it in diesel oil and shredded the last of the rat-leg into it.

“It tasted lank k*k but what can you do in these times?”

Of course, it’s obviously made up. The flats are in Putney, not Shepherd’s Bush.

* Cut & Paste a bit of it into google. Hit Enter key.