He had a long neck, Officer

We’ve all heard about South Africa’s crime rate, but in a worrying twist, it seems that even the local wildlife is now getting in on the act:

Pietermaritzburg – Seventy-year-old Schalk Hagen died without telling anyone exactly what happened to him. Now the prime suspect in his death is a giraffe. Hagen had gone for his usual morning walk at Bisley Nature Reserve in March.

The only thing he uttered to his distraught wife on his return from his walk, with blood spurting from a deep head wound, was “I ran away*“. Hagen later died of his injuries.

Prompted by the story of Hagen’s death in The Witness last week, a reader told on Monday how a bull giraffe attacked and chased instructors and patrons around at the Canterbury stables, the same month Hagen was injured. Hagen’s wife, Aletha, added that he and his 16-year-old grand-daughter had previously gone for a walk in the reserve when a giraffe, accompanied by a sibling, charged at them aggressively.

“I suppose it was chasing them away from the group. When he came home wounded that day, the first thing I asked him was if he had been attacked by a giraffe**, but he was unable to reply,” said Aletha.

Hagen had suffered a cracked skull and a deep head wound which received 14 stitches.

And then, as ever in South African news, the amusing side to this tragic tale, which also goes some way to explain why sit-com writers spend so much time scanning our local newspapers in search of novel, yet implausible, ideas.

The story of Hagen’s mysterious injury sparked Ross McCann’s memory of a giraffe attack at the Canterbury stables, a riding school at the Bisley Valley Nature reserve.

“I am of the firm belief that Hagen was attacked by a giraffe.” He said a giraffe left marks on a tree at the stables when it attacked instructors and trainees.

Instructor Francois Hugo said the bull giraffe chased more than five people around the stables. “I was with my colleague and four people, some of whom were training in the sand arena. It charged my colleague who ran into the outside toilet for hiding. But the giraffe stuck its head into the toilet through the hole above the door. It was trying to head-butt him, so I tried to distract it. It immediately came after me as I ran and hid behind the tree. It was a bull giraffe, it smelt horrible, and had big black spots, darker than spots on other giraffes. We were separated just by the tree’s trunk.”

Hugo said the giraffe attacked him using its horns but missed and dug them into the tree trunk. Two marks are still visible***. Hugo admitted he was scared and ran for his life, followed by his trainees, as the giraffe chased after them.

I’m picturing Michael Palin as colleague cowering in outside toilet
South African “comedian” Leon Schuster will have to be the giraffe. It’s the law.

* not fast enough, you didn’t.
** as you would…
*** neatly comparable with the number of horns on your average giraffe.

Business Time

This was sent to me by a colleague. I think it’s brilliant.

If you, like me, are in a long term relationship and cohabiting, prepare to be very – very – scared.
Somebody has obviously been watching us…

And I’ll just slip in a couple of housekeeping points:

1. This blog is now registered on commentluv.com. It’s one of my favourite WP plugins so I thought it was the right thing to do. I have no idea what benefits this will bring for this site or my visitors. Probably none.
2. A warm welcome to Po who joins the esteemed and exclusive 6000 miles… blogroll. Welcome. There you go.

Death by virus

The recent outbreak of presumed viral haemorrhagic fever in Johannesburg has understandably got the tabloid press into a frenzy and once again proved that they will do anything to sensationalise a story. It has also shown that their knowledge of microbiology is non-existent: they probably think “bacteria” means to return home sadder than when you left.

Authorities have not yet identified the causal agent of the outbreak, which has claimed three lives, hence it’s monikers “Mystery virus” or “Killer virus“.  The Times has a timeline of the outbreak, wonderfully titled “Chronology of Death*”. The fact that the likely culprit is endemic in parts of South Africa anyway hasn’t stopped the reporters hiding their disappointment at the lack of further victims behind expert analysis – like that of ex-Springbok rugby star turned epidemiologist** Corné Krige, whose cousin was the index case.

A concerned Krige, who captained the Springboks to the 2003 World Cup, said it was scary that the killer virus had not been identified.

The Times has labelled the health department “clueless”, when in actual fact, their response to this potentially very serious outbreak has been exemplary. They have contained the infection, limited its spread in a very short time and therefore avoided causing widespread panic – even in the face of some truly dreadful reporting.  

* To be said in a deep movie announcers voice.
** No.

The 2010 story no one tells

I was delighted to read Luke Alfred’s inspired and inspiring piece on the South African media’s view of the 2010 World Cup in yesterday’s Sunday Times, not least because it neatly sums up a lot of stuff that I’ve been moaning about for ages.

You may have noticed that when it comes to the 2010 Soccer World Cup there is an endlessly circulating merry-go-round of stories, each with its own shape and unique place in the system.
There is the tryingly familiar “stadium budget” story with quotes by ex-deputy minister of finance Jabu Moleketi; there is the “Sepp Blatter mildly reprimands the organising committee” story, and the grotesquely amusing “plan B” story with its many denials.

Interestingly, I note that we are not the only ones to suffer with these stories. The plans for Euro 2012 tournament, to be jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine are plagued with the same issues; who could forget that construction for the Athens 2004 Olympics was miles behind schedule (which we’re not) and they still managed to stage a thoroughly successful event? But it’s one of the duties of the world’s press to find the worst in everything and to sensationalise minor events in order to make mountains out of molehills and sell newspapers. And it’s something that the South African press are especially good at.


Soccer City, Soweto

With sport to some extent replacing nationalism (or being one of the ways in which the nation expresses itself in these post-nationalistic times) the stadiums for the World Cup will express the best of what South Africa has to offer as the century progresses.

They’ll become monuments by which the world recognises this country and by which we define ourselves.
In this sense, debates about what they will cost and how they will be used are profoundly beside the point. Despite the threadbare narratives of the present, stories of striking workers and an underachieving national side, the World Cup will be a pivotal event in the history of post-apartheid South Africa, a time that future generations will look back on with justifiable pride.

So besotted are we with the present that we can’t see it now, but over the long arc of time our children will look back on 2010 and tell their children “I was there”.

Alfred makes a good point, but no-one’s listening. There’s more to life than the present, no matter how tough times may be for many in SA right now. One of the major benefits of 2010, aside from the immediately obvious tourism and sponsorship revenue and its spin-offs is a shared national experience which will generate pride in the country. Our kids have yet to be tainted with the negativity running deep in the veins of the South African media and its followers. And it’s the children’s reaction as they view things with that objective innocence which will be the true marker of the success of the 2010 tournament.

It’s my intention to expose my son to as much of the atmosphere and spectacle as I possibly can.
He’ll be 4 years old and just beginning to form his first “proper” memories and I can think of no better time, place or event for him to remember. It’s going to be an amazing experience. Looking back to my own football-dominated childhood, I can only dream about having experienced a World Cup on my doorstep. (Yes, I was born well after 1966, thank you very much!)

Down the line, my son and I will watch rugby, football, concerts and gladiatorial events possibly involving tigers and pointy sticks at the Green Point Stadium. And while each event will be special in some way, the memories of 2010 that they trigger may never be matched.  

Live webcam feeds of Cape Town stadium site

 

Cape Town “still here”

Following the arrival of the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt in Table Bay over the weekend, demonstrations by daft environmental groups have stepped up at Cape Town harbour.

Earthlife Africa spokesperson Keenen van Wyk said that although there wasn’t much they could do to stop the vessel from entering South African waters, they would protest outside the harbour as soon as the carrier arrives.

“Having this big nuclear vessel in our waters poses a danger and threat to humanity,” said van Wyk. “There are no safety precautions in place. Anything could go wrong, and then the people in the Western Cape are at risk.”

I can assure the concerned world population, including Keenan van Wyk that despite the presence of this nuclear-powered monstrosity in our waters, Cape Town is STILL HERE. This should actually come as no surprise: I have briefly researched the USS Theodore Roosevelt and it seems that it has a long record of not exploding in cities all over the world.

I figure that this must be just good luck since according to Earthlife Africa “there are no safety precautions in place”. Either they have just had a whole heap of good fortune or they have just got some really well-behaved uranium.

For the record, the USS Theodore Roosevelt is moored in Table Bay, about 15km south of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station just up the coast which, in a show of solidarity with the big warship, has also not exploded today.

ADDENDUM: 6000 miles… wishes regular reader G(asinB) a speedy recovery after his recent surgery and will raise a glass on Saturday regardless! 🙂