The South African Civil War – a short historical essay

No-one truly believed that South Africa would escape the descent into civil war at some stage – that was sadly inevitable – but I would wager that few of the naysayers and doom and gloom merchants could ever have accurately predicted the source of the conflict. It seems likely that, if pushed, most of them would have plumped for one of the more obvious causes: poverty, inequality, politics, corruption, race. But of course, that wasn’t it.

No-one ever realised that the previously-docile, overtly-privileged, white upper-middle class would rise up after the rumours that the City of Cape Town had threatened to close Newlands Spring. Even looking back, it seems ridiculous that this could be a trigger for any confrontation, let alone a protracted armed engagement between citizens of the Republic, but no-one thought about it. Well, why would you?

No-one foresaw that springing (no pun intended) from an online petition (where else?) set up by local businessman, ex-water collector and now infamous instigator of widespread civil unrest, Riyaz Rawoot, would come an army of discontented middle-aged white people. Never mind that the alleged closure turned out to be an entirely unresearched story put out by a local newspaper in order to incite outrage in an attempt to increase their dismal sales figures. That’s just incidental. It’s history now.

No-one would have believed that a barrage of strongly worded letters from the Southern Suburbs would be all that it took to bring down the elected leadership of Cape Town and the Western Cape, after they were unable to provide a satisfactory response within the 10 working days as promised in their electoral manifesto, prompting mass resignations in the higher echelons of provincial government. We had always thought that the war would be fought twixt electric fences and long knives (or at least machetes from Builders Warehouse). But the pen, it seems, is indeed mightier than the panga.

No-one ever thought that the effect of that sudden power vacuum in the south west of the country would be so disastrous. That it could come to this. That the alleged threatened lack of access to a slightly broken 4 inch plastic pipe at the end of a cul-de-sac in an affluent Cape Town suburb could drag the entirety of Southern Africa into bloody conflict.

No-one ever considered the butterfly effect; the implications of the true powerbase of the country getting swept up in a wave of outrage over a misunderstanding of what was frankly a rather trivial issue anyway.

No-one should ever underestimate how something so small could lead to our collective downfall.

Have a nice day.

Save Water – Times Live

Here’s local rag The Times reporting on the City of Cape Town’s new water usage calculator website:

If you think it starts with some bad advice (and it does – why immediately double the length of your shower “just because you can”?), then you need to read through again and see how it ends:

Jesus. No. Simply not happening.

Doomed Cape Town

With all the global talk being of the upcoming nuclear war between the USA (+UK, EU, South Korea) and North Korea (+China), I wondered if that was also the biggest worry on the minds of the folk all the way down here in the bottom left corner of Africa.

I chose four things which myself and my Cape Town dwelling colleagues considered particularly worrying right now and employed the most scientific method of measuring local fear that there is: a Twitter poll.

Obviously, we had to start with the whole World War Three thing. Because that’s why we got to wondering about this question in the first place.
Perhaps equally obviously, the drought is in there. Particularly as it’s a ROASTING hot day in the Mother City today and it’s basically never going to rain ever again (tomorrow’s drizzle doesn’t count).
And then, after I stumbled across this Facebook group on the weekend, the Cape Town Tsunami had to get a mention.

Just for the record, the “warnings from multiple sources” which they cite are basically a handful of people who have dreamed about a tsunami hitting Cape Town, like Debbie for example:

A truly mericaluous escape. (What happened to your son, by the way?)

…and the word of a local charlatan Pastor who wants your money “had a vision”. If you want to read more (and you do, because it’s a deep, deep rabbit hole, go and have a look at their 73 (seventy-three) page dossier, full of reasons why the tsunami will take place (not enough people being Christians, shockingly), many details of how it will occur (big wave, mostly), and what exactly will happen:

Every time I stand in Town , Milnerton God tells me and reminds me see this tall buildings they will be completely covered with water
When I stand on Sir Lowreys pass God reminds me only those who come over this pass at that given time will be safe
Snakes will be in the water and bite the people and they will die
It’s almost like those who survive water will die by shark attack or snake bites

Hectic. Milnerton God doesn’t mess around, hey?

But I digress. Often.

The fourth option was one that has plagued the province for time immemorial: the Twitter account of Lord High Empress of the Western Cape. Like here. And here. And… er… here.

Certain individuals have long believed that one of Helen Zille’s tweets would spell the end of the Western Cape… somehow. But is that something that the general public also buy into? Our poll will tell us.

The results are in:

As we can see, the religious nutcases predicting their god-driven tsunami are the least of Cape Town’s worries. Quite rightly, too. They’re not called religious nutcases for nothing.
And nuclear war – an altogether much more likely doomsday scenario – is of limited concern to Capetonians too. Could this be a geographical thing, or is it because they are actually much more panicky about one (or both, but twitter polls don’t allow for multiple voting) of the other potential apocalyptic situations?

And it’s Helen, who takes it by a head, although if I were the drought, I’d be eyeing up a coalition with that impending nuclear war to sneak top spot.

Clearly though, the two options are troubling the majority of Cape Town citizens, and I don’t really think it’s a matter of one winning through over the other. These are obviously both issues that are of huge concern to people here.

Sadly, it seems like the only thing we can do to prevent either disaster actually happening is to cut down on the amount of water we use, and cut down the amount of Twitter that Helen Zille uses. Given the numerous failed attempts by the City Council and Mmusi Maimane respectively to achieve these goals, neither seems very likely to happen any time soon.

We’re doomed, Cape Town. Doomed.

Suddenly: August

It’s nearly the end of July, and that means that it’ll soon be August. After that… [double checks] yes, September.

So what? This happens every year, right?

Well, yes it does, but September 1st is unofficially known as Spring Day in South Africa, bringing with it… well… Spring. Not really Spring, but unofficially Spring. Springy enough not to be Winter anymore. Unofficially, at least.

That also happens every year, but given that we’re basically 5 weeks away from it (and therefore 5 weeks away from what is unofficially the end of the rainy season), and our dams are still looking emptier than an ANC promise, we really should be well into full panic mode by now. Especially given that the medium term forecast for the next fortnight (making up, as it does, 40% of that 5 week period) shows no sign of significant rainfall for the Western Cape.

Look, tomorrow is not going to be dry, but with a forecast of just 5.2mm of precipitation over 24 hours, it’s not going to be particularly wet either.

With the Cape Town dams sitting at 27.4% of capacity (as per this morning’s city figures) – and with the last 10% of that infamously “unusable” – things are looking every bit as precarious as ever. Add to that the fact that Cape Town’s residents are using 643,000,000 litres a day (that’s 143,000,000 litres or almost 30% more than we should be) and you (actually “we”) have a recipe for disaster.

There’s enough publicity about this situation on the TV, the internet (not least this damned blog), the radio and everywhere else for everyone in Cape Town to understand the gravity of the situation. But given that we’re apparently still paying no attention and not saving nearly enough of the wet stuff, I’ve now come to the conclusion that a lot of the locals simply don’t care.

I wonder how they’ll feel in 6 months time?

De Lille to host inter-faith prayer for rain on Table Mountain

That’s the headline from iol this morning, and the article underneath it goes on to say that:

The City of Cape Town’s Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille will host an inter-faith gathering of various religious leaders to pray for rain on Thursday at 2pm.

Who’ll be there? Well, various religious leaders including:

representatives from various churches, the Muslim Judicial Council, the Western Cape Christian Ministers’ Association, the Western Cape Traditional Leaders and Cultural Council, the Khoisan Griqua Royal House, the Bahaí Community of South Africa, the Tushita Kadampa Buddhist Centre, and the Hindu and Jewish communities.

Inter-faith indeed. All the major food groups listed there. No atheists, which is a bit awkward in our supposedly secular society, but I guess it might have been awkwarder still (I know) were we represented…

De Lille says:

“The residents and businesses of Cape Town have made great efforts to save water but we have to do more and we especially need the rains to come.”

Right. A few issues here. And I’m not going to spend too long on going through these. I’m too irritated to elaborate on stuff. It’ll involve swearing. Even this condensed version may involve swearing. Seriously, I’m literally just about to write it, and it really feels like it will involve some swearing right now.

1. Prayers don’t work. Evidence for this includes the repeated praying for no more terrorist attacks in Europe.

2. Also that whole Angus Buchan thing on Freedom Day.

3. And the annual SA Police Service prayer day for no more crime.

4. If prayers do actually work, then why didn’t you pray for rain earlier?

5. Oh wait. You did. And it didn’t work.

6. Look, I do realise that just because you’re spending your time doing this, it’s not that more practical solutions aren’t being organised: dams being dredged, other water sources being investigated and the like. But…

7. My rates – including my (understandably) inflated water tariff – are paying for you to attend this crap. And that’s annoying, because no matter what you were doing instead of sitting on the bloody mountain with your friends chatting to their various sky fairies this afternoon, it would offer me and the rest of the city’s ratepayers a far better return for our hard earned money.

8. If, when it rains tomorrow, as it is forecast to do (and as it has been forecast to do all week), and you or your god-bothering mates then claim that your Table Mountain meeting has yielded positive, tangible results, I may just go flipping postal. In a very reserved, British way, obviously.

Very restrained on the language there, well done me.

Look, I know you’re not going to read this, Patricia.
I know you’re not going to read it because you never read my towing an iceberg from Antarctica and dumping it in Franschhoek solution to the current water crisis; a solution which I have implored you to respond to on several occasions; a solution which I made up merely for comedic value, and which – although mathematically sound – is laughably far-fetched, but which would still be a better way of addressing the drought than you wasting everyone’s time and money on shouting at the clouds this afternoon.

What a disgrace.