Archive for the ‘Vox Pop’ Category

Brigitte’s Pick:: Why we love Africa – where there’s a hearth there’s a warthog

May 12, 2012

On Hugh Paxton Blog’s first visit to Namibia I encountered Piggy – an extremely large warthog that snored and rumbled like an ailing boiler. He’d wander in from the bush and mow the lawns of the Africat Foundation at Okonjima and then duty done conk out on the stoep. Sadly he died peacefully of old age but the hoggish tradition of dropping in is still alive and well elsewhere. I received this from Brigitte. It brought back happy memories!

Cheers!

Hugh

THE SOFT LIFE IN AFRICA !
A friend in Zimbabwe sent me this picture and story which I thought was delightful.

They had been away at a game park and on the first evening, while sitting in front of the fire in the bar, in walked a fully grown warthog.

He walked over to the bar and without a word the barman handed him a pillow. He took the pillow in his mouth, dropped it next to the fire and promptly lay down with his head on the pillow and went to sleep where, apparently he spends the cold nights. In the morning he’s off into the bush again!

Apparently if the barman isn’t there, he’ll just grab a pillow off one of the couches!

Here he is, in all his glory :

He snores a bit too !

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Please Support The Orton Fells Landscape Designation

February 1, 2012

Here’s your chance to help positively influence British landscape conservation! Some of our readers will have visited the British Lake District National Park and the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park. The chances are good that you will have passed through some beautiful countryside in between that wasn’t designated as Park the first time around in the late 1940’s,  Westmorland’s The Orton Fells.

The Orton Fells Landscape is being considered for inclusion in the Dales National Park

The Orton Fells Landscape is now being considered for inclusion in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

It’s a wild and beautiful landscape of karstic limestone pavements, upland meadows and heather-clad moorland (home to Black Cock, a form of rare Grouse), hardy sheep and fell ponies, with the rich fertile Orton valley running to The Lunesdale gorge. It’s Eden District’s Wild West.

Fell Ponies at Sunbiggin Tarn, Orton Fells, Westmorland, Cumbria

Fell Ponies at Sunbiggin Tarn, Orton Fells, Westmorland, Cumbria

The time has come for all those of us who support our Orton Fells’ inclusion in The Dales National Park to write in to the Secretary of State for The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman to voice our support and suggest amendments where they seem desirable.

Aerial view of distinctive limestone pavement overlooking The Orton valley

Aerial view of distinctive limestone pavement overlooking The Orton valley

Limestone pavement above Sunbiggin Tarn, Orton Fells

Limestone pavement above Sunbiggin Tarn, Orton Fells, rare sub-arctic flora micro-habitat of internationally recognised importance.

Why would this be a good thing?
It is likely that our Orton Fells’ inclusion in the National Park would help conserve the natural beauty of this lovely area of Westmorland for our own and future generations and would facilitate considerable economic uplift for local businesses while being an asset to the Nation and for visitors from other regions. The inclusion of our area is long overdue, everybody so far consulted agrees that the natural beauty warrants conservation. Some of the most beautiful Dales in the National Park are Cumbrian (Mallerstang with its historic Pendragon Castle for instance) and in no sense would our section of the Park be a “poor cousin”, we would preserve our identity under a wider banner that truly deserves special status for landscape quality and that is closely connected geologically and topographically with The Dales.
Naming 
We have had the spoken assurance of The Dales National Park’s Chief Executive (at the January 19th Fells To Dales Business Forum meeting in Kirkby Stephen) that the naming of our area of the Park will be arranged to best suit local wishes, for example The Westmorland Fells or Westmorland Dales. This may well be resolved at a Public inquiry, should we have one, later in the year.
Economic Benefit
At the same meeting we heard estimates of anticipated economic benefit for local businesses involved in tourism to be somewhere between 10 and 20% increase in annual turn-over, with the duration in occupancy expected to be extended to about 34 weeks in the year.
Amendments
At this stage we can still ask for amendments to the planning, if we wish. One important amendment to request would be the adoption of the northern boundary proposed by The Friends of The Lake District that would include land with superb views around Reagill and Sleagill. A good deal of thought has gone into this boundary suggestion and it enjoys popular support among many of the residents of those Parishes.
Making Your Voices Heard – Key Points

  • You don’t have to be a resident to voice your opinion on this matter. Past and prospective visitors to the area are welcome to voice their support, please state your interest and it will count.
  • In your communication please include your name, address and signature and include your message.  Do refer to the benefits mentioned above as justification if you wish.
  • Each member of your household may write in separately with equal validity.
  • Numbers count.
  • This is a once in a life-time opportunity that will have far-reaching and long lasting benefits for us and the Nation.

The address to write to, please, is:
Department for The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
Protected Landscapes Team,
Zone 1/09 Temple Quay House,
2 The Square, Temple Quay,
Bristol
BS1 6EB
Or by email to nwvariationorders@defra.gsi.gov.uk

The deadline for getting your message to DEFRA is March 16th.
For more information on the planning, please see the Lakes To Dales Section of Natural England’s Website

 

Volcano Adventures: IXTEPEQUE, December, 2005

January 6, 2012
Volcano-Adventures by Colum Muccio

Volcano-Adventures by Colum Muccio

Volcano Adventures: IXTEPEQUE, December, 2005

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has climbed quite a lot of volcanos but times change. The days, then the years, pass, a certain lassitude sinks in and my sort of volcano now is one that erupts at a safe distance and doesn’t need climbing before it fires a lava bomb into my face.

Yeah, right! I’m a cowardly lazy old fart.

But I’m a bit more than that gentle reader!

I’m a manipulative cowardly lazy old fart! And I’m delighted to say that Colum my intrepid friend and gallant conservationist in Guatemala has been manipulated into climbing every volcano in Central America.  And telling us how (or how not) to do it. We’ll kick off with one he climbed a a few years back. Ixtepeque. Pronounce it if you can!

We will be hosting his volcano adventures as and when he sends them in. Dates of climb are always important when you are reading about volcano climbing. Hughg Paxton’s Blog will ensure that you are informed of when the ascent was made.

Over to Colum and start the ascent!

START:

Volcano-Adventures by Colum Muccio

Volcano-Adventures by Colum Muccio

Roberto and I drove out what was now becoming a familiar route to the eastern volcanoes: Carretera Salvador, Barbarena, Los Esclavos and then Jutiapa.  When we got close to Ixtepeque, we stopped in at a love hotel to ask for directions.  It only occurred to me later the logic of stopping in at such a place, the hotel was pathetic, with only plastic sheets for doors and the owner sitting outside shirtless, potbellied, with a mouth full of gold and a pistol packed into his belt.  That is something characteristic of this part of Guatemala, a little bit of the wild west, where every male over the age of four years old by obligation must wear a gun.  It makes it hard to know who the thieves are.

Antonio, the owner of the hotel, had a friend and we drove him up the road so that he could introduce us.  Robin was a quiet, handsome cowboy, who apparently did a lot of hunting and after some explanation, agreed to take us up the volcano.  He had a spider monkey in his front yard chained to a ceiba tree and Roberto walked too close to him and got bit on the arm.  The monkey was uncharacteristically muscular and swung continuously from limb to limb.  We squeezed lemon on the wounds and drove to the starting off point in the village of La Tuna.  I mistakenly left my sunglasses on the roof of the car, and driving along heard the sound of broken glass as they hit the pavement.  Damn! On the dirt road to La Tuna, we saw beautiful green tree snake sunning itself on the road.  It slithered away casually through the brush.

Ixtepeque is an interesting volcano being composed almost entirely of obsidian and as we started walking we saw it all over the trail, chinking like pieces of broken black glass.  Ixtepeque is thought to be one of the principal sources of obsidian for the Mayas.  Our hike was slowed by frequent stops to pick up especially interesting-looking pieces.  Robin explained to us that the shards were so sharp that at locals had to be careful when walking cattle up the trail.

The trail was an easy grade, climbing with stone walls on each side with cattle grazing in pastures.  We were glad that we had Robin along with us as it was easy to lose the path.  Several cattle farmers were pushing their herds down the trail, and we had to climb the stone walls to get out of their way and let the cattle pass.  And, of course, each one of them had the ubiquitous pistol in the belt.  We stopped briefly to pass the time of day, explaining that we were climbing the volcano (and not robbing cattle).  You could tell that they were enjoying their lives as cowboys.

We got to the top of the trail, which crossed the volcano in a saddle in between two hills.   Robin indicated that the summit was to the left and we followed him as he cut a path through the brush with his machete.  I remembered again that it would be useful to take a machete along on these trips.   After about 15 minutes of climbing through the brush, we came out onto a summit covered with tall grass and small trees, but with a fairly decent view of the surrounding volcanoes.  

Apart from the obsidian, Ixtepeque isn’t a spectacular volcano, but a nice easy walk.  What really set the day apart for us was the particular, increasingly funny series of events that staged themselves throughout the day.  First the monkey, then my sunglasses, then the green snake…  and to top off the day, when we returned to the car and popped the ceremonial Gallo beers, Roberto and Robin had already grabbed the only nearby rocks to sit on, and I decided to sit on the ground, landing my ass on a very sharp, 3 inch thorn which I had to tug furiously to get out of my butt, leaving a spot of blood on my ass. We all laughed at the eventful day.

Apart from the volcanoes and the views, these walks were interesting in giving a window, though a fleeting one,  into the lives of rural Guatemala campesinos.  Robin took us back to his house were his wife and mother offered us glasses of lukewarm Pepsi.  The real refreshment, however, came in the form of a cool “juacal” full of water from the pila poured over our dusty heads.  Robin had a three year old daughter who looked at us untrustingly with tears in her eyes from behind her mother’s skirt.  Robin explained to us that she was sick, had a fever from infections in her front teeth.  Roberto explained that he was a dentist and told the child to come over to him so he could take a look, which she only did when her mother picked her up, crying, and carried her over.  Roberto explained that teeth infections are dangerous because they can grow up, into the brain, and that they should have the teeth pulled.  It’s sometimes too easy to blame things on poverty, that poor people do what they do because they have no other choice.  It’s also true that people simply make bad decisions out of ignorance or superstition, like the decision to chain a wild monkey to a tree in their front yard.  I looked at the child’s feverous face and wondered what her future was.

Japan Times: “Tanuki”

December 11, 2011

Hugh Paxton’s blog wrote the following rather  heart-wrenching piece a few years ago. It won first prize in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s annual Nature Writer of the Year Awards. I’ve won a couple of other BBC writing awards and I’ll post them when I find them. Found this one in a stack of papers – an unfinished play that I failed to finish 30 years ago and which I really ought to finish. 

Here’s the story. It’s true. And it still makes me sad. We’ll be re-visiting Takao in April. Hope things are better when we do!  

“TANUKI”

Flitting like a pale ghost through the pines, the tanuki is all wrong.

The time is wrong. Tanuki (raccoon dogs) are nocturnal. This is mid-afternoon. A darkly overcast day, true, but nonetheless this animal should not be about at this time.

The tanuki’s colour is wrong. Too white, way too white. Its fur is gone, its skin’s exposed, scrubbed raw by frantic scratches.

Its movements are wrong. Unsure, in fits and starts it is circling, wobbling. It hits a tree then patters on, turns, and patters back.

We watch, my wife and I, in sickened silence, her thoughts and mine the same.

“It’s happening again.”

Takao’s odd. It’s a Tokyo suburb, but it’s hilly, out on the city’s western fringe. Takao’s hills are abrupt dragon-back ridges, and the clustered houses nest where they can.

If you, like us, live high on the sheer slopes then you get 1. Views through the Japanese cedars of the city stretching grey, low, rather dismal accross the Kanto plain to the horizon. And 2. Wild Japan with a capital “W.” and a capital “J.” 

The two worlds, so very different, come so ridiculously close here.

At night, in between the plaintive honk of commuter trains, you can hear the rootle, scuffle and snorted altercations of wild boar beneath the trees, the thump of a giant flying squirrel landing on the roof, the sweet orchestra of forest insects.

We’d only been here a week when ‘our’ tanuki first visited. It was Spring and the ridge behind our house was alive with night time rustles. The mammals were on the move!

 Palm civets, serpentine in their movements, fluid as mercury and questing in pairs, passed through our garden. A solitary badger. The boar were busy.

The tanuki, however, was the most importunate visitor and therefore most swiftly won our hearts.

It would wrestle, bushy tailed, with the compost bin. No matter how deep we sank the foundations, come 11 PM there would be commotion as it fought our green plastic tub into defeat, then scattered the contents in search of grubs.

Each dawn rose on glorious background anarchy – testament to our tanuki’s triumph.

On evening BBQs, when the aroma of scorching chicken mingled with the forest mists, the tanuki would race excitedly about on the periphery of vision, very low to the ground like a particularly bristly welcome mat.

Tanuki, in Japanese myth, are shape shifters, prone to pranks. Our tanuki never assumed human form to rob us of our sake, but it had a delightful antipathy to anythig planted by my mother-in-law on her weekend visits. Particularly tulips. Under cover of darkness the tanuki would not just unearth each and every bulb but fire them off the slopes with a flurry of indignant paws.

Then things began to go wrong.

The compost bin made it through the night untustled. The cursed tulips went unmolested.

Then there came the kitchen raid.

It was awful. By the cooker, surprised by my sudden arrival (and vice versa) was the tanuki. Its haunches were devoid of fur. An abrupt Mohican tuft stood tall on its badly balding head. Comical, but for the gummy, swiming eyes that stared beneath it. The tanuki fled through the open back door weakly. Into the dark.

Our friend, a vet, confirmed it. The plague of mange sweeping Japan had reached our doorstep. The mange is a mystery. There is dark talk of pesticides, dioxins, weakening immune systems. The vet didn’t get into that. Sedate the tanuki, was his advice. “I’ll come,” he said.

We drugged steak. A cat raced off with it in triumph. We drugged more steak. We initiated “Steakwatch” and bought a pistol that fired plastic pellets to repel roaming pets. But for Steakwatch we needed Steakwatchers and our phone is never idle, the email inbox bulges and the fax unfurls long tongues of obligations 24 hours a day. Steakwatch fizzled.

We never caught the tanuki. We fed it. By God, we fed it! But we never managed to catch it. The tanuki got white, pinker, feebler as its remaining fur withered and in the last days, as the vet had predicted, the tanuki, blind, perhaps now mad, emerged by day and it rushed, confused through the pines.

And then? We never saw it again.

 There was a sort of sickly, guilty feeling of relief. It was over. But there was also a taint to the Spring. The boar did famously. Our frog ponds seethed with new life.

But behind nature’s glorious exuberance their was a hairless shadow that had once been a tanuki. I’d feel it at my shoulder when I filled the compost bin.

This year it’s happening again.

Elsewhere in Takao, there are no doubt others mourning ‘their’ tanukis, leaving offerings of fried tofu (tradition has it that tanuki are particularly fond of tofu) and hoping.

We’re hoping, too.

Hoping, hoping, that next year this will not happen again.

Thai Days: Tick tricks! Really helpful!

August 15, 2011

Ticks are horrid little bastards. But with a bit of loving tender care,  Hugh Paxton’s blog has the solution. You rub their bodies gently in a circular movement with one finger. This comforts the tick, or it might make it feel ill, if  it’s full of blood.  After a minute, or less, of massaging your tick will release its jaws and become compliant.

You then squash the little parasite with a knife.Make sure you completely destroy it.  Stamping on it might impress the gals, but will just give it a new refuge in your boot waffle. Using a cigarette to burn off ticks is stupid and will inflict minor burns.  Ticks are, to a degree, fire resistant. Unlike your bollocks or other sensitive areas. Pulling them off is very dumb. The head stays embedded and things get really rotten!

So, chaps! Ticks? No worriies!

Give em a soothing body rub!

And spread the word to anybody else who rides elephants, or has a dog or an un-washed teenager ! Tell em you first heard it from Hugh Paxton’s  (tick-free) Blog!

BLOG ED NOTE: This solution was achieved after almost every other option had been explored and found to be defunct. Unfortunately this blog has a passion for rainforests and animals and ticks are regular hitch hikers. But the rubbing method works.

Thai Days: Dragon Spotted in School Toilet

May 30, 2011

My daughter, Annabel and her friend, Zoe, saw a ghost by the swimming pool. The story, reported on Hugh Paxton’s Blog a couple of days ago, had a strange ring of truth. Indeed word of the ghost with its shadow and its broken neck spread rapidly – nationally and via my blog internationally.  

It is with mixed feelings that I have to report the latest para-normal sighting.

This afternoon my daughter, with a friend named Maggie, were alarmed to hear peculiar growls and burbles from a lavatory cubicle at Patana international school. OK, nothing particularly unusual in that – the school’s fish curry can have that effect. What rendered the incident memorable is that on trying the door the two girls found it to be locked then noticed smoke rising from the cubicle.

Annabel informed me of these particulars, face deadpan, voice earnest. She then added that a tail slipped briefly out from beneath the toilet door. The tail had scales.

BLOG ED ADVISORY: Ghostbusters! In light of this latest sighting, don’t waste time and money visiting our swimming pool. And St. George, if you’re reading this, don’t bother polishing your lance and riding to the rescue of Patana! Methinks the Paxton family has a new story teller in its midst!

Fight Malaria With Smelly Feet!

February 25, 2011

This probably won’t work here in Thailand. But it works wonders in East Africa according to research conducted by scientists in the UK and Kenya. Mosquitoes are attracted to odours released by mammals. The whining little bastards!

But a certain species of jumping spider has noted this window of opportunity.  It, too, heads for your smelly feet and is capable of jumping, wrenching mosquitoes out of the air (or off your foot) and here’s the really good bit! It goes into a feeding frenzy consuming 20 mozzies in less time than it takes to try and swat a mozzie at three in the morning in a crummy hotel.

Full details are available from the journal Biology Letters but the true hero here, apart from the scientists who must have spent a lot of time with biting insects, socks, smelly feet is… and let’s have a big hand (or a foot) for!!!!!

Ta daahhh! Our spider friend!

Evarcha culcivora

 GO FOR IT!!!

Brigitte’s Pick: A German’s View Of ‘Fanatics’

December 10, 2010

Brigitte's pic

 

Blog Ed Note: Dr. Tanay perhaps understates the casualty figures. Professor I. A. Kuganov estimates that some sixty six million people were killed in the USSR between 1917 and 1953 – shot, tortured, starved mostly, frozen or worked to death. Others say forty five million. Neither figure includes the thirty million killed during WW II.

This is by far the best explanation of the Muslim terrorist situation
I ever read. His references to past history are accurate and
clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. The
author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well known and
well respected psychiatrist.

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II,
owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many
German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our
attitude toward fanaticism. ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he
said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were
too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a
bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen.
Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and
the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up
in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that
Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims
just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be
true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to
make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of
fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It
is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50
shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically
slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are
gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is
the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the
fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who
zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and
homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to
become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent
majority,’ is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of
Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists
were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The
peaceful majority were irrelevant.

Hugh Paxton Blog Ed Note:  Dr. Tanay perhaps understates the casualty figures. Professor I. A. Kuganov estimates that some sixty six million people were killed in the USSR between 1917 and 1953 – shot, tortured, starved mostly, frozen or worked to death. Others say forty five million. Neither figure includes the thirty million killed during WW II.

Back to Dr. Tanay!

China ‘s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists
managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a
warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way
across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the
systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by
sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda , which collapsed into butchery. Could it
not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our
powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of
points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their
silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t
speak up, because like my friend from Germany , they will awaken one
day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world
will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians,
Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis,
Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful
majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only
group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes
this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness
that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send
this on and on and on!  Let us hope that thousands, world wide, read
this and think about it, and send it on – before it’s too late.

…….Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

imagine design

England Not Hosting The 2018 World Cup – Russia to Host

December 2, 2010

The presentation was top-notch. The three Lions played their part well. We invented football, we’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the enthusiasm.

The Russians got the hosting rights. Blah!

Brigitte’s Pick: Gareth Cliff’s letter to govt. (This should be sent to all South Africans)

October 27, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Dear Government

12th October, 2010

Dear Government

OK, I get it, the President isn’t the only one in charge. The ANC believes in “collective responsibility” (So that nobody has to get blamed when things get screwed up), so I address this to everyone in government – the whole lot of you – good, bad and ugly (That’s you, Blade).

We were all so pleased with your renewed promises to deliver services (we’ll forgive the fact that in some places people are worse off than in 1994); to root out corruption (so far your record is worse than under Mbeki, Mandela or the Apartheid regime – what with family members becoming overnight millionaires); and build infrastructure (State tenders going disgustingly awry and pretty stadia standing empty notwithstanding) – and with the good job you did when FIFA were telling you what to do for a few months this year. Give yourselves half a pat on the back. Since President Sepp went off with his billions I’m afraid we have less to be proud of – Public Servants Strikes, more Presidential bastard children, increasing unemployment and a lack of leadership that allowed the Unions to make the elected government it’s bitch. You should be more than a little worried – but you’re not. Hence my letter. Here are some things that might have passed you by:

1. You have to stop corruption. Don’t stop it because rich people moan about it and because it makes poor people feel that you are self-enriching parasites of state resources, but because it is a disease that will kill us all. It’s simple – there is only so much money left to be plundered. When that money runs out, the plunderers will raise taxes, chase and drain all the remaining cash out of the country and be left with nothing but the rotting remains of what could have been the greatest success story of post-colonial Africa. It’s called corruption because it decomposes the fabric of society. When someone is found guilty of corruption, don’t go near them – it’s catchy. Making yourself rich at the country’s expense is what colonialists do.

2. Stop complaining about the media. You’re only complaining about them because they show you up for how little you really do or care. If you were trying really hard, and you didn’t drive the most expensive car in the land, or have a nephew who suddenly went from modesty to ostentatious opulence, we’d have only positive things to report. Think of Jay Naidoo, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Zwelinzima Vavi – they come under a lot of fire, but it’s never embarrassing – always about their ideas, their positions, and is perfectly acceptable criticism for people in power to put up with. When the media go after Blade Nzimande, Siphiwe Nyanda and the President, they say we need a new piece of legislation to “make the media responsible”. That’s because they’re being humiliated by the facts we uncover about them daily, not because there is an agenda in some newsroom. If there had been a free press during the reigns of Henry VIII, Idi Amin or Hitler, their regimes might just have been kept a little less destructive, and certainly would have been less brazen and unchecked.

3. Education is a disaster. We’re the least literate and numerate country in Africa. Zimbabwe produces better school results and turns out smarter kids than we do. Our youth aren’t usemployed, they’re unemployable. Outcomes-based-education, Teachers’ Unions and an attitude of mediocrity that discourages excellence have reduced us to a laughing stock. Our learners can’t spell, read, add or subtract. What are all these people going to do? Become President? There’s only one job like that. We need clever people, not average or stupid ones. the failure of the Education Department happened under your watch. Someone who writes Matric now hadn’t even started school under the Apartheid regime, so you cannot blame anyone but yourselves for this colossal cock-up. Fix it before three-quarters of our matrics end up begging on Oxford Road. Reward schools and teachers who deliver great pass rates and clever students into the system. Fire the teachers who march and neglect their classrooms.

4. Give up on BEE. It isn’t working. Free shares for new black partnerships in old white companies has made everyone poorer except for Tokyo Sexwale. Giving people control of existing business won’t make more jobs either. In fact, big companies aren’t growing, they’re reducing staff and costs. The key is entrepreneurship. People with initiative, creative ideas and small companies must be given tax breaks and assistance. Young black professionals must be encouraged to start their own businesses rather than join a big corporation’s board as their token black shareholder or director. Government must also stop thinking that state employment is a way to decrease unemployment – it isn’t – it’s a tax burden. India and China are churning out new, brilliant, qualified people at a rate that makes us look like losers. South Africa has a proud history of innovation, pioneering and genius. This is the only way we can advance our society and economy beyond merely coping.

5. Stop squabbling over power. Offices are not there for you to occupy (or be deployed to) and aggrandize yourself. Offices in government are there to provide a service. If you think outrageous salaries, big German cars, first-class travel and state housing are the reasons to aspire to leadership, you’re in the wrong business – you should be working for a dysfunctional, tumbledown parastatal (or Glenn Agliotti). We don’t care who the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces is if we don’t have running water, electricity, schools and clean streets. You work for us. Do your job, don’t imagine you ARE your job.

6. Stop renaming things. Build new things to name. If I live in a street down which the sewage runs, I don’t care if it’s called Hans Strijdom or Malibongwe. Calling it something nice and new won’t make it smell nice and new. Re-branding is something Cell C do with Trevor Noah, not something you can whitewash your lack of delivery with.

7. Don’t think you’ll be in power forever. People aren’t as stupid as you think we are. We know you sit around laughing about how much you get away with. We’ll take you down, either at the polls – or if it comes down to the wire – by revolution (Yes, Julius, the real kind, not the one you imagine happened in 2008). Careless, wasteful and wanton government is a thing of the past. The days of thin propaganda and idealized struggle are over. The people put you in power – they will take you out of it. Africa is tired of tin-pot dictators, one-party states and banana republics. We know who we are now, we care about our future – and so should you.

G”


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