Days of Night

Copper cableI’m was in two minds about whether to write this post of not. Power cuts in South Africa have become a event of norm – I don’t even bother to reset the clock on my stove anymore as there is likely to be a power trip/cut/prolonged outage around the corner that will helpfully unset it again. South African power cut causes: 1) Eskom doesn’t have enough power to go around and they have to impose ‘rolling blackouts’; 2) cable theft syndicates vandalise and steel copper cabling for neighbourhood substations. In the past week alone my area of Centurion has had two of the number 2s; the closest substation, quote ‘exploded’, unquote due to cable theft. Last night cable thieves struck again and I was woken up at 1am by the low battery tone on the baby monitor – that’s just rude. I phoned Tshwane to report the power failure and was told that technicians would be dispatched in 8-10 hours, giving the thieves ample time to plunder to their hearts’ content. Continue reading

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T’ Horny Issue

White Rhino; ©Englesman in Afrika

The Plight

September was ‘Rhino month’, which culminated in the celebration of the third annual World Rhino Day on the 22nd, aimed at celebrating the five sub-species of rhino…forever. I realise of course that I’m late with this post, with my only defence being that I was away on vacation – hard-earned, I might add!

I’ve considered a post on the subject of rhinos in South Africa for some time; particularly pertinent to this blog, since I elected to move here permanently in 2009 and also as the rhino is one of the elusive animals which I most look forward to seeing on a game drive – second only to leopard. Rhino are one of the African ‘Big Five’ which national parks and game farm owners announce with much fanfare to ensure tourists receive a ‘true’ African safari experience (I won’t mention that there is also a ‘Super Seven’…doh!). SA is home to an estimated 70% of the surviving global rhino population and a prime target for poaching syndicates, due to the relatively large numbers.

In an effort to tackle some of the background on poaching, I scanned through the plethora of rhino society webpages (e.g. Unite Against Poaching.co.za, Stop Rhino Poaching.com and Rhino Conservation.org) which have surfaced to publicise and help curb (stop?) the poaching of rhinos for their horn, as well as a selection of recent online news articles. Some say ‘ignorance is bliss’, but when dealing such a profoundly sensitive subject (such as this), I thought that it would be wise to sidestep the bliss. Continue reading

The Price of Scrap

This scrap metal sculpture which I saw in Rhyolite (Death Valley) wouldn't last long in SA

Driving, or rather crawling along whilst in a long queue created by rubberneckers gawking at yet another morning accident on the N14 highway, I had a chance to observe one of the many examples of visible metal theft in and around my general neighbourhood. The item in question is an ever diminishing heavy duty guard rail on the highway bridge after the R55 on-ramp. All that remains is a lone piece of a once complete tubular railing; its siblings having been removed and presumably sold as scrap metal or used in a shack construction project. I’m almost certain that this remaining piece will eventually disappear once the correct size of spanner has been obtained to do the dirty deed.

Metal theft is quickly becoming one of my pet hates in South African society. Stealing, whether with intent to sell or for personal use is however an age-old societal affliction and nothing new. In SA metal theft is so common that it is now barely newsworthy. In this particular instance the bridge guard railing, which is intended for public safety has been removed to make a quick buck without probably a second’s thought from those involved. It is not safe to be an item of street furniture in South Africa, unless you’re either made of plastic or wood, but even then if you haven’t been cemented into the bedrock, you’re more than likely to end up in someone else’s possession. When I first came to the country, I noted that most of the supermarket trolleys were made of plastic, in contrast to the UK where metal is preferred. Trolleys here are effectively free metal on wheels. Continue reading

My House: Fort Knox

If you didn’t already know, crime is a serious problem within South Africa and many houses within the country have burglar bars fitted on opening windows to keep skellums out and your valuable stuff safely inside. If you’ve ever tried to fit a flat-screen TV through a set of these, you’ll understand why they’re there.

Eskom's take on romance

Here’s my problem with burglar bars though. The country, thanks largely to the help of Eskom, suffers from impromptu power cuts. Timetabled load-shedding, especially around dinnertime when you want to relax and watch TV, is becoming less widespread due largely to the fact that Zuma’s army of wives is no longer allowed to cook for him all at once. Ad hoc power failures still have a nasty habit of turning up at the most inopportune moments. Take for example my friend’s birthday party just last weekend; the power went off soon after we’d arrived. With no music and no lights, everyone beat a quick retreat after wolfing down the free food and drinks by candlelight. Continue reading

Taking Back Tomorrow

Vehicle hijacking is a popular pastime amongst the delinquent social class of South African society. Come to think about it; what else would an unemployed, fit and healthy individual with time to spare do on an otherwise uneventful day? The legal options are very limited indeed.

A recent census amongst primary school truants revealed that 86.7% of such individuals (remembering that 90% of all statistical data is utter codswallop) craved employment in an organised carjacking syndicate. One of the prerequisites of such a ‘job’ is that an individual must apply only after flunking their first term of high school and should not be able to do their 2 Times Table. Credit must be given where credit is due however; successful candidates are offered a sure-fire way of securing a lucrative salary and even spoiling themselves by occasionally driving the car of their dreams, i.e. one with an engine and four wheels. Bonus points are up for grabs in the syndicate’s ‘high-roller’ league table if the stolen car happens to sport either a Toyota or VW badge. Continue reading

‘Boomslang’ – A Tow Trucker’s Scaly Scam

30-Second factoid for the day: The Boomslang or ‘tree snake’ in Afrikaans, is a venomous, largely tree-dwelling aka ‘arboreal’ snake (as the name suggests) and feeds on things that live in trees…naturally! Its venom is classified as a haemotoxin, highly potent and halts the blood-clotting process causing internal and external bleeding – something a Band-Aid will struggle to fix and deadly if a mere couple of milligrams is administered to a human victim. Nasty little reptile (although rumoured to be timid); unless of course you happen to spend a lot of time in Sub-Saharan African treetops rediscovering your primal tree-swinging abilities, or practicing to become the next Tarzan (or Jane).

Tow Truck Derby

Watching Sunday night’s episode of Carte Blanche, a ‘Boomslang’ is something poles apart from the arboreal reptilian, although the people involved could themselves be described as slimy. Working as a tow truck driver in South Africa must be one of THE most boring jobs I can think of. Sitting at the side of the road all day in your cut-and-shunted Navara with blinged mags and heavily tinted windows, or a slammed (lowered) Nissan Hardbody with roll-bar-mounted Hella-wanabee spotlights, waiting for sight of an accident or a call over the shortwave must be mind-numbing. There is definitely a limit to the number of donuts one can ingest during a single shift! Judging by the number of different companies involved in the tow truck trade in South Africa however this business must be lucrative; either that, or the adrenalin rush experienced by the drivers during the customary drag-race to the scene of an incident must be on par with a mind altering drug high. Continue reading