Posts Tagged ‘johannesburg’

Madiba’s birthday should be celebrated every day

July 19, 2012

Driving to work today my mind reflected back to 18 July 2010. I recall this date as the first time the concept of Madiba Day was sold to the citizens of South Africa as a day in which people should donate 67 minutes of their time or resources to helping a less fortunate fellow citizen.

We all got caught up in this force of generosity. One clear memory I have was noticing motorists giving ‘gift’ bundles (mostly winter warmers such as blankets) to the street beggars at the corner of Oxford Street and Glenhove road in Rosebank. Both motorist and beggar gave and received graciously and with smiles on their faces. On any other day of the year, especially at this rather large intersection, the motorist would be most bothered and react rudely to the beggars insistent invasion of the motorists personal space.

On 18 July 2010, all across the country, there was a genuine warmth, respect and gees (spirit) emitted by the citizens of South Africa towards each other. It was energising and empowering! I myself joined a group of friends in donating food to a homeless shelter in Johannesburg. The food would last probably a week, maybe a couple of days. But the longevity didn’t matter, it was the thought that counted. Our 67 minutes. And it felt great!

There was a twist though… Madiba Day of 2010 was celebrated exactly one week after the world cup 2010 soccer final in Johannesburg. National pride was at an all time high as the world came and the world saw, but it was OUR country who most definitely conquered. We conquered the initial perception by the world that South Africa would be incapable of hosting a crime-free first class event. And the nation, together as ONE, including the government and importantly the public services sector (read: law and order), the private sector and most importantly the people of South Africa, all rallied together to create probably the most memorable World Cup ever. Quite an achievement considering it is the world’s largest sporting event.

So it was easy to keep the spirit flowing of the World Cup into Madiba Day that year. We were ALL proud, we were all energetic, and most importantly we were all hopeful that the country had finally proved to the world, and more importantly, to itself, that it was most capable. We had turned a corner.

And then it all came to a screeching halt! Since those glorious few weeks, in which the problems we did face were challenged and contained, we have been bombarded, daily, with negative news and sentiment: The incessant fraud, corruption and maladministration from the highest levels in government right down to our local MEC’s. The constant back stabbing and infighting in the ANC, with ‘leaders’ more concerned in maintaining their status quo, rather than in ensuring that the children in Limpopo got their text books. The worrying increase in racial disharmony fuelled by populist and socialist politicians and aggravated by the tiresome recycling of the ‘race card’, the toll roads, the metro cops, the police brutality… Not a day goes by without some scandal making headlines.

There are multiple, and sometimes complex, contributing factors. However, I believe that one of the single biggest causes to the negativity is the seeming lack of respect and simple courtesy we have for each other and for due process. An general attitude of “I don’t care, I will do what I want”. Respect for your fellow countryman is what Nelson Mandela habitually preached. He was a man who led, and still continues to lead, by example. A man who lives by the principle of “Do what I do, not do what I say” (unlike current leaders, hey JZ?). And for one day of the year, on Madiba Day, we are ‘tricked’ into acting on Mandela’s principles of respect and harmony. The irony is, we actually want to do it. World Cup 2010 proved that. It showed us what we are capable of when every one of us pulls in the same direction. We will always have the social problems of a developing economy, but imagine if the billions stolen from the now bankrupt Limpopo was properly channelled as it was intended, it would go a long way to improving the lives of many.

Madiba Day provides us with a momentary glimpse of what South Africa could be like everyday if we wanted. Mandela said “One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others”. Madiba would want us to adopt this attitude every day, and not just on the 18th of July. We are certainly most capable of it, to give each other mutual respect. It is really not that hard to do and best of all respect and courtesy costs absolutely nothing.

And this is the greatest gift the children and grandchildren of South Africa can give to their greatest Tata: Let’s celebrate Madiba Day every day!

My 67 minutes are up… Mzansi Fo Sho!

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Just VOTE – it’s the right thing to do!

May 13, 2011

I was a non-believer. I never thought my vote would count. Like many disillusioned mlungu’s I also thought “what difference would one vote make anyway??” I felt like I was a transient passenger in this beloved country of ours. Proudly South African I liked to think, but not per the few radical politicians who preached that there was no place for whites in the new South Africa. Our presence was tolerated as ‘citizens’ of industry, living off the land of opportunity, trying our luck in the modern gold rush of the burgeoning economy. But don’t you dare ask for assistance from the government. I used to really believe this.

That was until the last national elections, when the ANC lost out on a two thirds majority by a whisker. The two thirds that would grant the ruling party the ominous power to change the South African constitution. And depending on who was in power that could be a very dangerous situation indeed. At least from a pessimistic point of view. AHA!! Now my vote counts! I have a say!

Pessimism is very Anti-South African. Despite it all: the rolling black outs, the Juju Malemas, the xenophobia, we are seemingly a country of optimists. Always believing that things will work out. Mandela illustrated this by example, and led us ALL into a new dawning with his positive attitude of reconciliation and unity.

So when the opportunity came to voice my opinion by applying to The Star Newspapers ‘The Peoples Panel’ – in which they select a small sample (30) of Joburg’s citizens to canvas opinion about the upcoming local elections – and then print their opinions in the newspaper I jumped at the chance to apply, to have a say that is a little louder than an anonymous vote, and to an audience just a little bit larger than a blog! I wonder if JZ was reading??

The question I was asked this week, and printed in today’s edition under the headline “Is withholding your vote good for democracy?” , was if I agreed with Cope’s co-founder Mbhazima Shilowa decision to personally boycott the upcoming local elections.   Whereas a few years ago I might have given a different answer, today my answer was an emphatic ‘NO”. I said that it is absolutely imperative that everyone exercises their right to vote, more so as a result of the general apathy seemingly stemming from the ANC supporters. I believe that Shilowa’s stance is counter-productive, and it is crucial for supporters of other parties to vote, which could affect the ANC’s grip on power in Joburg. I do not believe that the ANC will lose majority in our region, but any perceived lack of support could trigger the ANC into better performance in future years. The ANC’s performance over the years has deteriorated, and a large portion of the public believe that their leaders are more interested in lining their own pockets as opposed to acting in the best interests of the citizens, ironically, as they are appointed to do! Corruption is a fact, again proven by the latest auditor-general findings, and the biggest contributor to the decay of our democracy, in which many less fortunate people are crying out for basic services whilst their leaders pave the roads to their own personal gain.

The other day I was on the golf course, canvassing the opinion of the caddies who were part of our four-ball. The four caddies are young black men, all living in townships. Their aspirations are the same as any person from any background – to provide a better future for themselves and their families. The four caddies, all of whom I have come to know quite well, firmly stated that they were not voting. Their main reason? Corruption, and their lack of trust in the the politicians, who are all “stealing”. All four caddies are ANC supporters. Interestingly enough, when I asked them if they support Malema, there was a difference of opinion, an even split – 2 nays and 2 yays. This is where us whitey’s are flabbergasted. How could anyone support the little Mugabe? But Juju worryingly wields an influential stick amongst the youth. The one caddie, Sputla, who ironically has a remarkable resemblance to Malema (so I think), believes in the ‘nationalisation of the mines’ rhetoric.  I told him, that in my opinion, it is just further means for the fat cats to steal from the national coffers. Sputla seemed circumspect. Propaganda is an illusion.

However, when I canvassed if they would vote for the national opposition, the DA, the cadd’s put their differences aside and unanimously gave a resounding “NO”. When I inquired if it’s because the DA is perceived as a white party (historically, and because their leader Helen Zille is white), Vincent stated the ‘obvious’, “No, it’s because I won’t vote for a woman!”

At least they all said they would vote for me! Perhaps that’s because I was a paying customer.

Now is just as an important time as any to make your mark as a South African. Go vote next week in the Local Municipal Elections… after all, it’s the right thing to do!

Mzansi FO Sho!!

The Star People's Panel

The Greatest Shows on Earth. In Jozi.

February 19, 2011

“Wow, Wow, WOW!”…

… were the first words that political liberalist, activist for Africa, and eternal rock legend, Bono, was meekly able to express upon entering the seething cauldron of 98,000 fans that is the Soccer City, the Calabash (or FNB for the more commercially correct.)

Staking my place on the field last Sunday, right in the middle of the amphitheatre that just months ago played host to the greatest gladiators of the sporting world, it was only appropriate, somewhat divine perhaps, that one of rock history’s greatest bands, and one that sang for the freedom of Madiba, be the first major musical act to play at our – Joburg’s – stadium.

‘Wow!!’ is what the incredulous Mexican players must have thought as the decidedly one sided vuvuzela-blasting rainbow-nationed tribe belted out our proud anthem before the first whistle rang to kick-start the 2010 World Cup…

‘Wow’!! is what must have gone through the minds of the New Zealand All Blacks whilst their imperious Haka battle song was being unceremoniously drowned out by the “Bokke Bokke” chanting of the 95,000 green & gold tinged fanatical Springbok fans…

But Bono, through, what must be said was, an incredible sound system, was the only one who was able to actually express the moment, summing it up perfectly, “WOW!!”
It was the one constant: utter disbelief that this Calabash-cauldron could generate such noise, such vibe, such enormous energy! I remember it all so so clearly as I was blessed to be there for all three events. Three of the greatest shows on Earth.

U2’s biggest ever stadium crowd, and close to 100,000 of us. And not in London, not in Paris, not in New York, Tokyo or Rio. But in Soweto! SO-WHERE-TO must have crossed the collective minds of these well travelled Irishmen, as they braved the golden highway from their 5 star hotel to the south western township (well the outskirts at least). And nearing go time, the climax frantically built up, fuelled by the excitable Heineken-induced (good riddance Budweiser) force of the crowd ranging from the 1980’s Joshua tree- LP-spinning golden agers, through the Zooropa-Diskman-dancing crew of the 90’s, to the Get On Your Boots smart-phone-uploading-YouTubers. From the hardcore fans that slept through the night just for a chance to touch Bono’s fingertips, to those who came along, modern passengers of the experiential age, just so they can tweet to the world to say “I was there”!

As I type this, the Cape Town concert is being streamed live on 94.7 Highveld Stereo, and right now Bono is feeling his way through Amazing Grace, and the Edge is starting to rip through the timeless riffs of the anthem “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and I feel my fingers type faster, faster, to keep up with the chords, my hair is starting to stand up on the back of my neck, this drug-like sensation is streaming through my spine all the way up to the musical nodes in my brain, and I burst into memory: total recall of the moment I was standing alone, with 98,000 others, all of us who came to experience music nirvana, and “I want to run, I want to hide” it all just exploded… a blur that seemed to last forever. But it only lasted for 5 minutes.

Stuck in a moment I couldn’t get out of… Didn’t want it to end.

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Long live @Pigspotter!

September 20, 2010

Hands up if you are gatvol of the metrocops whose idea of effective policing is hiding behind the bushes on beautiful Joburg Sunday mornings nailing every motorist who comes their way?

We’ve all been there: just cruising along, window open, taking in the beautiful African sun, and just at the last minute the hazy silhouette of blue shirt/tan pants crouching behind that laser catches the corner of your eye and you know you have been had!! Bliksem!! You curse under your breath as you look down at your speedometer and start doing complex mathematical equations in your head as you frantically try to figure out what the damage is going to be. And then comes the waiting… for the notification to come in the mail warning you to collect your ‘package’ at your nearest post office – that official looking document with the blurry picture of your car which miraculously only seems to be focused correctly around the number plate area… “YLG…GP” Your heart sinks, you know it’s yours, and then your eyes anxiously scan around to look for the damage. R500!! For only going 75kays an hour??? If I was going any slower the taxi behind me would have run me off the road! And just to rub salt in the wounds, the offer at the bottom to pay with 21 days to get a 50% discount, an offer you begrudgingly accept for 2 reasons: 1. R250 is R250 2. The risk of getting pulled over at some random roadblock, in your suburb nogal, and the belligerent metrocop wants to slap the cuffs on you for the unpaid fine. What follows is the bargaining, the arguing, the pleading, the begging and ultimately… the paying + kicker. It’s a lose-lose situation!

And this is the idea of effective policing? More like profiteering. We all know it, we all admonish them for it, yet, as always, nothing gets done about it! We think of the countless unroadworthy cars on the road, the taxis rewriting the roadrules book , the maddening roadblocks during peak hour traffic, the chaos caused when the traffic lights are out and the poor Outsurance points men are outgunned by the number plate-less 4×4’s and said taxi drivers coming at them from all angles… while… yip, you guessed it, our friendly neighbourhood metro cop is 400 m down the road, radar gun in arm nailing each and every person who accelerates madly as they get through the intersection, as we all do out of sheer frustration as we get through a traffic jam!

Before you accusingly point your finger at me for driving too fast, just know that my poor mother got trapped not so long ago. I don’t even think her car has ever got out of 3rd gear! And then just last year, the metrocops have a wild-west like shootout with the ‘proper police’ as they caused untold havoc in the city as they were striking for higher wages – for doing what??

I loosely remember the old, seemingly simpler days in Joburg, when people observed the rules of the road, khaki-clad traffic cops were (somewhat) respected, mostly feared, and speed trapping was few and far between, mostly in notoriously dangerous accident hot spots. And best of all, fellow Joburgers used to flash their headlights to warn motorists going in the other direction that the cops were trapping up ahead. It was the courteous, common thing to do. And certainly much appreciated!

Those were the days, yet I can’t seem to remember when the last time someone flashed their lights at me to slow down – who knows why? Most likely there are just too many speed traps these days, and it’s just too tiring to keep lifting our arms to flick our lights!

But there is someone out there who is trying their utmost to make our daily grind that much easier and cheaper – @Pigspotter. He is the toast of the town, or enemy #1 if the metrocops will have you believe. If you haven’t yet heard he is the guy (who goes by the name ‘Clive’) who warns motorists on Twitter where roadblocks and speed traps are. The metrocops are apparently furious, “We have information that we are following up,” said Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar. “He will face the consequences of his actions.” After he was ousted in the press his following has grown to over 16,000 users on Twitter (that’s about R10 million in lost revenue for their coffers – no wonder the cops are mad!)

With postings such as:

“Pork chop on Jan Smuts just before the Hyde Park lights, he looks like a friendly strip that wants to be greased!”

“One well tanned pork chop playing surprise on rivonia rd by city lodge”

“Ham fritters roadblocking on Main Rd M71 in Kyalami. Random pulling over, checking licenses”

This guy is classic! Certainly makes for comical reading – and a welcome break from the bad-news bears we are forced to endure on a daily basis.

However, it seems that he has stopped referring to the cops as Piggies/Porkies/Bacon – apparently the cops don’t like being called names. Ag shame soooo hectic for them! (Pigspotter said P.I.G. stands for Police in Gauteng. Borat has nothing on this oke!)

In true Superman-style Clive posted “PigSpotting will continue, the only valid issue is the roadblock reporting, but I will continue 2 help innocent drivers from being extorted.

The perception amongst us Joburgers is that it the cops are finally getting a dose of their own medicine. If they want Joburgers to change their attitudes about law enforcement, the authorities need to take a look inwards and root out corruption, laziness and ineffectiveness. If they want our respect they have got to earn it! Stop motorists going through red robots waaay after orange, driving without licence plates, cutting in off straight-lanes to avoid long queues, not following safe distances on highways… the list is endless.

To quote tweeter themba_m who left this message on Pigspotters page “I wish the pigs were as hysterical about violent crime as they are about @Pigspotter

Now that just says it all…

@Pigspotter Fo Sho!!

Bafana to Bokke… back to Soccer City!

August 23, 2010

A friend asked me earlier which was a better experience? Being at Soccer City for the opening game of the world cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, or going back to Soccer City for the first rugby match ever to be played at the stadium between the traditional rivals, the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks?

A tough question to answer…

Firstly, I just can’t get used to calling it FNB stadium again. How could I? The old FNB stadium has gone through a complete metamorphosis. From the stark, somewhat foreboding, concrete caterpillar of the 80’s & 90s’s to the architectural marvel of the new millenium that has emerged from the cocoon to become the colourful calabash of Soccer City. For many millions around the world the first visual image they ever had of South Africa was when they first tuned in their TV’s to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010. I can only imagine what the Serbians, the Japanese, the Chileans must have thought of South Africa the moment our most modern coliseum filled their TV screens with the faces of thousands of yellow and green South Africans. Third world?? I think not! “Welcome to Soccer City!” is what the world will remember!

After many years of anxious waiting, and fretting like many others over our ability to pull it off, finally taking my seat at the World Cup opening game between Bafana and Mexico was a once in a lifetime experience. I vividly remember kitting up in my green supporters outfit, Makarapa & Vuvuzela et al, and heading out to the game on that typical sunny winter’s morning. I didn’t know what to expect. Did anyone? I remember the goosebumps I had the moment the UFO-like stadium first came into view as we came round the last bend of Nasrec Road. It was like those Umhlanga holidays I had as a young kid, driving for what seemed like eternity from the Joburg Highveld down to the Durban coast, and the rush of excitement I felt when my dad finally called out “kids, who can see the ocean?” and we would all screech out in delight as the vastness of the Indian Ocean rose up over the horizon.  The moment I stepped out the car and took in the massive expanse of the stadium that was about to swallow me up I think I started bouncing up and down like a little kid again. The events of that afternoon will live in South African folklore for time itself. Just being there, blowing my Vuvuzela as the teams walked out onto the field, to stand up and patriotically belt out our national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelele’, and rejoicing Bafana’s  cracking first goal – the goal heard around the world – I have never felt prouder of being able to call myself South African. It was my moment, it was your moment, and it was bladdy well everyone’s moment! From Madiba to Zuma, from Francois Pienaar to Simphiwe Tshabalala, from the Boere in the platteland to the township kids playing in the streets of Soweto, from Pofadder to Mpumulanga, this was a moment when we could all call ourselves ‘Proudly South African’!

Now being back at the stadium this past Saturday to witness the two goliaths of world rugby, the old foes, do battle for the first time in the cauldron of the Calabash was also an outrageous experience. At the soccer I was a proud South African, yet, like many others in the stadium, the South African soccer culture was as foreign to me as the crazy Mexicans seated next to me. However, rugby is different. I am a Springbok rugby man by birth right. And like all fanatical fans I believe I could pick a better team than the coach (bring back Frans Steyn!) So being at this specific rugby match on Saturday was a call to arms, a battle cry – I just had to be there. I had to be there to witness the first time South Africa played rugby in one of the world’s most magnificent stadiums, I had to be there to be one of those 94,000 plus fans who made up the biggest crowd ever at a South African rugby game, I had to be there to drink cheap ice-cold Castle Lager beers (goodbye overpriced Budweisers!), I had to be there to pay respect to our Kaptein, John Smit, as he ran onto the field to a hero’s welcome for his 100th test, I had to be there to shout out “BOK-KE! BOK-KE!” in the most electrifying response ever witnessed to the All Blacks famous Haka chant

"BOK-KE! BOK-KE!"

, I had to be there to sing the Zulu/Xhosa parts of our national anthem which is becoming just as loud as the Afrikaans/English parts, I had to be there to boo the ref for his perceived bias against the Boks and apparent favour for the opposition captain Richie McCaw, and I most certainly had to be there to jubilantly celebrate as the might of the South African forwards bulldozed over to score the first ever try in what will surely be the first of many Springbok games at our new ‘national stadium’. And I don’t think anyone missed the Vuvuzelas (they were banned).

Sadly the Springboks lost! And like all Bok fans I despaired about why and how we lost the game. Without getting technical my main gripe is how could a team, which is mostly comprised of players from the two teams (Bulls & Stormers) who dominated all and sundry in this year’s Super 14, perform so badly in the Tri-nations? My buddy summed it up best “We simply got outcoached!!” Enough said.

The main differentiation between going to the opening game of the world cup soccer and the first rugby game ever at Soccer City is that we hoped Bafana would win, but in the rugby we expected the Springboks to win. The sport might have been different, however the stadium was the same, the atmosphere was just as stirring and the GEES and patriotism at the rugby was as immense as that opening game of the world cup. As the cliché goes, word just cannot describe it…

So what was the better experience? I can still sense that rush of excitement as the world cup kicked off, and my voice is still hoarse from screaming at the ref on Saturday. Perhaps the opening game of the soccer pips it… just… simply because it was a once off event, never to be repeated. No time is better than the first time, but the Springboks will be back at Soccer city.

Either way, I was truly fortunate to be at both games for such momentous occasions in South African sporting history.

And best of all it all happened right on my doorstep in the city of Gold… and Green: Johannesburg.

Jozi Fo Sho!

Bafana BaGhana Basasta Disaster!

August 12, 2010

(AKA The lessons that were NOT learnt during the World Cup 2010…)

Its 8:40pm, and I should be at the game tonight.

Instead, I have just got home after an hour and a half joy ride trying to get to the game between Bafana Bafana and Ghana (BaGhana was sooo July ‘10), and now I have resorted to watching the game live on TV, match ticket in hand, as opposed to my unreserved seat at Soccer City, oops, I meant FNB stadium 🙂

This was supposed to be my much anticipated ‘Return of the Mlungus’ as my brother and I excitedly geared up for the match. It was like a scene out of Rambo as we laid out our battle outfits as we did countless times during WC2010: Makarapa – check, Vuvuzela – check, Bafana jersey – check, SA scarf – check, and the coup de grace, the green overall with “Mlungu 1” adorned in bright yellow on the back spotted numerous times at many world cup games. We were ready! A mocking parallel to those many freezing nights during WC2010 is that it was bitterly cold tonight. So we had to pack our Winter Warmer Emergency Bag including Beanie, Ski Gloves, and personally for me, knee high Ski Socks. After the recorded coldest night in the history of Joburg for the month of June, during the Brazil/North Korea game, we weren’t taking any chances!

We were up for it! Both of us were looking extremely forward to going to the game to support Bafana, to blow vuvuzela’s for our stars Mphela, Pienaar, Tshabalala, Khune et al and to play our part in carrying on the GEES generated by the World Cup!

Sadly, that is where it ended

Buying the match tickets on Computicket was the easy part. At R100 a piece to watch the clash of our nations favourites against our adopted & beloved quarterfinal cousins, it seemed fair value, compared to the R350 I paid to get a ticket to watch the off-form Springboks at the same battle ground next week. The only thing that raised an eyebrow was that the seats were unreserved? According to the SAFA spokesman, it seems many people haven’t been to Soccer City before so they will “struggle to find their seats”! (hmmm… I wonder how the Mexican, Brazilian and South Korean fans managed to find their seats during the WC2010?)

Getting to the game was potentially the deal breaker for making this gargantuan effort – note that the weather had no bearing on our decision to go. That said, based on the pleasurable experience of going to Soccer City no less than six (6!) times during the world cup, I assumed that the transport organisation would be if not as efficient as during the colonialists FIFA’s brief reign over South Africa, then at least up to a similar standard. In hindsight, as someone once said, assumptions are the mother of all…!

Being typically sceptical Joburgers we didn’t go into this one blindly. We double-checked of course, and after some nifty googling we stumbled onto the www.safa.net website, which conveniently emblazoned all over the home page travel arrangements for tonight’s match. The three options were: Train it; Rea Vaya bus it; or Park & Walk it (for the WC2010 uninformed that means DRIVE). The ‘specially arranged’ trains leaving from JHB Park Station were at 14:53pm, 15:36pm and 18:21pm. So for the working class that only left one feasible option: the 6pm train, also, who wanted to arrive 4.5 hours early?? Against making the 6pm train was fighting the notorious peak hour M1 South traffic to get to the stattion, and we couldn’t run the risk of missing the train. Thus Metrorail was ruled out. The fore-mentioned traffic hindrance didn’t seem all that appealing so Park & Walk was ruled out… although I did buy a ‘Shareworld’ Park & Walk ticket anyway as an emergency option (At R15 it was worth the safety net). The website clearly stated that Rea Vaya busses were leaving from “Con Hill” every “5 minutes between 5pm and 8pm”. As Con Hill was suitably located for us, with plenty street signs dotted along the way pointing us to the location, and also due to the great reviews this mode of transport had during the world cup, this was the option for us!

Con Hill here we come!!

But we came… and… left.

We arrived at Con Hill, and there was not a bus in sight! The security guard pointed us in the direction of the Civic Centre. But we weren’t taking our chances. If SAFA can’t get it right, what chance did the poor security guard have?

Cue the safety net Park & Walk ticket! Luckily for me, I learnt a secret route during the World Cup, via the western suburbs of Jhb snaking through the northern parts of Soweto, to get to Soccer City (if my mom only knew that her precious boykies were driving through Soweto at night!) If it wasn’t for the secret route we would have missed the WC2010 opening game due to the now infamous ‘Opening Match Gridlock’. As we embarked on my secret route through areas of Joburg my suburbanite brother had never seen before, we ducked under the highway and I noticed the peak hour traffic back up that we would now avoid. I quietly gave myself a pat on the back. The secret route worked again, and it took us next to no time to get to Nasrec Road…  But that was the beginning of the end.

There are only 2 ways to get to Shareworld – via Nasrec Road or via Main Reef Road. The route in from the other side was closed off by the cops (I know because we tried it!) During the World Cup we sat in traffic on Nasrec road, which moved along at snail’s pace but eventually we made it to the game on time. But that was with the advantage of arriving plenty time in advance and with a battalion of metro cops to marshal the traffic. Tonight the back-up down Nasrec road spanned the length of the entire road – that is a couple of kilometres – and not a metro cop in sight! Based on my world cup experience I knew that we were in for trouble, and there was no way in hell, with just over an hour to go before kick-off, that we would make it into the stadium on time, let alone find a parking in the chaos.

We had to make a call: sit in the car, tear our hair out and struggle to get to the game. Or call it.

Common sense prevailed – we called it!

I did suggest to my brother that we try finding an alternative route. But that was taking a chance it would be better elsewhere, further complicated that we did not know how to find any other way with no marshals to assist us. My secret route only knew one direction! As I did a u-turn to hit it back onto the highway, I felt guilty that we were wimping out of it. But my boet, wise beyond his years, consoled me with these words “It shouldn’t be this hard to get to the game”.

We came, we most certainly tried, and we sadly left.

All kitted out and nowhere to go!

So what does this all say about our post world cup abilities? For those who doubt my optimism and patriotism and think I am conveniently backing the naysayers, go read my other blog entries … I am the biggest Advocate for Mzansi! But this whole experience left a very bitter taste in my mouth, as I have read countless articles on how the Administrators of the game were going to take the lessons learnt from the world cup and move forward in a positive direction (and the leaders of our country on a more general basis). Yet, the first opportunity they had was blown. Badly. They spoke of how they wanted to attract more whitey’s (whose pale faces were plentiful at the world cup games) to support local soccer. But based on tonight’s experience, would I dare try it again? On tv the stadium was half full. I read an interesting article by the sports columnist Mark Gleeson in which he said that low attendances at local soccer games are caused by the “appalling experience” of going to a game, from the “transport, parking, seating, concession stands and general bonhomie in the crowd”. I cannot comment about the inside of the stadium, I never made it there, but from a transport point of view, the organisers definitely missed a trick. Even my mother commented to me, as I was despairing to her on the way home (moms give the best sympathy!), that how could it have messed it up SOOOO badly as there was a perfect transport infrastructure from the world cup!

And worst of all? I missed a perfect start to Pitso’s reign as Mphela scored a cracker for a 1 nil win!

We begrudgingly arrived home after the 1.5 hour ride around Joburg.

My brother got out my car, and all he could say was “Thanks for the ride…”

Mzansi Fo Sho!

* I have print-screened and saved the SAFA website transport details in case of any denials! Let the typical weak excuses begin. I am going to ask for my money back… watch this space!

Unused match ticket for sale!

Moving up in the world of blogging!

August 10, 2010

Sacksinthecity has been invited to blog for the up and coming Newstime website (www.newstime.co.za).

Check out my profile at http://www.newstime.co.za/blogger/Sacksinthecity!/97

Onwards and upwards!

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Does Joburg need Superheroes?

August 9, 2010

Yet another long weekend in Mzansi – we are truly blessed with our liberal culture of needing to celebrate and honour almost anything: woman, youth, freedom, Selebi going to jail – or is it all just an excuse to put our feet up and relax? I thought that’s what strikes were for! I guess it’s all in the name of Ubuntu!

Nevertheless, today gave me some time to do a spot of housecleaning. Or, as most spring cleanings tend to up for me, a few hours spent perusing through my old comic books.

Like many teenage boys of the time, I got caught up in the mid-90’s comic boom, a massive comic craze created by speculators who believed they could make a fortune in unearthing rare comics and selling them on for a handsome profit.  Together with a cousin of mine, I would trawl the handful of comic book stores in Joburg – I remember one being in Edenvale, another at the top of Grant Avenue in Norwood – debating which rare gem of a comic would lead to an early retirement.  This was before the days of the internet, and we had to batch-order new titles from overseas, and then wait excitedly for weeks for the snail-mail postal system to deliver the slew of newly created comic titles or yet another spin off series of X-Men or Spiderman.  It was only when I entered university, and happened upon my first Economics 101 lecture, did I learn about the phenomena of ‘Supply vs. Demand’. Needless to say, my Gen 13 #1 edition is worth less now than what I paid for it, and I never got to retire young!

My lasting legacy of this craze is the big box of individually plastic-wrapped comics that I now store in my cupboard (I didn’t sell one), together with my vast collection of Archie comics… Every now and again I flip through a couple of books and get lost for a few hours as my mind wanders through the imagined world of Metropolis or Gotham City.

I am a day-dreamer supreme, and I often lose myself in thought as my mind wanders through its labyrinth of crevices. So as I read through Green Lantern #56 this morning, I wandered what Joburg would be like if Superheroes were real, and if they were, what kind of characters would they be?  I think these heroes would specialise in tackling and combating the problems evident in our city. There would be characters such as METROMAN, the only honest traffic cop in the city. He would cruise around the city in his Orange customised superfast bike battling his arch-nemesis, HiACE, and his evil army of Taxi drivers. METROMAN would never accept a bribe, take no mercy on the cowboys who drive without number plates, would never hide behind a speed camera, and would certainly be in a physical shape capable of running at least 30 metres to chase down a suspect! Then there would be the dynamic duo of ELECTRO, and his boy wonder sidekick, HYDRO, who side with the honest citizens to rid the city of the lazy and corrupt ‘OFFICIALS  of the MUNICPALITY’ who hide out in their secret lair called ESKOM. Of course there would be a group of vigilantes, appropriately named ‘the CHOOKIES’, who would roam the streets of Joburg, during all hours of the night, tackling the scum of the city, the criminals, aka the TSOTSIS. Everyone has their favourite character, and mine would certainly be JACK TAR, who has the ability to shoot bolts of tar when he points at a pothole, instantly filling it up. In his  Tar-Tank, with indestructible wheels, he would seek out those Telecom company managers who dig up our roads (without fixing them properly), and puncture all their tyres! Cameo appearances would be made by characters such as THE REPORTER, who reports on the truth on matters that count, in total disregard of the mechanisms of dictatorship such as the Media Tribunal, and the creepy ghostly spirit TOKOLOSH, commandeered by the SANGOMA, who appears in the bedrooms of politicians during the middle of the night to scare the kak out of them whenever they say or do something stupid in the public eye. Julius Dilemma would be a frequent host of the TOKOLOSH.

Eish! My imagination is running wild…

But does Joburg need Superheroes? Do we really need METROMAN, or ELECTRO, or the TOKOLOSH. Or… do we simply need honest and capable officials, who perform their jobs admirably, with pride, and most importantly, put the needs of their citizens first and foremost.  Is that really such an outlandish, imagined ideal or does it need to be drawn up in comic books??

Whereas a Superman is an impossibly fantastic concept, a hard working city official isn’t. You don’t need an imagination for this one, all we need is a bit of faith, as perhaps one day the impossible will happen!

Now wouldn’t that be a great story to read about…

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Winner and Losers of WC2010 Part 2

July 29, 2010

A friend of mine, who just got back from London, messaged me now and commented that Joburg “seems strangely quiet.”

Did the World Cup really happen??

When I started typing this blog on Sunday late afternoon, it was exactly two weeks ago since I was in ‘football’ heaven, excitedly weaving through the masses at Soccer City, match ticket and last Bud (thankfully!) in hand, for the greatest extravaganza South Africa has even seen… the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. This was the final act, the last stomach-twisting turn on the thrilling roller coaster which was Africa’s first world cup. And what a world cup it was!!

Against all the ‘supposed’ odds, as those naysayers prophesised, South Africa pulled off one of the greatest events in the long history of the World Cup. Why was it so great? In my opinion, the world didn’t know what to expect (if anything low/negative expectations), and such is the psychology of the mind, when one has no expectations it can only go up from there! Almost akin to a quiet night out with a planned early bedtime, which turns out into the biggest alcohol-induced bender of thrills, spills and crazy interactions in places you have never seen or been to before. The kind of night when you wake up, head throbbing the next morning, and with blood shot eyes  you smirk into the bathroom mirror and slowly whisper to yourself “what a night, what a great fucking night”. And I think that is exactly what every South African, foreign visitor and journalist thought on Monday the 12th July, the morning after the final:

what a night, what a great fucking night!!

Now almost two and half weeks later, I am sitting at my dining room table, which is only just large enough to play host to streams of paper and files of work which literally had to ‘take a hike’ during the month long festival of football. Whilst I sip my freshly brewed cup of Milo, a song by Arcade Fire plays in the background, somewhat aptly named ‘Antichrist Television Blues’ as the 24/7 football channel on Supersport is a fading memory, I am sensing how ‘strangely quiet’ Joburg seems.

So, a couple of weeks after the fact, after my initial Winners blog, it is a good time to ponder who were the losers of the World Cup? Hmmm, when I think about it, were there actually any real losers to this world cup?

Perhaps it was the superstars who were supposed to light the field alight with their world class skills, and their even bigger ego’s. Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, Kaka are a few of the players who come to mind who arrived at this world cup and were punted to be its headline acts. As the building-wrapped billboards and seemingly Hollywood-directed TV commercials would make us believe. But that didn’t happen (Did Ronaldo even play??) But are they losers? I think not! They are all home now, earning their fat salaries, being pampered by their supermodel wives or girlfriends and jetting off to practice in whatever supercar there $150,000 a week salaries have bought them this week. So they didn’t exactly get a winners medal draped around their neck. No sir! These guys are Winners!

Perhaps it was football itself who was the real loser? Seeing game after game of players diving around the field in a manner that would make Olympic high divers proud, or the acting of the players feigning injuries with such masterclass and passion that I heard they were going to bring Simon Cowell in as a studio guest to rate these ‘performances’. Or, and this is what I hated the most, the players surrounding the referee in manner akin to assault whenever a  decision went against their team. FIFA promoted the ‘Say No To Racism’ campaign before certain games, a noble effort, but what moral message was all this ‘simulating’ sending out to the kids, the clichéd leaders of tomorrow? Dive, roll, or swear your way to get ahead? Certainly didn’t do much for promoting the beautiful game! But is football the loser? I think not! It’s just 2 weeks till the kick off of the English Premier League and I couldn’t be more excited! The world is addicted to football (ok, maybe not the Yanks, but they can have their baseball!) and come World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Mr Blatter is going to rake in another $2billion, hopefully including a few bob for my match tickets!

Perhaps the figurative losers were Netherlands for doing their best imitation of Bakkies Botha by trying to thump the Spanish off the field during the final after playing so attractively in every other game? Perhaps the losers were the people, on those Durban-bound flights, who missed the semifinals? Perhaps the losers were some traders or hospitality vendors who lost money as the business didn’t come their way? Perhaps it will even be South Africa itself, who might not take the lessons it learnt to heart and build on this fantastic momentum?

When I really think about it there were no real losers of this world cup. There was no troubling breaking news, there was no massive crime wave, nor tourists left stranded without accommodation or transport. Perhaps an isolated story here or there. This isn’t Utopia afterall. The Dutch will always be regarded as purveyors of entertaining football, those unlucky travellers stranded in Durban will hopefully remember the rest of their magical trip, there were plenty vendors who did great business, and South Africa was the most popular phrase in the world for 4 long weeks (followed closely by “vuvuzela”)  – where else can the Ministry of Tourism get great coverage like that!

Ultimately, the unlucky losers are us poor sods, who two weeks after the World Cup, have been dragged back into a normal sense of reality. Gone are the throngs of previously unheard of foreign accents clogging the restaurants and bars; the jovial acceptance of the daily nuances that bothered us so before; and the adrenaline rush caused by the anticipation by the next game to go to or watch. This place was pumping!! Back is the impatient Joburg attitude; the daily cursing at the taxi’s weaving illegally through the peak hour traffic; and the nervous anticipation of what Julius Dilemma is going to spurt out next… Xenophobia anyone?

Zapiro, The Times, 14 July 2010

When I started this blog I was sitting on a couch at the impressive Hyde Park Hotel Bar, daydreaming out the window and wandering to myself “Did the World Cup really happen??”  The setting sun caught my eyes, forcing me to squint. As I refocused onto the purple hue of dusk, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Joburg encapsulated by the glory of an African sunset, one of the city’s most endearing and loved characteristics.

Woza! Tomorrow is a new day and, with or without the World Cup, a new adventure awaits. Afterall, this is Joburg… a place where anything but the expected happens…

Mzansi Fo Sho!

World Cup, now British Open: Bravo South Africa!

July 19, 2010

Being the avid golf fan, who committed many hours in front of the tv this past weekend absorbing the victory of King Louis Ooosterhuizen, I trawled the internet for news articles best describing his victory. This article stood out for me, as it brilliantly captures and describes not only Louis’s victory but also the past month in SA. Its a must read! Enjoy!

“World Cup, now British Open: Bravo South Africa!”

Trapped inside the hard, forbidding walls of his jail cell, with barely enough space to move, did Nelson Mandela the prisoner ever dream that things would turn out quite this well?

Surely, even the world’s most inspirational and famous optimist must be thrilled and perhaps a little surprised — who isn’t? — that South Africa is proving to be such a shining ambassador for itself.

Talk about a country having a banner sporting year. First, hosting a football World Cup that radiated warmth and joy. Then, giving golf a new champion with an alphabet-soup name who came out of nowhere to win the British Open.

How deliciously intriguing that a player nurtured under the African sun proved best able to handle Scotland’s howling gales.

Do, however, spare a thought for the engraver who had to carve “Louis Oosthuizen” onto the base of that celebrated silver trophy. Takes up more space than Tiger Woods. And yet, in four short days that transformed him from “who?” to the name on everyone’s lips, Oosthuizen ensured that the entire golfing world now knows that his tongue-tripping jumble of vowels and consonants is pronounced WUHST’-hy-zen.

Can there be better karma than a South African lifting the claret jug on the day Mandela turned 92?

Clearly, Oosthuizen thought not.

“Felt a little bit special, really. When I walked down 18, I was thinking about his birthday,” he said.

The 27-year-old was just a young boy when the anti-apartheid leader was freed in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison.

“What he’s done for our country is unbelievable, and happy birthday to him,” Oosthuizen said.

The power of sport to put a nation on the map and to unite and inspire its people is not new. Mandela saw it. In fact, he practically willed South Africa’s Springbok rugby team to victory at the 1995 World Cup that his nation hosted. Mandela’s utter delight when South Africa lifted the trophy — he shook his arms in the air with the enthusiasm of a young boy — was infectious, an uplifting moment for a country mired in post-apartheid fears, uncertainty and hardships.

South Africa then topped that this year with what many visitors will remember as a football World Cup that was exciting, exotic and a huge success, even if it — grrrrr — also introduced the world to those infuriating vuvuzela horns. Perhaps infected is a better word — they’re now being heard at the Tour de France.

Of course, South Africans were crushed that their team, the Bafana Bafana, was knocked out after three matches, the worst ever showing by a host nation. But that didn’t really seem to matter compared to the PR triumph the nation reaped from being so welcoming and capable.

Since Spain beat the Netherlands in the July 11 final, we’ve not heard a squeak from the doomsayers who had predicted that holding the tournament in South Africa would be a disaster; that stadiums wouldn’t be finished, that lax security would allow terrorists to waltz in, that tourists would be robbed, raped and murdered by the busload. There were a few logistical glitches but nothing to really spoil the mood. World football had its first, and long overdue, African party — proving that it can be done.

And now, just to make sure that everyone gets the great-place-to-be message, here comes Oosthuizen, gushing about how South Africa is a fabulous home for a golfer. During the apartheid years, the sound of Afrikaans-accented English was like a stain on a person, marking them as coming from what then seemed to be a despicable country because it treated blacks as inferior humans and had Mandela locked away on Robben Island. Now, spoken by the likes of Oosthuizen, that same sound seems liltingly pleasant to the ear. It no longer carries shame.

“The weather in South Africa is brilliant,” he said. “Wintertime you can still play some days in shorts there.”

Quick, when’s the next plane?

No one, of course, is naive enough to think that sport can gloss over South Africa’s frighteningly large array of complex and difficult problems. It is a promised land of much misery. No number of new World Cup stadiums, for instance, can hide such a shockingly large gulf between rich and poor.

Nevertheless, the last few weeks have been remarkable — so much so that 2010 could perhaps mark a watershed in world perceptions of South Africa and its people. The rainbow nation. That colorful and positive name that South Africans give themselves makes so much sense now.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org


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